Son Raw back.
I am back with the wrap up for the ill behavior—and only ’90s kids will get that last reference. Admittedly, it’s been a bit of a slow summer in terms of the grime I like. That last word is key: on a more mainstream level, the genre is positively bubbling with releases by names like Wretch32 and Giggs garnering significant attention and festivals chock full of names associated with Boy Better Know and the like. Throw in a resurgent UK drill scene (that’s a thing now) and the days where you could ignore the UK’s urban music or dismiss it as second rate are long gone.
That’s cool, but that stuff doesn’t need me promoting it, and most of my listening has shifted towards weirder, stranger sounds both old and new. I’ve also once again become infected with the dancehall bug, in search of sounds more authentic than Drake and Biebs. Still, there have been a few major key releases this summer that moved grime forward without falling into wishy-washy deconstructed club territory. And here they are.
Trim– 1-800 DINOSAUR Presents Trim
So far, this is my rap/vocal album of the year, full stop. A huge surprise considering I had little faith in James Blake to deliver something suitably rugged and Trim’s penchant for declaring himself “not a grime artist.” As it turns out, the 1-800-Dino team proves the perfect foil for Trimsky’s heterodox ambitions: techno (and related) artists who really want to make grime beats meeting a grime artist who wants to make anything else.
The results end up sounding like a UK answer to Cannibal OX: strange electronic textures meet off-kilter hood poetry from a guy who’s lived the road life without feeling the need to confine himself to its limitations. Blake himself only delivers one beat here but if you liked his contributions to Vince Staples’ EP, you owe it to yourself to check out what his squad can do with a full 30 minute release.
The Bug – “Iceman” ft. Riko / “The Box” ft. D Double E
I’m fairly certain Kevin Martin has a spreadsheet listing the Roll Deep legends he’s yet to work with, and he’s slowly checking off names. Iceman is his long-awaited team up with Riko Dan, and it’s exactly the kind of ragga-tinged doomsday material you know and love from The Bug. Bare sound system pressure and gun threats while distorted reverb and synth washes color the proceedings: exactly what I’d want from this collaboration, although the world NEEDS a remix with Flow Dan and Manga, if I’m being honest. Meanwhile, The Box with D Double is surprisingly fleet footed, pairing grime’s answer to Eek-A-Mouse with squelchy 303 gurgles and stomping drums. Proper gear.
Zomby – Ultra
If nothing else, Ultra is proof that Kode9 is the best A&R in the game. It’s not that Ultra sounds significantly different than Zomby’s previous two LPs, it’s that it flows far more smoothly and has a much better hit to miss ratio than anything the mercurial artist releases on 4AD or XL. My favorite bits are undoubtedly the ones inspired by Wiley’s eski era experiments: “Where were U in ’02” needs to happen, surely. Beyond that, there’s a lot more to love: dark garage alongside Darkstar, a Burial collaboration that upset the internet but that I love (it sounds like a mental breakdown in a 2 room rave) and the sort of detours into darkness that define the best Hyperdub releases.
Habitat & Neffa T – “Warlord/Silver Mask”
There haven’t been too many instrumental grime singles that have pumped me up this year: the genre hasn’t calcified, but it hasn’t made any dramatic moves forward in recent months either. Neffa-T is a new name to look out for, however. He hasn’t had too many releases but he’s been a longtime presence on Boxed’s Rinse show, so the opportunity to grab material of his in digital format is a welcome one.
Triangulum’s “Warlord/Silver Mask” is back to back fury, the first sounding like the best darkside jungle merged to grime while sounding more exciting than strict revivals of either genre. “Silver Mask” pulls the same trick with dubstep’s empty spaces to brilliant effect, sounding like something Skream might have dropped in ’06, only updated for our darker times. Lots of stuff was forgettable this summer, this wasn’t.
Gundam – Waifu / Pearly Whites Vol. 1
Finally, R&G has had a banner summer, unsurprising since warm weather means brighter sounds. Longtime sub-genre champion Gundam dropped yet another album (the man works) in Waifu and it’s his best one yet, showcasing deeper crates and finer chops. The formula hasn’t changed: classic soul refracted through 106 & Park era Rocafella refracted through grime, but this sound is absolutely crucial at a time when current pop music is desperately trying to avoid brightness and fun (I see you Frank Ocean).
For even more (or for a free taste), check out Pearly Whites Vol. 1, the first offering by Bristol artist Lemzly Dale’s new label. While he’s been known so far for his jet black sublow material alongside Boofy and Kahn & Neek, this flips things completely, showcasing nothing but sample-happy chops that look back on the BET era with nostalgia and fondness, but reformatting those sounds for current tempos. A great start by a promising label.