The release of Manchester MC Bugzy Malone’s hotly anticipated new album ‘King Of The North’ last Friday (14th July) has got myself & the team here at VZ HQ discussing which artists we’d recommend to Grime newbies. In no particular order, here goes…
1. Bugzy Malone
Manchester’s Bugzy released his debut mixtape SwaggaMan in 2010 quickly gaining a reputation as a top-class freestyler thanks to well received appearances on KODH TV and Grime Daily. Invited onto Charlie Sloth’s 1Xtra show Fire In The Booth, he propelled himself into UK Hip-Hop conversation when he began a high profile feud with Tottenham MC Chip, formerly known as Chipmunk. Bugzy’s EP Facing Time knocked Beyoncé’s Lemonade off the iTunes top spot.
Highlights of the album include ode to Batman ‘Bruce Wayne’, ‘Through The Night’ which samples Garage legends DJ Luck and MC Neat and massive single ‘Memory Lane’ feat Tom Grennan in which Bugzy sings a line from Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’ between verses.
Hailing from Harlesden, North West London Nines has been releasing music since 2012 but didn’t release his debut full-length until February of this year. Titled ‘One Foot Out’ the album serves as a sequel to 2015 mixtape ‘One Foot In’.
Nines is known for his mellow flow, danceable beats and lush visuals. His slick music videos have an American sheen to them, but his accent and references to the likes of Andy Murray and Arsene Wenger soon make it clear he’s a Brit!
East Londoner Wiley is the self-proclaimed Godfather of Grime, but there aren’t many people challenging him for the title; he’s been an active member of the UK Hip-Hop scene since his teens when he featured heavily on pirate radio stations. Also a serious challenger for the title of ‘The Madonna of Grime’, Wiley has been through numerous reincarnations; purveyor of club bangers (‘Wearing My Rollex’, ‘Heatwave’) and member of various crews including Pay As U Go, Roll Deep and now Boy Better Know alongside fellow heavy weights Skepta and JME.
January 2017 saw the eagerly anticipated release of Wiley’s eleventh studio album, Godfather. Sharp wit and big beats from a legend of the genre returning to move the sound forward, the album received widespread critical acclaim. Key tracks include ‘Bring Them All / Holy Grime’ featuring Devlin and statement of intent ‘Speakerbox’.
Arguably the most famous Vegan MC, JME is a member of Royal Family of Grime The Adenugas, which also includes his twin Julie, a Beats radio DJ and Mercury Prize winner Skepta. JME began his production career creating ringtones as a teen.
Comprising years of expertly crafted tracks, his most recent LP Integrity plays like a greatest hits album – all killer no filler! It’s no surprise that it was nominated for the IMPALA album of the year award. A quick glance at his discography reveals that there was a gap of two years between each album, which hopefully means we should expect a release form JME very soon.
Experimenting with his Dad’s record deck and a karaoke machine to create his first mixing equipment, Skepta made music from an early age. He began as a DJ for local Grime crew Meridian before founding the renowned collective Boy Better Know with his brother JME and other friends from Meridian. Skepta has won two MOBO awards, an NME award, a BET award and the Mercury Prize.
Certified gold in the UK, last year’s Konnichiwa cemented Skepta’s status as one of the best British MCs of all time. Highlights which have proved festival singalong favourites include ‘That’s Not Me’ featuring JME, ‘Numbers’ featuring Pharrell Williams and ‘Crime Riddim’.
Naming himself after the Buddhist word for immovable, Akala began releasing music independently in 2003. The North Londoner is one of the most politically conscious rappers to emerge from the Grime scene, his lyrics exploring themes as varied as civil rights history, ongoing war in the middle east, current UK politics and the updating of Shakespeare for a modern audience.
Last year Akala released ‘10 Years of Akala’. The 23 track compilation includes techno sampling classic ‘Shakespeare’, his phenomenal ‘Fire In The Booth pt. 1’ and the searing social commentary of ‘Carried Away’ featuring Josh Osho.
7. Lady Leshurr
Yet to release an album, Birmingham based rapper Lady Leshurr is best known for her Queen’s Speech freestyles series and has steadily released mix tapes since 2009. She began rapping over her mum’s Reggae records whilst still in primary school.
Lady Leshurr’s latest mixtape Mode was released in April of this year and includes ‘juice’, an instant dance friendly classic with an infectious chorus.
8. Little Simz
Experimental rapper Little Simz released her first mixtape aged 16 and has now released two LPs, 2015’s A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons and 2016’s Stillness In Wonderland. The spiritual nature of her music has drawn comparisons to Kendrick Lamar and Lauryn Hill.
Stillness In Wonderland is a cohesive body of work inspired by Alice In Wonderland best listened to as a full record, but high concept animated video ‘Picture Perfect’ is a good bitesize place to start.
A Grime list wouldn’t be complete without mention of Stormzy, who has risen from a relatively unknown Croydon rapper with two EPs under his belt to a multi-award winning internationally known artist with a gold certified album in just a few years. He began rapping from the age of 11 when he’d battle much older established performers at his local youth club.
Stormzy’s debut album Gang Signs & Prayer is a meticulously thought out cinematic journey from aptly titled opener ‘First Things First’ to closer ‘Lay Me Bear’. The record mixes sped up vocals with strings, piano, gospel vocals and traditional grime synths and drum tracks for an instantly recognisable sound.
Described by Wiley as ‘grime treasure’, Dagenham’s Devlin released his first mixtape in 2008. The same year Kanye West increased his profile by posting a video to his blog of him rapping in a park aged fifteen from an old Grime DVD.
Devlin’s latest album The Devil In explores inner turmoil as the key topic, as the name would suggest. His renowned speedy flow is complimented by chilled beats in the case of ‘Blow Your Mind’ featuring Maverick Sabre and full-throttle bass for ‘50 Grand’ featuring Skepta.