it’s… a… not-London… thing
Martin Clark sounds the knell for grime
And identifies the assassin: funky house.
Just in time for the funeral, a wreath arrives in the mail: the promo of Semtex’s Grime Wave mix-cd, forthcoming on Sanctuary, “hosted by D Double E,” and containing all the big bangers from last year… Brought back a mighty memory-rush, but also a sense of that-was-then, been-and-bygone finality.
Never before have I de-cathected from a beloved genre so abruptly, swiftly, completely. It happened a little less than a year ago, and ever since the interest level has stayed level--hovering just north of nil.
Just back from a fortnight’s hols in London, and, what with one thing and another, I never managed to get around to checking out the basements of Blackmarket and Uptown (although I went past D’Arblay Street twice). No hefty swag of overpriced whites in my overhead locker this time round (just as well with the hand baggage restrictions). And I never once tuned into the pirates, partly because the first week we were in a hotel, the second house-sitting for friends who don't own a radio. But, whereas once I'd have gone out of my way to get hold of a wireless of some sort, I just never felt the urge.
No, my only grime interactions were A/ seeing Plan B, on TV, twice, each time part of some festival coverage, doing his wretched rapping-over-an-acoustic-guitar thing, and B/ feeling a faint flicker passing the poster ads in the Tube for The Sound of the Pirates, Cameo’s mix-CD. It's that same series that back in the day put out some great double-CDs of UKG and 2-step. But half the tracks on this one seemed to be mainstream US rap and R&B. Okay, slight exaggeration, but still it’s frontedloaded with non-Nuum (the first three on disc one are Busta Rhymes, Mobb Deep/50 Cent, and Snoop Dogg; they even have Rihanna “SOS” on there). Not exactly road, not true London underground. But maybe this motley mix is the sound of the pirates at the moment, the few grime ones that still poking out amid the swarm of funky house stations.
I haven’t quite been able to take Cameo seriously since I tuned in/clicked on late last year to his 1Xtra show and his big guest was a chap called Max Peezay--a grime MC from Sweden. Actually, come to think of it, this was actually a key moment in the involuntary
de-cathexis process. Then, a few months later, I decided to give Cameo another go, and
lo-and- behold, he had Max fucking Peezay on again—with an update on his attempts to build a grime scene in Sweden. Cameo’s boosterist bluster had already gotten grating, all the hot-air hype about the sound blowing up, flying in the face of reality. But really, had it come to this--Scandinavian grime?
People keep telling me, “there’s still good tunes coming out”. But I’m trying not to hear them. The people, but also, in a way, the tunes too. Like with a love affair, I’d rather a clean break.
The other omnipresent poster on the Tube walls was for the fourth Housexy album. That cover babe--as per Dirty Vegas and a million other comps, somewhere between an airbrushed photo and a hyper-realist painting--tells you all you need to know. Yes, it’s funky house: the people’s choice, apparently, all across the E- postcode zones of London.
This is significantly worse than the rewind-to-96 (but no rewinds, please) initiative of “urban house” mounted by some senior UK garage deejays a few years back as a reaction against grime. For as Martin points out in his very informative piece, this is the London massive embracing a completely de-localised sound, eradicating from the scene all traces of their grass-roots environs and their roots'n'future sonic heritage.