I think it is to the relief of everyone in the world, that, finally, Japanese grime is treading ground in the international music scene. Acknowledging this fact, P Money performed at Outlook Japan. Pioneering the communication are MCs such as Pakin and DJ Prettybwoy, and UK artists are making the distance to bring their music to the growing audience.
It is now cliche to speak of the advent of UK grime; 2015 has been its biggest year yet. Kanye West and Drake have already paid their tributes many times over, Channel 4 recently tried to tackle the confouding puzzle of “Just who is Stormzy?” and, well, do we really need to talk about Dizee Rascal?
The very mention of the latter’s name, would have some of the older fans rattling in their seats. They are not a forgiving crowd. The distinguishing feature of their culture lies in the simplest of terms; squad. Consequently, whatever action might test the truth someone’s loyalty, will be categorical in determing their status in the group. Hence, ostracism through rhymez.
Hip-hop grew in the shadow of 20th-century America. The values of individual struggle and perservence shaped its content and form. Nas was rapping about surviving by himself in the streets of Brooklyn. When Stormzy proudly proclaims “I’m so London, I’ so south,” and goes on about how he “goes hard for his team, he goes hard for his squaddron,” he is asserting the importance of community.
It’s interesting how in a world where someone’s loud “roar” is esteemed more than “all the people,” content like that is flourishing. The age of well-meaning hippies who lived in communes and spent most of their time on trips in nature, was followed by the glorified rockstar, the sexualized and then messed-up pop idol, and the hits of today, which I can’t begin to describe. It’s been a while, since we’ve seen someone put the squad first.
Under this light, however, Japan is revealed as a fertile field for Skepta’s fire. In a society where the whole and its hierarchy are seen as the focus of human effort, the kings of grime are, in short, preaching to the choir.
If anything, it makes more sense within the framework of the communitarian East than the liberal republics of the West. As to how the Japanese have been able to embrace the actual style of grime, it comes as no surpise considering how big hip-hop is there.
This statement is somewhat controversial, but it is a fact that the two may have separate origins, and still have a very similar sound. Many will claim that grime grew independently. They might be right.
However, as with hip-hop, grime grew in the shadow of 21st-century London. It combines different cultural elements to a specific, original result. Maybe that’s why it echoes from Croydon to Osaka.
-Eliza Gritsi & Bianca Marcu