Classifying grime is tricky due its roots throughout many different musical genres and scenes. However, many have linked its development to have borrowed from UK garage, jungle, and hip-hop (which is often thought to be a very ignorant comparison). Regardless of its categorization, grime has slowly become a staple in London's music scene. To give an opinion and brief history lesson on it would be disrespectful and inauthentic, as I have very little knowledge on how it came to be the scene, culture, and sound that it is today. It is no secret though that grime has little relevancy outside of the UK-- a claim supported by an ongoing clash between new and experienced listeners with comparisons to hip-hop. What could be the biggest reason this comparison is made could also be the reason grime is starting to get worldwide exposure; "the grime king". Fresh off his "No Fear" tour and now playing multiple shows in the UK, Skepta appears to be leading the forefront of this scene. His latest project, Konnichiwa, is probably best summarized by its own title; a form of greeting from a separate culture, language, and way of life.
Drake and Skepta making a guest appearance at the Section Boyz' Show (Village Underground, London on February 24th)
The album starts off with its self-titled track "Konnichiwa", which does its job of setting a precursor for the rest of the project. Skepta touches upon his struggles with relationships, dishes out some trash-talk with unnamed MCs, and talks about the overratedness of conformity. Regardless of the topic, Skepta manages to deliver with a gritty and vengeful tone in his voice. This could especially be seen in the song "It Aint Safe", where even though this is a song I would be mindlessly moshing to in a live show, it holds a lot of meaning to it. However, it's hard to decipher between Skepta speaking from personal experience and generalizing-- because the overall message appears to be how "grimy" the grime scene really is. There is also a lot of shade being thrown, which is understandable due to how grime clashing appears to be a major part of the culture and some artist's come up in the scene. I think Skepta was smart in not directly targeting anyone, but it makes me question the depth of the song and whether or not he's being more general than personal.
My biggest highlights of this project were "That's Not Me" featuring JME (Skepta's brother), "Numbers" featuring Pharrell Williams, and "Text Me Back". "That's Not Me" is exactly what I hoped it would be about, Skepta creating his own identity and making a mockery of certain trends in pop culture. I will admit that the music video is a joke, I mean come on look at the DJ, but the song itself is fire. Skepta and JME go back to back talking about sleazy and idiotic tendencies that they won't let define them. One of these tendencies being defining genres, something I addressed earlier in the post with questioning what grime music is. JME says, "People ask me what music I make.. turn the volume up cuz, that's what." Touché JME, touché. Skepta's track with Pharrell is very fun and quirky, something I could imagine being a pump-up song in the morning and getting you in a good mood. This is the only song Skepta got a huge feature for, and he did a good job with Pharrell to deliver a satisfying groove. The album ends off with "Text Me Back", a very heartfelt song that was a breath of fresh air at the end. After hearing Skepta tear apart MCs and talk about his struggles on the come up, it was nice to hear a switch up in beat and tone. This song has a more regretful approach, where it seems like his most important connections (his girlfriend? and mother) are being strained due to a busy lifestyle. It feels raw in the sense that this looks like someone letting their emotions loose in a desperate final attempt to make everything better. However, that's just my speculation based off the lyrics. Despite questioning of authenticity, this was a great way for this project to end as it showed me a whole new side to Skepta.
"Skepta - That's Not Me ft. JME" Music Video
Konnichiwa as a whole feels like an album that has sparked grime music to be more widely-appreciated and accepted, especially in the United States. Sure, many of the new listeners may have misinterpretations about the culture, slang, and lifestyle behind grime; me probably being one of them. However, I'm sure that there are people like me who are excited to further explore this genre and gain more of an understanding for it. We've already seen the UK send over massive waves of music that started to gain their own following here; Dubstep being the perfect example. I could definitely see something similar happening to grime, where MCs would stick to the roots but build upon them to add their own identity and story. I don't think that grime will ever become radio friendly, unless a sub-genre of it is made that matches the Pharrell track off this album. The reason I bring this up is because I think grime will always have an underground feel to it, which is something that it seems like most veterans are scared of losing. Even if it becomes something that you could find on any radio station, it will eventually die out and only the true fans will stick around to help rebuild it. So I don't recommend sweating it. You could check out the album in it's entirety through the Spotify playlist below!