Most people consider Grime to be one of the most notable musical exports that the United Kingdom has produced in recent history. With a focus on aggressive sounds and lyrics inspired by urban life, grime has spread from the UK to overseas in several nations. If you’ve been curious about grime music, read on for some information on the top songs, artists, and history.
What Is Grime Music?
Grime music began to appear in the early 2000s in the United Kingdom. The genre’s heaviest influence is the UK Garage genre, a popular dance style music genre in the early 2000s. Despite this influence, grime is a much more aggressive genre that focuses less on danceable beats and more on an intense vibe.
Grime Music Characteristics
Grime music focuses on beats and rap-style lyrics, though many artists sing on grime tracks. Beats tend to stay around 140 BPM, bringing rapid syncopated breakbeats to bear. Emceeing is a prominent part of grime culture, with many artists DJing, especially in the earlier years of the genre.
Lyrically, most grime songs focus on Urban life. Many artists focus on gangs, money, social status, and other similar topics. Because of this, many equate grime to be similar to rap, though there are several key differences. The lyrical and vocal styles are often credited as one of the primary reasons the genre reached prominence in other nations, especially North America.
Given its country of origin, many people associate the genre’s traditional cadence as well. In some cases, artists in other nations have attempted to mimic UK accents just to make a “truer” grime track. Typically speaking, most fans find faking an accent to make a grime song to be laughable.
7 Examples of Grime Music
Now that we know a bit about the genre, let's look into some examples of grime. Here are seven popular tracks in the genre from over the year to give a good look into grime as a category.
Brand New Day by Dizzee Rascal
Considered one of the pioneers of grime, no list is complete without Dizzee Rascal featured on the forefront. Brand New Day sits as one of the most popular tracks in his celebrated discography.
On the track, Dizzee Rascal speaks about living a mostly carefree life in his youth. The lyrics focus on getting paid and not tolerating disrespect as every day brings him closer to his goals. Overall, he’s thankful that he took the path he’s taken rather than falling on drugs or alcohol as so many around him did.
In short, it’s a widely inspirational song, with the lyrics seeming to condemn criminal behaviors in favor of finding success. Brand New Day focuses on moving away from the things that surrounded you as a kid so that you can seize the life you want.
When I’m ‘Ere by Roll Deep
With a focus on repetition, Roll Deep’s When I’m ‘Ere is an aggressive verbal assault that doesn’t slow down from start to finish. The beat heavily features gunshots and the sounds of guns, even ending the song with a gunshot.
Lyrically, the song focuses on taking over. Nearly every line ends with the titular “When I’m ‘Ere,” helping make a catchy song you can shout along to. It’s a hard, intense beat paired with aggressive and dominant lyrics.
Shutdown by Skepta
Skepta’s Shutdown is an anthem towards rebellion and opposition. The hook repeatedly invokes the title, making the lyrics easy enough to shout after a few listens. Mostly focusing on a rebellious life in the UK, Skepta condemns police, politicians, and general authority figures.
At one point, the song samples a woman complaining about seeing black men in tracksuits on stage, calling it intimidating. The racist voice line is played for laughs as well as to flex how tough he and his crew are.
Wifey by Tinie Tempah
With another classic from the rise of grime, Tinie Tempah’s Wifey is a dedication to all of the faithful women in the world. The lyrics focus on his desire to be with a mature and faithful woman, flexing his fame and fortune in hopes of attracting someone who can make his life better.
Stating a preference for “brideable” women, Tempah states that he’s sick of making songs to make love to, hoping to find love. As a whole, the song is meant to raise women up in a genre that can often wield oversexualizing lyrics.
Side By Side by Sir Spyro
Switching from love anthems back to hard grime beats, Sir Spyro’s Side By Side is a much faster, intense song. The song brings repetition and quick bars to create an almost disorienting sensation, especially when paired with the trippy music video.
Past the intense and fast vocal style, the song focuses on being there for the people close to you. The hook mentions strength in numbers, stating that no one can handle them when they’re all together.
Overseas by D-Block Europe & Central Cee
A much more recent song than most on this list, Overseas helps prove that grime is still alive and well. The song also brings more modern sounds, such as autotuned vocals and a more electronic sound. While the lyrics and music video focus on flexing, wealth, and sex, the beat itself is relatively calm and laid back.
Body 2 by Tion Wayne
Closing out the list is another much more modern high-hype song: Tion Wayne and Russ Millions’ Body 2. Featuring more than half a dozen artists, this cipher consists of artists naming themselves as kings of their cities. Quick, exciting, and intense, it’s another great track to prove that grime is still alive and well nearly two decades after it hit the scene.
Five Top Grime Musicians
With seven amazing tracks named, let’s look into some of the top artists. Here are five of the most notable grime artists over the years.
As a note, this isn’t a top five of the best or most prolific! These are simply five artists that are a great place to start if you intend to get into grime as a genre.
With a track already landing on this list, Dizzee Rascal is a can’t-miss name in grime. Considered to be one of the first pioneers of the genre, Dizzee Rascal – Dylan Kwabena Mills – is an MC, a rapper, a songwriter, and a producer with countless hits under his belt.
Only a teenager when he began in music, Dizzee Rascal has multiple number-one singles, including “Holiday,” “Shout,” “Dirtee Disco,” “Bonkers,” and “Dance wiv Me.” He also won “Best Newcomer” in 2002, UK Act of the Year in 2004, and dozens of other awards and nominations.
Another early name to the game, Lethal Bizzle – born Maxwell Owusu Ansah – hit the scene as a member of the More Fire Crew. Their single “Oi!” charted in the top 10 right off the bat, quickly launching him to the forefront of the genre. His music has consistently charted well, from grime tracks and beyond.
Other than music, Bizzle is a well-known online personality. Popular through a variety of social media platforms, he’s also launched a clothing brand based on his persona. Overall, he’s one of the most notable names in the music scene.
Another key figure in the genre, Wiley has earned the name the “Godfather of Grime.” Independently releasing music for a while, he would eventually become popular with Roll Deep, who landed on our list of tracks above.
Wiley also isn’t completely without controversy. He was condemned in 2020 for a series of videos that many found antisemitic. He’s also been stabbed multiple times, a fact that most people find to only strengthen his tough-guy persona.
Fourth on the list is a fourth pioneer, Kane Brett Robinson – Kano. Born in East Ham, Kano is seen to be as prolific as Wiley and Dizzee Rascal, especially in the early years.
Kano reached prominence with grime still in the underground with his debut single “Ps and Qs.” His music continues to make waves, with his 2016 release “Made in the Manor” being his most successful album to date.
Our fifth and final entry is Lady Leshurr, one of many prominent women in the grime scene. Her entry to the music industry came a bit later than the names mentioned above, hitting the scene in 2009.
Since then, Lady Leshurr has remained a popular name in grime, hip hop, and dance hall. With a focus on lyrical content due to a background of poetry, Leshurr has even won the MOBO award for Best Female Act. Best Rap/ Grime Act and Best Solo Female are also awards that she’s earned, cementing her as a must-know act in the scene.
The History of Grime Music
Grime has a well-storied history over the last twenty years. Hitting prominence in the early 2000s, there’s some debate over what the first “true grime” track was. Dizzee Rascal’s “Crime,” Wiley’s “Year 2000,” and multiple other tracks are often hotly discussed as the first tracks, with no clear winner – though the first year of grime as a genre is usually said to be 2000.
During the early 2000s, grime was considered an underground act for several years. The genre went nameless, with some adopting the term “eskibeat” due to Wiley’s popular track “Eskimo.” Another popular name was “grimey garage” as a result of its influence from garage music, adding “grimey” due to the typically dark lyrical content.
The movement away from UK garage and the influences therein gave way to darker themes and tracks. Many see Wiley’s “Wot Do U Call It” to be the full signal of that move away from the genre, helping to seal grime as an independent genre.
Many consider grime to be an offshoot of early electronic music due to the focus on emceeing and DJing, but this is technically incorrect. The subgenre pulls from countless different genres and cultures to create its unique sound.
One of the most prominent cultures to influence grime is Jamaican music. The hybridization of so many genres in grime helped to further this culture in the UK scene, especially musically. Many consider grime to be one of the stronger influences in this vein, paving the way for more Jamaican influences in electronic genres.
Past this, the UK cultures seen in the genre are easy to see, especially in the lyrics. Most songs focus on a life on the streets or surviving in urban environments, bringing in gangs, clout, and other such features that are common in hip hop and rap. Ghanian cultures are also prevalent, especially with artists like Dizzee Rascal.
In the late 2000s, grime began to enter what many consider a decline. The genre slowly faded away and gave way to UK funky and dubstep, as well as electro-house rap. Artists like Wiley began to shift away into pop to maintain their relevance.
Grime remained somewhat successful, and 2011 saw a revival of sorts. 2013 brought in a full revival of instrumental grime in the underground, especially for beats that artists of other genres would rap over. In 2015, Kanye West invited several grime artists to the Brit Awards for a performance that received a high amount of criticism.
Grime would slow down again in the late 2010s, but remains decently prominent today. While it’s far from the most popular genre, artists like Stormzy still maintain popularity, headlining Glastonbury Festival as the first grime artist to do so. It’s a long and storied history of a genre that influenced countless others, melding cultures and genres together to create something new.
What Is Grime Music? Final Thoughts
Grime remains a popular genre, despite its multiple waves and offshoots. After several revivals, new grime artists are still appearing, with some of the hottest tracks of the last few years being from the genre.
If you’d like to learn more about the history of music and prominent artists, feel free to contact us. You can also browse our website to find more incredible genres and artists to add to your playlists today.