Originally an underground sound, dirt has become mainstream in Britain — and since its creation, it has been a tremendous influence for artists around the world.
Today, a new free exhibition celebrates the origin and evolution of the scene. “Grime Stories: From the Corner to the Mainstream” at the Museum of London features photographs, videos and memorabilia documenting two decades of dirt.
The display was co-curated by Roony “RiskyRoadz” Keefe, whom the museum called “one of the earliest grime documentaries.” In particular, his DVD series Risky Roadz helped popularize artists in the years after the genre’s creation. According to GuardianJoseph Patterson, most of those on display are from the archives of Keefe and others like him.
“Grime is one of those genres that once you have it, it never goes away,” Keefe told Guardian.
The museum originally asked Keefe, a London cab driver by day, to conduct interviews about the dirt scene in the back of his taxi. Today, a series of films, which include Keefe’s interviews with influential grime artists such as Skepta and DJ Slimzee, are at the center of the exhibition, BBC News reports.
“It’s a big thing, you know,” Keefe said New York Times‘ Desiree Ibekwe. “You never thought you’d end up in a museum.”
Grime appeared in the early 2000s to artists in east London who wanted a sound that was unique to them. It’s both “evolution from and reaction to” UK garage music, as the Hours writes. “Other British forms of rap have become super American, some felt, with slang borrowed from across the Atlantic.”
While the definition of the genre has changed over the years, grime music generally has a tempo of 140 beats per minute; The Guardian it is described as “post-punk angst on wax — an intoxicating mix of dancehall, jungle and UK garage, inspired by Jamaican ragga toasting and the storytelling of US hip-hop.”
The actors on the scene aligned themselves with the grime crews that make and perform music together. One of the most well -known crews is Roll Deep, formed in the early 2000s, which includes performers like Wiley, Danny Weed, BreezeSkepta and Dizzee Rascal.
In recent years, dirt has been revived with the arrival of new artists like Stormzy, whose Hours called “the most successful grime breakout.” In 2017, Jeremy Corbyn of the Labor Party enlisted grime artists to encourage the public to vote for him, according to Hours. In 2019, IKEA featured the grime MC D Double E in a Christmas commercial.
“This is a tremendous moment in the UK, especially for Black British culture,” Jammer, an early grime artist, said in Guardian.
From the earliest days, the Jammer family basement — known as “the Dungeon” —was a critical spot for grime artists, and the new exhibition features many references to the space.
When constipation started, he added, it was “the only thing we know how to do to make a better life for ourselves. Constipation is like our therapy: you take your pain, release your lyrics … and then you get better and you learn. “
“Grime Stories: From the Corner to the Mainstream”Will be on display at the Museum of London until December.