One of the UK’s biggest cultural exports of this century, Grime has transformed from a hyper-localised East London sound to a worldwide phenomenon in the space of under two decades. The music that began in an overlooked council estate in Bow has spawned an entire international culture.
When Kanye West took to the stage at the 2015 Brit Awards, flanked by a posse which included Skepta, Jammer, Shorty, Krept and Konan, amongst others, it was a watershed moment for Grime on an international scale. A co-sign from one of the world’s biggest artists meant something, even if symbolically.
Though Grime might not have had the same impact stateside as elsewhere, we’ve watched as MCs, producers and DJs around the world have been swept up by the wave. Here, we take a look at the Grime scenes around the world, some of the best artists in the game, and what makes the nation’s culture unique.
‘Brime’ – Brazilian Grime – is something serious. It’s not a combination that should work; Grime is notoriously raw, hard hitting and cold (cue the use of names such as eskimo, snowman, snowball, snowflake and igloo) but the combo of classic Grime, modern drill and baile funk just clicks.
Brazil’s take on Grime incorporates the music, sound and lifestyle of life in the Favelas – artists like Leall, Fleezus and SD9 spin gritty tales of pain and struggle in the nation’s capital over polished production that often takes cues from other UK genres like jungle and 2-step garage.
Another country with a popping grime scene is Italy. The nation’s underground drill and Grime scenes have both been bubbling away, with MCs from across the country building success from the ground up.
Streetwise Italian YouTube channels like GRIME IT have given a platform to artists like Yodaman, Ganji Killah and Ninjaz MC, whilst Verona-via-Leeds freestyle Blackson has built a cult following by touching mic and switching between Italian and English with ease.
Flying the flag for Australian grime, Fraksha is the nation’s foremost proponent of the genre – a British expat, he formed Smash Brothers, the first Grime crew down under, and a collective that we have worked heavily with over the years. After dropping the seminal Aussie mixtape, It’s Just Bars, Smash Brothers have helped cultivate a scene that’s spread from their ends in Melbourne to Sydney and beyond.
The locals didn’t get it at first, but from humble beginnings, the Australian scene has begun to take life of its own. MCs like Nerve & Wombat, Alex Jones, HAZRD and Diem have jumped on mic to spit some Aussie flavas, and there’s plenty to be excited about down under.
A little closer to home, Grime in Scotland has continued to spread. It’s not a new phenomenon; in Glasgow, the Levels Syndicate have been doing their thing for a decade plus, and Scottish Grime was thrust into the limelight further in 2016, when Paisley MC Shogun’s freestyle “Vulcan” went viral.
Platforms like Twelve 50 have given budding Scottish MCs a chance to shine, and there’s been less of the postcode wars that hampered the original London scene. There’s a definite national pride amongst all Scottish Grime artists, and that classic Scottish patter is on full show.
Unlike some of the other hubs on the world map, Japan was on the scene from back in the day. Way back in 2003, when the UK scene itself was just starting to bubble, a group of MCs and producers in Osaka began to take matters in their own hands. It was, according to Mixmag, Roll Deep’s legendary Rules and Regulations mixtape that had the Japanese crews up in arms.
The best-known figure in the modern scene is Pakin, who was co-signed by Stormzy. Demand for the genre has become so high that the country regularly sees tour appearances from established UK stars like Giggs, Skeppy and Stormzy.
Like in Australia, Canada’s shores were blessed with Grime sonics early on. British Man Dem (B.M.D), a Grime collective from the UK which relocated to Toronto, hosted a radio show called Brits in the 6ix as early as 2008
Tre Mission was one of the first native champions of Grime in Canada. After a visit to the UK in 2011, he worked with Skepta and JME, and has been grafting hard ever since. Co-signs from Canadian superstar Drake have helped bring further international limelight to the Grime scene, working with Skepta and posting Instagram stories of early LOTM clashes between Skepta and Devilman.
You might be surprised to deep that there’s been a link between China and E3 from early. Named by Hyperdub bossman Kode9, sinogrime is a sub-genre of grime which uses east Asian – usually Chinese – samples, instruments and motifs.
Fledgling grime circuits in Shanghai and Beijing have helped underground raves to materialise. It’s a two-way relationship – Swimful, a Chinese Grime producer, remixed Wiley’s classic instrumental “Shanghai” in 2016. China has also hosted UK MCs like AJ Tracey, Novelist and P Money on their international tours.
A key figure in archiving and preserving freestyles and clashes from Grime’s early days, unofficial scene documentarian Rooney RiskyRoadz O'keefe has done more than his part in exporting the music to the rest of the planet.
His Grime Worldwide series on YouTube has him traveling the world, shining a torch on the coldest MCs from around the world – Japan, New Zealand, Belarus, the Czech Republic and more. With other platforms like International Grime following suit, there’s no shortage of guys who drop shellers on the mic – put in the graft and you can make it, wherever you’re from.
At KING, we’re proud to have grown the brand at the start of the scene and in Grime's spiritual birthplace, sharing the journey with the early Grime pioneers whilst working with – and supporting – up-and-coming Grime artists and producers pushing to make a name. Get on the King Features to check out our past work and collabs.