Grime Stories: The Exhibition Celebrating Two Decades of Grime

Grime Stories: The Exhibition Celebrating Two Decades of Grime

Grime Stories: The Exhibition Celebrating Two Decades of Grime

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As you all may know, I have a love of all things grime, I grew listening to it, so you can imagine my excitement right? I actually saw this exhibition posted online whilst I was at the Barbican centre and basically went straight there and turned up to the exhibition two days early… Did someone say keen?

Anyway, two days later I came back when it was finally open to the public!

Grime Stories: The Exhibition Celebrating Two Decades of Grime

The Museum of London is currently home to one of the most important exhibitions of our time – Grime Stories: from the corner to the mainstream. The Ellipse hall houses an engaging display honouring the music, people and places central to the grime scene and its roots in east London.

A Brief History:

Grime music emerged twenty years ago in the early 2000’s evolving from the UK garage music scene of the 1990s in London which has successfully thrived through an informal network of record shops, youth clubs and pirate radio stations. By 2004, London’s grime scene had reached mainstream success, as albums like Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Boy in da Corner’ won the Mercury Prize and garnered widespread acclaim.

The music was influenced by an eclectic collection of music, fusing hip hop with a number of UK musical sub genres that were popular in the 1990s, including UK garage music, techno, and jungle music. Grime music typically plays around 140 bpm, giving it a very fast breakbeat and driving bassline. Rappers in the grime scene typically have British accents, which distinguishes this kind of music from American hip hop.

Grime Stories: from the corner to the mainstream

Co-curated by grime pioneer Jammer, who birthed one of the most important battle platforms in the UK music scene and one of grime’s earliest documentarians, Roony ‘Risky’ Keefe, the display features a series of newly commissioned films that explore the community at the heart of grime’s success, a large-scale illustration from artist Willkay and personal artefacts from the MCs and producers who developed grime’s unique sound.

I immediately felt a sense of pride, just seeing the word GRIME plastered around the Ellipse Hall, I fell in love with the cabbie concept throughout the exhibition, how it directed me through each display and informed me of the growth through the years and highlighted areas that were monumental in East London. I was extremely gratified when seeing the use of the colours black and yellow which are commonly associated with the genre, I guess it was all very nostalgic alongside informative and a vibrant showcase of important British history. The display looks at how the scene has changed in the 20 years since the music started filtering into the mainstream and the impact of these changes on the future landscape of grime.

There are a few displays of the pair’s original equipment that includes a Gray Trinity Korg keyboard owned by Jammer that Skepta had once borrowed to produce “That’s Not Me,” the record that contributed to bringing grime back to the forefront of UK music in 2014. The show includes short documentaries and memorabilia like Keefe’s first camcorder that he recorded some of the most iconic Risky Roadz freestyles with.

Jammer is widely known as being a member of Boy Better Know and a former member of Nasty Crew as well as the respected creator of Lord of the Mics which was founded in the basement of his mums house in 2003. The stairs to Jammers basement have been replicated at the exhibition allowing guests to experience where some of their favourite artists have once stood, see all the name tags graffitied and take their own iconic ‘Jammers basement’ photo.

Lord of the Mics catalysed the careers of many, and many of the clashes performed on the legendary DVD’s are still recited today by grime fans.

The exhibit of some of Risky Roadz earliest recordings shows us the inception of grime fashion, from the early 2000s, the birth of UK grime music came with it’s own look – Avirex jackets and Nike Airmax trainers took hold, first emerging from the tower blocks of London’s East End. Then came the real statement piece – the tracksuit and we can see how much of a pivotal role it took from the birth of the genre to the present day.

While grime fashion has adapted itself over the years, the real staples still shine through.

Grime Stories: The Exhibition Celebrating Two Decades of Grime

When thinking about the future landscape of grime, there are a lot of questions raised around young people, music and gentrification.

Dr. Joy White (author of Terraformed: Young Black Lives In The Inner City) contributed a piece of writing that gives context and background to the exploration of young people in East London.

“Gentrification is presented always as a positive process of making areas better… if young people cant come together, if there are no youth clubs, if they cant be on street corners because of ASBO’s and behaviour orders. then where do they go? And how does the music happen? What is the sound that’s going to come out of places that are gentrified?”

– Dr. Joy White

It will be very interesting to see what unfolds next for the youth and UK music, make sure you pick up a copy of the leaflet for more information.

This exhibition is open now and runs up until Sunday 4th Dec 2022.

Stay safe and take care,

Sammi xx

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Grime Stories: The Exhibition Celebrating Two Decades of Grime

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