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A brief history of grime

From its humble pirate radio origins to the chart-topping genre that it is today, grime’s ascent over the past 20 years has been nothing short of spectacular. And with Nike’s latest Air Max 90 Garage/Grime collection celebrating two of the UK’s most renowned underground sounds, we thought we’d take the time to share a very brief history of grime.

We could have spoken for days about the scenes most iconic tracks and moments, but we’ve tried to keep it to a select few of its most legendary milestones. Have a flick through them below…

2001

Grime’s earliest origins into the mainstream can be traced back to 2001. So Solid paved the way for the genre with their debut single “Oh, No and They Don’t Know album – although classed as garage, it was seen as the evolutionary bridge to the new grime sound.  

Pay As U Go – a collective consisting of Wiley, DJ Target, Geeneus, Slimzee, Maxwell D, God’s Gift and Plague – release their hit single “Champagne Dance”.

2002

After leaving garage collective Pay As U Go Cartel, Wiley sets up Roll Deep – a grime collective comprising of several East London MCs and producers, including Dizzee Rascal. 

Wiley finds his Eskibeat sound – releasing the instrumental track Eskimowhich is still regarded as one of the most famous grime instrumentals to this day.

Wiley also created the biggest ever, live grime even in ’02, launching Eskimo Dance. It showcased the scenes best MCs clashing and spitting. 

More Fire Crew’sOi!” is released in 2002 which reaches seven in the Official Singles Chart.

2003

Grime is propelled into the British by Dizzee Rascal with his debut album Boy in Da Corner winning the Mercury Prize.

Bow-based grime crew Ruff Sqwad release ‘Functions on the Low’. It’s regarded as one of the most influential grime instrumentals ever release, still spat over on freestyles today and brought into the limelight once more in Stormzy’s 2017 track ‘Shut Up’. 

Channel U launches on British satellite television, which was dedicated to playing grime and UK hip hop. 

2004

Jammer launches ‘Lord Of The Mics Vol. 1’ – this first instalment featured one of the most legendary clashes between grime scene veterans Wiley and Kano.

Lethal Bizzle drops ‘Pow! (Forward Riddim)’ – an amalgamation of the scene’s top MCs including the likes of D Double E, Flowdan and Demon. It reached number 11 in the UK top 40 in early 2005.

2005

20-year-old Kano releases his debut album ‘Home Sweet Home’, boasting classic grime tracks including ‘Ps & Qs’.

Roll Deep released their debut album ‘In At The Deep End’. It featured the songs ‘Shake a Leg’ and ‘The Avenue’, both of which broke into the UK top 40. 

Brothers Joseph and Jamie Adenuga – better known as Skepta and JME – found Boy Better Know. Oft abbreviated to BBK, the British grime collective and record label is still one of the most prominent grime groups today. 

2006

Jamal Edwards launches the SB.TV YouTube channel, showcasing the best up-and-coming grime talent from across the UK. It helped to eliminate the need to feature on TV or radio for exposure – a barrier for most rising artists.

Skepta and Birmingham-based MC Devilman clash at Lord of the Mics II.

2007

After a lack of radio play, Devlin, Mercston, Wretch 32, Ghetts and Scorcher come together to create a new grime collective known as The Movement. They even created a DVD in 2007 documenting the Grime scene at the time. 

Skepta releases his debut album ‘Greatest Hits‘ – a bold assertion of confidence from the Tottenham MC.

2008

BBK’s JME releases his debut album ‘Famous?’. 

London-based YouTube media channel Link Up TV is launched; following in the footsteps of SB.TV it provided a platform to up-and-coming UK artists.

2009

2009 seen another grime anthem hit the airwaves – Tempa T – Next Hype.

2010

After 16 years broadcasting from East London rooftops, the influential Rinse.FM radio station – started by DJ Geneeus – finally wins its Ofcom licence and goes legit.

2011

Lethal Bizzle is back with the third iteration of his classic; Pow 2011 boasted a roster of grime all-stars, including JME, Wiley, Kano, Ghetts and P Money, to name a few.

2012

Taking a side step from the current grime-pop crossover tracks that were dominating the radio waves – including a few from Skeppy himself – Skepta releases his ‘Blacklisted‘ mixtape. The 12 song tape reasserted the BBK founder as one of the most celebrated names in grime and is regarded by many as his magnum opus; Skepta himself admitted: “Still I ain’t heard a better mixtape than Blacklisted yet” in his 2015 Top Boy track. 

2013

18-year-old Birmingham MC Depzman releases his debut album ‘2Real’ in July. Joshua Ribera tragically lost his life as a result of knife crime in September, a devastating moment for the scene to lose one of its brightest prospects.

Jaykae releases debut EP ‘A Bite to Eat’; later in the year, he delivers a heartfelt freestyle on BBC 1 Xtra’s Fire in the Booth in dedication to Depzman.

2014

Meridian Dan brings grime back into the mainstream with ‘German Whip’ featuring JME & Big H. It reaches 13 in the charts and can be looked back at as one of the pivotal moments in the scene’s resurgence. 

Skepta releases ‘That’s Not Me’ featuring his brother JME – another big player in bringing grime back to the masses. He also bagged himself a MOBO Award for the song’s £80 music video. 

Stormzy wins best grime act at the MOBO Awards, becoming only one of a select few artists to clinch an award while still unsigned. 

2015

2015’s Brit Awards sees Kanye West perform ‘All Day’ alongside a star-studded ensemble of grime MCs. That same week he performs at Camden’s Koko, summoning MCs JME, Meridian Dan, Skepta and Novelist to open the show with a performance of “That’s Not Me”, “It Ain’t Safe” and “German Whip”.

Grime gets some global recognition with Stormzy winning the Best International Act at BETs.

2016

Skepta releases ‘Konnichiwa’ – the album peaked at number 2 in the UK charts and clinched the Hyundai Mercury Prize, fending off fierce competition from the likes of Radiohead and David Bowie.

2017

Stormzy’s debut album ‘Gang Signs & Prayer’ becomes the first grime album to reach number 1 in the UK charts – a major milestone for the genre.

2018

Jaykae joins us at size? Carnaby Street for a size? sessions event; we got the chance to sit down with the man Brum-based artist to find out a bit more about where he came from, the influence he takes from his area, and how ‘Toothache’ featuring in hit TV series ‘Power’ helped raise his profile as an independent artist.

Skepta celebrates the launch of his third SK Air collaboration with Nike by taking over Carnaby Street for a meet and greet.

2019

Northampton-based MC Slowthai drops his debut album ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ boasting collaborations with Jaykae and Skepta. The album has a punk-esque quality to it and even features a track produced by punk-rock duo Slaves.

2020

MCs Big Zuu, Kamakaze, Eyez and Capo Lee team up on their ‘Royal Rumble‘ project – an all-star 9 song grime throwdown. 

Grime veteran Dizzee Rascal goes back to his roots with the release of ‘E3 AF’. Sharing its title with the Bow postcode where he learnt his trade, the album is a return to Dizzee’s OG grime sound with legendary MCs Kano and Ghetts collaborating on track ‘Eastside‘. 

2021

Nike celebrates the UK’s underground sounds with its Air Max 90 ‘Garage/Grime’ pack; to celebrate its release we’re teaming up with Rinse for an exclusive size? sessions set – keep ‘em peeled.

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