Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Ohmydiddy!

“You get smoked like Philly
Think you’re big but you’re just a little willy
Load magazines like Chantelle Fiddy
Make a man say ‘oh my diddy!’”


Skepta,
Meridian & Roll Deep,
LDN 2005

It’s late at Rinse FM station party. MCs, DJs and headz are rammed into a small (literally) underground east London venue. A scream goes up at the bar. Skepta’s just dropped his new bars that name-check Chantelle, and that scream says she’s feeling them.

When I first heard those bars, if I hadn’t been sitting down, I probably would have fallen over. I was in a hotel room in California, but even 5000 miles from home, their impact and significance weren’t lost on me.

Ironically I first met Chan in west London, at some waste showcase. She was smoozing some major label a&r. The PR I was talking to for some reason already had taken a severe dislike to Chan. It wasn’t the best beginning of a friendship.

Through Deuce magazine (RIP), we soon found we had common ground. More than that, we had a common mission. It was 2002/3 and 2step garage, in the eye of the industry and the media, was officially “dead.” Unaware of the efforts of a few co-pioneering bloggers, we looked around us at UK magazines. We saw a garage-free medium. Contrast that with the explosion of new sounds to be found flourishing around us on London’s streets, and you have the essence of what in effect became a full time quest.

Three years later and things look a little better. Sure, there’s an obvious glass ceiling to the majority of MCs’ careers and only a few will ever sign to a major, but at least grime artists are playing in New York, Brussels and Tokyo. Wiley and Skepta look out of place at V Festival, but at least they’re there. Lethal B, Roll Deep, Kano, Dizzee x2, Wiley and Statik have all dropped albums. Run the Road is on volume 2.

So what’s so special about a Skepta lyric name checking Fiddy?

Firstly freelance journalism is a thankless task. For ages MCs felt they didn’t need journalists, probably because their peers don’t read magazines (bar RWD or the Source), because on the whole they’re written by and for middle class white audiences. Also print criticism is, to them, akin to verbal on-road merkery – something to strike back against.

It’s also a thankless task because there’s no money or long term future in magazine journalism - I’ve never found a landlord that will accept rent paid in promo CDrs. It’s hard work: the only reason to do it, bar none, is because you believe in the words you write. All other motives are aberrations. All this considered, thanks from an MC is a gratefully accepted gift. Wiley said my name on the mic at FWD>> once - it made my week. But Skepta writing bars about Chan: that’s next level.

The second reason why that lyric is so big goes deeper into the essence of grime. Dizzee and Wiley, back in 2002/3, had the vital vision that grime would be about artists not MCs, about culture not DJs. But post the Rephlex “Grime” compilations, and with the snide Grimm Dubz series for sale online, a lot of people, especially the new Rephlex/IDM recruits, want to confuse a culture with a sound.

I’ve debated definitions of grime before. The grime scene, in the strictest sense of who that means, is a particular London generation. Their lyrics, their language, their reference points and their attitudes are distinct. Though it has changed a little in the last year, with labels interacting with grime artists than ever, on the whole to outsiders, the scene is remarkably impenetrable. You can have their digits, you can meet them and visit their studios or their estates, but largely over time, you won’t even register as part of their world. Just listen to all their lyrics: they’re about their acute local micro environment.

So when Chantelle’s name is being used, it means she’s crossed a line very few non-members of generation grime ever achieve. And that’s so big, it had to be said.

12 comments:

harold said...

Don't you think this is a bit rich? Romanticising a throwaway lyric on a pirate radio station into a eulogy for one of your own mates. This blog is all just one big journo circle jerk.

Being a music critic is meant to be a thankless task, you idiot! You're certainly not doing anything that's worth applauding. You get into shows for free. You never have to pay for music. And you get paid above the minimum wage to do a job that's not particularly time or labour intensive. So stop whining!

The problem with music critics is that as soon as they see their names in print, their egos balloon and their members get swollen. Now they want to be part of the band - loved and appreciated by their subjects as unconditionally as musicians are by their fans. And in order for that to happen they blunt any critical faculties they may have had in the first place to the point of dullness.

Do you think the grime scene really needs you and your kind? Do you think it will fall into terminal decline if you are no longer writing about it? Or are you, in fact, just using it as a springboard for your own career? In short, do you and your blog serve any useful purpose at all? I don't think so.

Who's the wasteman now?

dave said...

without going into a lengthy thing about it... harold is dead wrong.

Blackdown said...

thanks for that "harold". next!

harold said...

is that all you can say?!
losers.

Hotflush said...

Long may she prosper!

Bigup Fiddy, Hotflush's favourite journo.

Damn_Son said...

Harold: you seem to think that being a music journo is the easy life, guestlist here, promos there.... Well I've known Martin for about 8 years now, and I can tell you its the most financially crippling labour of love this side of setting up your own label.

You consider journalists to be some sort of bloodsucking parasite feeding off someone else's efforts and talents.
People didn't want to publish shit about grime/garage/whatever-you-call-it a few years ago - Martin helped get it into the British media spotlight (in magazines like Jockey Slut RIP), simply through love of the music and hard work, nothing else.

So next time you decide to take a break from downloading midget porn and get your two left fists out to type some more ill-informed and substance-starved 'opinions', think a little deeper about people who dedicate their lives to this music.

winston said...

Exactly which part of the "British Media" did he push this extremely underground phenom known as grime, which just happens to have its own magazines, raves, radio stations and TV channel? Seriously, where? Does Jockey Slut still count? Can we even call Chantelle Fiddy a journalist? Good For Nothing and Touch distribute at around 8,000 copies each, with Touch only selling 2,000. Let's be honest with ourselves and not confuse these blogs with real media.

Mattrock said...

I agree with what you said blackdown but Grim Dubs is not snide, it's just people who have been into music which is hecticly dark and mangled making their version of a genre (dubstep/grime/electro combo) that they obviously love and respect. It's music after all - sound. Open and free to interpretation.

DOT:ALT Magazine said...

interesting, i've found the grim dubs series to be a bit superfluous as well. Just a bit unecessary, if not exactly snide. The title is what does it though - blunt to the point of crass in my opinion.

As for Harold and others that have dismissed blogging as 'not real journalism', they've missed the point. The whole significance of the Skepta-Fiddy bars is that it signals a change from blogsphere sideline chearleading towards more integration, the beggining two-way relationship. Possibly

-alex

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