The 5 Defining Moments of 2011: #3

#3: Transatlantic-ism

Several years ago, when the grime scene first really emerged, I used to fantasise about the UK scene genuinely making an impact on the US scene, and wondered what Americans thought of our music. Over the years Dizzee Rascal (surprisingly to me, given his style) paved the way for the UK, with some success in the US as well as collaborating with the legendary Bun B. However, this seemed to be an isolated occurrence, and the UK scene kind of slipped back into obscurity, with grime acts not really making an impact on the UK industry with the same level of success that Dizzee managed, and initial emergence of the likes of Kano and Wiley. This led to Dizzee and Kano trying (for better or worse) to diversify their style of music into a type more universally accepted than their own genre in order to stay relevant.

Over the last few years this has changed, acts such as Skepta, Chipmunk, Wretch 32 have really lit up the radiowaves here and have done so in their own way, perhaps in a more radio friendly style than their grime-roots, but have stayed true to an urban sound. Diddy was one of the first to take note, and at the end of 2010 selected Skepta to make the grime remix to his hit song Hello Good Morning, even making a video for this. Whilst this did reach a couple of US blogs, it’s impact wasn’t as big as one would have hoped in the US, and some sceptics stated that this kind of collaboration only benefits Diddy, who piggybacks on Skepta’s popularity in this country; a fair point when you consider the lack of shine this song did get Stateside. Early excitement of such collaborations potentially becoming more prominent seemed premature.

In 2011 however, this was not the case. Diddy continued to embrace the UK scene, enlisting Tinie Tempah and Tinchy Stryder for another remix of Hello Good Morning, performing on stage and at parties with certain artists (performing Traktor with Wretch for one!). Gradually, the US started to take notice and Chipmunk profited, enlisting for his hit album: Keri Hilson, Trey Songz, and even Chris Brown to make one of the most addictive mainstream songs of the year. Suddenly, America was starting to take notice, with a lot of US acts freestyling and making remixes to certain hit UK songs (Snoop Dogg on Pass Out for example), and most surprisingly, UK rapper Sway was the only featured rapper to make it on Lupe Fiasco’s album, Lasers and on a more underground level, Lowkey collaborated with Immortal Technique. Not only this, but UK tracks were being played on North American radio stations and genuine relationships were being made between US rappers and UK artists. DJs like Westwood, Charlie Sloth, Semtex did their part in this sudden transatlantic mutual respect, and DJ Whoo Kid did his part by making official mixtapes with Tinie Tempah (twice), Skepta, Giggs, Ghetts and Wiley.

I can’t remember who said this, but someone in an interview stated that in order for UK artists to be genuinely accepted in the US, they should not be making US hip hop type tracks, as Americans (and us in the UK too) don’t particularly want to hear that, with there already plenty of American rappers who do that, and do it well. We all want to hear something different, and for us to have our own sound, which is something that has been recognised these last few years. Tinie Tempah is a good example of this: lyrically, he is absolutely nothing special, but he has probably made the most impact in America thus far, and is currently doing very well over there as well as here. He’s been performing on various shows, such as Letterman, and his recent Happy Birthday EP has also gained a lot of shine in the US, through various blogs and DJs. The EP gaining this amount of promotion over there is perhaps thanks to such collaborations with current stars J. Cole, Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa and Pusha T, (the sorts of collabos I never thought would happen!).

Hopefully in 2012 this will continue to happen, and more grime artists receive acclaim here in the UK as well as internationally. It’s certainly an exciting time for grime and UK hip-hop, and even if more transatlantic collaborations don’t occur, it’s an amazing feat that the urban scene are consistently making a great impact in our own music industry. Long may it continue.

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