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Grime's new stars: The kids are alright

Grime may be a relatively new musical genre, but already has its elder statesmen and young pretenders. Matilda Egere-Cooper talks to the teenagers who’ve taken the mic and are running with it

In grime speak, they’re known as the “youngers”, a new generation of MCs whose choleric rhymes and internet savvy is helping to re-brand the grime scene as a thriving marketplace of teenage talent. Starting out as apprentices in the playground or in the company of their older pirate radio mentors, they’re now looking to post-grimers like Tinchy Stryder, N-Dubz and schoolboy Chipmunk, who’ve shown that with a few tweaks here and there, top ten chart status can be within their adolescent reach.

There’s Griminal, the 18-year-old from east London who’s flooded YouTube with freestyles and guest spots as a member of the turbulent N.A.S.T.Y crew, founded by his big bro Marcus Nasty, a man once rumoured to have slapped a couple of his members over a financial dispute. Questionable squabbles aside, the crew was responsible for blessing the scene with the rapper Kano, and their latest protégé is already entertaining label interest as he puts the finishing touches on his debut album, Griminalways. “Right now, I’m recording my music so I can broaden my market and appeal to a bigger crowd,” says the MC, who’s still in college. “I’m starting to get some proper recognition from like, all of the teenagers throughout the UK, so right now I’m starting to take it properly seriously.”

He’s taken to social marketing to build up his buzz, like many of his age-mates, but previously followed the route of trading battlerap bars on pirate stations such as Rinse FM. He says newcomers are getting into the grime game earlier after learning the ropes from their predecessors. “The ‘olders’ grew up listening to rap and hip hop and other artists from the US,” he says. “But the younger generation, we grew up listening to that plus all the UK talent. So I’d say we’ve got a better balance.”

Likewise, 20-year-old Devlin believes that younger MCs have been able to hone their craft better, since the old boys were unschooled in the art of making good music with the technical lyrics to match. The Essexborn rapper started hitting the pirates when he was 13, and by 2006, he was already a underground favourite and released his first mixtape, Tales from the Crypt. “I was only a baby when I started listening to grime, so I’ve had the benefit of eight years of sitting back and watching people,” he says. “Now, lyrics are more intelligent, rather than just something to get the crowd hyper. A lot of the young MCs are a bit more complex. We’ve watched grime all unfold and now we have the benefit of watching everyone make their mistakes. It’s now not acceptable to just speak shit on the mic.”

Devlin came through the scene at a time when the former grime king Dizzee Rascal started to abandon his musical roots, and many other crews were being snapped up by labels, given a radio-friendly face-lift and subsequently dropped. Back then, the genre was more known for its hype, rather than being a potential marketable industry.. “There are dozens more internet outlets specialising in grime too, such as grimeforum.com and SB.TV to help give these newcomers a boost, and other much-hyped teens include the 16-year-olds Axeman, Tiny and Macksta.

“All the time I get little kids coming up to me, spitting bars. They keep me fresh, they keep me on my toes,” admits Ghetts, a veteran MC who says he was a late start at 19.

Girls are also stepping up their game, and Mz Bratt is the latest lady spitter to be hailed among her male peers. The 20-yearold’s first commercial single “Who Do You Think You Are?” is more in the club vein of dance music, but prior to that, she was serving up reply tracks to Tinchy Stryder and Wiley, under the tutelage of Terror Danjah, who also helped bring through Sway and Chipmunk. But female artists haven’t always fared well during grime’s short history. Hackney’s own Shystie was a strong contender but soon fell into the TV game via Channel 4’s Dubplate Drama; Lady Sovereign sought the US too early and the likes of Baby Blu and Lady Fury didn’t have the clout to really cause any major ripples, so Mz Bratt is still the hopeful alternative. “As a grime MC, coming from the grime scene, I think people that buy music want to have feel-good music that they can relate to,” says Bratt, who shares a label with recent charttoppers N-Dubz. “And I think that people like Tinchy Stryder, Ironik and Chipmunk are really good at doing that and are really appealing artists for young people like myself.”

Mz Bratt’s single, ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, is available on AATW/UMTV. Devlin’s single, ‘London City’, is released by 360 Records in August. Ghett’s album ‘Rebel With a Cause’ is released in November by AATW/UMTV. For more information on Griminal, visit www.myspace.com/griminalmc.