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UK grime is finally getting the recognition it deserves, but why has it taken so long?

Kanye West's performance at the Brits was just the latest sign that Grime artists no longer have to 'do a Dizzee' in order to succeed

Kanye West performs live at the Brit Awards 2015
Kanye West performs live at the Brit Awards 2015

Pop music is boring. That much is a truth, universally recognised.

This means that pop music award ceremonies tend to be pretty boring too, and sure enough this year's Brit Awards lived up to that stereotype. That is, with the exception of Kanye West’s barnstorming performance of upcoming single All Day.

You see, Kanye West – who was stepping in at the last minute for Rihanna – shunned potentially-embarrassing stage theatrics (sorry Madonna!) and instead brought what seemed to be the entire grime scene with him. Legends such as Skepta, Jammer and Discarda were all visible in the background alongside young guns Novelist and Stormzy, with Fekky and Krept and Konan representing the UK rap scene.

On a night when no black British artists were invited to perform, and the awards went almost entirely to white artists (Pharrell being the exception), Kanye West using his clout to transform the Brit Awards stage to a scene reminiscent of Eskimo Dance is one hell of a gesture.

Grime is the most forward-thinking genre to come out of the UK since punk, but spent so long being virtually ignored by the mainstream media. As a result, it has never quite gained enough of a foothold to be taken seriously as part of UK musical culture. Last year saw this slowly but surely start to change. In 2014, Meridian Dan’s "German Whip" was a runaway success, and Skepta’s "That’s Not Me" not only got into the top 20, but also won a best video MOBO despite its £80 budget. Wiley, the Godfather of Grime, also saw a return to form.

In the past, many grime MCs felt the need to compromise their credibility in order to pay the bills. It worked for Dizzee Rascal, who left the scene and became a Ferrari-driving, globe-trotting megastar, but for many others it didn’t work out quite so well. If it wasn’t clear before, then pennies must have been dropping all over the grime scene when Wiley released his first independent, all-grime album at the end of last year and it went on to be his most successful yet.

While many lost faith, there were always artists, DJs, promoters and producers who stuck with grime and continued to make and play grime music, many of whom were onstage with Kanye on Wednesday night. Skepta, Jammer and DJ Maximum thrilled the Red Bull Culture Clash 2 years in a row as part of Boy Better Know, Novelist has been MCing on pirate radio since he was 15 and Stormzy has built one of the strongest cult fanbases in UK urban music. Their groundwork and belief in the genre has been far more important than any shout-out or bring-in from an American rapper could ever be.

Instead, Kanye’s performance at the Brit Awards should act as a kind of rallying call for the grime scene. A sign that their hard work is being recognised, if not by awards shows or the mainstream media. Grime MCs and artists shouldn’t go begging mainstream approval, not when the genre is interesting enough to force them to pay attention anyway.

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