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“History of Grime” exhibition displayed in the Museum of London.

Grime is a British music genre developed from the UK dance style, drawing inspiration from UK garage, hip hop, and jungle. What began as an alternative genre in pirate radio stations in London became a significant music development in British history. Grime began in the 2000s in East London and is considered a dark music genre. Grime is the musical manifestation of young people living in an environment of violence and social change. 

The exhibition is co-curated by Roony ‘Risky’ Keefe, one of grime’s early documentarians and the first to document the genre through a series of DVDs titled ‘Risky Roadz.’ As per Keefe’s admission, the Museum of London wanted him to first create a series of interviews in his taxi and pick up some of the artists throughout the city. The whole exhibition was the brainchild of this act.

London’s grime scene grew in popularity mainly through the development of back-alley record shops and pirate radio stations until 2004. By that time, London’s grime scene had become mainstream. Dizzee Rascal’s Boy in da Corner became mainstream and positively acclaimed, winning the Mercury Award in 2003.

The exhibition explains how the genre began and how it has changed in the last 20 years and how it has culturally impacted the UK. Amid the display, there’s a series of films featuring the discussion of the future of grime. Among these influential UK grime figures, Roony interviewed grime producer Jammer, Troy Miller from Practice Hours, and Ruff Sqwad’s Rapid and Slix.

Jammer mentioned how grime was the only thing they knew how to do to make a better life for themselves. Grime was therapy, a musical catharsis for those who went in with their pain, getting their lyrics out by screaming down mics and expressing their frustrations.As a matter of fact, Jammer’s basement, nicknamed ‘The Dungeon’, was the space of Lord of the Mics, one of the most important battle platforms that existed in the UK music scene.

The exhibition opened on 17 June and features images from Keefe and his collaborators’ archives, memorabilia, trinkets, and video inserts of the movement. The exhibition of grime is a big thing for Black British culture, and the fact that it’s being celebrated as something to learn from and admire is good news for UK culture.

Words by Sebastian Caledron.


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