1-800 Dinosaur Presents Trim
, August 27th, 2016 08:09
Trim is Grime’s Jay Electronica. Although pithier in speech and more prolific in output, he occupies a similarly awkward space in the scene. A magisterial presence that embraces esoterica but frequently descends to petty rivalry, his flows are confidently crooked, his wit and wordplay sharp and unsympathetic. Trim’s Soulfood series is regularly gushed about on blogs but saw scant commercial attention. As a result, iconic MCs continue to use him as a lyrical sparring partner on features while innovative producers – like Skream, The Last Skeptik, and ‘weightless’ pioneer Mumdance – are equally keen to work with him. And perhaps most similarly, he continually promises to elevate the genre but still cannot commit to a debut album after more than a decade. So while this project with 1-800 DINOSAUR is – for the most part – genuinely refreshing, what exactly is Trim hoping to achieve by pissing about with James Blake and co for 33 minutes when the long-anticipated Crisis is yet to see the light of day?
Self-knowledge, perhaps. At his best the Tower Hamlets MC and Roll Deep vet practices biographical bricolage, deconstructing his past with a keen, critical eye and rebuilding it in preparation for his re-emergence. During the excellent ‘Among the Living’ he concedes that “in my own circumference/I lost myself” but fiercely defies others’ attempts to remake him “out of Grime utensils” because his future will progress on his own terms. As for the wannabe oracles of his career, he imagines “teaching ‘em how to palm-read” by “happy-slapping everything in sight”.
‘White Room’ finds him acknowledging faults over a Boothroyd instrumental which creaks like a great vault door opening. “They believe I’m wasting time on an artform and have never delivered” he confesses, nodding to the extensive back catalogue he described as an “eroding monument” on opener ‘Stretch’. After 14 mixtapes, four EPs, and endless guest verses, is this project just procrastination? “Mine and Wilhelm’s screams are relatively distant”, he admits; 1-800 DINOSAUR are on a separate trajectory, which essentially renders this a fling.
Yet, he concludes, “it’s hereditary that I get mine on”; creating selfishly and unapologetically is in his blood, whatever the circumstances. The track crests in chaos, evoking Onoeohtrix Point Never’s ‘Garden of Delete’ in all its beautiful mess, but all you can think about is Trim’s preceding demand: “What you doing? Listen”. It’s here that he warrants his description by Complex Senior Editor Joseph Patterson as an “avant-grime act”, as deliberately askew on the beat as he is in the scene. In an April 2015 freestyle for FACT Magazine an amused Trim promises to come to an awards show but asks “Where you gonna sit me? Where you gonna sit me, fam?”, as if delighting in his anomalous identity.
However, at his worst Trim crows like your cocksure 30-something cousin, convinced that his career has more meaning than yours. He introduces himself as a “statue to these gnomes”, a “Trimannosaurus to these carpet bugs”, and - most confusingly - a “big Big Mac to these gherkins” (are his adversaries inside of him somehow? Er… salty? Green with envy?) And who are these apparently diminutive rivals? Former partners like Flowdan and Wiley? Old news, surely. Younglings such as Lewisham’s Novelist and Elf Kid? Fish in a barrel for an OG. The Grime MCs du jour – Boy Better Know, Stormzy, and the like? Perhaps. In a recent Complex interview, Trim cringed at the thought of Skepta – another former collaborator – as the genre’s cultural emissary to the USA, offering bars like “I’m still alive just like Tupac” to audiences raised on Jay-Z and captivated by Kendrick.
But expecting Grime to match Hip-Hop’s diversity at a quarter the age is foolish. And honestly, what lyrical legs does he stand on after comparing himself to a hamburger? You can’t blame the man for gazing jealously at the unrestricted world-building practiced by rap giants stateside but there is little evidence here that he is ready to compete on that level. ‘Man Like Me’ sees him spit a 2-word phrase – “get on” – four times in subtly different contexts, a template used to great effect on ‘Shutdown’ and ‘Shut Up’ by the very MCs he disdains. Airhead’s beat may chirp and whistle like the Clangers, but this is Grime at its catchiest and most immediate – brilliantly executed, but not game-changing.
If Trim – like Jay Electronica – cannot prove the professed apartness upon which his very identity as an MC appears to rest, what is the point of this project? Does he even know or care? Should we care? After all the self-aggrandisement, Trim’s best epithet is revealed on the penultimate track. “I’m a seeker”, a muffled vocal declares ad infinitum over a wash of wind chimes, wood blocks, and found sound. As Grime enters the global spotlight, Trim’s awkward position within it becomes oddly reassuring. However gigantic Boy Better Know and Stormzy become, Trim will seek until he is satisfied. And if that’s never, so be it. The by-products are refreshing enough