One Take: October In Grime Reviews By Tomas Fraser

Tomas Fraser on another month's worth of grime gigs and releases - plus a Faze Miyake exclusive premier. YGG photographs courtesy of Marco Grey. Faze Miyake portrait courtesy of Meinke Klein

Now that the dust has started to settle on the UK festival season for another year, I thought I’d start this month’s column by reflecting on my own experiences regarding impromptu moshpits, struggling for air in packed, stifling tents and observing the general chaos that came to typify festival grime crowds this summer.

The general consensus – as outlined by many think pieces – points to grime’s popularity now commanding a large piece of the action at festivals. This is mainly through acting as a DIY empowering force for a wave of new, often younger, listeners. In the case of some of the young kids I encountered watching Stormzy at Reading Festival (where I was sent to cover grime acts at the BBC 1Xtra & R1 Dance stages for tQ), it seemed to go even further. For that moment, it seemed that they themselves were the MCs – and this was their time.

I watched one in kid particular (he must have been no older than 16), kitted out in a red windbreaker jacket, hood up and pulled so tight you could barely see his face – akin to Skepta in the video shoot for Fekky’s ‘Way Too Much’ – reciting every lyric of Stormzy’s ‘Know Me From’ as if he was at the mic stand, gesturing and posturing at everyone around him. For that 30 minutes, he was Stormzy. Everybody was Stormzy.

Finding that unity amid the chaos is something that people have likened to the spirit bred by punk, but I found grime’s appeal at Reading far less forced or contrived, although the image of large groups of teenagers starting mosh pits at every opportunity felt admittedly alien to me. That said, moshing has been a recurring theme at grime shows over the past few months, with the same happening at Skepta’s recent Future Underground show in London.

The sheer number of fans out in force to watch Boy Better Know headline the R1 Dance Tent was another talking point (we’re talking thousands upon thousands here), as were crowds that also amassed to see Fekky, Krept & Konan and Stormzy. To see hundreds at grime shows in London has been nothing new for a long time, but festival grime is clearly a different beast – these kids were screaming lyrics back at the MCs louder, harder, faster than the MCs themselves. It quickly dawned on me watching Boy Better Know close out Sunday night at Reading to the biggest grime crowd I’ve seen in my life. It was so big that festival staff were concerned it was overshadowing Sunday night main-stage headliners The Libertines and shows that the tide really is starting to shift. Similar scenes were reported at Glastonbury, Bestival and even Sonar in Barcelona too. Whatever happens next summer, these felt like pivotal moments.

Faze Miyake ft. Family Tree – ‘None Of That Stuff’

From an outsider’s perspective, Faze Miyake has remained markedly quiet over the last two years, choosing to channel all his creative energies into work on his debut, self-titled album for Rinse. In that time, he’s made the point of coming out of his shell – not only as an artist but also as a person – finding comfort in his own ideas, rather than feeling boxed in by the underground success of his breakthrough anthem ‘Take Off’ in 2011.

Although still a fixture in grime discussion, the truth is Faze’s sound is now far more fluid; take album tracks like ‘Ice Cold’ with Inga Copeland as a case in point. But he is also staying true to his roots, a Faze Miyake album wouldn’t feel complete without a nod to the people whom he shared so much of his early acclaim.

On ‘None Of That Stuff’, Faze makes a fleeting return to the cold, gritty grime of ‘Take Off’ alongside Family Tree – a crew made up of Dirtee Stank protege Merky Ace, Shifman, TKO, Ego and MIK. Initially acting as an in-house beatmaker for FT, Faze was a prominent figure in their early work, lending his creative hand to both solo and full crew projects over the last four years, and as such, this feels like the album’s most resonant and powerful track.

Merky Ace is the first to tackle Faze’s icy, thugged-out 808 loops that seem to hit harder and harder as the track grows, but for me, MIK steals the show with his verse, an MC often overlooked but with a reload style as good as anybody. That said, as a group, their collective message is predictably spiky: "If it ain’t FT on a track then I don’t wanna be hearing none of that stuff." Although in the wider context of Faze’s album, a bit of greaze talk certainly doesn’t go amiss.

Faze Miyake’s debut album is out now on digital, CD & vinyl via Rinse.

Boxed Boiler Room

Speaking as someone who’s unashamedly been to virtually every single party since it began in Peckham nearly two and a half years ago, Boxed has always represented more than just a club night. It was the glue that held everything together for so long, an excuse for people to meet up, get drunk and enjoy the music that organisers Slackk et al thought deserved a space. Originally they possibly didn’t think much would come of the night but fast forward to September 2015 and the crew have two Boiler Room sessions under their collective belt and the second of those could be seen as a natural extension of their sell-out, second birthday back in March.

One thing I’ve always liked about Boxed and particularly the residents (Slackk, Oil Gang, Mr Mitch & Logos) is that they don’t take themselves too seriously, as evidenced by the tongue-in-cheek, cartoon-themed artwork on display, which depicted every DJ on the line-up as they would have appeared if they were characters on the Street Fighter load-up screen. Visuals in the darkened room were from classic Street Fighter Vs Mortal Kombat battle clips and even the odd Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles skit and people streamed in to pick their spot for the night long before the broadcast began.

My notes from the evening were admittedly hazy, with one simply reading: "Spooky is the best DJ on Earth" and another referencing Gobstopper producer Loom playing a track that sounded like "a ferris wheel out of control" – a concise but fuzzy motif for what represented an incredible show piece. In and among the barrage of scorching low-end from DJs like Sir Pixalot and Trends, residents Logos and Mr Mitch stepped up to deliver sets awash with vividly disparate styles and influences. Local Action’s Finn – one of the best young grime DJs to break through in quite some time – again impressed with his selection. Spooky, mixing roughy 786 tunes a minute, was on peak form too, rattling through dubs as if his life depended on it, while Oil Gang re-wrote the rule book for warm up sets – there was no room for setting the scene here.

If the music wasn’t enough, the extended scene turned out in force, with the majority of producers, label heads, journalists and DJs congregating in the smoking area at various points, all relaying their thoughts, probably catching up for the first time since the last Boxed. It was that sort of rave – and boy does London need it to stay that way.

Boxed also play at Corsica Studios alongside Local Action Records on October 3rd.

YGG – ‘Okay’

There are more MCs popping up left, right and centre than ever before in the current climate – especially now there are a slew of independent radio stations dedicating hours of programming to grime at grass roots level across London – but Saint, PK and Lyrical Strally, better known as YGG, are an up-and-coming trio well worthy of discussing here.

Their debut single, ‘Okay’, released in September, may seem a little at odds with their radio sets on first listen, but Moony’s bubbling, summer-laced instrumental actually gives the three MCs more room to fire off their fierce, signature lyricism. The chorus is admittedly a little flat, but that aside, the biggest thing to note here is how different their individual styles are; Lyrical Strally, quick-witted with clear, solid diction; Saint, skippy and fast-paced (if a little erratic at times) and PK, a loud, confident, reload-friendly MC with a reputation for turning raves upside down already under his belt.

Together, they’re a raw combination, but as with other well-documented emerging crews like The Square, it’s the rough-around-the-edges quality that makes people want to engage. YGG are far from the finished article, but they’re certainly an act to keep tabs on as they continue their development.

Gobstopper Records – Five Year Anniversary

Mr Mitch’s label celebrates five years of releases in 2015 with two specially commissioned remix EPs, both centred around Gobstopper’s cornerstone releases – Bloom’s ‘Quartz’ and Mr Mitch’s ‘The Man Waits’. Although beautifully re-imagined by producer starlets Iglew and Gage, fellow Boxed head Logos and Tri-Angle’s apocalyptic sound designer Rabit, the story doesn’t lie in the here and now, but more in the direction Mitch’s label has taken since it first launched back in 2010 with his own Fright Night EP.

Aesthetically linked by similar, block-coloured art, Gobstopper’s early EP releases lacked a common theme to bind the music together, although each did outline the work of new producers – a hallmark Mitch has kept an important part of the imprint’s identity. Deset’s ‘Virus’ in particular – a rash, blaring, smash of a track – was the first that had me take note. I referred to it as a "one of the best grime instrumentals of the year" on a blog I used to write in 2011, but Mitch also released two EPs from Brighton’s Moony and two more from himself before striking gold with Bloom’s game-changer ‘Quartz’ in 2012.

A short hiatus was to follow while he explored music along other avenues, including a curveball 12” with Run Music in 2013, before both himself and Gobstopper finally arrived properly a year later with ‘The Room Where I Belong’ – a fitting title for a record that was to change the face of the label for good.

With the touch paper lit, Gobstopper quickly became a go-to hub for those getting to grips with the instrumental scene. They worked with a list of names that would serve as a who’s who of producers on the rise: Dark0, Strict Face, Matt Wizard, Loom and most recently Iglew, who all released debut EPs on the label. Elsewhere, Gobstopper also oversaw the PEACE001 project that saw Loom, Strict Face and Planet Mu newcomers Silk Road Assassins take on Mitch’s ‘Peace Edit’ concept with a trio of spectacularly odd, introverted remixes of their own.

For all the label’s achievements so far, perhaps Gobstopper’s best work lies with Mr Mitch finally discovering a workable pattern for his own music – and a space for it to belong. Looking ahead to what the label has forthcoming (look out for new signing Odeko by the way), that cannot be underestimated.

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