The Top 10 Grime Artists Who Built The Genre
The early days of Grime weren’t that long ago. Still, a lot has happened in that time. Some of the most important pioneers of Grime are still around today while others fell off the map. Here’s our list of the top 10 grime artists who were there at the beginning and made it what it is today.
The Godfather began making Garage music before helping forge the emerging sound of Grime. He was a presence on pirate stations like Rinse FM and put together the crew Roll Deep with Dizzee Rascal and Tinchy Stryder. He shaped Grime as an artist and as a mentor for others. His reach even went to MCs who hated him. His long history of beefs produced some of the best diss tracks in grime.
Dizzee began his career as a Drum & Bass DJ when he was 14. He began MCing by rapping over the tracks he played. He showed up on pirate stations and clashes as well as some of the best radio sets around. His feud with Crazy Titch became Grime history when Titch jumped him during a live radio set on Deja Vu FM.
Dizzee took Grime to the masses with his success both as a part of Roll Deep and alone. He’s had the most commercial success out of the genre and has consistently opened up opportunities for the sound of grime and for other artists.
Tinchy came up as part of Ruff Sqwad and was the stand out MC in a crew with some serious talent. Younger than the rest of the crew, Tinchy proved himself while Ruff Sqwad were putting out some of the most important instrumentals in the genre.
He was the first grime artist to find real commercial success. That kind of put an end to Ruff Sqwad but having a credible Grime artist tearing up the charts was an important step.
Skepta is almost entirely responsible for Grime getting to American audiences. His album Konnichiwa being the first Grime album to chart in the US, adding Drake to the Boy Better Know roster and working with some of the biggest names in hip hop are all a part of that. He earned his place as one of the top 10 Grime artists well before that though.
His clash with Devilman on Lord of The Mics is one of the high points of Grime history. It brought huge attention to the scene and proved British MCs could contend with anyone else on freestyles.
The Boy Better Know label he started with his brother JME has been a huge part of Grime. BBK allowed its artists to keep a lot of the independence they would have lost to big labels.
Youngstar is a weird addition to the list. He’s far from the most important but his track Pulse X with Musical Mob puts him in the top 10 grime artists pioneering the sound. It was probably the first fully Grime track. Pulse X came out in 2002 and redefined the sound that was still emerging out of Garage at the time. Youngstar’s influence hasn’t continued over the years. However, there aren’t many other people with a place in the history of Grime for one track.
Crazy Titch could’ve been huge. For a little while it seemed like he would be. When I Can C U dropped in 2004 he blew up with the track getting heavy play on Channel U, The UK equivalent of MTV at the time. He proved himself as someone who could get grime out to a wide audience. His freestyles over popular grime instrumentals showed his talent to anyone who doubted it.
Less than two years after he shot to fame, it all fell apart. Titch, his stepdad and his half brother Durrty Goodz were implicated in the murder of Richard Holmes. Crazy Titch was sentenced to 30 years without parole. MCs who were on his level at the time have shot up while Titch has only released one mixtape in the 12 years he’s been inside. His role in the early days is important and he was definitely on of the top 10 grime artists back then, today he’s just a cautionary tale.
There aren’t many artists in Grime keeping things funny. JME and Lady Leshurr are some the only artists flying the flag. Lethal Bizzle was one of the first artists to make Grime fun. He can move between taking the piss on a track and being serious with no effort.
His track Oi! with More Fire Crew reached seven in the UK Singles Charts when it released in 2002. It was one of the highest charting Grime tracks at the time. Lethal didn’t abandon Grime for chart success but it still found him. He won a MOBO award for his track ‘Pow (forward)’ despite it being banned from radio play by a number of stations.
Kano started out as a member of N.A.S.T.Y Crew with Jammer but his solo work was what brought him attention. ‘Boys Love Girls’ got attention on him from the likes of Dizzee Rascal and ended up with him getting signed without N.A.S.T.Y.
When the single ‘P’s and Q’s’ released off his first album Home Sweet Home, it brought him huge attention in the underground scene as well as with wider audiences. He was even approached by Hugo Boss to model in one of their collections but declined to keep working on the album.
Jammer’s influence on Grime extends beyond just music. He started up the Lord Of The Mics clashes back in the early 200os and it quickly became the go to place for the best UK talent. Everyone got in on it and it’s been the location of many of Grime’s most important moments. Beefs started and ended here and it gave some of the biggest artists today a platform.
The dvd of Jammer’s Birthday Bash in 2002 was one of the first times that fans got to see Grime artists like Kano, Wiley and Dizzee performing together.
Skepta’s younger brother is often referred to as the first true Grime artist. While older artists came up in Garage before forging Grime from it, JME’s career has been Grime from the beginning. He’s the driving force behind Boy Better Know with his brother and their roster of grime superstars puts them at the centre of the movement.