As Liverpool finally gets a regular Grime night, Shaun Ponsonby speaks to We Are Grime’s Alexa Humphries about the importance of providing a central platform for a style of music yet to be fully supported within the city.
Despite becoming the dominant force in British music, it has taken Liverpool an extremely long time to catch onto Grime.
It is long overdue, but starting tonight EBGB’s will be the home of the city’s first regular Grime night, We Are Grime. Even the name seems like a statement of intent – to proclaim WE Are Grime feels like an assertion of not a scene, but a community.
“We came up with the name accidentally on purpose,” team member Alexa Humphries tells me. “We definitely wanted it to be a statement and the fact it has a community vibe adds that little bit extra that we couldn’t have gotten by calling it anything else”.
When the first wave of Grime came busting out of London in the early noughties, it made stars of the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and Lethal Bizzle. Taking a thumping drum ‘n’ bass beat, the lyricism of garage, the rhythm of dancehall and the delivery of hip-hop, these early innovators created a unique style that sounded like nothing else.
It seemed most critics dismissed it as a passing fad. They could be forgiven for this stance after Grime disappeared from the charts. But in the last couple of years, it has re-emerged stronger than ever. Humphries opinions; “I think people want to be on trend and with Grime becoming more frequent in mainstream music it’s become easier to accept and has in turn opened a bigger platform for artists to be able to explore the genre.”
More than anything, it proves that a strong base is more important than a chart hit; “Over the last ten years Grime as a genre has built a strong underground scene that can no longer be ignored. With it hitting the mainstream audience the way it has I can only see it moving onwards and upwards as there’s so many variations of music under the grime umbrella.”
On the one hand, it is surprising that it has taken so long for Liverpool to fully engage with Grime. We are, after all, a world famous music city. On the other hand, our recent history has been dominated by indie bands and house music, regardless of what was capturing the national zeitgeist.
I suggested to Humphries that this may help their new venture, as it means that Grime in the Liverpool scene has attained a sort of “outsider” status. She seems to agree; “I think the outsider status brings intrigue into the music and it’s not just something we all go along with. You have to love and know the music to be a Grime music lover. Whoever that entails will whole-heartedly stand behind grime for the long haul and not ebb and flow with the music trends.”
Like most major cities, Liverpool has had a Grime scene from the beginning. But it has been a little scattered, without a focal point or even a place for it to be showcased. Worse still, it has received little support. That this is the case when Grime has become such a world conquering success, with Skepta winning the Mercury Prize, Stormzy becoming the biggest thing in the UK and even safe, unthreatening singer-songwriters such as Ed Sheeran collaborating with Grime artists.
A regular event such as We Are Grime is exactly what is needed. It is a way to bring the scene together, and this can only be a good thing for the development of the scene, as Humphries says; “Now we have that platform I think the scene will flourish to new heights and boost an already established scene into mainstream live music culture.”
The first line-up proves the quality of the scene that has been developing. Headliner C-Two was revered enough by Planet Slop’s own DJ2Kind to be the inaugural subject of his L100 Spotlight column. In it, he lauded C-Two’s natural ability to effectively shape-shift lyrically.
C-Two has already built something of a name for himself, having supported hip-hop legends Mobb Deep and Method Man, as well as taking part in a Grime Bar Session on BBC Radio 1Xtra with DJ Target.
Humphries responds coyly when I ask her about the other acts on the bill; “You’ll have to come down and see for yourselves”.
One thing is for sure, though, it is about time that Liverpool ‘s Grime scene had a place to congregate. “I think now more than ever Grime as a genre has become mainstream listening,” Humphries concludes. “Because of this we’ve seen a gap in the market where we can offer a platform for musicians other than the usual indie and acoustic artists to be able to perform on a night solely for grime artists.”
We Are Grime launches tonight (20th September) at EBGB’s from 8pm. Joining C-Two will be MAL, MACZ and DJ Acapony.
Keep up to date with We Are Grime by clicking here.
Read DJ2Kind‘s L100 Spotlight by clicking here.
- Images L-R: MAL, C-Two, DJ Acapony (all images from artist’s social media)