Grime is a sub-genre of electronic music that originated in the early 2000s in London. It evolved from the style known as UK garage and incorporates elements of jungle, dancehall, and hip hop. The style is characterized by fast, syncopated breakbeats, typically at a rate of approximately 140 beats per minute. It also frequently includes an aggressive or sharp electronic sound. MC’ing is also a prominent feature of the style, and lyrics frequently convey grim views of urban life.

Origins

Rinse FM, Deja Vu, Major FM, Delight FM, Freeze 92.7, and Mission are among the UK pirate radio stations where grime originated. Most of the popular UK garage sounds had soul and R&B elements. However, a ‘darker garage’ sound emerged that was more instrumental and less vocal. This allowed MCs to put down vocals over it. Groups like “So Solid Crew”, “Heartless Crew”, and “Pay As U Go” began to pave the path for what later became “grime”. Members of these crews explored music-making software to produce their own instrumentals, which were then cut to dubplate for performances.

Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, Kano, and Lethal Bizzle were among the first to introduce the genre to mainstream media in 2003–2004. “Boy in da Corner”, Dizzee Rascal’s 2003 Mercury Music award-winning album, received great critical praise and commercial success. The song “Pow! (Forward)” by Lethal Bizzle was grime’s first UK Top 20 release in 2004. The song became controversial because of the alleged fights it sparked in clubs. This prompted numerous venues to prohibit it.

Grime started to go out of popularity by the late 2000s. Its influence and exposure decreased as record labels, radio stations, and the media tried to figure out what to do with it. The advent of dubstep and UK funky made it more difficult for grime to gain presence. Many grime MCs began to shift away from grime music and toward commercial electro house-influenced rap. 

Musical elements of grime

Complex 2-step, 4/4 breakbeats, formed from various synth, string, and electronic sounds, characterize grime. Future electronic components and dark, growling basslines merge within the words and the music. According to Alex de Jong and Marc Schulenburg, grime music incorporates sawtooth wave sounds from video game music and ringtones that have become widespread in London and other parts of the country.