This presentation demonstrates the importance of academic research in ‘unconventional’ subject areas and the need for academics and practitioners to work together as a form of activism.
Alex de Lacey (Goldsmiths) – “East London where the mandem ah boop”: narratives of space and place in grime music and their effect on practice
The locating of musical genres to a singular place of birth is perennial within popular music studies and is intricately bound up in the history of jazz (New Orleans), and hip-hop (South Bronx). East London is seen as ‘ground-zero’ for grime music, and this has profoundly impacted the historicising of the form and its practice.
This paper looks at how a fixation upon two pioneering figures (Wiley, Dizzee Rascal), the usage of sonic and visual iconography, and the continued allure of ‘native genius’ has secured East London as grime’s unequivocal home. This must be addressed now to prevent history repeating itself.
Whilst grime has been made across London and the UK since its outset, this reductive conception influences new artists who enter the field, idolising key figures and adopting a certain performance style. This will be demonstrated through the use of ethnographic interviews conducted from 2016-2018 alongside analysis of work by these new artists, presenting how their material is indebted to a quasi-canon established through journalistic expediency and urban myth.
South London’s languid, narrative-led style has been largely forgotten or subsumed under the moniker ‘road rap’ whereas the fast-paced, catchphrase-heavy delivery of Wiley and his peers from East London is seen as the indisputable yardstick for grime and its performance. This paper concludes with a call for an overhaul of current scholarship in the area. The form is at a critical juncture, and current narratives threaten future scope for diversity and innovation in this music.
The event will be chaired by Lyle Bignon, a Birmingham-based music PR, consultant, journalist, visiting lecturer, and project lead for Birmingham Music Coalition.
About the speakers:
Dr. Monique Charles is a Teaching Fellow at the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance. She completed her PhD at Warwick University focusing on ‘race’, spirituality, class, gender & music as it relates to #Grime. #HBTG? Her thesis is entitled:‘Hallowed be thy Grime?: A musicological and sociological genealogy of Grime music and its relation to black Atlantic religious discourse.’ (#HBTG?). She is a methodologist, essayist and theorist. Her book chapter entitled ‘Grime Central!: Subterranean ground-in grit engulfing manicured mainstream Spaces’ in edited volume ‘Blackness in Britain’ (Andrews and Palmer, Routledge, 2016), is one of the first scholarly works focusing specifically on Grime music and culture. She developed a decolonial musical analytical tool (MDA), which has retheorised genre and has been well received on an international scale (International Journal of Qualitative Methods). She is currently working on other publications in the areas of Grime, Race and Spirituality.
Alex de Lacey is a PhD candidate at Goldsmiths College, University of London, working under the supervision of Keith Negus and Tom Perchard. His thesis concerns live performance within grime music, and its emergent practice. He has written on grime for publications including Complex and Pigeons and Planes and is also a DJ for grime crew Over The Edge, with a weekly slot on Don City Radio. Twitter/IG: @delaceymusic / @delaceymusicldn
Lyle Bignon is a champion of independent media and music in his home city, as well as nationally and internationally, and has spent over a decade working on a wide variety of projects – from DIY album releases to major concert premieres spanning genres and subcultures from opera to grime, Qawwali to sludge metal, folktronica to punk rock. He has contributed news, interviews, profiles, reviews, photos and opinion pieces on music, media, entertainment and the creative industries to a variety of media outlets including The Guardian, Metro, The 405, God Is In The TV Zine, Fused Magazine and Riffs Journal. Lyle is the founder of and project lead for Birmingham Music Coalition, the new industry body representing music industry workers, producers, and consumers in the city and surrounding region.