March 16th, 2009

Real Talk, Lads

So, yeah, inundated by mixes, but finally got a chance to check out last month’s Rinse FM set by Butterz (ft. Terror Danjah), which shows grime (& its bastard cousin, dubstep) alive&well & wot-u-call-it as ever.

Comfortably contentious even! Esp w/ the notion that grime might be less than alive & well.

I love the moment at ~17min, during Durrty Goodz’s bracing “Grime Killers” (which assails “fake journalists” “talking bout ‘grime is dead'”) [currently streaming here], when you hear what sounds like a phone exchange on the radio. Cueing the listener to pay special attn, Butterz interjects, “Yeah, this is what I’m talking about.” We hear a classic bit of pseudo-socio-psychology (sampled from a radio talk show, it appears), blaming grime and other popular pursuits for the corrupt condition of “kids these days” (actually “young black men and women,” accding to one commentator).

Butterz offers cutting running commentary on the condescending hand-wringing —

caller: why is it that all these young rappers who are writing lyrics and poetry can’t even be successful in english?

butterz: coz they want to do grime, idiot!

caller: they’re writing poetry for goodness sake!

butterz: not poetry, bro.

He commends another caller bigs up himself (!) for “real talk” (a hip-hop expression, signified pon by the well-Bri’ish “lads”) during an attempt to explain by indicting teachers for not capturing youths’ imaginations as popular culture does (“either sport or rappin”), noting that young people “aren’t looking for sustainable careers.”

What I love most, though, is “not poetry, bro.” This gets at a longstanding pet-peeve of mine among hip-hop apologists — and that includes hip-hop scholars and conservative critics alike. I’m afraid that a number of hip-hop scholars have wrongly affirmed the language of elitist legitimacy in their projects to validate the genre (this was more a problem in the 90s than this decade). Describing rap as “street poetry” always struck me as worse than inadequate (even if a truism sometimes spoken by my favorite rappers).

Butterz resists the conservative critique that follows the reified/received wisdom that rap is poetry (whether in hip-hop or grime) precisely because he doesn’t want to cede that ground of critique to conservative critics. Grime is grime. English is English. Poetry is poetry. Maths is maths. Yuzimi? Don’t reduce grime’s particularity to some primitive version of what is recognized by the broader society and keepers of the canon. Chant dem dung. Brush them off. Tek weh yuself.

Real talk, lads. But build them sustainable careers, seen? We wanna keep on listening across the pond.


  • 1. Laurent  |  March 16th, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Ha ha love that last sentence. real talk (even tho im on the right side of the pond/world for now).

  • 2. mad ep  |  March 16th, 2009 at 9:49 am

    I have always loved the sad attempt at rationalization/understanding hiphop/rapping as “street poetry”.

    I think we should start calling it “Hood Haiku” or “Urban Sonnetry” …(as a joke of course)… and see how long it takes some media outlet to latch onto it.

  • 3. wayneandwax  |  March 16th, 2009 at 9:55 am

    another rinsey take on the vibrant world of UK rap —

  • 4. wayneandwax  |  March 17th, 2009 at 10:44 am

    i <3 the internet

  • 5. V  |  March 17th, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Haha. I haven’t heard the set, but you should know that the caller to the radio show is Elijah, who is actually one half of Butterz. ;)

  • 6. wayneandwax  |  March 17th, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    thx, yeah, saw that on grimeforum and tried to amend the post accordingly. my mistake. doesn’t matter much far as the substance of the post goes.

  • 7. cd  |  March 20th, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    the great thing about 2K2 grime (re that spyro/slimzee) is each repressing of 500 meant a rejiggering of the source material.

    there must be a few dozen versions of “Hoe” floating around…

  • 8. wayneandwax  |  March 23rd, 2009 at 9:37 am

    further — check this new mini mix from elijah & skilliam, which includes a note on the phone exchange i did my best to clumsily make sense of above —

    A few words on the mix from Elijah: “We tried to feature most the producers we’ve been playing a lot of on the Rinse show recently and play the tunes where you don’t really have to question whether it’s grime or not. There’s tunes on there from Maniac, DVA, Terror Danjah, Joker, Nocturnal, Footsie, Rude Kid, J Sweet and Swindle. The tune at the end is me debating with journalist Dotun Adebayo on BBC London Radio about his article in the Sun where he claimed he had listened to grime for 12 hours straight and wanted to kill someone. Most of the tunes in the mix are out now, so buy them if you like them!”


I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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