Life of Grime

Issue section: 

East London Explosion

Music has always given a voice to the people. It has also been abused as a tool for power, money and fame. In east London music is a means to both ends. It has been used to spread political messages and has also been a gateway out of the run down streets of London's East End.

East London is known for its cultural diversity. This is reflected in the musical taste of its populace. The recent combination of the various sounds in the East End is the creation of a new genre, grime (an amalgamation of drum 'n' bass, garage, hip-hop, Jamaican dancehall, reggae and techno). This music form initially struggled to expand outside the barriers of the underground scene but has recently grabbed international attention.

The success of artists from east London is revealed by the achievements of Mercury Music Prize winner Dizzee Rascal. His accomplishments contradict his humble beginnings in Bow. After being expelled from school four times, Dylan Mills (his real name) was regarded as an academic failure. It was not until a teacher began to show support that Dizzee was able to express his love for music. Accompanied by his appearances on pirate radio and London's rave circuit, the support helped lead Dizzee Rascal out of the gutter. Now he has two gold records and is currently touring the US.

Music has revolutionised international society. In the 1980s Run DMC of New York changed the face of popular music. In the 1990s Tupac Shakur of California brought the realities of American poverty to the forefront of music entertainment. Now the likes of Crazy Titch, D Double E, Dizzee Rascal, Kano and Roll Deep are showing the world the streets of east London.

Their ends (a term used to describe their location - in this case east London) prove to be an immense stimulus of their music. One of Dizzee Rascal's latest singles, 'Graftin'', exemplifies the depth of this influence. 'It's a cold world I gotta stay on track, dog eat dog, others gain if you lack in the LDN.' The track, dedicated solely to the streets of London, sends out a message that London is not 'all teacups' (a phrase used by a few people outside London - one which draws parallels to the Queen and the lives of the rich). He also uncovers the realities of his ends with the complementary music video where council flats, estates, and alleyways are shown during a murky night in the streets of east London. There is a clear contrast between the high-rise council flats and the towering buildings of Canary Wharf also shown in the video.

The Mitchell Brothers, a new up-and-coming duo from Manor Park, have their say on the stop and search policy established by the government in their single, 'Routine Check'. They assess the problem with stereotypes in east London culture, and conclude that the police label individuals by the way they dress. 'Routine Check' attempts to correct this common misconception: 'The good thing with the law these days is that criminals know their rights better than their wrongs.'

The single delves into the subject of stereotypes, not only in the music world, but also in society itself. Music has influenced people around the globe but it has had some negative bearing on certain groups of people. The sex, drugs and violence portrayed in several songs give a detrimental depiction of some artists in the music business, as well as various communities alluded to in the songs.

Individuals do have a right to be concerned about the numerous references to prostitution, murder and drug abuse, but should realise that the vivid images revealed through the lyrics can reflect an artist's life. Music enables someone to deliver a message so compelling that people have to take notice. Tales of murder and prostitution are not mentioned in songs to promote them. They are brought up because people do actually experience such things and want to let others know about their situation. In this instance music should be seen as a documentation of real lives in the poorest boroughs - another problem which must be solved.

Music can allow for one's dreams to be fulfilled. Like Dizzee Rascal's teacher, those in a position to should try their best to help the youth of today realise their true potential. We should help the youth of east London realise their dreams, as well as try to understand the problems expressed through their music.