Liverpudlian turned Londoner Paul Lynch releases records as Slackk and Patrice & Friends. Slackk has released 12"s on labels like Numbers, Unknown To The Unknown and Local Action, and makes self-described ‘eski-house’. ‘Eski’ is a term coined by grime don Wiley to describe his own early productions, and Lynch also used to operate the invaluable – now sadly unattended – online archive of grime pirate radio rips grimetapes.com. Here, our favourite undisputed grime expert pours one out for his favourite lost mic men.
Grime is nothing if not a resilient scene. Since its inception at the start of the last decade, it's been written off more times than I could count – overtaken by dubstep, supplanted by funky – but it’s always managed to keep moving along, and will probably outlast the lot. In its current state, it’s fair to say that the instrumentals and DJs lead the pack: the rise of Butterz over the last couple of years only serves to illustrate that, really.
At a certain point, though, it felt like a new wave of British MCs were taking over. The pirate radio stations were ablaze with crews from every area of London – youth clubs and schools throughout the capital were full of aspiring MCs, producers and DJs. Once Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and Kano (among others) broke through into the mainstream, it briefly felt like there was a real change in British music, with East London leading. There was even a television channel of sorts in Channel U: hundreds of independently produced grime videos, all competing for attention on Sky (some of them truly terrible, I might add).
We know now, of course, that this alleged rise of the MCs was hopeful at best. Bar the longevity of Dizzee, it wasn’t until the second wave of Tinie Tempah et al really gave any credence to the idea that a British MC could be successful. As a result, grime fell back underground and a lot of the people within the scene along with it. This article, although by no means definitive, is an attempt to shed some light on MCs that aren’t around anymore; I'd prefer it if they were.
10. Demon “Armshouse”
By all accounts, Demon was scared out of the game by Chronik, among others. After sending for Chronik on a DVD – a strange move really, given Chronik & Slew Dem’s reputation for not taking any shit – Chronik lost his mind on radio sending back for him, and scared him out of the game. (I mentioned this in my feature on grime beef earlier in the year). The exact same thing happened with Riko: Demon turned up on BBC 1Xtra in the middle of the night and started running his mouth. Riko sending back on Rinse was a definite highlight. It’s a shame because although Demon was never really the greatest MC or lyricist, he did have a good ear for beats and a few bars that could muster a decent reload in a rave. “Armshouse” was arguably his biggest tune and really, his biggest reload bar, too. I never understood why he started talking reckless about other MCs when he couldn’t stand up to the beef.
9. RA of Roadside Gs “Lives We Lead”
RA is in prison. I won’t attempt to speculate on what got him there, because all I know is hearsay: no point. In terms of sheer nihilism and ultraviolence, the Brixton MC and the crew he was attached to – Roadside Gs – were probably the best. The Gangsta Grime series (three CDs, all worth your time) they put out is basically the definition of how a grime crew should sound on a CD: real dynamic chemistry between MCs who’ve arguably known each other most of their lives, and the type of harsh, abrasive beat selection most MCs have shied away from over time in favour of an overt commercialism that’s often worked to their detriment. This video was banned from Channel U after complaints from The Met, and really that sums up why it never happened for them but did for the likes of Roll Deep. Someone has helpfully compiled a Best Of RA video for YouTube, which I recommend. You can hear RA’s flow everywhere in grime these days, I think – a testament to his influence, really.
8. Kraze of Slew Dem “Zoots”
Not everyone likes Kraze. A member of Younger Slew Dem, his relatively high-pitched flow (which would tend to dissipate into a gruffer voice if he hung around on a set for long enough) definitely threw me off the first time I heard him. But it’s a very distinctive tone, and in a much-maligned era for UK MCs (certainly from my perspective), you can argue that his unique delivery and tone is one that’s missed when much of the current crop struggle to identify themselves as anything other than another grime MC.
There’s a Kraze Klassix mixtape on YouTube here, which also has a download link. The quality isn’t the best, but the tunes shine through, I think.
7. Mr Wong “Orchestra Boroughs”
A truly bizarre character, Mr Wong. In the era of Channel U, he basically saturated the market with weird, almost self-deprecating – I’m assuming he was self aware enough for this to be the case – lyrics and ultra-low budget videos that generally made no sense. He had three mixtapes out and they’re all terrible, but in a way that makes them great. Although he’s the only grime MC who you could compare to horribly overdubbed kung fu films that become brilliant almost in spite of themselves, it would be unfair if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that he was a great producer. He put out some truly great instrumental EPs in the ‘sino-grime’ vein and I would suggest you looked them up, if you didn’t know that. I saw him live once and he was absolutely terrible but that’s besides the point.
6. Rugrat & Dizzman “Mozart Manor”
The complete opposite to Wong, Rugrat & Dizzman were a truly great combination on a set or a track or whatever. Part of the MC wing of Musical Mob (“Pulse X”, “Bongo”, “Formula”, etc), there was a great chemistry between the two, and they put out some great tracks before just falling away, really. There is a Dizzman mixtape that’s got a few decent things on it that you can probably find somewhere on the internet, but really all we have of them is a few great tracks on YouTube, and me wishing I could find them in CD quality. There was a great track by them called “Heart Of The Manor”, but it isn’t on the internet and is possibly lost forever. Rugrat’s still about in a sense, featuring on a few rap tracks with Ratlin Corleone and a couple on his own, but there’s no tape yet. I don’t know where Dizzman is.
5. God’s Gift “Straight Freestyle”
You know God’s Gift even if you don’t recognise the name. A member of the Pay As U Go Cartel that spawned Wiley, Flowdan and countless others, he was a great MC that, like most others, just seemed to tail away after the initial grime rush faded away. Despite the occasional guest appearance or stray tune (including some horrible forays into electro house commercialism), he’s never really made the comeback he should have.
4. Crazy Titch “I Can C U”
Crazy Titch is in prison. He got sent down for murder, isn’t coming out any time soon – even with a reduced sentence, 30 years is a long time. At the time he was arguably one of the biggest in it, and really entertaining along with it. I’ve talked about his long-running feud with Dizzee Rascal before, and as much as that is a defining part of him, he was one of the few MCs who could carry a set on their own, and put out a great DVD as well.
3. K Dot & Kidman of Essentials (Freestyle)
There are two K Dots. One is from Sheffield and terrible and one is the person he stole his name from, a member of the now defunct Essentials crew from Lewisham. The first K Dot was great: incredible hype on the set, and loads of brilliant tracks that even now sound like some of the best stuff to ever come from grime. Tracks like “State Your Name” and “Jenny” were massive at the time, but infighting and acrimony kind of put paid to them. Much like a lot of the people in this article, the best way to experience them was on a set really. I’d recommend this one, which is probably my favourite set ever.
2. Castro “Chemist”
Really one of my favourite MCs ever, not just in the UK but basically everywhere. Really distinctive flow, and a real authority over everything he ever touched. Even in the era of grime DVDs, etc, he was very rarely seen, and there’s literally only one video of him spitting anywhere. There is a bootleg mixtape of his tracks to be found here, and it’s well worth your time. He made all these tracks and then basically vanished without a trace for, what, six years? He’s now ‘back’ in a loose sense, wearing a mask and spitting about drugs in the snow.
1. Esco of Slew Dem (Freestyle)
Esco passed away a couple of years ago. I don’t know anyone who was into grime who didn’t rate him, and with good reason. A really great MC, and one who just made it seem effortless, really. There aren’t many actual released tracks, and even his appearances on sets are generally limited, but there are very few who even came close to him. A member of Slew Dem, there’s a mixtape of his unreleased tracks that’s long rumoured but there’s no sign of it yet. It was a great loss, he was brilliant – just listen to this set and tell me he doesn’t outshine everyone.