Forget Adele’s record-breaking comeback, forget the endless ‘Hotline Bling’ parodies, even forget Kendrick’s state-busting revolutionary album ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’. 2015 doesn’t belong to any of these music moments, it belongs to grime.
From finally conquering the charts to even making America sit up and take notice, Skepta and co. have been in a rich glut of creativity throughout the last twelve months.
Beginning back in February when Kanye West was joined onstage by Skepta at the Brit Awards, the grime resurgence has moved its artists away from the street corners and estates of working class Britain and into the foreground of British culture.
While some argue it’s never been away, 2015 has seen the mainstream embrace grime like never before. ‘Shutdown’ is topping track of the year polls all over the place, and Thornton Heath rapper Stormzy is now a genuine star. But grime in 2015 wasn’t just a few great tracks played on repeat, club bangers were everywhere you looked. Here are the 10 best from a truly stellar year.
10. JME – ‘Don’t @ Me’
Hackney-born Jamie Adenuga cobbled together a supporting cast of the highest order for this impressive track from his Top 20 album ‘Integrity’. Shorty, Frisco and the mighty Skepta added top notch rhymes to JME’s mighty tirade against poor Twitter ettiquette that kicks off our top 10.
9. Maxsta – ‘No Retreat’
East London MC Maxsta ditched his traditional hip-hop beats for this fast-paced minimalist banger that combines R2D2-style bleeps and bloops with rumbling bass and quick-witted lyrics. It’s a big step up for the young artist who’s been around since 2006. Still only 23, expect a lot more in 2016.
8. Jammz – ‘Hit Then Run’
Taking inspiration from pirate radio and Jamaican dance hall culture, Hackney artist Jammz has produced a track that’s got it all. From brassy horn bursts and gun shots to glitchy vocal samples, the title track from his 2015 EP ‘Hit Then Run’ is a perfect mixture of grime’s original sound and its new modern influences.
7. Kano – ‘New Banger’
“24 hours ago I just decided I was gonna spend the ‘New Banger’ budget on booze and throw a shubz for the fam/Apologies to the neighbours” starts Londoner Kano on his standout track. If he did indeed blow it all on one mad party then we’re impressed. Replete with one of the best rap choruses of the year and fit to burst with slick urban poetry, ‘New Banger’ sure as hell doesn’t sound like it was recorded on the cheap.
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6. Wiley – ‘Chasing The Art
One of the founding fathers of the genre, Wiley raps “Scene went quiet for a while/Now we’re headed in the right direction” on this introspective riff-fest. Having ridden the original grime wave of the early ’00s, the East London MC embraces his Caribbean roots on ‘Chasing The Art’, a heavily-textured track that harks back to the early days of grime as much as its future.
5. Elf Kid – ‘Golden Boy’
“Lewisham High Street’s golden boy” hit the big time late in 2015 with this mainstream ready debut featuring perhaps the tastiest lick of the year. “This one’s a stonker” brags Elf Kid over the biggest of riffs, before jumping headfirst into his grime-flavoured coming out party. Quite the debut from the talented 18-year-old.
4. Lethal Bizzle x Stormzy – ‘Dude’
30 seconds of Stormzy just doesn’t feel like enough on this rip-roaring collaboration. Lethal Bizzle is on chorus duties, rattling off one of the year’s most memorable ear-worms; but it’s the south London prodigy’s final verse that’ll keep fans skipping to the end of the track, and it’s not even his highest appearance in this Top 10.
3. JME ft. Giggs – ‘Man Don’t Care’
From the sinister intro that sounds like it’s straight out of a Pokemon game to its bouncing, shattering percussion, JME’s ode to apathy is nothing like we’ve heard before. Hollowman, aka noughties rapper Giggs, adds another shifting layer to this swaggering jaunt down retro lane; but it’s JME’s hazy production, combining a metronomic riff with inch-perfect beats, that makes for one of the grime tracks of the year.
2. Stormzy – ‘Know Me From’
Thornton Heath’s resident “lord of the mic”, the BBC’s Sound of 2015, Wicked Skengman – Stormzy has almost too many titles and moniker to keep up with, but he also has the talent to match them. ‘Know Me From’ is just one of a number of tracks from this year that have proved that talent. His unparalleled vocal abilities combine with his wicked wit and originality to produce three and a half minutes of razor-sharp put downs and insightful pop-culture references that betters anything he’s done before.
1. Skepta – ‘Shutdown’
Joseph Junior Adenuga’s genre-defining smash hit is more than just the soundtrack to an entire musical movement, it’s a defining moment in the transferral of grime to the mainstream. But does he care? Not one bit. From his brilliant use of a Drake vine to the mid-track outing of a racist society, there’s no doubt that Skepta has made 2015’s most incendiary track. As well as its best.