VO5 NME Awards 2017: How Wiley changed British music

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The Outstanding Contribution To Music recipient has done a lot for the current scene

If it weren’t for Wiley, it’s likely Skepta, Elf Kid, JME, Ghetts and even Dizzee Rascal wouldn’t be the rappers they are today. Wiley has had more influence on the grime scene than any other – that’s why we’re giving him an award for Outstanding Contribution To Music at the VO5 NME Awards 2017.

Wiley has been there from the very beginnings of grime. In fact, when he was a part of the crew Roll Deep, he and his friends veered away from the garage sound of the time to create their own thing. Wiley originally coined it “eski” or “eskibeat”, with it later coming to be known as grime.

His influence on the genre didn’t stop with him merely being an OG of the scene. Here’s just four ways how Richard Cowie, as he was born, changed the face of British music.

Mentored protégés

It’s hard to keep track of the amount of MCs who’ve namechecked Wiley as an inspiration or mentor. Everyone from Skepta, JME, Dizzee Rascal, Chip, Novelist, Ghetts, Tinchy Stryder and more have felt his influence on their careers, be that from his own music or him giving them a helping hand in their own endeavours along the way.

Eskimo Dance

Wiley’s grime nights have provided rappers with a platform to sharpen their skills via all-night rap battles and performance since the early ’00s and if you made it down to one of those early nights chances are you would have seen some of the biggest stars in the scene today just getting going. After a hiatus in 2006, Wiley brought the night back in 2012 and since then it’s gone from strength to strength, to the point where he’s now preparing to take it to arenas in April.

Constantly created innovated

Whatever Wiley’s done, he’s always been moving things on. Ever since starting off the whole grime thing in the first place, his ridiculous amount of output (11 albums in 13 years, plus countless mixtapes and collaborations) has never seen him resting on his laurels. Whether he be dabbling in more pop sounds like on ‘Wearing My Rolex’ and ‘Heatwave’ (both of which he’s since all but disowned) or giving pure grime energy and pace on his latest album ‘Godfather’, Wiley always sounds fresh and full of ideas.

Supported the scene

How many other people would take the money they’d earned from selling records and put it back into the scene that bore them? Not many, but Wiley is one of the few that has. After making cash from selling white label out the boot of his car, he funded Roll Deep’s debut album himself. “I spent £30,000 on studio time to make a record that would please people who weren’t ready for grime,” he later said of the record. Whatever his feelings about it now, that gesture would have no point proved hugely important to the other members of the crew.

The VO5 NME Awards 2017 takes place on February 15 at London’s O2 Academy Brixton. Vote for who you want to win here and buy tickets for the ceremony here.