During his early doors Pyramid Stage set, Skepta asks if the audience – which snakes back to the end of the field – has love for grime. As they bounce to ‘Calm’, mosh to ‘It Ain’t Safe’ and mimic the Tottenham MC when he pivots and jumps to ‘Detox’, it’s clear that the answer is in the affirmative. And he’s not alone – Friday June 24 is the day grime owned Glastonbury. Here are the ones who did it.
The day begins with Manchester rapper Bugzy Malone on the Sonic Stage. He’s marred by sound issues and unfortunately doesn’t seem to notice that the entire crowd is bellowing for him to turn his mic up.
Yet the response his rapid-fire rendition of the clubby ‘Rendition’, with the phone area-code referencing lyric “1016 / Manny on the map”, proves two things. One: grime is not just a London genre. And two: its appeal is so broad we can now consider it the biggest musical movement of recent years. The audience here consists of scrawny indie kids in jazzy floral shirts, streetwear-clad blokes and one old fellow with his Santa Claus beard painted a rainbow of colours.
His ‘Fire in the Booth’ (originally recorded as part of radio DJ Charlie Sloth’s live session series on 1Xtra) is so viciously passionate, calling out rival Chipmunk, that it transcends the technical set back. “I’ve come all the way from Manchester to prove to you that Glastonbury’s the best fucking festival in the world,” he shouts. Well, it’s also grime’s temporary new home.
Malone’s set overlaps with Skepta’s Pyramid Stage set, during which the Tottenham rapper called out, “Exercise! I am your fitness instructor! Bounce!” as way of introducing ‘Lyrics’, for which south London MC Novelist arrives onstage to help out. He’s been plowing this furrow for over a decade and when, referencing his crew Boy Better Know, he asks, “Where’s the original Skepta supporters out today? BBK squad forever,” the resulting roar is pretty definitive.
Later on, over at the Sonic stage, Novelist is feeling political, inspired by what he (and any sane person) sees as the travesty of the UK leaving the EU, news that was announced earlier today. He leads a chant of “FUCK DAVID CAMERON! FUCK DAVID CAMERON!” at various points this evening. Stressing his disparity from the prime minister, he invites the audience to “Put your hands up if you come from the ends”.
2014 track ‘Flavour’ draws the biggest response and through the show Novelist reworks the words of its refrain by shouting, “When I say energy, you say flavor”. At one point, the response is so overwhelming that he covers his face in disbelief. He brings on BBK – with Skepta returning the favour by appearing a few bars of ‘Shutdown’ –for a finale, a testament to the grime’s takeover of Glastonbury.
Should such an urban genre, so inextricably linked to London (and increasingly Manchester and Birmingham) make sense in a field in Somserset? 27-year-old Bhav says: “Grime works in a field because it’s so high-energy that it works at any time of the day – you can play it at 5pm or go all night. What Glastonbury needs is good energy and that’s exactly what grime’s got”. 22-year-old Sarah adds: “Grime’s really versatile and people that probably wouldn’t listen to it five years ago are into it now. Grime’s big at every festival right now because Skepta and BBK have become so big that other grime artists have become off the back of that.”
Charlie Sloth, who comperes some of the acts on the Sonic stage today, tells NME: “Just look at attendance at these stages that are supporting grime culture. But grime is no longer a culture – it’s a lifestyle. Whether you’re working class, middle-class, white, black or Asian, grime has become a modern-day way of life. It’s a taken long time to get here but it’s no longer a fad. After 10 years it’s finally got to the point where it’s a very credible type of music.”
South London crew Section Boyz follow the squalling ‘BIMMA’ by inviting a young boy from the front row onstage. He dances about like he might literally be the vibiest person at Glastonbury and shouts for his mum to take a photo. He might well have drawn the biggest cheer of the day.
Birmingham rapper Lady Leshurr later describes Glastonbury as a “mad ting” and asks the crowd to chant the phrase, before inquiring as to whether we’ve all brushed our teeth. When everyone assures her that they have, she says, “I think some of you are lying.” She is a perceptive woman. It’s her way of introducing the gloriously sassy ‘Brush Your Teeth’, which is possibly only out-sassed by ‘Queen’s Speech 1’, featuring the line, ‘You’re the type to poo on the street and wipe your own crack with a leaf.”
The same is unbelievable rammed for the much-loved Croydon rapper Stormzy, who appears to be the most popular man in grime right now – there’s currently a Twitter campaign to have him replace David Cameron.
He seems as overwhelmed as Novelist by the response, as he thanks everyone for “Coming all the way to this tent to see little old Stormz. He delivers a furious rendition of ‘One Take Freestyle’, takes off his top and bounces, slicked with sweat, to the anthemic ‘Shut Up’ and closes the set, punching the air and marching up and down the stage, with the brooding ‘Scary’. At one point, he offers to buy everyone a drink. Mine’s a pint, Stormz.
East Ham don Kano, a veteran from the first wave of grime, fittingly closes Glastonbury’s Friday love-in with grime. He gets political too, revealing “I was a bit pissed off [about the UK leaving the EU] this morning – but fuck it, it’s still England” as way of introducing the regal march of ‘This Is England’ from latest album ‘Made In The Manor’. It is – and it seems that the country belongs to grime right now.