Wiley On Why Kanye West’s Brit Awards Salute To Grime Was Empowering, Not Patronising

Last week, Kanye West took a posse of grime emcees onstage with him at the Brit Awards to perform ‘All Day’. It’s about time someone gave the grime scene the credit it’s due, says one of the genre’s biggest hitters, Wiley. We asked him for his take on the performance…

The Brits is out of my league. Unless I make another ‘Heatwave’ or something that’ll sell millions and millions for 10 years solid, the Brits are never gonna look at me. But this year, Kanye West opened a door that’s closed to most of us. There’s no way Skepta or JME or Novelist or Stormzy were gonna get onstage without Kanye doing that. The doors are still shut in a way, and what he did won’t just happen again next year, but people will be more open-minded about the people he got into the building and onstage.

The statement he made at the Brits was: I can walk in and out of here as I like, ’cos I’m Kanye West, even though you don’t like me for ranting at Taylor Swift. And what I’m gonna do, Brits, is bring out a king, Skepta, and 25 MCs from his grime scene, who you wouldn’t usually let in here in any shape or form. I’m gonna bring ’em out and let you know they’re with me and you cannot stop it.

And that is power. But it’s not a power we’ve got, it’s the power Kanye’s got. It’s amazing. It was a massive statement. Kanye came in and helped my scene make it. And when I say my scene, I just mean people who are part of that culture, rather than us as grime or UK rap or us from the council estate whose parents had milk tokens.

Let’s not get it wrong, Craig David, Dizzee Rascal and a few other urban artists have been there. But if that wasn’t Kanye it wouldn’t have been allowed. I hate saying this and I’m not hating because I like this person, but if Tinie Tempah was performing at the Brits, never in a million years would him or his manager even dream of bringing a scene of people behind them. If I called up my manager and said ‘I got this show at the Brits, I’m bringing my whole scene, I need 25 backstage passes’ he’d switch off the phone.

In London some people have been hating, saying, ‘Why didn’t they bust lyrics? Why didn’t Kanye get Skepta to spin a 16?’ But 25 men are not gonna bust lyrics. Just have a think about that.

I’m gonna go to the Brits next year, not gonna perform or nothing, I’m just gonna go and embrace the Brits because this year I could look and say,‘That’s my mates up there, good’. Now the next step is: what song will be made, with Skepta or Kanye that could connect them, so that when the Brits come around again they can perform there again. And that’s it, man.

Skepta ain’t told me this but I know what he’s thinking. He’s looking back at the reason he hasn’t been given his dues, he’s laughing at all the labels who didn’t sign him, and saying to himself, ‘I didn’t even have to be signed to meet Kanye and for him to bring me and my fam onstage’. It’s revenge: ‘I’ve worked hard, I’ve broken my neck and you don’t give it to me, you’re killing me. But check this out, Kanye likes me. You lot are wrong’.

Wiley’s new album ‘Snakes & Ladders’ is out on Big Dada now

Kanye West’s Brit Awards Censoring Wasn’t A Mishap: It Was A Powerful Cultural Protest