Hattie Collins and Olivia Rose’s essential new book ‘This Is Grime’ is the first major work on the scene. In this exclusive extract the Adenuga siblings – Beats 1 presenter Julie and MCs Skepta and JME – discuss their upbringings on Tottenham’s Meridian Walk estate and the early days of Boy Better Know
JME “He always wanted to DJ, Skepta. He used to mix advert music with a little karaoke machine thing that had a speed tempo to it, play the tape of Heartless Crew or whatever, slow it down and speed it up to when there’s like a McDonald’s advert on, mixing music.
“My dad used to DJ too, so we used to hear music all the time. My dad had records, but only one deck, so Skep used to try and play a song on one deck – the Music Centre we used to call it, a cabinet with a glass door – he would play one tune on the record and then mix the tape to it, that’s what he used to like doing. He became a DJ.
“I wasn’t really MCing, I was just mucking around and then I started to write my own lyrics. Me, [Meridian] Dan and everyone in Meridian [Walk, Tottenham] and yeah, it was MCing and then it just snowballed until the point where now I’m some UK artist, Skepta’s decided to start spitting, you know what I mean? It ends up being something but it’s just about being creative in the first place. Being creative, having fun and enjoying working out how to do something that you don’t know how to do.”
Julie Adenuga “It was just a creative time. I don’t know where that came from, I just know that we didn’t have a lot of money. We weren’t poor, but we didn’t have a lot of money. When the ice cream came round we wouldn’t ask for money for an ice cream. There’s four of us, that’s two pounds. So I think it came from realising, ‘OK, we can’t have this, but that’s not it, it’s not over, there’s not going to be no fun in the house.’
“We’d dress up as Mortal Kombat characters and take pictures of ourselves dressed up as Sub Zero. We couldn’t afford to have four bikes so we’d make bikes from old bike frames that we found, two different tyres, we’d just make them for fun… Maybe it was our Nigerian background of being loud and having overactive imaginations that we just did loads of things.
“When we went back to Nigeria at the end of last year it all made sense. In the village that my dad grew up in, we saw how the people hustled to just be there and live. It made sense that we’ve got that same thing. Junior [Skepta] built his first table to put his decks on. And it’s not even money, he could probably have afforded a table, it’s just we’re used to it.”
Skepta “You don’t know it, but back then not having anything to do, it gives you time to be creative. Sometimes I just wish I could live back there, to see what I’d write. Just chilling every day, having nothing to do. I was about 18 when I started making music, making beats, my mindset was totally different. It was me, what I knew, Meridian, Tottenham.”
JME “I met Wiley when I moved from Meridian. My first mixtape [‘Shh Hut Yuh Muh’] came out in 2006, so this was around 2005. He rang me randomly. I remember we’d moved and [my friend] Joel showed me [grime DVDs] Lord Of The Decks, or Mics, maybe, but it had a Wiley tune on there. It was over ‘Morgue’ and he said, ‘I’m serious like JME on the roads.’ I was like, ‘Rah.’ Joel says, ‘Jamie, I swear he says your name.’ I was like, ‘No, he doesn’t!’ We listened to it and I was like, ‘Oh my God, Wiley knows who I am, how does he know who I am?’ This was before ‘Serious’; ‘serious’ was just what I used to say on my radio sets. But yeah, I was confused, I was gassed. After that, I remember he rang me. I don’t know how he got my number, but he rang me.”
Skepta “Wiley had heard of JME, and invited him to come to the studio, so we went studio – all of [Bow grime crew] Ruff Sqwad was there – and Wiley was like, ‘Why don’t you write some lyrics?’ I was like, ‘I can’t do grime, that’s for kids’ – I was 20 at the time and I thought I was a gangsta, a proper rude boy. I wrote one lyric, ‘Go on then… draw for the tool,’ [‘Do It Like Me’] and it’s been a myth since then. I remember writing it in my friend’s house.”
JME “Wiley calls me, ‘Come studio, make some music, I’ve seen what’s happening, come down.’ So then I went down with Skepta, to the studio. It was on Old Kent Road, Tooley Street maybe, and we was just there like, ‘Rah.’ I’m looking at [Roll Deep MC] Scratchy recording and stuff, like, this is f**king crazy. It’s quiet. But I’ve got the beat for ‘Serious’, ’cause I’m making beats now, and I’ve got all the lyrics, everything, but then I didn’t want to record it in front of everyone. I was thinking, ‘This is nuts, these are people, like everyone I’ve heard on radio’.”
Skepta “After that, Wiley started taking us to Rinse, we’re going there with Roll Deep who have been spitting for years and I’m rolling there with one lyric, one 16. But it kinda made me hungry, ’cause I thought, ‘No, I’m not going there next weekend feeling inadequate like I did last weekend,’ and I guess that’s why I started to clash everybody. I saw it as a quicker way for me to get into the game.”
JME “It was just what we all used to say at the time, ‘Boy better know’; Bossman, Big H, me, [Meridian] Dan, everyone, we used to say, ‘Man better know,’ ‘When I come around,’ ‘Boy better know’. I designed a logo and made it like a flippin’ glossy thing, I don’t know what I was doing at the time. From there, it spiralled, it got big.
“I did CD number two and Wiley said, ‘Let’s put things out with that logo, that’s big.’ But Skepta’s the reason why it ended up being a thing, ’cause it was just a mixtape cover really. Wiley said, ‘Yeah, Boy Better Know, me, you and Skepta, let’s keep putting things out.’ So Wiley put out ‘Tunnel Vision’, then Skepta said, ‘Yeah, let’s make it into a crew, let’s bring in Shorty, ’cause he’s younger, he’s the youngest guy, bring him through. Frisco, he’s from Tottenham as well, he’s repping, he’s doing his own thing.’ Then Skepta brought through Solo .
“Skepta always brings through people. Jammer ended up joining organically, but he was always around
a lot. But it wasn’t a crew, it wasn’t a record label, it wasn’t nothing, it was just a mixtape.”
Julie Adenuga “We have an Adenuga [Whatsapp] group convo. It only happens when something’s happening, like a king in Nigeria came round to visit my dad in the house that we built for him so he’s like texting the group like, ‘Ah yeah, I didn’t even know he was coming, I wasn’t wearing the right clothes, there’s no pictures.’ They will be moments like that where we’ll just reflect like, ‘This is sick.’
“Whenever someone is happy or when JME bought this table that he’s wanted for ages – it’s called the Abyss table I think – whenever things like that happen we’re like, ‘Ahhh that’s amazing, well done!’ When I met [American producer] Jimmy Iovine, I didn’t really want to be like, ‘Ahhhh I’ve met Jimmy!’ but I could share that with my family. Junior would be like, ‘Well done.’ It’s just a little moment of acknowledgement between us and then we carry on.”
JME “I think the only difference is time. We’re a really close family, we’ve only ever been in three-bedroom houses, so we were always sharing bedrooms, two of us, or three of us at times. It’s just time apart, other than that, nothing could ever change between us, and it’s not that we all went our separate ways at like 15. We lived together until Skepta was 30-something. We’ve been together so long, it’s impossible for us to have any differences, no matter how long we’re apart. As a family we’re done, that’s it. Everything else now is just extra, as a family we’re solid.”
About the authors
Is features director of i-D and has contributed to publications including The Guardian and NME. Hattie has covered grime since 2003, when it was a budding genre with no name.
Is a portrait photographer, who’s published in i-D and British Vogue. She largely focuses on male- dominated subcultures, including gang members in Kingston, Jamaica.