Characterised by its close-knit community and sense of national solidarity, these MCs and producers are showing why the grime scene is popping off north of the border
This summer, the phrase ‘Scottish grime’ started appearing on national music platforms and below-the-line YouTube comments when 19-year-old MC Shogun’s freestyle video “Vulcan” went viral. The track’s lyrics captured what it’s like to live in towns like Paisley – where jobs are scarce, community programmes have disappeared, and kids are getting increasingly riled up – and it seemed to chime with a general sense of disillusionment with establishment politics for failing successive working class generations. Its resonance could also be a sign of an online audience eager for regional grime, which has been gaining popularity over the last year, illustrated by the success of Manchester’s Bugzy Malone and views on YouTube beefs between teenagers in Blackpool.
Grime in Scotland isn’t a new thing – Glasgow’s Levels Syndicate, for example, have been growing their movement for over a decade. What does feel fresh right now, however, is the way that MCs and producers across Scotland are coming together to rep their country, demonstrating their camaraderie with cross-city collaborations. This sort of national pride, which feels absent in England, gives the scene a unique character that’s a step away from the culture of beefs and clashes that characterised grime’s earlier incarnations. As Levels Syndicate founder Gallus One explains to us, “in Scotland the idea is to celebrate, not hate, and move it forward as a big community.”
It’s beginning to work, too. “Beefs are obviously important in a grime scene,” says Gallus One, “but we prefer to go down the Lord of the Mics, professional outlet, (rather) than how it was in London back in the day, where it got violent and stopped a lot of things from taking place.” Thanks to YouTube subtitles, even the strongest patter is now proving less of a barrier for audiences too, meaning the scene can grow online as well as on the ground.
We profiled five crews, MCs, and producers who are contributing to the hype right now.
The longest-running grime crew in Scotland, Glasgow’s Levels was formed in 2005 by Gallus One, Rustie, and Taz Buckfaster. The latter two left to release music on labels like Warp and Numbers, but Gallus One continued, setting up the station Levels Radio. It’s here that the crew’s newer MCs (such as 2T, A.D.Y, A-Macc, Chrissy Grimez and Skola) first showcase their work, joining original MCs Hendy and Philly Bluntz. 18-year-old producers Polonis and Rapture 4D joined in 2015. Gallus One sees the strength of the crew being that they have “older guys” amongst their ranks who’ve seen, and learnt from, the mistakes that have been made in the grime scene in the past. “We realised that if you don’t get that beat out to that DJ and just vegetate, nothing’s gonna happen – you have to make it happen,” he says. This attitude is no doubt why Gallus One’s productions are currently being played by Beats 1 radio presenter Julie Adenuga, and Polonis’s tunes are repped by club DJs like Murlo and Mumdance.
Aberdeen’s Ransom FA has already supported Skepta, performed at Scotland’s first Eskimo Dance, and is soon playing a show with grime godfather Wiley. With a talent for writing the kind of hooks worthy of a reload or three (such as on the track “North Face”, where he shouts out his north eastern region), he’s fast becoming one of the most accessible Scottish MCs currently making moves. Ransom FA started writing bars when he was ten years old, and tells us that hip hop, R&B, and Afrobeat as influences on his upcoming R&B (Rhythm & Grime) EP. “Wake Up”, his recent collaboration with Paisley’s Shogun, further proves how committed he is to growing the Scottish scene outside his own city.
Polonis only started making music a year ago, but he’s proving himself a maestro of the darker, industrial side of grime with his M EP for Classical Trax gaining the attention of influential grime DJs like Logan Sama. Although he broke his teeth on re-fixes, the artist is now focused on original material, currently collaborating with fellow Glaswegian Rapture 4D (who he’s set to release tracks with on their label Plastic Abuse) and producing for Scottish MCs like Ransom FA and Shogun. These collaborations are important to him, especially with the scene now getting more attention. As he tells us, “you have to let everyone know that it’s a proper movement ting, not just one or two cities in the country pushing our sound forward.”
Formed by MCs I.D and Remark, MFTM stands for Mans From The Mainland. The Glasgow crew represent a new wave in Scottish grime, citing MCs close to their age like AJ Tracey and Santan Dave as figures of inspiration. A chance meeting at a music festival last year led I.D and Remark to be joined by Shogun, whose anti-establishment tracks focus on Scotland’s socioeconomic problems and a frustration with musicians driven by materialism as opposed to craftmanship, warning on recent release “Unrivaled” that “you got two chains on, I.D’ll take them off in an instant”. Recently the collective has swelled to include producers and DJs, with the crew making waves on the city’s club circuit. The practice hours are paying off – a show in London at the end of this month will see them take their music outside of Scotland for the first time.
The son of pioneering UK rap crew Two Tone Committee’s Mr Defy, Konchis followed in his dad’s footsteps as member of hip hop collective The Being. His work is impressively varied, spanning classic boom-bap and chiptune hip hop all the way to electronic synth and bass sounds, which he releases under his other alias Jetsam. The producer’s importance on the Scottish grime scene stems from his prolific remixes, with the experimentalist taking on tracks by Chrissy Grimez, Shogun, and Remark – meaning that even the most traditional of Scottish grime MCs end up with music that doesn’t fit easy definitions. Konchis describes his music to us as “a melting pot of mad styles thanks to everyone being really supportive of each other’s work, making it really easy to get jams.” It’s precisely these collaborations that are building a Scottish grime sound all of its own.