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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

end of year round up [the start of it anyway]

sorry for the delay. another broken promise. this time is wasn’t my fault [honest, sir…] cuz I’m back at my parents house in the wilds of the north west, where internet access is unreliable at best, and non-existent most of the time…

anyway, lets do some rounding up of 2004. I guess I should talk about grime first. 2004 will always be the year of grime for me, I think. firstly, it was the year that silverdollarcircle really became, somehow, a ‘grime blog’ rather than any other sort. just sort of happened that way. and it was nice that it did cuz as grime got bigger and bigger more people outside my immediate friends started to read silverdollarcircle. so to get some uh ‘recognition’ for stuff that I’d written was lovely, thanks [and surprisingly easy too- just mentioning ruff sqwad a few times really brings the referrals in, ha…].

but there are other, better, non-narcissistic reasons why 2004 was the year of grime. importantly, this was the first year of grime. that is, this was the first year when this sound + this scene really had a name. remember back to early this year- people were still arguing whether it was eski, sublow, 8-bar, east beats, just garage, just uk hip hop, grimey garage. now, nah, it’s just grime. which is kinda sad cuz eski was a better name. ah well. but the formation of a consensus on just what everyone was involved in was important because it helped the scene become much bigger. journalists and other listeners need something to latch on to, and the ‘grime’ tag gave them that- suddenly, it was tripping off broadsheet writers keyboards loads, and grime artists were getting signed. go into any independent record shop now and ask for some grime and although they’ll probably still tell you to fuck off, they’ll at least know what yr on about. that wouldn’t have been the case 12 months ago.

yeah grime got bigger this year. I wouldn’t say it’s poised to take over anytime soon- it’s still too mad, too out of control, and too hardcore for that. but there’s little chinks of grime entering, or about to enter the mainstream consciousness. dizzee’s a proper pop star now- he’s a band aider for goodness sake! wiley tried and failed, but come the release of the roll deep album on relentless next year, he could make a go of it next time around. ‘shake a leg’ in particular is a number one hit if there’s a god. kano also got signed this year, and could be v big if he profits as he should do from his increasingly close association with mike skinner. lethal bizzle’s forward riddim got in at number 11 which is worse than I hoped but fantastic for such an uncommercial track, although unfortunantely the radio edit is a brutally crippled hack job that’s lost the special things that the original had. and lady sovereign could be the larger than life, instantly recognisable, sweetly nasty star that grime needs if it’s gonna burn it’s way into the thoughts, clubs, cars and bedrooms of the nation’s youth.

on the underground, things got settled after a worryingly long stretch where there seemed to be no grime at all on the radio. the pirates are once again one step ahead of the dti, and things look just rosy. raw uk is peerless, better even perhaps that its granddad Déjà vu. rinse has, thankfully, brought more MCs back in- the resolution of rinse management’s long standing conflict with roll deep meant that trim, wiley and scratchie became a literally inescapable presence on the radio from autumn onwards. you started to suspect that they lived in the rinse studios full time. other greatness in radio in 2004: the formation of On Top, the grime-dedicated south london pirate, run by n double a. also, the rise of internet radio attracted some big names to some stations, notably blaze-live fm. everyone knows, deep down, I think that they’re the future. keep an eye on them. they’re going to get bigger and bigger. who’s gonna bother abseiling down towerblocks to put up ariels when most of yr target audience are on broadband? [I know that a lot of people, and even more so in the east london ghettoes that grime is mainly a broadcast system to and for, don’t have broadband, but that’ll probably change in the next 5-7 years.]

On Top was either the catalyst for or the result of, whichever you want to view it, grime finally becoming a real presence south of the river this year. a south london crew- essentials- were the biggest thing out there until roll deep’s triumphant return. n double a’s narstie and l.man were also names wildfiring their way round grime message boards and radio shows. what’s been especially interesting has been to see how south london has come with quite a distinct take on grime, particularly grime MCing. more verbose, dense and complex, and often more conscious, than the east-west style, crews like foreign format, infrared sound, south agents, essentials and l.man from n double started to push the boundaries of what the form could take. I guess one way to see it is that south MCs are coming from a more hiphop background than a jungle one, but I’m not at all sure. like always with grime, I’m just too ignorant and removed to know what’s really going on. but south london has got a distinctive, unique style, piling syllables and sentences on top of each other to stretch out rhyme schemes and create a more fluid, uh, flow than the shorter, thrillingly sharp and essential, bursts from east london MCs. not that I’m saying one is better than the other: there’s always room for more styles, especially in grime, where there’s room for just about anything.

essentials rise to top boy status this year shows another interesting aspect of grime: despite it often being seen as overwhelmingly about MCs and nothing else, it’s often still the producer who can make or break it for a crew. witness nasty’s almost painful to watch decline after jammer’s departure early this year. at the other end of the scale, davinche’s work with essentials was the major factor in them becoming on of the biggest crews out there; although essentials’ MCs, and particularly jendor, are the match of just about anyone, they wouldn’t be where they are now with davinche. likewise, ruff sqwad’s justly deserved, but still too slow, coming into fame and respect on the underground was largely down to their awe inspiring production’s swirls and sweeps, rather than the MCing [although, again, the MCs shouldn’t be ignored; slicks, dirty danger aka dangerous dirt (love that!), and of course tinchy are all wonderful). wiley also focussed on his production again towards the end of the year, releasing the mighty torrent of fire hydrant, icepole remix, ice cream man, colder, and back 2 back in the space of a few weeks. fire hydrant and ice cream particularly are now the mainstays of most grime sets, and have played a large part in making roll deep THE crew. producers still matter.

and there has been some incredible music put out over the last 12 months. after a slow start to the year, which led to me moaning on and on about how it was all over, the grime scene exploded from last summer onwards, to the point where it’s now almost impossible to keep up. truly, this is the golden age, right on the cusp between the twin poles of a tiny few making the strangest music with no rules, and of a large number of people making music that’s established its own entrenched rules of conduct. things’ll settle down soon, I guess: this can’t go on for ever. but right now there are still no rules to be broken. there’s no definitive grime sound, or grime rhythm, or grime structure that all or most tracks fall into. that said, perhaps there has been a little less sheer sonic invention this year than last. but last year was a formative year, with people establishing some of the many dissolute tropes that run through grime- stutter glitch rhythms, martial arts epic strings, ring tone melodies, computer game clinks and clunks etc. this year, tracks tended to reconfigure such sounds in different ways rather than come with new sounds, but grime remained the most fiercely inventive music out there. and there was some new paths being forged: the pop-ambient, melancholic miny symphonies of ruff sqwad, davinche’s occasional forays into fennesz-esque gurgles and drifts, agent x and big e.d’s love for speed-metal samples, ruff sqwad affiliates x-t-c and Merlin’s brittle, mournful melodies than sound somehow medieval [as befits a producer called Merlin I guess…], and the sheer discordance of wonder and p-jam’s raids on r n b, which take addictive delight in sounding non-more-wrong.

but mainly 2004 was a year when grime moved away from brutally bare 8-bars to a more song-based approach. come autumn and vocal tracks were everywhere. largely, the shift was initiated by terror danjah’s aftershock, but p-jam’s dice recordings, roll deep, essentials, ruff sqwad all put out classic ‘proper’ songs with choruses and hooks. the result is that many grime records don’t sound like grime pirate radio sets anymore- there’s almost two distinct strands within grime now. the exception to this trend, of course, is the forward riddim; the biggest grime track since eskimo and also the greatest ever attempt to capture in a 3 minuter track what a grime radio set sounds and feels like.

crucially, grime’s focus on vocal tracks and song-structures in 2004 brought a welcome return of the [ahem] gal dem to the scene. shola ama, sadie, and k-t all merked it this year, and my favourite female singer ever, kele le roc, was a brilliant, although frustratingly infrequent, presence. one worry I have, though, is that a truly, uniquely british style of r n b vocals has yet to emerge, so what you get with many vocal grime tracks is a very distinctively London sound with singers with american accents over the top, sounding like direct descendents of US r n b stars. there’s often something incongrous and half-formed about that, but mainly my worry is that one of the reasons why grime is so fantastic, why I love grime so much, is that it sounds so completely OF the place it was made. it’s not at any remove from the MCs or producers lives. so although, say, the producers are clearly descendents of crunk producers in some ways, as grime MCs are to dancehall deejays, those influences and roots get filtered through a very particular London prism. it’s hearing what London’s take on those musics that’s what makes grime often so special, and that’s what’s not there is many of the female vocal led tracks. that worry aside though, those vocal tracks are some of my favourite songs of the year and of all my life, and they’ve provided an essential counter-balance to grime’s ever-escalating testosterone spiral, which has ended up in what jess harvell has termed the ‘kill yr mother!!!!!’-style grime tracks. when a distinctively british r n b singing style develops, though, it’ll be even better. hopefully that’ll happen soon, although there might be good reasons to doubt it: the MCs role in grime is to keep it real, and so the use of english accents and slang was pretty natural. the female vocalists’ role is often to add a bit of glitz and glamour to proceedings, and so there isn’t so much pressure to lose the american stylings; indeed, there’s probably a reason arising from this role to keep the americanisms- america as glamourous, exotic, far-away and removed from the reality of the london streets grime rises up from.

some predictions for 2005, then, to finish this bit off: firstly, the big release of next year: the roll deep album. yes it’s not going to be all grime, and it’s going to frequently go into poppy hiphop from what I’ve heard, but the best tracks- let it out, and shake a leg- are INCREDIBLE. what’s more, they are, more so than any other grime tracks, hits in the making. this could be the album which finally sees wiley become a true pop star. and we all want that, don’t we? from what I’ve heard, it’s going to be the roll deep axis that are pushing things forward in 2005: in Trim, they’ve got one of the most original and talented MCs out there, and danny weed’s new productions [they’re on the new aim high mixtape] have to be heard to be believed. he’ll be the top boy producer in 2005, mark my words. ruff sqwad’s mixtape, Guns n Roses, is probably the release I’m most looking forward to. there is simply no way that this cannot be one of the greatest records of all time. it’s impossible. ruff sqwad possess true genius, and they’re just waiting for the world to catch up., Rapid and Dirty Danger are our generation’s Brian Wilsons. jammer’s jah mek the world productions, and his slew dem camp also have some epic, almighty tracks ready for release, that’ll redefine that woozy sino-grime sound that stirs yr heart and soul. And from his recent releases- particularly ‘baby’ and ‘mish mash’, it seems like davinche is only just hitting his stride. he’s taken it up another level in the past few months, and I can’t wait to hear what happens next.

generally, I think they’ll be a shift to more of the skewed + sketchy melodicism that grime does better than anyone. the ultra-raw, clattery, ‘forward riddim’ style bosh bosh bosh feels, perhaps sadly, like it’s hit a bit of a dead end. I’ll always love that sound, but I just don’t know what else those bare 808 and 909 skeletons have left to do.

MC wise, I’m really looking forward to hearing more of fumin (from boundary), who has energy and style to match even demon, and all-in-one (from mucky wolf pack), whose appearance on practice hours dvd, performing ‘one-away girl’ in his car should be legendary. he’s very, very special. also, Craze, who is in slew dem youngers, makes you pay attention whenever she touches the mic, as does ashman [ I’m not sure what crew he’s from]. bashy will also get big next year, although I’m not quite whether the hype is justified. Nasty’s ghetto needs to do some big vocal tracks, as does stormin:, when they are at their best, few other MCs even come close to them. both sound scarily, impossibly, intuitive, natural, dextrous and quick wittted. hopefully, god’s gift’s war with lethal b is just the start of a return to the forefront of grime. I want to hear him on the radio every night. 2005 should also be the year of the goldfather of Gift’s scary yardie/scary cockney style, Riko. he’s out of jail, and he’s in roll deep. nothing will stop him. he’s the best MC I’ve ever heard +, really, everyone should agree. jendor, from essentials, is also, to use that rubbish phrase, ‘one to watch’. he’s got a special energy and life to him. also, tinchy strider has upped his game massively, and when you hear him now you’ll understand why wiley made such a fuss about him all that time ago. his bastardized 2-step anthem, ‘underground’ will be a classic in 2005. maihem, a female MC who seems to affiliated with the E3 axis of aim high, tnt and j2k, is probably the most intelligent and funny MC out there. she’ll blow people away in 2005.

so in summary: 2004- the golden age of grime
2005- more of the same, as there’s still so much sitting around waiting for proper release, but with more vocal tracks, more tunes, more melodies. can’t wait.

coming soon: track by track run down of just about every grime track that i can remember from this year. hopefully, it'll be stupidly long.
happy new year if i don't write anything else before then...

Friday, December 24, 2004

hola! and Feliz Navidad as well. sorry for the absence: i've not been dead or anything. i've been in Spain living the high life instead, wandering around seville and chestnut forests. it was sunny + friendly + yes it was wicked. but i don't feel christmassy at all:- it was a late summerish uh 'vibe' over there and i don't think southern europeans really 'do' christmas that much. but that's good. as much as i love christmassy stuff, an endless summer seems much more appealing.

first day i got in seville, switched the radio on and started randomly going through the stations cuz that's what i do innit, and i happened to stumble on a gabba station! at 3 in the afternoon! that's hardcore. instantly, i fell in love with the place. and i don't even really like gabba. [does anyone? isn't the point about people who are into gabba that they don't really 'like' anything? but i digress]

apparently, there's a form of extreme spanish techno called bakalao, and also spanish dried fish is called bacalao, so you have to be careful in fishmongers. and harecore techno record shops.

so, be told.

anyway, look, i'm off to the pub cuz it's xmas eve and all, but i will be back on boxing day i PROMISE [this isn't one of the rubbish promises that i always break...], with the start of my end of year round up. i think the whole thing is going to be so long that it might have to be in stages.

2005 is going to be all about wordage and hard work. like roll deep, silverdollarcircle had a little stumble and loss of focus, but i'm back now and i'm really enthusiastic about this and i want to make it as good as i can.

so see you boxing day. and happy christmas.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

o death where is thy sting?

i will do a proper post soon, i promise.

Friday, December 03, 2004

i'm not always there when you call me but i'm always on time now baby baby be mine

i want to write about favela funk soon
Would it be right to say that most of us, us blog people that is, are now pretty tired and worn out and less enthusiastic than we once were about writing things on our computers?
i think that's true. certainly in my case. but i'm going to try to keep going, because, really, why not.
also, hopefully by the new year Thee Silver Dollar Of The Circle will be an mp3 blog. got to put my raw blaze and de ja vizzle tapes into mp3 form first, but after that they'll start to be posted here. and it will be, to use the BEST new slang term for those who know, nangle.

and, finally, here's what fabric the other day was like:
the best thing that happened all night, may be all year, was when me and jak were walking from holborn tube to pick up some of the raving massive raving crew for the night, and a car full of teenage lads drove by, with them leaning out of the window and screaming along to their stereo, 'BRING SOME BEEF YOU LOSE SOME TEETH!!'
i was so babblingly excited. a little contact with the real culture innit.
anyway anyway anyway>>>we get to fabric and good gosh it's ram already, akufen playing to people on the dancefloor trying get all spacious and floaty but compressed together so much that all you can do is a little bob and stutter. still, i thought akufen was wicked. much more fun than his farbic mix cd, which is still quite fun. very sexy, glittery and glistening.
miss kitten was lovely too. much more minimal and hardcore than i'd been led to expect. but there was a moment of utter softcore BLISS when she dropped the SUPERPITCHER REMIX OF MFA'S 'THE DIFFERENCE IT MAKES'. [it may still be available for download here, i dunno]. i LOVE this song. i adore it. when it's on, i never want it to end. hairs stand up and tears well up. it's overwhelming beautiful. impossibily graceful sighs of distortion are built up into this riff that breaks yr heart into a million pieces. its a bit like fennesz having a 6 am rave epiphany but not really. so, to hear this at fabric, with Miss Kitten adding her own ethereal whispers over the top, was the very, very special. she's my hero and we felt epic. for the only real time that night, the dancefloor seemed together.

oh and there was andrew weatherall as well. firstly the bad; 2 lone swordsman live was almost unbelievably awful. i hardly ever use this word but it was dire. a really weak and meandering take on 'dark' rock sounds. he killed the dance. BUT then he revived it with his DJ set which was just what i wanted. minimal but twisted with little slices of electro bombast: he smashed it.
so, another fun saturday.

but:::why don't people at fabric smile at each other and make eye contact with each other? come on! you're in a club! a significant proportion of you are on drugs! do yr bit!

it'd be much more fun if people did.
DON'T FORGET::: jamek the world productions set on raw uk nine grand fm today 6-8pm. it's jammer and lewi white and bigga man's production outfit. you might get Ears MCing as well if yr lucky. i locked in last week and it was one of the best pirate shows i've heard- 2 hours of totally freah dubs that i'd never heard before, each an instant classic.

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