Run the Road
Risky Roadz: Volume 1--Tha Roadz Are Real
(On Road Entertainment)
Village Voice, April 12th 2005
Village Voice, April 12th 2005
By Simon Reynolds
I’ll cut to the chase: if you can’t find anything to like on Run the Road, you might as well give up on grime. Listen to the five best tracks--Terror Danjah’s “Cock Back,” Riko & Target’s “Chosen One,” Jammer’s “Destruction,” Lady Sovereign’s “Cha Ching,” Shystie’s “One Wish”--and if you still feel a bit shruggy, well, strike the genre off your list, ‘cos that’s as good as grime gets.
I’d be perplexed and disappointed if you did, admittedly. Surely there’s something for everybody here? You want to feel the same dark rush that “Bodies” by the Sex Pistols gave you? Just listen to the six opening bars of D Double E’s “performance” on “Destruction”-- vomitous, a self-exorcism, he sounds barely human. Conversely, if you’re jonesing for nursery rhyme tunefulness, there’s pasty-faced Lady Sovereign’s delicious faux-patois. Grime can do quasi-orchestral grandeur (swoon to Target’s “Chosen One” and Terror Danjah’s “One Wish” remix) as superbly as Anglo-gangsta (check Bruza’s astonishing 27 seconds on “Cock Back,” equal parts Jadakiss and Bob Hoskyns in The Long Good Friday). But what pushes Run into the first-class compilation zone is the second-tier tracks: Durrty Goodz’s double-time and ravenous “Gimmie Dat,” EARS’ plaintive elegy for lost innocence “Happy Days”… Indeed there’s only a couple of outright duds.
Grime sometimes gets treated as merely “the latest fad” from the trendhoppy
grander movement of which it’s an extension/mutation-- U.K. pirate radio culture--has been going
on since circa 1991, if not earlier. From hardcore rave to jungle to garage to
grime, underlying every phase-shift there’s an abiding infrastructure based
around pirates, dubplates, and white labels sold direct to specialist stores.
The core sonic principles are also enduring: beat-science seeking the
intersection between “fucked up” and “groovy,” dark bass-pressure, MCs chatting
fast, samples and arrangement ideas inspired by pulp soundtracks. The b.p.m.
have oscillated wildly, the emphasis on particular elements goes through changes,
but in a deep, real sense this is the same
music. You could even see it as a conservative culture, except that the
underlying article of faith is “keep moving forward.” London
One of the few recent innovations in the scene’s means of p & d has been the vogue for DVDS (which Americans can mail order from companies like Independance. This syndrome seems symptomatic of grime’s impatience for fame. Tired of waiting for the TV crews to arrive, they decided to do-it-themselves. Typically consisting of promos, live footage, interviews and quasi-documentary material, the production values lean toward cruddy. Nonetheless, these DVDs are fascinating capsules of subculture-in-the-raw. For American grime fans just seeing where their heroes actually live--projects a/k/a council estates in low-rent areas like Peckham and Wood Green--ought to be revelatory. Some of the videos in Risky Roadz are shot on the concrete pedestrian bridges connecting different blocks of flats. Compared to American rap promos, the camerawork and “choreography” look positively third-world.