The wondrous element of music that makes it so monumental in multiple ways is its ability to transcend culture, language and background. As music evolves, so does the thought patterns and processes that artists choose to utilize. We are at a very pivotal point within the music industry where the artists are starting to usurp greater power than the record labels. One man who is a prime example of taking matters into his own hands and becoming a sensational star completely independently is Skepta from the Meridian Walk Estate of Tottenham, North London. His sound transcends cultural boundaries and he is unafraid to make major strides without any contractual requirements.
A ‘sceptre’ is a type of staff used by medieval elders to symbolize regal power. Skepta stylistic moniker derives his name from that imperial instrument and he is certainly crafty with the way he uses his sovereignty. Starting out as a DJ on programs like MarioPaint and Music 2000, Skepta’s beats were prominent within the grime sector. Grime is a raucous genre that (140 bpm) blends sounds of dancehall, hyperactivity of techno, ingrained with elements of dance and the lyrical ferocity of hip-hop. Skepta’s beats were so aggressive that they earned themselves the title of, “Gunshot Riddim” particularly, “Pulse Eskimo” which led his associate Wiley to create the subgenre, “Eskibeat.” It was Wiley who convinced Skepta to pick up a microphone and Skepta gained key recognition after beating Tempa T in a battle of nearly three hundred competitors.
Top Boy Skepta
Within the battle arena, Skepta truly found his niche. With merciless wit, gritty lines and spectacular delivery, Skepta proved himself as a machismo force to be reckoned with early on. His combative, agile and dynamic flow led him to overcome some of the strongest British emcees such as Devilman. His participation amongst other prominent artists served as a catapult for the program titled, “Lord of the Mics.” As a highly regarded and rarely defeated battle man, Skepta represented for the Grime wave that quickly scorched through areas of Great Britain.
Grime’s Original Edge
What makes grime so important is its instinct toward the tribalism of the street corner. Much to the affect of what punk rock did, grime allowed the racially disaffected to voice their disdain toward the establishment.
“Grime crash landed in present with no past and no future.” (Dan Hancox)
Grime is a crude rejection of societal norms that allows people from all walks of life to express themselves and their poverty riddled upbringing. As a result of governmental neglect, this genre evolved in the shadows and allows artists to speak their truth without any concealment of their accents. People who utilize this medium of artistic expression often do so with prim pronunciation and sharp, strange identifiers. Grime imposes a stronghold by existing outside of the realm of any musical genre heard before.
Skepta is a primary figure and reason for the emergence of the grime genre. Skepta and his brother Jamie (JME) migrated away from Nigerian civil war into Britain with hopes of a better, more fruitful life. Attacking a microphone allowed Skepta to gain confidence by asserting his Nigerian roots with pride and build identity around what makes him special. Skepta’s brother is another prominent person within the grime movement and together they are brilliant. When they got left off of the group, “Roll Deep” debut album because of their late arrival, they decided to take matters into their own hands. From the ground level, they formed their own group called, “Boy Better Know” which hosts the likes of many talented grime artists as well as Drake.
Rejection of Expectations
Skepta had a few years where he tried to go mainstream and sound a bit more commercial with his sound. What really set him apart and earned respect from peers was his boldness to stray from the norm. After he severed ties with Universal Records, he looked to himself to lead and create his own blueprint. He renewed his sense of purpose, returned to his roots and refused to compromise lyrical velocity for radio rhythms. Doing so allowed him to discover a new lane and ultimately landed him on Debrett’s 2017 List of most influential people in the UK. In 2016, he brought home the prestigious Mercury Award for his album, Konnichiwa. This accomplishment marked the first grime artist since Dizzie Rascal to win since 2003. He went onto donate the £25,000 to fund community oriented programs. That act of selflessness amongst many other things is the reason why his Nigerian hometown ordained him as a Yorubian Chief.
Skepta differentiates himself from the crowd through self-actualization and creating networks outside of the conventional framework of the music industry. His hungry outsider mentality and defiant DIY mentality is a major reason why such a strong bond exists between him and Drake. Drake’s usage of “roadman slang” and collaborations with grime artists have led to a significant boost of awareness for these mostly underground artists. Another key moment that brought light to the grime movement was Kanye West’s all black statement performance during the BRIT Awards. Kanye and Drake shed light on the movement but make no mistake, Skepta and other grime artists are responsible for the community’s resurgence.
Skepta’s demonstrates an innate ability to juggle magnificent lyrical contributions with stylistic sentiments and phrases in an oscillating manner. His most recent project, “Ignorance is Bliss” provides new perspectives in an urgent but unrushed manner. His clarity and focus is greater than it has ever been and taking a hiatus from smoking granted him the ability to renew his aggression and rekindle a passionate fire from within. With a thoughtful seriousness, this album is captivating, reflective and free. Clearly a resonating individual, Skepta demonstrates the energizing impact of a burgeoning genre that represents defiance, independence and prevalence.