chapter  5
32 Pages

From a ‘Junior Spesh’ to the ‘Keys to the Bentley’: The Routes of Grimey London

London’s rap artists distinguish themselves from and position themselves in relation to other artists, through their creative work. The collective activities of MCs and DJs contribute to the organisation of distinct scenes within the city’s cultural field. Dizzee Rascal’s collaboration with Calvin Harris on ‘Dance Wiv Me’ and his release of the 1970s dance-influenced ‘Dirty Disco’ distinguished him from other grime MCs, as well as from his earlier creative work. Such releases are part of a process through which this once marginalised scene develops its mainstream audience. Through this process grime artists modify their relation to other social scenes and explore grime’s potential for economic growth. Dizzee’s shift from the formal and thematic qualities of Boy in the Corner to attract a mainstream audience was criticised by an emerging artist, who preferred the ‘tuggy’ style of the earlier album to what he saw as more recent, ‘manufactured’ offerings. Dizzee’s appearance on the BBC 1 programme, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, in April 2010 revealed his awareness of such critiques: ‘I’m called a sellout every day, but it’s progress, it’s progress.’ Dizzee’s comment indicates his trajectory through Britain’s cultural field. It also demonstrates the tensions that operate between formal innovation, notions of authenticity, economic growth, and proximity to the social world in which one’s skills as a rapper are developed.