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The Time for Grime

Mar 18, 2018

Grime is taking the world by storm, making the hard-earned shift from subculture to mainstream, and unlocking the door to a whole host of marketing opportunities along the way. We’ll explore the origins of this genre, its new commercial status, and how its impact can be heard around the world.

Like most new genres, Grime was created by youth, for youth. It emerged from London’s East End in the early 2000s, providing a platform for young artists to depict their stories and experiences of urban life in the poorest parts of the capital – leading to far more raw, real and gritty lyrical content usually heard in the charts. Grime’s varied range of influences mirror that of London’s diverse demographic, taking inspiration from garage, jungle and hip-hop beats. The music made its way around the city not through record deals, but via pirate radio stations and rooftop broadcast systems. Much like Punk in the 70s, this was the voice of anti-establishment youth – a voice that needed to be heard, and one that refused to be ignored.
Blog QuoteGrime first burst into mainstream consciousness through pioneers like Wiley and Dizzee Rascal in the early 2000s, with Dizzee’s first album ‘Boy in da Corner’ achieving widespread critical acclaim and commercial success – winning the coveted Mercury Music Prize. The director of the Black Music Research Unit at the University of Westminster, Mykaell Rile, described this transition as ‘the most significant musical development within the UK for decades’. Since then, the Grime scene has evolved and expanded, bringing with it another realm of branding opportunities for some of the biggest names around.

Paul Pogba’s transfer to Manchester United was announced by Stormzy, a well-known United fan, collaborating with Adidas to create a one-of-a-kind soundtrack and video. The result went instantly viral, striking a chord with the country’s youth by merging three key parts of urban life: football, streetwear and grime. Following Adidas’ example, Nike capitalized on this idea, placing Skepta alongside 258 young Londoners in the ‘Nothing Beats a Londoner’ campaign. The key to the success of these promotions was authenticity. Adidas partnered with Stormzy when he wasn’t an award-winning artist – a mutually beneficial relationship to raise his platform through the brand, and an opportunity for Adidas to support an up-and-coming talent. The promotions’ authenticity also comes from the fact that Stormzy and Skepta were once urban youths dreaming of bigger things, just like those watching and listening, so if their idols say something’s cool, the entire demographic agrees.

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Although the genre is predominantly UK-based, it’s truly on the cusp of becoming a global phenomenon. Grime artists are now winning internationally renowned music awards, with Skepta claiming the 2016 Mercury Prize, and Stormzy picking up Brit Awards for ‘Best Male Solo Artist’ and ‘Best Album’ at this year’s ceremony. But the international recognition doesn’t stop there, with hip hop phenomenon, Drake, working to break the genre into the US. When one of the leading figures in world music namedrops and publically supports grime artists – even featuring them on his albums – people listen. And when he signs a deal with Skepta’s own record label and one of the biggest names in grime, Boy Better Know, the world takes notice. Combine Drake’s magnanimous promotion of the genre with links to the biggest brands and sport in the world, then you can see the market for far more grime campaigns appearing on a global scale.

Grime’s success has presented a brand-new musical marketing opportunity that speaks to youth like no other. Keep your eyes and ears peeled to see how more global brands will create authentic partnerships to appeal to their musically savvy consumers.