The whitewashing of grime

Anjum Nahar details the ideas behind ‘The Whitewashing of Grime: Fam, Don’t You Know What a Reload Is?’

If you didn’t make it down to the panel discussion on the whitewashing of grime that took place earlier this month, have no worries; That’s What She Said has got your back with the rundown of all that was discussed at the event.

The event was organised by the Bristol SU BME network. The discussion was hosted by Nathan Sealy, editor of UK Grime and the panel included the likes of grime artist Jammz, DJ Blazey, photographer Courtney Francis, writer JJ Bola, journalist Jesse Bernard and producer OH91, providing opinions on the whitewashing of grime from every angle in the industry.

Sealy opened the discussion by asking the panel what grime meant to each guest on a personal level. The evolution of grime from the UK garage scene was discussed, and the mutual feeling seemed to be that garage wasn’t dark enough to represent the reality of what was happening to youth on the streets during the 00s. It was agreed that the work of non-black artists who shaped and influenced grime, such as DJ Slimzee, couldn’t be discredited and that the involvement of non-black artists gave the genre a multicultural aspect. However, it was also acknowledged that as black people disproportionately suffer from the negative stigmatisation that comes from being involved in the grime scene, erasing the importance of black experiences is disingenuous and inauthentic. Ultimately, the panel affirmed the notion that grime culture is always seen through a white lens in the mainstream media.

grime 2

However, during the event, I also found myself asking: “where is the gyaldem?” In conversations about grime it’s so easy to leave out the women in the scene. Yes, there are the big names such as NoLay, Shystie and Lady Leshurr who have done well to stay relevant throughout the decade. Newcomers, such as independent artist Nadia Rose, have been gaining attention in more recent years, but even these artists are hugely overshadowed by their male counterparts despite being their equals in musical ability.

In an interview last year, Stormzy suggested that misogyny wasn’t really an issue in grime, and that it was more prevalent in hip-hop: This is debatable. There is a lot of misogynistic and degrading content that can be found in grime lyrics, alienating women who enjoy listening to the genre. This is why it’s important to see more  women grime MCs making it big so that fans can enjoy the sounds they love, whilst also relating to the messages that the music is putting forward.  There are an abundance of women involved in the culture aside from the MCs; journalists like Hattie Collins and Chantelle Fiddy brought grime to the forefront through their coverage of it in the mainstream newspapers, and producer Flava D is notable as one of the only female producers in grime. Their participation will hopefully evoke a trickledown effect, inspiring more women to take part in the grime scene. DJ Sian Anderson argues that it might actually be easier for women grime MCs to get recognition in the current climate because of the undeniable lack of artists who are women, and therefore the lack of competition for newcomers.

When asked about women in the industry, the panel struggled to provide a satisfactory answer. The all-men panel seemed thrown by the subject, unable to talk about it in the same well-versed manner in which they discussed race and class; it seemed the panel had neglected the experiences of any grime artists who aren’t men, in their preparation for the discussion. This could be seen as a typical example of men of colour only being aware of the oppressions they are subject to, whilst lacking awareness of the oppressions they may benefit from. Perhaps future events of a similar nature would benefit from the inclusion panelists of multiple genders, in order to avoid sidelining marginalised voices. In essence, as grime’s popularity grows in the mainstream, excluding the sisters of the movement is becoming more and more inexcusable.

The Bristol SU BME Network host highly informative and engaging events for Black History Month every year. The events are always open to all, whatever your background, and it’s worth giving the Bristol SU BME Network a like on Facebook in order to get notifications for events and discussions.

Illustrations by Rivka Cocker


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