One of the most striking things about the key players in the Birmingham Grime scene, has been their ability to manoeuvre through years of musical and cultural development. The artists who have survived these lengthy periods, have done so by embedding themselves into the crevices of the streets that this music belongs to. Whilst remaining influential and akin to the rising stars on the frontline, these players hold themselves in high regard despite the humbleness they seemingly display on camera.
After several discussions with the artists who could be regarded as the spine of this growing scene that is Grime, it has become increasingly clear that the idea of ‘making it’, the purpose, isn’t necessarily what we all deem it to be. That is however, not to belittle the achievements and future ambitions of these artists.
A conflicting concept of hunger vs contentment is mirrored throughout their thoughts and opinions especially when it comes to addressing the London Complex – a concept that some have already dismissed. The overarching belief is that, Birmingham, along with all the other UK cities contributing to the scene, is doing exactly that, contributing. The capital city no longer feels like the yard stick by which artist should be measuring themselves against.
In Part 2 of the #0121TheRiseofBirmingham series, we converse with Tazzle, Infamous Dimez and Scorpz, to get their views on the scene and where they stand in their respective careers today.
“It’s been a long journey, almost 10 years since I first started getting into it.” Tazzle begins to reflect as we sit down after he wraps up a 3-hour session down at Prime Studios, Digbeth. “That was when the Grime scene really began to pop, and for me, I’m lucky in a sense. For every stage of progression that Birmingham Grime has gone through, I’ve been there and seen it.”
“In my opinion, in terms of talent, Birmingham will be beyond London, if not already”
Talking at a very exciting time for Birmingham as a scene, it’s clear Tazzle feels a similar way to how the majority of artists are feeling at this moment. “It’s a very exciting moment here. We’re fortunate enough to be in positions where we have a chance to go onto mainstream platforms, festivals, shows, getting access, and it’s a blessing to be there, as a key player or even a potential key player. The focus is finally here, and so are the right players to maintain and amplify that attention”
“In my opinion, in terms of talent, Birmingham will be beyond London, if not already” he answers confidently with little show of hesitancy, when quizzed on the tendency to compare Birmingham’s scene with London. “If you’re talking infrastructure, radio, labels etc, then of course, it’s understandable, London is the capital, the origins and where attention is drawn to, but in terms of content, nah. When you are in cities like here, or even surrounding areas, and other cities like Wolverhampton, it’s easy to get that London Complex, but we can see the development. You don’t have to physically go somewhere to impact the market. It’s about having the right brand, believing in it, and marketing it well.”
With Tazzle focused and working towards good quality music, it’s clear that his visions are set for the scene as a whole. It’s not necessarily about viewing cities in different lights; it’s about the art itself. “Respect the artists, and the city will grow.”
Whilst the spotlight is being shared by a handful of Brummie MCs, one could argue that it’s those artists lurking in the shadows of the scene, who are more privileged. Given their extended time in the scene, it has given them to opportunity to see everything, every first, every development. Originally from Birmingham but now Wolverhampton-based, Infamous Dimez is an artist who proclaims this. His time is imminent, and it’s long over-due.
“Being on 1Xtra this year, for the Wolves takeover, that was one of the biggest things for me so far. I’ve always wanted to be there at one point, because I could go in there and bar. A lot of people aren’t too aware of me being able to spit, but I can spit.”
We meet up in the middle of Digbeth’s infamous Custard Factory, an area synonymous with the old school, Grime and live music events that Dimez was so privileged to experience. “It was in this place, where we’re sitting right now, where it all happened,” he reflected. “Birmz is Grime, Rainbow Venues, the first time they got Ghetts down here. These are the things I’ll never forget, I was there. A couple of years back, when Grime was still, you know, Grime…” nodding profusely. “With no disrespect to those doing it now, there was so much culture, clashing, so much for us to get hold of.”
Know who you are, who you’re creating for and what you represent. Your brand isn’t just a name, it’s everything about you.
I ask about the supposed inconsistency of the scene as a whole in Birmingham, and his wisdom and experience shines through, providing an insightful input. “It’s not about what artists are bringing, it’s about what people are accepting…in my opinion. People have achieved greatness in a short period of time because they’ve given the public what they wanted. It’s a balancing act, not about conforming, but creating…and be quick with it, really quick. I’ve seen it happen. You can be the shit on Friday, and a nobody on Sunday.”
“Livewire was a movement, originally, it was Me, Hecki and Choppa, you know, when it got serious, and to be honest, a couple man were more on it than others” Scorpz begins reminiscing after I ask him how he started. “Dapz was always on it 100% fully focused, Choppa as well. Some of us weren’t as consistent, but I feel like now I’m addressing that.”
Fast forward to 2017, Scorpz has made quite the name for himself, and recently dropped an extremely strong project in ‘Bits and Bobs’, leading with the single, ‘Deebo’. “That’s mans surroundings sometimes. Theres stages where things are happening and it’s not as bright outside… but then there’s also tunes like ‘Due Time’ as well; it’s still for that street element”, he responds when quizzed on the aggression of his latest efforts. “The concept of it was basically, bits and bobs of me, what I do. Each song was a bit of me and then I followed that up with ‘Views’, even though ‘Views’ was technically done before that project, it got resurged into life, play-listed, sync deal, everything.”
It’s becoming increasingly clear when looking through the eyes of various artists that Birmingham is perceived as a working project, almost a future hub of the Grime scene. Scorpz’s opinion is no different. “I definitely see us as a leader and with a bright future as a city. We ain’t stopping, and if none of us are stopping, it’s not gonna’ fall flat. Even if a few of us make it, it will build opportunities, it will build belief. It will make those younger artists who have an inherently negative view, as if to say, “ahh I’m from Brum I can’t make it”.
If more of us make it, it will happen. Belief is necessary, you have to believe in yourself.
Having recently been named a part of Birmingham-based Punch Records’ Next level programme, Scorpz is hoping to build strong relationships and perhaps more excitingly, build a project that could be coming towards the end of this year. “With Bits and Bobs, I didn’t fully understand what I was going into. Now, I get it, I know what they want. I know what works and what energy to go with. Give it a few years and I’ll get there. I’m excited.”