0121 The Rise & Rise of Birmingham MC’s

“I’m spitting for Birmingham. Someone’s gotta’ show identity from our city.”

The national explosion of Grime is undeniable to practically anyone remotely interested in music, from the invasion of the Official UK Charts to taking over mainstream Summer festivals such as Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds. It was in the early to mid-2000s although, where we began to see the first traces of Grime music seep through the veins of major cities outside of London in the UK.

Birmingham’s Grime scene has been on simmer for years now, but the cultural mixing-pot of this younger city, bursting with younger people, is about to boil over, and what is emerging as a result is a line-up of the most ravenous, sharp and ferocious talent that the UK currently has to offer. Yet, whilst this new wave of artists is only now seemingly heading to the frontline, in reality, 0121 has had the presence of a heavyweight in the scene for 10 years or more.

Mike Skinner’s 2003 EP, ‘All Got Our Runnins’, featured a handful of Grime MCs on remixes, while the historic 2006 Lord of The Mics clash between Skepta and Devilman, brought about the London-MCs stinging ‘Nasty’ anthem, and has till now, racked up over 11 million YouTube plays. In fact, it’s almost as if Birmingham’s own have developed a taste for stealing the spotlight in prominent moments of greatness. A year prior to the rising of the infamous Rainbow Warehouse live Grime events in Digbeth, south of the city centre, came what was considered of the scenes most flipped instrumentals, ‘Woooo Riddim’, produced by S-X. These footsteps of a Brummie producer have been inflated by one of the hottest producers in the game right now, Swifta Beater, who is responsible for some of the most listened to tracks in the scene from JME & Giggs’ ‘Man Don’t Care’, to Kano’s ‘3 Wheel-ups’.

Now with it’s own defined sound, Birmingham’s new generation of Grime artists, from Jaykae and Dapz On The Map to Lady Leshurr, have made incredible leaps and bounds for the genre and scene in the UK’s second city. The same manner in which the diverse demographics of this city lend to the unique fusing of sounds amongst the raw talent that there is to offer, Birmingham has delivered some kind of ineffable intensity to the game, that arguably, London, the city known as the birthplace of Grime, hasn’t delivered.

Regardless of these efforts however, it’s no secret that Birmingham has, musically, remained beneath the shadows of The Big Smoke up till now. As you explore the emotions and streets of 0121 through the organic, contentious abilities that these artists bring, you can’t help but feel as if the energy in every bar being spat, originates from a place of grievance, frustration, almost animosity. It’s the London Complex – the idea, better yet, the assumption, that one can only go so far, or develop to a certain point, in this city, until they can no longer progress without making the big move. It’s not a new thought, but in recent times, it’s seemingly losing its eminence amongst the local artists’ thought process, seeing the international heights that their very own have achieved from their back yard.

Birmingham is on the rise, and it’s time to show it. In Part 1 of our new series we speak to Tempa and Dapz On The Map ahead of MADE festival.

Tempa’s recent release of ‘Gimme Respect‘ coupled with the long-term artist-producer relationship he shares with Swifta, has truly allowed Birmingham’s Tempa to put his stamp on the scene, declaring his presence and what’s to come. “Gimme Respect was for everyone, it represents everyone here (in Birmingham), and we aren’t just talkin’ to the listeners, it’s aimed at the industry as a whole. Give us respect! Give me respect! Everyone that is spitting, and putting in actual work, and getting the ball rolling” Tempa explained in my recent #0121TheRiseofBirmingham sit down with him.

When questioned on his opinions towards the London Complex however, his tone opposed the view that has kept so many artists from outside of the big city restrained for so long. “You don’t need to be there initially. Nothing is stopping you from becoming established before taking it to the next stage, your music and your hard work will do that. It’s just when you have to do certain things, for example, attending an interview on 1xtra.”

Birmingham is on the come up. We’re building, everyone is building.

Birmingham compared to London, may be regarded to be a city low on infrastructure and resources when it comes to supporting up and coming artists, Tempa doesn’t disagree. “Definitely. We need more things going on, more radio stations that are willing to play Grime and urban music, more people that are willing to be part of the scene. There’s enough MCs, but we need others, we need the whole machine. We have MADE festival coming up, and it’s good for Birmingham, but we need more like it. It goes to show, people enjoy this type of music, we need it to be showcased more like this. Birmingham is on the come up. We’re building, everyone is building. Scorpz, Dapz, JayKae, Lotto Boyzz, MIST, Choppa, everyone. It’s time. I’ve been away for a while and because of that, my next project is most likely going to be a mixtape, a longer project with more tracks, and I’d go very heavy with the collaborations. There will be something this year.”

JayKae had a show at Stormzy’s Merky Festival in Ibiza and he pulled me through, the experience was amazing, it was a taster of what’s to come for me” Dapz reflected as we began our hour-long conversation covering everything from his early beginnings, deciphering bars from his latest single ‘Mini Valet’ and the upcoming project, ‘Champion Settings’.

I’ve been on music since young, man, but 2009 was when I took the brave move to do it full time. It gave me the energy, the juices I need now. It was almost like every 2 years was a big step, the next stage. 2011 was when I started to incorporate the singing into my music, with Okay. 2013 was the tour and Magaluf with Skepta. 2014 was Froggy (ft. JayKae). 2015 was Murdah. 2016 I had the headline show in my hometown. Every one year something has happened. 2017, what I’m about to do this year, it’s not over yet.” And it’s true, Dapz On the Map, is a real contender for the 0121 crown, managing to engage his growing fan base with a string of bangers.

However, it was with the 2015 effort ‘Murdah’ when he realised the potential of this aggressive sound, tapping into a new, Grime-centric fan base. “…What I failed to realise during that time was that by doing all of these tunes, I gave them all my powers, and I didn’t have anything to follow each one up with. There was no project. The momentum was there, but there was nothing to fall back on.”

Enter ‘Spring Clean’, a collection of all his big tunes, released and done with time to create his new project, ‘Champion Settings’. There’s a prominent line in ‘Mini Valet’, where Dapz says “…from Oxygen rooms to in the o2”. It screams loud for Birmingham, in fact it feels like Dapz is firmly putting Birmingham on the map. “I’m all about speaking for Birmingham fam. I appreciate everyone, but with that, it’s kinda like if you’re not from Brum, tough luck. You don’t know about Oxygen Rooms if you’re not from here.”

“I’m spitting for Birmingham. Someone’s gotta’ show identity from our city.”

In a similar fashion to Tempa, Dapz agrees that whilst the music industry infrastructure of Birmingham is lacking, there is no stopping an artist from elevating in their hometown. “It’s down to the artists’ mind state”, he calmly explains. “If I was from London, I probably wouldn’t have stood out like I am now, and it would’ve taken away form the nostalgia of what I do. I’m not going to change the way I speak or deliver myself or move differently, it’s organic.”

On appearing live at MADE Festival 2017, which has seen consecutive growth each year in both size and artists, Dapz is clear about what it means to bring the local music scene to a festival stage; “MADE festival is the biggest Birmingham has to offer, so to be on the main stage of my city, it’s an honour.” Speaking prior to his performance at MADE, Dapz has one clear statement – “I proclaim this, I’m trying to be a pioneer for my city. I’m so glad they see what we see, and best believe I’m going to go in with it.”

It’s evident that the current state of Birmingham Grime is one to be rivalled, and the talents emerging are not to be dismissed in the face of London acts which have achieved international stardom and success. Yes it’s about Grime, but in the words of Dapz, “a good song is a good song”. Pigeon-holing everything we do can limit creativity. It’s an exciting time for Birmingham and we can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Part 2 coming soon #0121TheRiseofBirmingham