It has been an exciting year for ‘urban’ UK musicians with a growing appreciation for ‘the culture’, whatever that is. Many artists are getting opportunities which artists like Craig David, So Solid Crew, Ms Dynamite, Wiley, and others had to grind and break down barriers for 10 years ago. It is great that artists are getting recognition for awards and other accolades but what is the benchmark for greatness and how is this being measured?
There has certainly been a shift in the way music from the urban/underground scene has been received and acknowledged by the more mainstream radio stations and DJs, however, with this has come a shift in the sounds being created by artists. There seems to be a lot of similar sounds coming out and the hype around the names don’t always live up to the quality of music being pushed out. I will speak specifically about musicians based in London because that’s what I am more exposed to, there is a number of growing sections of the urban scene which make the culture in London so diverse and refreshing at times. You could say that the urban scene consists of 140pm hard-hitting grime, soul music, Afrobeats infused with trap sounds, US trap inspired productions and also the trippy, zoned out beats which can be found on a Future, Tory Lanez or PND record.
In my opinion there is nothing wrong with being inspired by other artists, but that is not the same as completely copying their style or following their blueprint. It seems that all an artist has to do is create one banger and suddenly they’re the one to watch, this is worrying as not only does it mount pressure onto the artist, it also heightens expectations of their next release and sometimes leads to great disappointment. Sadly, there are artists who are not able to deliver but in an attempt to seem in tune with the streets mainstream organisations continue to hail and support these artists prematurely.
As a huge fan of music and originality, it is disheartening to see rappers emerge with sounds similar to US rappers and UK rappers alike, I feel as though there is a lack of originality within the UK scene and this is why few stand out, depending on who you talk to. PBGR is an example of a collective of musicians who create sounds which are unique to them and their following is continuously growing because of the quality of music they release, when I listen to them, I believe in the truth of their artistry and craft. There are many rappers out there who say a whole lot without actually saying anything of quality, whether it be down to style, delivery or content there needs to be truth and passion which I feel is lacking within much of the celebrated music of today’s urban scene.
I believe that artists such as Little Simz, Skepta, JME, Stormzy, Kojey Radical, and Nines are doing so well in their respectable fields, is because they have a personality which seems to be true to who they are and what they have experienced growing up in London/UK and it shows in their music. Similarly, I feel like the singers in the urban scene are killing it and need more recognition. With quality and soulful voices, the likes of Emmavie, Ray BLK, Miraa May, Samm Henshaw, J Warner and many others, there should be more focus, support and acknowledgment from mainstream organisations as there is towards the urban grime/rap scene.
The UK urban scene is made up of more than just London MCs and rappers, there are a multitude of talented artists across the UK ranging from singers, poets, producers, writers and actors, the list goes on. We need to be more inclusive and celebrate the talent available to us, rather than relying on one aspect of the scene to represent the UK culture which is still growing, undefined and unrestricted.
Words by @TonySupreme_