Alex de Lacey (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK)

“Wot Do U Call it? Doof Doof”: articulations of glocality in Australian grime music [BACK]

Abstract: Grime music is a vital avenue for creative expression amongst young people. Birthed in London in the early 2000s, it is now international in reach. This paper examines the nascent Australian grime scene, demonstrating how artists’ performance practice can help map global cultural flows in the digital age.

Australian grime artists readily affirm a sense of belonging to multiple loci, with their locally immediate communities, Australia itself and London all alluded to through lyrical and musical signification. Further to this, artists’ understanding of the form is often mediated through underground media, such as Pirate Radio, forums and YouTube channels, owing to geographical dislocation from the music’s point of origin (Fuller 2005: 7). This paper advocates for a ‘glocalised’ understanding of this practice, since it involves exchange within and across national boundaries that is ‘locally grounded’ yet ‘globally articulating’ (Appert 2016: 294); (Robertson 2012: 192).  

In order to capture these complexities, this paper focuses on the first ever Australian MC ‘clash’ between Mr Wrighty from Brisbane and Wombat from Tasmania that took place in January 2020. Grime clashes foreground lyrical provocations in a live setting, take influence from Jamaican Sound System culture – and the Afrodiasporic tradition of the dozens – and were central to the form at its outset in the United Kingdom (Charles 2016: 125). Through examining a fundamental tenet of grime performance culture, this paper will show two things. Firstly, how musical tropes – such as cadence and rhythmic flow – performance protocol, and ‘regimes of value’ that underpin grime practice have been repurposed in an Australian setting (Appadurai 1986: 4). Secondly, how artists’ lyrical aspersions demonstrate an interweaving of distinct claims of locality with wider affiliation to the ‘global grime’ network. 

Performance analysis is supported by interviews with the scene’s principal artists and on-site ethnography undertaken from December to January 2020. 
Bio: Alex de Lacey is a Lecturer in Popular Music at Goldsmiths, University of London. Alex’s research examines Afrodiasporic music practice in the United Kingdom, with a particular focus on grime. He completed his PhD, entitled Level Up: Live Performance and Collective Creativity in Grime Music, under the supervision of Professor Tom Perchard and Professor Keith Negus earlier this year, and has publications forthcoming with Popular Music History, Global Hip-Hop Studies and Critical Digital Pedagogy. Alex is a journalist, and writes for Complex, Red Bull, Passion of the Weiss and Songlines. He is the DJ for grime crew Over The Edge, with a monthly show on Mode FM.

4 thoughts on “Alex de Lacey (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK)”

  1. Thanks for the paper Alex, great title, and really fresh and original research. So interesting to see how scenes are developing outside the UK shaped by their local contexts.

    I have a question. You make lots of illuminating observations about how Australian Grime talks about socio-economic class and locality, but I wonder if, and how it articulates race and ethnicity. All of the people in your clip are white (as far as I can see). Is this representative of the Australian Grime generally?

    1. Hi Ruth,

      Really great question, thank you. I touch on this in a forthcoming paper, but essentially there seems to be an alignment with artists of other ethnicities through affirming a sense of social subordination, much like what Richard Bramwell wrote about in his book with respect to Devlin. There’s also a locally specific and complex intersection with aboriginal culture and hip-hop (A.B Originals) to consider.

      It’s important to note that it’s not too that it’s not just white artists performing grime across Australia (although Wombat and Wrighty are). A lot of artists with Pacific Islander or Asian Australian heritage participate and perform, and a few contributed to the cipher afterwards, which can be accessed online: Happy to discuss further as there’s plenty to explore, and I can send over some examples too!



  2. Hello, thank you for the paper. Would you mind sharing your bibliography for this talk? My apologies if it was included in the slides somewhere!

  3. Thanks for such an interesting presentation Alex. I was surprised to hear about early grime in Australia being as early as the mid 2000s, however I was wondering about the relationship between ‘lad rap’ which you mention in your presentation, and Aussie grime. Do you know if many of the older generation (Mr Wrighty for example doesn’t exactly look that young!) grime emcees crossed over from hip hop, or are they very much seen as separate ‘rap’ disciplines? This also raises the questions of if Grime has now reached an state of maturity and longevity that it now has of its own established historic foundation, and therefor participants in the global (or glocal) culture can use their knowledge of the history to construct their authenticity in much the same way as hip hop emcees could in the 1990s?

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