Ruth Adams (Kings College London, UK)


This paper makes the case for Grime music to be understood as English Folk Music or, more specifically, as a folk music of a diasporic England.  In doing so it draws on Winter and Keegan-Phipps’ (2015) use of the concept of ‘performing Englishness’ to allow an ‘approach that offers a non-essentialist way of thinking about […] identities as produced, rather than being naturally given.’ It takes inspiration too from artists Jeremy Deller and Stick in the Wheel, whose work articulates an expansive notion of English folk culture, inclusive of both the urban and the popular.  Grime is a distinctively English music, but represents, or performs, an Englishness shaped by the cultural mosaic of contemporary London. Grime and the stories it tells paint a vivid picture, not just of individual lives in particular communities, but the larger canvas of a global city in perpetual transformation, and postcolonial socio-linguistics and cultures. Although a predominantly black musical form, both musically and lyrically Grime illustrates a process of cultural blending which creates new modes of identity and expression. This paper argues that Grime articulates new types of identity, novel manifestations of being a Londoner, of being English. The explicitness of claims such as MC Crazy Titch’s ‘I’m from East London, I talk Cockney ‘cause that’s how we all talk round ‘ere. […]  I’m so British, I’m fish and chips, I’m pie and mash’ can also be seen as a response to the fact that the Englishness of Black Britons is often challenged or denied; as such it constitutes a radical political act.  In post-Brexit Britain, making the case for the essential Englishness of London’s urban music scenes becomes an urgent and necessary assertion.