Alex de Lacey (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK)
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.
Appadurai, Arjun, The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Appert, Catherine M, ‘On Hybridity in African Popular Music: The Case of Senegalese Hip Hop’,
Ethnomusicology, 60, no. 2 (2016), pp.279-299. https://doi.org/10.5406/ethnomusicology.60.2.0279.
Charles, Monique, “Hallowed be thy Grime?”: A musicological and sociological genealogy of Grime music and its relation to black Atlantic religious discourse,” PhD diss: University of Warwick, 2016.
Fuller, Matthew, Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2005.
Robertson, Roland, ‘Globalisation or Glocalisation?’ The Journal of International Communication 18 no.2 (2012), pp.191–208. https://doi.org/10.1080/13216597.2012.709925.
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.