What happened to that boy in da corner?

Wednesday 19th June 2013 | jim

What has happened to the boy in da corner? Dizzee Rascal who created what some have called the greatest album ever produced in the British Urban Scene (Boy In Da Corner) hich won the Mercury music prize back in 2003. This album combined the UK garage of the past with a distinctive UK street vibe, which was a turning point in the popularity of grime. At the time many critics believed it was the new thing in music. However, what happened? The Boy, who was once in da corner seems to have run as far away as physically possible from it.


His latest single “Goin’ Crazy” (featuring Robbie Williams) is a huge setback in terms of British Urban Music. Ever since So Solid Crew were split apart and the UK garage scene disbanded the UK underground scene seemed lost. Grime and dubstep were the answer of revival, and once again. Artists like Wiley, Dizzie, Skream and Benga revolutionised music producing deep, dark heavy music, which perfectly reflected the feeling of the youth in London and other cities. This was a music that was created in the streets and by the youth. It was for them, a new sound for a new generation.


But what happened to this scene that looked so promising. It was its own and was so distinctive and in a way ground-breaking. Dizzie Rascal won the prize that year for a reason. His music was different, although others around him were doing the same thing and he looked up to others like Wiley, he pushed a whole album out into the world for the mainstream to here. The critics thought that this music would change the British music scene, and to some extent it has. Looking at the musical landscape today, dubstep especially has completely changed music around the western world, but listening to old dubstep you wouldn’t know it.


Money should chase art and not the other way round. This is what keeps art and music avant-garde and ground breaking. When it tries to go after money and give people what they want then it reverts back to the same bland stuff that is already being produced. Take for example Magnetic Man, made up of Skream, Benga and Artwork, all pioneers of the early dubstep scene in Croydon. Their incredibly bass heavy music was slow and inspired by dub reggae. As it gained in popularity though and more people began to listen the sound began to change, and to begin with Magnetic Man were still considered different. However, as more people began to listen they didn’t sound so different. Their tracks featured vocals heavily and no longer seemed different from what was in the charts. There is no lying that both Skream and Benga continue to produce ‘true-dubstep’ songs but many people have taken their sound, especially in America and changed it into something that can be sold. The same thing happened with Dizzee and some of the other Grime artists like Wiley. Wanting to appeal to the mainstream, they removed the angry sounding true grime lyrics and beats and replaced it with something ‘poppy’ and collaborated with artist such as Take That man Robbie Williams. There is no harm in doing this and these tracks were incredibly popular, but it does move away from their roots somewhat.


Hearing their songs on the radio you no longer feel that you are listening to ‘game-changing’ music, instead it is something that has been morphed and adjusted to gain money, until it is beyond recognition compared with where they started. Of course progression is good, but is this progression? Popular dubstep and grime seems cheesy and clichéd now, it has got to the top of a hill and decided that they are fine there. Now that they are popular there is no need for progression.


What then does the future hold for underground music? Is progression always good, maybe we should look back to the past in order to progress. To say though that underground music is dead is completely naïve. The underground scene is alive and kicking more than ever. It is just that now there are these figureheads that stand at the forefront and create a false veneer for the public as to what ‘dance and underground music is.’ Even the incredibly talented Disclosure to some-extent epitomise this join between popular and underground, although I am not sure they ever intended this. Their garage inspired tracks are still, to some extent, ground-breaking, but has the right amount of lyrical edge that means they can be mixed just as well into a set at fabric as into a set at oceana.They have managed to create something different and underground while at the same time popping up for air above ground.


Many acts who had their fame about 6 years ago are back, and especially in the UK garage scene. Acts such as DJ EZ and Todd Edwards who may have thought their stardom had ended, now top the bill at any club they play. It seems then that people have begun to look back to the past. Music is obviously still progressing forward, but the peak which dubstep and grime reached seems to be the wrong one. Mala created his ‘Mala in Cuba’ album, which is so much more like old dubstep, and younger artists such as Mele and Happa are creating songs that are still dark and ‘bassy’. Even artists such as Bok Bok are beginning to look back at the old school grime beats. Zed Bias, for example, has managed to spread out into other genres by creating different personas for different genres.

The huge song off the record label Bok Bok (along with L-Vis 1990) own. 

It seems now that artists are look at the art first rather than the money, progression can happen again, Trap music for example went back to dubstep beats, while taking in Hip-hop and created something new. Even Skream has said he no longer wants to produce dubstep, and is instead getting on the disco train, which many others have also done. There is nothing wrong with popular music, but when you are trying to create something fresh and new, while remaining underground then you really have to think about why you’re creating it.


The boy in da corner may be remaining there for the moment, but seeing him spit bars again now reminds you that he still has the talent that first broke him into stardom. The underground scene is most certainly not lost; it has just been given a popular set of clothing that is easy on the eyes/ears.

words Jim Roberts