Grime OG Marci Phonix returns to take back the culture

RnB/Hip Hop | Tuesday 17th October 2017 | Alex

Some of you may remember Marci Phonix's fierce spitting style from the days of Dynasty Crew, pirate radio sets and infamous clashes with fellow West London MC Bashy.

He emerged onto the fledgeling grime scene back in 2002, alongside contemporaries such as Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, JME, Kano and headlined raves such as Sidewinder & Eskimo Dance. This success led to tracks with Skepta, Ghetts and Big Narstie, and his music being heard across the airwaves and media platforms of the time.

Now he's back with a series of new singles, the first of which, 'Riot', features an uncompromising message of resistance. We caught up with the artist to hear his thoughts on grime then and now, its assimilation into the mainstream culture, and what he's got in store for the future.

First up, for those that might not know about Marci Phonix and your roots in music, give them a little bit of a taste of who you are, where you're from and how long you've been doing music for.

It all started from when we were about 16 years old... we went from recording our own sets in my bredrin's bedroom to shelling down pirate radio in some grim estate. There was a DJ, a pair of 1210 decks, a mixer and 10 MCs going mad in a dark room, fighting for the mic and the power. Pirate radio made me a savage!

What are some of your strongest memories from those early days of grime?

Has to be Sidewinder and Eskimo Dance. They called them raves but in my opinion, these were the original grime concerts that created the underground superstars. Running out on any of them stages at the time and getting a reload whilst the crowd were going mental was unreal... no drug could give you that kinda high.

The clashes were real back in the day. You really wanted to tear the head off the guy you were clashing – not like today with these sly one-liners that everyone is left guessing, "Who's this donny talking about?" Or the other extreme, when you got these silly diss videos on Youtube, then a man responds with his video. Na na na... it was live on site and in a man's face! Whoever was on point in that moment, would win.

You featured on probably one of the most classic grime tunes ever, 'State Your Name'. Do you feel like grime still has the same power now it had then?

'State Your Name' is a classic and probably my favourite feature record from that time. Grime's different now; it used to be the sound of the hood, if you knew about it you were cool. These days it's huge and I'm very happy about how much it's grown, but just because of natural progression, it doesn't have that same proper underground feel it used to have.

What made you decide to come back to music now?

The Culture! Let's just say, us man planted some seeds over 10 years ago and I want to make sure the crop is cultivated properly and divided equally. More importantly, the next generation can reap from our work too! 

Tell us a bit about your most recent single 'Riot'.

Riot is a song for the underprivileged youth. It's my "Go on, take whats yours" record. I made it for the kids who get harassed by police for no reason. Riot is a song to motivate and empower them.

What made you decide to take on political topics in your music?

It's not about political topics – I'm just saying what's real. My music is a 'street autobiography'! 

What did you think of the Grime4Corbyn movement?

Truthfully, I actually back a lot of the policies that Corbyn presented. I also see he's someone who's always been about the grassroots of British politics, and even personally, a movement that we built illegally on pirate radio has now been considered by the people that run this country – it's MASSIVE!

But I'm not naive enough to think that there wasn't a PR team looking at the influence hip-hop culture had on the Obama campaign and thought they'd try to emulate the same movement here in the UK. Looking at the 'Boy Better Vote' online images actually started to annoy me. I'm just tired of seeing our culture being prostituted due to the influence we have and then ignored when matters that are important to us arise.

Now that you're back on music, what can fans expect to hear next?

I'm the new spokesperson for the streets, I'm putting the real back into music.

Follow Marci Phonix on Twitter // Instagram