Assignment 1 Blog 4: Grime MC’s as Organic Intellectuals

On Friday 2nd December 2016, Grime artist, song-writer, and record producer Skepta ended his year headlining a sold-out show at the Alexandra Palace in London to 10,000 people, following a year that included a Pyramid-stage appearance at Glastonbury and winning the Mercury Music Prize, the first Grime artist to do so.

Mosanya (2016) has suggested that one of the mass media’s main mistakes in understanding grime is its lack of knowledge of its customs, noting reviews of the Alexandra Palace gig mistaking ‘track-reloading’ for ‘systematic glitches’, and further referencing the misinterpretation of lyrics in reviews which reinterpret the representation of the artist in slanderous lights.

McIntyre (2008) suggests that the Western popular music industry insists on a belief in individual genius figures, whom are inspired by various muses who are unconstrained and free to channel their songs from seemingly mystical sources. This is a viewpoint shared by Western audiences who oppose art over commerce, pursuing a logic that sustains the myths to proclaim and maintain cultural territory (Negus, 1997; Martin, 1995; Stokes, 1994), however I would argue that with the success of Grime this year, the genre has broken through British cultural barriers by extending their subcultural practices.

Through listening to Grime, we can experience unfamiliar social environments and conditions as seen and told through the eyes of its participant observers who communicate a sense of a lived life through communicating musically, acting as organic intellectuals (Jorgensen, 1989; Barron, 2013). Organic Intellectuals are defined not by the job they are doing but by their activities as thinkers and organisers of elements of the class to which they organically belong (Gramsci, [1930] 1999). On albums such as Kano’s Made In The Manor and Skepta’s Konnichiwa, grime emcees present themselves as organic intellectuals who are constantly interacting with society, struggling to change minds whilst engaging in the evolution of knowledge, raising issues in the public domain and defending decent standards of social well-being, freedom, and justice, all the while using their communal-based production techniques and Grime crews to redefine the music-making process (Becker, 1996; Tickle, 2001). By acting as organic intellectuals, Grime emcees are extending their subcultural communal practices by informing a wider community of their lived experiences, exposing a different side of British culture to a different class.

Grime’s success can be conceived as a victory over the aforementioned concept of genius figures channelling songs from mystical sources, as Grime lyrics attack this ideology through their reflections on lived experiences derived from harsh urban spaces marked by class, gender, and ethnic conflicts as well as financial hardships and gang violence, whilst also expressing the components of everyday life, from the pleasure of dancing and music to personal pride and relationships (McRobbie, 2005; Barron, 2013). Whilst it could be argued that numerous forms of music from folk to pop achieve this lyrically, Grime is more specific in the way it represents and conveys historical, social, and cultural moments in which the music was produced, consistently reflecting specific social conditions collectively culminating as a constituted body of music that is fixated with mapping socio-economic cultural configurations (Quirk, 2004; Stokes, 1997).

Grimes culturally-focused communal-based song-writing is just one aspect of their customs, and further research into its processes is key to correcting mass-media mistakes in understanding it.


Barron, L. (2013). The sound of street corner society: UK grime music as ethnography. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 16(5), pp.531-547.

Becker, C. (1996). The Artist as Public Intellectual. In: H. Giroux and P. Shannon, ed., Education and Cultural Studies, 1st ed. London: Routledge.

Gramsci, Antonio. Prison Notebooks. London: The Electric Book Company, [1930] 1999.

Jorgensen, D. (1989). Participant observation. 1st ed. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Martin, P. (1995). Sounds and society. 1st ed. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

McIntyre, P. (2008). Creativity and Cultural Production: A Study of Contemporary Western Popular Music Songwriting. Creativity Research Journal, 20(1), pp.40-52.

McRobbie, A. (2005). The uses of cultural studies. 1st ed. London: SAGE.

Mosanya, L. (2016). The biggest mistakes people make about grime music. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2016].

Negus, K. (1997). Popular music in theory. 1st ed. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.

Quirk J (2004) It’s grime’s time. The Guardian, 7 August. Available at: music/2004/aug/07/popandrock (accessed 10th December 2016).

Stokes, M. (1994). Ethnicity, identity, and music. 1st ed. Oxford, UK: Berg.

Stokes, M. (1997). Voices and Places: History, Repetition and the Musical Imagination. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 3(4), p.673.

Tickle, L. (2001). The Organic Intellectual Educator. Cambridge Journal of Education, 31(2), pp.159-178.



One thought on “Assignment 1 Blog 4: Grime MC’s as Organic Intellectuals

  1. Extremely interesting read! very interesting quote from Mosanya about how grime may be portrayed through incorrect interpretation. I like how you talk about Kano and organic intellectuals. i’d be interested to see further information on how the success of recent breakthroughs of grime artists has affected the culture of the genre. you talk about feeling unfamiliar social environments when listening to grime, yet mention that grime artists have broken through a cultural barrier. Does that mean the culture should feel a little more familiar?

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