Ass1: Blog 5 – The Meaning of Grime Music

Globally recognised ‘Skepta’ attended a relatively small venue in Digbeth. For a rapper as big as Skepta is right now, I was surprised to find out that he was booked into such a small venue. Usually, big names in the music industry always hold shows at the Genting arena, O2 Academy or The Institute. Even though Skepta could have easily sold enough tickets to perform at these venues, the reason behind the venue choice may be due to its destination in Digbeth. Digbeth is a very creative area in Birmingham. It holds plenty of independent fashion shops and skate shops, and is also known for its underground music scene. Therefore, the crowd that will attend the show may bring a rawer, gritty edge to the vibe. Which is perhaps the kind of audience Skepta prefers turning up at his shows.

During the show, Skepta surprised the audience by welcoming some local Birmingham rappers that are big in the grime game named Sox and Jaykae. The audience responded in such a positive manner and it instantly made them respect Skepta a lot more for connecting the Birmingham scene to his big movements.

Grime is a very motivational genre. William Paintin states that “Grime is a vocal led genre of UK dance music that emerged out of London around 2002. With bass heavy garage-­like instrumentals with staccato drum machine rhythms at a steady 140BPM (beats per minute)” (William Paintin. 2016). With this high BPM tempo, it is natural to feel quite pumped and full of energy when you listen to grime music. This positive, lively energy was very infectious and you could feel the vibes of the beats bouncing amongst the crowd.

Music can have a very converse, unique meaning to everyone. Naturally, people have their own taste when it comes to genre however ultimately, music is music. The genres you listen to may give you the same feeling as someone else listening to another genre. “Music is an important way that millions of people find enjoyment, define who they are, and affirm group membership.” (Andy Bennett, Richard A. Peterson. 2004).

“I may give a name to a specific piece of music, calling it “Moonlight Sonata” or “Ninth Symphony”; I may even say, “These were variations with a finale in the form of a passacaglia,” or characterise, as certain program notes ate prone to do, the particular mood or emotion this piece of music is supposed to have evoked in me. But the musical content itself, its very meaning, can be grasped merely by re-immersing oneself in the ongoing flux, by reproducing this the articulated music occurrence as it unfolds in polythetic steps in inner time, a process itself belonging to the dimension of inner time.” (Simon Frith. 2004).

The main way a grime track expresses meaning and emotion is through its lyrics. Some artists talk about their rough lifestyles, daily struggles and how they overcome them, and some talk about their toughness and the amount of money they make. So these different artists may mean more to you as you may relate more to their songs emotionally. However, Theodor Adorno’s theory of standardisation (1990) suggests that every song at its core is the same. Therefore, the emotional feeling you get is false. That the song was not made to make you feel that way, it has made you think you feel a certain way based on the way you have perceived the audio.

I personally think that there are certain cases where songs are supposed to make you feel the way you feel when listening to them or witnessing them be performed live. Especially when it comes to the genre of grime. Just based solely on the energy and similar human behaviours during the live set at Skepta’s show proved that the emotional effect it had on its listeners was shared. However, in other examples, their may be songs that listeners will really appreciate the instrumental arrangement of, yet others may feel more emotionally involved with the lyrics and vocals of the artist/song.


Adorno, T. (1990). On Popular Music. In: S. Frith and A. Goodwin, ed., On Record, 1st London: Routledge, pp.302-314

Andy Bennett, Richard A. Peterson (2004). Music Scenes: Local, Translocal and Virtual. USA: Vanderbilt University Press. pp.1.

Simon Frith (2004). Popular Music: Music and society. New York: Routledge. pp.206.

William Paintin. (2016). Grime, Hip Hop and Technology in Urban Music Scenes. Independent Study Project for BA Music. pp.2.


One thought on “Ass1: Blog 5 – The Meaning of Grime Music

  1. Ardono (1941) argued that popular music there are different variations, however, is it still standardized with traits of pseudo-individualisation. Hence you note that even though Beyoncé and Usher are now releasing music in other genres are however still recognised as R&B artist. Could this be that consumers still hear the same chords only with different lyrics? When it comes to certain genres I would argue that stigmatising in the popular music is quite rife with regards to race. Maybe you could now go further and discuss why a blind eye is turned toward white artists hop and as you mention contaminate genres. Based on this later statement I would then disagree with Ardono (1941) on his suggestion that “In popular music, position is absolute.” Based on how these artist able to change genres.

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