Over the past year, you will have noticed a few familiar, formerly 'underground', UK rap and grime names appearing in various nominee shortlists, alongside some of the UK's most prominent commercial artists. In 2016, Skepta beat the late icon David Bowie to win the Mercury Prize and Wiley was honoured at the NME Awards for his Outstanding Contribution to Music.
The scene's influence on the UK charts and subsequently its commercial market is undeniable this side of the Atlantic and, after the nominations were revealed for this year's BET Awards, it seems it's beginning to be recognised in the same way in the US. Obviously the co-signs from the likes of Kanye West and Drake have helped shine a light on the scene and it is becoming more popular across the pond but, grime and UK Rap are yet to have a real impact on the commercial scene over there.
Artists like Krept & Konan have previously been recognised but, in my opinion, that's more because of how similar they sound to a lot of US artists in terms of the production they use and the content they produce. This time, the best international act (Europe) category includes Skepta, Wiley, Stormzy and Giggs - four artists who have recently been championing their scene and making music that represents the direction UK music is going in.
I may be reading into it a little too much and it might not be that deep but for me, it feels like our friends in the states are beginning to like the UK sound because it sounds authentic and unapologetically British.
The awards take place at The Microsoft Theatre, Los Angeles, on June 25. If you can, tune in and hopefully you'll see me being proved right.
Last week also saw the elusive A2 release his new track 'Outer Limits'. The Disturbing London prodigy - who recently performed as support for Stormzy on the London leg of his Gang Signs and Prayer Tour - this time recruited Serine to embellish the track, complimenting his nonchalant yet somehow hard hitting verses with a charming, almost characteristically English harmony.
As you can tell by my thoughts on the BET nominations, I quite like the English sound so I'm always keen to hear a vocal performance which, again, is unapologetically British. Check out the track below.
Places + Faces – a platform which has been documenting contemporary rap culture via various social media platforms – last week celebrated the launch of its new print magazine with a party at Axel Arigato in Soho. The shoe brand’s flagship store played host to a DJ set from Aux God and a performance from south London rapper Crave Moore who entertained the crowd of influencers – or at least the ones who were able to tear themselves away from their Snapchat/Instagram stories.
In my opinion, print magazines could potentially regain popularity in the same way vinyl recently has and the distinctive works of Places + Faces’ Ciesay and Soulz and the way they represent rap lifestyle and culture – a scene which has become an international infatuation – suggests that if there is a resurgence for print press, the content they’re producing is likely to stand the test of time.
Words: Patrick Fennelly
Online Edit: Ra'ed Khan