Countering Culture: the rise of Grimewave

George Metcalf on 23 May 2023
Big Narstie, Devilman, Skepta, D Double E, edited into vaporwave aesthetic

Old-school Grime edits and easy listening beats? A match made in heaven. Let’s explore TikTok’s newest underground trend.

Brain-rot aside, TikTok can be pretty great. Mainly because of the freedom it gives to its users, both to create and to discover. This freedom has led to a number of unique culture clashes, the most recent being a rise of old school grime videos/edits re-scored with slowed-down jazz, lounge and elevator music. 

@__wilfred N . A . R . S . T . I . E 🤞🏼 #edits #grime #ukhiphop #fypシ ♬ original sound - wilfred

As well as introducing a new generation to some absolute bangers from the Bluetooth days, this rising trend also suggests a return of the Vaporwave sound. For those who aren’t millennial enough to recall, Vaporwave was a unique internet/music trend characterised by a soft, dream-like aesthetic and remixes of smooth jazz, elevator music and R&B. 

This mix of soft sounds and hard lyrics definitely makes for some interesting listening, but does it allude to some coming trends in British music? Let’s dive in… 

@__wilfred RIP JAMAL🐐 these vids are legendary #edits #grime #skepta #footsie #DoubleS ♬ original sound - wilfred

Original Grime Sound

These days, UK hip hop and rap is diverse, unique to us and rightly celebrated all over the world. However that wasn’t always the case. The Grime scene was born out of a rejection of 90’s rave culture, the sound was raw, real and often misunderstood by the wider public. It wasn’t until 2014 when Skepta released That’s Not Me that the mainstream accepted a true grime sound and aesthetic.

That’s not to say UK rappers hadn’t found success to that point, but there was definitely pressure to either make their sound more chart-friendly, or worse, more American. For rappers who did breakthrough pre-2014, the original DIY ethos and sound had to be overlooked. 

@__wilfred ROSSS KEMMPPPP #edits #grime #fypシ #OOOUGH #OOOUGH #FOOTSIE ♬ original sound - wilfred

Remixes, Bootlegs and Softer Sounds 

All hip hop and rap music is built on the idea of sampling and remixing sounds, turning something old into something new, and these recent Vaporwave/grime crossovers are no different. 

These new edits however, are tailor-made for TikTok. The harsh and gritty sounds of old-school grime tracks are instead replaced with easy listening, spacey synths and chilled drum loops, providing a vibey little TL cleanse whenever they pop up. 

@jimlegxacy_ #fyp #london #fypシ #ukunderground ♬ original sound - jim legxacy

Sign of things to come? 

Half the fun of being into music is speculating on what could come next. These ‘Grimewave’ edits could allude to the new sounds and vibes we’ll see in the wider UK music scene in the future. 

Artists like Jim Legxacy are already playing with sounds and genre borders, and with producers like @__Wilfred leading these unique new mashups, the future of UK music seems in good hands. 

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George  Metcalf
George Metcalf on 23 May 2023