Grime is taking the world by storm, making the hard-earned
shift from subculture to mainstream, and unlocking the door to a whole host of
marketing opportunities along the way. We’ll explore the origins of this genre,
its new commercial status, and how its impact can be heard around the world.
Like most new genres, Grime was created by youth, for youth.
It emerged from London’s East End in the early 2000s, providing a platform for
young artists to depict their stories and experiences of urban life in the
poorest parts of the capital – leading to far more raw, real and gritty lyrical
content usually heard in the charts. Grime’s varied range of influences mirror
that of London’s diverse demographic, taking inspiration from garage, jungle
and hip-hop beats. The music made its way around the city not through record
deals, but via pirate
radio stations and rooftop broadcast systems. Much like Punk in the 70s,
this was the voice of anti-establishment youth – a voice that needed to be
heard, and one that refused to be ignored.
Grime first burst into mainstream consciousness through
pioneers like Wiley and Dizzee Rascal in the early 2000s, with Dizzee’s first
album ‘Boy in da Corner’ achieving widespread
critical acclaim and commercial success – winning the coveted Mercury Music
Prize. The director of the Black Music Research Unit at the University of
Westminster, Mykaell Rile, described this transition as ‘the
most significant musical development within the UK for decades’. Since
then, the Grime scene has evolved and expanded, bringing with it another realm
of branding opportunities for some of the biggest names around.
Paul Pogba’s transfer to Manchester United was announced by Stormzy,
a well-known United fan, collaborating with Adidas to create a one-of-a-kind soundtrack and video.
The result went instantly viral, striking a chord with the country’s youth by
merging three key parts of urban life: football, streetwear and grime.
Following Adidas’ example, Nike capitalized on this idea, placing Skepta
alongside 258 young Londoners in the ‘Nothing Beats a Londoner’ campaign. The
key to the success of these promotions was authenticity. Adidas partnered with
Stormzy when he wasn’t an award-winning artist – a mutually beneficial
relationship to raise his platform through the brand, and an opportunity for
Adidas to support an up-and-coming talent. The promotions’ authenticity also
comes from the fact that Stormzy and Skepta were once urban youths dreaming of
bigger things, just like those watching and listening, so if their idols say
something’s cool, the entire demographic agrees.
Although the genre is predominantly UK-based, it’s truly on
the cusp of becoming a global phenomenon. Grime artists are now winning
internationally renowned music awards, with Skepta claiming the 2016 Mercury
Prize, and Stormzy picking up Brit Awards for ‘Best Male Solo Artist’ and ‘Best
Album’ at this year’s ceremony. But the international recognition doesn’t stop
there, with hip hop phenomenon, Drake, working
to break the genre into the US. When one of the leading figures in world
music namedrops and publically supports grime artists – even featuring them on
his albums – people listen. And when he signs a deal with Skepta’s own record
label and one of the biggest names in grime, Boy Better Know, the world takes
notice. Combine Drake’s magnanimous promotion of the genre with links to the
biggest brands and sport in the world, then you can see the market for far more
grime campaigns appearing on a global scale.
Grime’s success has presented a brand-new musical marketing
opportunity that speaks to youth like no other. Keep your eyes and ears peeled
to see how more global brands will create authentic partnerships to appeal to
their musically savvy consumers.