Touching Bass: Lord Of The Mics 4 – Return of the Mic
Back when VGA camera phones were still all the rage, grime was in its relative musical element. By 2004, many had loosened the shackles on the early term, eskibeat, and instead accepted grime as the conclusive phrase to describe this inner city sound thriving upon sawtooth bass lines, choppy samples and onomatopoeic MC names.
The seminal Dizzee Rascal album Boy In Da Corner had shocked much of the UK into a 140BPM paralysis the year before and whilst attention grew for it in the mainstream, hordes of local kids jumped into Logic Pro and Fruity Loops to paint their own grimy masterpieces.
A culture spawned from the claustrophobic basements and youth clubs, finally breaking into the daylight, yet for what is now the genre’s most respected visual bible, there was only one place it could occur. Conceived in Jammer’s cellar, former Nasty Crew member and Boy Better Know rep, the ‘Dungeon’ provided fertile ground for the embryonic stages of Lord Of The Mics.
“It was originally just the studio where people used to come and record. Naturally, there would be an urge to just spit bars when you’re practicing for radio, laying the lyrics on a tune or whatever,” Jammer says. “When you’ve got a few MCs in that environment, it’s going to create a competitive vibe so someone would want to battle someone thinking that they’re better than them. That’s all it was; a competitive nature.”
From that came LOTM1, where MCs battled each other over looping instrumentals perched on Jammer’s now infamous staircase. Entrants included a fresh-faced Kano, Ruff Sqwad’s Slix and of course Wiley, grime’s exalted father. Two years later a sequel DVD was on the verge of release and zinging between barbershops, estates and tower blocks the country over.
LOTM3 took five years to materialize and in 2011 it was responsible for inhaling life into a domain that had began to self-implode. As co-founder, Ratty explains: “I personally thought grime was dying out at the time and then LOTM3 re-ignited things because people don’t realise how much clashing culture is a part of grime.”
It’s true that as US hip-hop has its four pillars of disciplines, grime respects the clash as a standalone feature. Much of the raucous energy that exuded from recorded tracks had roots firmly grounded in a bar-infused sparring match at a local community centre somewhere. He continues: “There’s a lot of talent that needs to be exposed, so wherever there’s new talent there’s going to be a Lord Of The Mics.” With added help from social networking, LOTM was able to shoot to the forefront of UK urban music happenings bringing with it a brewing new school of MCs and producers. Northerners like Sox and Canada’s Tre Mission were testament to grime’s expansion, whilst veterans such as Jendor mixing with hyped newcomers like Merky Ace showcased the polygonal state of the field.
Still grime refuses to budge. The fourth edition promises another disc’s worth of raw lyrical warfare albeit now with HD cameras and high-quality mics. Additionally, Lady Shocker and Lady Killer will become the first females to feature on one of the battles.
“I think there’s always been female talent in grime and I do think they’re getting recognised,” mentions Shocker who comes from the widely accepted home of grime, Bow. “Obviously, it’s a big thing to be a part of the Lord Of the Mics legacy.”
Legacy is a fitting word no doubt, but will grime still be around in five years or perish into a vat of early-noughties obscurity? Heck, if LOTM has anything to do with it, it still may have legs. Talks of a refreshed edition are being set in motion to cater for the UK rap scene as the lens of British urban music refocuses itself once more. At least if the end is indeed closer than we think, the protégés will have a trustworthy instruction manual to go by.
The ‘Lord of The Mics 4’ DVD is available via iTunes, Amazon and HMV branches nationwide from December 10.Tagged in: Boy Better Know, dizzee rascal, eskibeat, grime, Jammer, Kano, Lady Killer, Lady Shocker, Lord Of The Mics, Nasty Crew, Ruff Sqwad, Sox, Tre Mission, wiley
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter