Interview by Jo-anna Kalinowska
Tracing grime back to the streets of East London is easy, with local crews like Boy Better Know and Roll Deep dominating the scene. However the last few years have seen the grime scene reaching out across the water, making its mark in Europe and the US.
2015 has definitely been a strong year for grime going global, and helping strengthen the movement are Amsterdam’s deadHYPE duo Christopher McIntosh and Bernard Koomson. Hailing from the UK themselves, these two grew up knee-deep in grime culture. Now based in Amsterdam they have helped translate grime into the local scene with blaring open nights, high-impact videos and a steady stream of radio shows. Self proclaimed tech geeks, deadHYPE are turning grime into a creative, inspiring platform for up and coming talent on an international scale. I caught up with Bernard whilst on the road to Berlin to talk about the early days, Amsterdam’s take and the future of grime.
Bernard: Grime was very much part of my childhood. From the ages of like 11 to 16. I remember in the playground, Lethal Bizzle’s ‘Pow’ playing on our mobile phones. It just shaped my childhood. It was more naive at the time. You build such an affinity with it from watching SBTV, going on forums like the Grime Report and downloading bars by JME and BBK. It was an integral part of my childhood. I really don’t even want to say I care a lot about grime but, I just grew up in it.
How do you feel about grime being a UK sound?
We’re quite geeky and into technology and videos
The way I look at it, when rap music was growing up it was in America, but that doesn’t mean it’s been limited or constrained there. It’s a genre and style that can be transferred anywhere. Amsterdam has its own vibe, so has France, it doesn’t make it any less real to me. It’s the style and the composition that started in the UK, but it’s taken shape around the world. It’s opening up. It’s getting bigger.
Amsterdam’s got its own style?
Ah yeah, definitely! Amsterdam has got a massive, massive garage scene from like the 90’s. They are really interested in UK culture, whatever’s happening back in the UK will reach here. So it’s very close in mentality.
Part of the grime mentality has always been this sense of immediate participation, MCs uploading battles to YouTube, Channel U, and then Just Jam. You guys have also just started your own culture TV channel right?
Yeah, first deadHYPE Radio is a music platform that we use to curate lots of new artists, but we’re quite geeky and into technology and videos, how to use that to push music forward as much as possible. We take a lot of inspiration from highly visual groups like Tim and Barry and Boiler Room, but giving it our own take. Pushing it forward with the technology we’re using.
I want to have a home for all these videos. We want to have a home for new music. We love the UK sound and what’s happening at the moment and coming from the UK it’s a lot easier to have links and access yourself. But it’s more about strengthening the music elsewhere. We spend a lot of time researching different DJs and finding fresh people, playing stuff on the radio, being a DJ and just constantly being on the hunt for new sounds. So when you come to a deadHYPE event it’s not about us, it’s about the DJs and making sure they get as much out of the opportunity. A new generation of music.
You platform mainly new artists, why do you see a need to focus on the new generation?
I think it’s difficult to get a grime tune and just chat shit over it
Well, the big names are already having their moment. It’s not that we don’t want to work with them, but we’re able to offer more to the younger, or less experienced artists. Like DJ Sagepay, he’s a resident on Radar Radio, he’s still got a day job and that, but he’s a great producer, so if we can put him out through our network and help him start making this full time. We just try and create something a bit new so that’s why we don’t aim for the already established names so much.
Grime as an industry has proven to really positive for young people, why do you think that is?
Yeah, it’s street culture. MCs are talking about real things that happened in their day. I think it’s difficult to get a grime tune and just chat shit over it. Like the audience is right there, you can’t fabricate how good your life is. It’s an expression of self. Producers usually work on really shitty equipment and then MCs just want to add their name to it. It’s what people know. It’s real.
Anyone doing grime shouldn’t care about constraints, about being from a different country. Right now, we’re in a moment where grime MCs are big because they are non-stop, they are putting themselves in new situations, leaving their mark. And it doesn’t stop there, it needs to be a global movement or it won’t go anywhere.
You have a real personal affinity with grime don’t you?
You got loads of MCs jumping on stage to spit bars
Yeah. We work with a lot of different producers and we curate across genres, but grime is SO underrated, yet the instrumentals and compositions are at such a high level. I mean good music is good music, you know?
Where do you place more experimental artists like Visionist, Rabit and Wen?
Grime to me, the majority of it is the instrumental side. Like the MC comes onto the track, it’s not like they are grime, they are grime MCs. Instrumentals is more what I personally think it’s about. The MC is just part of the whole process. You got loads of MCs jumping on stage to spit bars. When Pow came out, one of the classic instrumentals, I remember we were all hunting for it so we could be in the playground and spit bars together. That’s the inspiration you get from it, the instrumental gives you so much energy.