Friday, October 10, 2003
And this, from the also very good Artful Candour:

"Wonder if the new "Orientalist darkcore bliss" will prove easier for outsiders to appropriate than 2-step was. Perhaps certain sounds are "too black" for whites to internalize and make their own, at least a critical mass of whites...b/c of the "realist" subject matter of the rap lyrics, descriptive of social reality rather than aspiring to $$$ and the good life, the music will likely find a more receptive audience among whites than did 2-step garage . . . ."

With the help of Paul Sci-Fi Soul, I realised the other day that if there is a radical break b/w 2-step and grime, it is the lack of sex in grime (sex is obv. the theme of the week at Skykicking! A mild reduction in responsibilities has clearly got my hormones going haywire!). Even when the (newer, poppier) grime tracks sample some r&b vocalist and/or the MC is talking about fucking/relationships, I find it very difficult to detect any sexuality worked into the music. On one level, this is because grime constitutes the final, incontravertible break with the house influence that has been receding constantly ever since '97, but it's interesting to note that US rap, which grime is frequently compared to, is also much more sexy than grime. As I've been saying downblog, the masculinity and harshness of much US rap in now way prevents the grooves from being profoundly sexual. By contrast, the "orientalist darkcore bliss" that grime is beginning to reveal is, for all its intermingling of light, dark, energy and mystery, a profoundly sexless experience. The lure is its exotic undefinability, its "weird energy".

In other words: its drugginess. What grime's "journey toward the light" may constitute is a secret reassertion of all of those rave values that were gradually leached out of the hardcore continuum throughout the development of jungle -> d&b -> speed garage -> 2-step. Even as little as a year ago I would have said that this continuum was engaged in a flight from rave - I remember Cooper Bethea astutely pointing out on ILX that the resurgence of 4/4 was like a return to speed garage with all the house/rave (ie. dance music) values replaced by hip hop values. But the vocal predominance of the MC has re-opened within grime's musical development the space to reengage with the sonic ideas that characterised rave: a flux of intensities that, instead of orbiting the groove, insert themselves into the mind/body interface, attacking the dancer's sense of self and subjectivity (cf. sex-music, which instead seeks to heighten and sharpen the dancer's perception of self and subjectivity in relation to other dancers). Hence all these woozy, fluttery, viscuous grooves that Jammer in particular is so good at making, raining hailstones of cut-up Chinese flutes and erupting lava flows of bass.

The problem is the MC - as long as the MC is there, grime will remain simultaneously a radically subjectifying music, a music that erects psychological boundaries as quickly as it seeks to dissolve them. Hence grime becomes an ongoing fight for subjectivity, and this is one of the reasons that so often it sounds like the MC and the music are working against eachother. See for example that aforementioned wonderful half-speed Skepta track, where the groove's imperious cut-up female vocal invites a fractious call-&-response with the MC: she is the vocal embodiment of the music, a bucking bronco constantly attempting to throw off the steadying presence of the MC's flow. This combination, this dialectic, renders grime much more problematic than other druggy musics that have found favour with broader audiences (acid house, the first wave of rave, arguably psy-trance). To be engaged with grime is to be engaged with the entire history of the hardcore continuum, to be in love with its endless contradictions.


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