“Punk was never about nihilism. It was about empowerment, freedom, and individuality.” – Don Letts, filmmaker
So too was reggae, which influenced punk’s rallying cry against Britain’s right-wing politics. Both subcultures became known for their rebelliousness. The two genres were forever linked:
“It’s obvious what punk got from reggae. They liked the anti-establishment vibe, they liked the musical reportage quality of the lyrics. What reggae got out of it was exposure.”
Legendary rock DJ John Peel championed the emergence of both reggae and punk on his radio show, helping the UK “rock against racism”. Meanwhile, Bob Marley legitimized the interplay of both movements with his track “Punky Reggae Party.”
Fast-forward three decades later and Punk is now considered a “marketing device” for UK tourism, making Grime its radical substitute. Most people think of Grime as the UK’s answer to hip-hop. However, grime is more spontaneous and feisty like outsider punk.
“Grime is like the poetry of pain. It’s a really intelligent use of slang.” – Olivia Rose, ‘This is Grime’
Like punk, Grime lyrics highlight Britain’s inequality, a continuation of Sex Pistol’s who sung “There is no future in England’s dreaming.” Grime unites all those looking for hope, especially in the post-Brexit era. One of the game’s pioneers, Dizzee Rascal, pushes people to find common ground. In a recent interview with Pharrell he said:
“What happens when you shout and scream at the world and then they listen, agree with you. ‘Yeah, we like that too.’ You’ve got to find something in common with people. That’s the way to get on in life.”
The future of England echoes through grime music, even cross-pollinating with pop music on the charts with acts like Skepta. Given the evolution of new music styles out of the UK, it is going to be interesting to hear what comes next.