Neil Kulkarni: Not that I can pay you but I’d love you to write about this before the year is out.
Me: Something I keep noticing about grime is that although the genre is still being treated as a New Thing by sections of the mainstream, many of the protagonists have been around for 10, 15 years now – so far back, we were writing about them in Plan B Magazine, giving them cover stories even. Case in point: Flowdan This grime MC/producer was part of the righteous Roll Deep collective from 2005, has collaborated with The Bug, Wiley and Lethal Bizzle, and released his first solo album in 2009. I mean, whatever. Just an observation, but we sure as fuck weren’t calling it grime back then.
Imaginary Neil Kulkarni: (yawns)
I mean, not sure why folk want me to write shit after all this time. Mostly, I have little or nothing to add to the conversation (surreal; I did not type the above line) and I sometimes suspect darker motives behind such requests – showing me up for the unmediated insecure driveling fraud that I am. Impostor Syndrome. When I am thrown outside my comfort zone I usually only make asinine comparisons or resort to pro music journo speak (i.e. reiterating and rewriting points noted by others) in an effort to mask the process. This video, for example. There is a point in it where I am indelibly reminded of Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels (cut to a hotel room in Seattle where Jason Statham keeps repeating the phrase “they can’t do that, that’s bang out of order!” to me over and over, to which I can only wearily reply, “It’s already happened, mate”).
There is another bit that makes me think of Gravediggaz (cue interview):
“We grew up in hell,” Prince Rakeem says, “inside a big brick building with chambers in it. People on top of you, people on the side of you, people on bottom of you, there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide from all these surroundings. There’s no food inside your house, no A/C — it’s hot, it’s summer time — no money, welfare is the only source of income.
“We just saying, ‘Yo! We came out through the ovens of hell!'” the rapper explains. “We don’t worship Satan. We got wicked ideas, we got good ideas, mere’s a positive and negative side to everyone. That’s why we say, ‘Positive education/Activates constant elevation’. You take each letter from that, and you get PEACE. That’s what we’re about.”
Gravediggaz: Dead Dead Good (Everett True, Melody Maker, 17 September 1994)
But why keep reliving the past?
Imaginary Neil Kulkarni: forget it.
Me: I am only looking for points of commonality. Welcome to London. That’s how we function. Nobody don’t trust nobody round here. My world disintegrates into nothing, with a sudden sharp random BLAM – a cold burst – and continues, the violence mainly inside my head only manifesting itself in brief uncontrolled bursts that never become physical. Yet.
Life is cold. Life is chilling, children’s voices off and calling down a street you can never find, footsteps receding into the distance but one of these days you know they’re going to stop right outside your house. Sharp, like that glass slicing through your thumb. Resonant, like a disgusting meme. Cool, but cynical.
Neil Kulkarni: Jerry Thackray my only point of disagreement here is the notion this is outside yr comfort zone. You’ve been writing about this kind of music for decades. Plus anyone struggling in modern England has a right to this record and a say cos it’s one of the few things this year to nail things so sharply x