Over the last couple of years, Grime has resurfaced in popular culture. After a brief stint in the limelight during the Dizzee Rascal glory days before breeding underground over the last decade, grime has started to see mainstream recognition once more, culminating in Skepta winning the Mercury Prize and showing up on our TV screens on Top Of The Pops this Christmas, dressed as a postman.
Tonight’s headliner Wiley had a share of the spotlight back in the noughties, with a few crossover hits- most memorably ‘Wearing My Rolex’- but tonight he forgoes older songs to focus his new album, ‘Godfather’. It makes sense; this new era of mainstream grime is not filtered for pop radio as it was in the mid-00s, but is more intense, more direct and more, well, grime.
He goes it alone for opener ‘Speakerbox’, a shy start as he slowly eases into the large stage. But still, fans new and old give him the adulation he needs, and within a few songs he sheds his tracksuit jacket and begins leaping around the stage with a confidence that doesn’t let up for the rest of the night.
It helps that he’s buoyed by his friends throughout the night; he flits from one special guest to another, from Chip to Lethal Bizzle to Devlin; and then, to Skepta, who gets as big a cheer as the headliner himself, as he jumps onstage for ‘U Were Always Pt.2’. This, along with Noisey’s Julie Adenuga coming onstage to give Wiley an award for being the Greatest UK MC of All Time, gives an air of celebration and support. There’s a reason Wiley’s album is called ‘Godfather’, and it’s because he is the origin of the scene; his friends try to give him the credit he deserves for this, but Wiley’s insistence on giving everybody a chunk of the spotlight makes it clear that he wants the genre, and not himself, to be celebrated tonight.
As such, he makes the crowd an integral part of the performance. Lights are dim on stage, half of them beamed onto the audience instead. They dance endlessly, rapping lyrics back with perfect cadence. If Roundhouse seemed like a strange choice at first, any doubts are cast aside; the gig is still intimate, despite the scale of the venue. The pillars of the Roundhouse act as an invisible line; younger, more excitable fans pack themselves in front of them, the gig seeming much smaller from confines of this inner circle, while older fans skirt behind them, watching everything unfold. Wiley himself spends much of his time tiptoeing the front of the stage, bent down into the faces of those in the front rows. The bass reverberates from the walls as if this large venue is, in fact, one of the small nightclubs this scene originally thrived in.
Near the end of the set, after the joyous ‘Gangsters’, Wiley tells his crowd to support the new UK movement, excitement clearly playing on his face as he realizes just how popular this scene has become once more. In an interesting move, he then brings on Stormzy, and lets him play his own material. He performs new song ‘Big For Your Boots’, and a moshpit quickly forms; this crowd did not need to be told to support the new movement- it’s likely most of them have snapped up tickets to Stormzy’s Brixton Academy shows already, and this is a teaser of what’s to come.
The fact that Wiley gave Stormzy this platform is, perhaps, a sign that he does not want to be seen as the figurehead of this era of grime, and wants to pass the baton onto somebody else. It makes sense; grime is synonymous with youth culture, and new blood is what will keep the scene alive. But Wiley, the Godfather, continues to be the backbone. Tonight celebrates his innovation, showcases his electric performing, and makes it very clear that the grime is going to continue its rise in 2017.