How The Grime And UK Rap Scene Is Finally Getting The Recognition It Deserves

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The Brit Awards found itself under fire this time last year, as people started using the hashtag #BritsSoWhite to highlight the lack of diversity within the show’s list of British nominees. And despite the very visible success of grime and UK rap in 2015–16, none of the genre’s breakout stars were on the list. In a freestyle, Stormzy, one of the genre’s biggest stars, blasted the apparent snub as “embarrassing” and addressed the issue in a talk at Oxford University.

But this year’s Brits was different. In response to the criticism, the show announced an overhaul of its voting system in a bid to improve the diversity of the voting panel. This led to Stormzy being nominated in the category for best British breakthrough act, and both Kano and the Mercury Award-winning Skepta were nominated for three awards each. For many, it felt like the grime and UK rap scene – which had been thriving for more than a decade – was finally being given the attention and respect fans say it deserves.

Kobe “Posty” Hagan, the founder and CEO of music website GRM Daily, was one of the newly appointed judges to the voting and judging panel. He told BuzzFeed News that acknowledgement of grime and UK rap was long overdue. “Grime is not a new genre,” he said. “It’s been around for 15 years, and it’s in the best position now that it has ever been.”

Kobe “Posty” Hagan, the founder and CEO of music website GRM Daily.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed News

The past two years have been a successful period for the scene. Stormzy, who released his highly-anticipated debut album Gang Signs and Prayer last Friday, is one of the best examples of that: In 2015 he made history when the fourth part of his Wicked Skengman freestyle series went straight to No. 18 in the UK charts with no promotion and no official release. It is something no other UK rapper or grime artist has achieved. And last year, female rapper Little Simz was included in the Forbes list of 30 stars under 30 in Europe.

“Grime had such a big year, and it was unique,” Hagan said. “But I think the Brits realised that and they acted on it. This year Stormzy and Skepta both performed, and I think they were both amazing.”

But even though Stormzy and Skepta performed on the show, they and Kano all left empty-handed.

Hagan, who also stages the Rated Awards, said the Brit nominations were a victory nevertheless. “There was a voting process, so us being nominated was us winning anyway. When we do more work hopefully we can pick up some more awards.”

BuzzFeed News went to visit Hagan at the empire he has built from scratch, tucked away in the industrial corners east of London. It was cosy, open-plan, modern – everything you’d expect from a business run by a small team of people in their twenties and thirties.

A lot of thought and effort had clearly gone into the aesthetics of the space. Oil paintings of Skepta and Stormzy – created by the artist Reuben Dangoor, famed for his work depicting Grime stars like D Double E and Wiley as 18th-century British nobility – hung on the bright yellow walls in gold-coloured frames. What really stood out were the incredibly detailed spray-painted wall portraits of other legends like Ghetts, Giggs, and Kano, as well as Dizzee Rascal in the image from his iconic debut album Boy in da Corner.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed News

On one side of the room was a pool table, a sofa, jars of sweets, and a fridge full of energy drinks. The opposite side was a typical office, and around five members of staff were hard at work on their laptops. Hagan wasn’t there when we arrived, so we took seats on the sofa and were given hot drinks in mugs bearing the GRM Daily logo.

Next to us a glass cabinet contained a single bottle of champagne. Lauren Pavan, GRM Daily‘s chief operating officer – as everyone else describes her, the mum of the team – said the rest of the bottles of champagne and Ciroc in the cabinet were emptied a few weeks ago when Hagan returned to the office after being invited to Drake’s London gig. “He came back here and everyone got a bit excited,” she said.

It has taken almost a decade for GRM Daily to get to where it is now. It has over 350,000 subscribers on YouTube and more than a million followers across all its social media platforms, and says that on average it attracts 15,000 new followers each month.

In 2009 Hagan, then 22, and his friend Pierre Godson-Amamoo started documenting the British grime and rap scene – it was something no one else was doing, Hagan said.

Left to right: Jaik Bramley-Fenton, Lauren Pavan, Saquib Butt, and Alex Griffin.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed News

He was at law school, and creating the GRM Daily platform was a massive financial and time-consuming burden, he said. “But I knew it was the right thing to do.”

“I grew up listening to hip-hop, but obviously it was a replica of American lifestyle and culture,” Hagan said. “Grime and UK rap is quite similar, but it paints a picture and tells a story of people from London, which is where I’m from, so I can relate to the stories more, I can relate to the sound more.

“It’s hard, it’s edgy, its a fusion of all the best genres of music that we all grew up listening to, and merges into a unique British sound. But for me, grime is more of a culture. It’s how we talk, it’s everything to me.”

The fact that none of the founding team in the beginning had experience in filming, video editing, or social media didn’t matter. The gap in the market for this content meant it didn’t take much for GRM Daily‘s channel to become popular. “It took off straight away – it wasn’t hard work at all, the only hard work was doing the work.”

They bought a camera, shot videos, and uploaded it to their YouTube channel. “I still don’t know how to film and edit,” he said. “My [business] partner at the time used to just dump it in his computer and press export, then we’d upload it on YouTube.

“We weren’t social media experts, we weren’t excellent directors or editors, we just had to learn as we went along. When we started to generate income, then we hired experts.”

GRM Daily‘s large but unique audience helped them make money through advertising, brand campaigns, and YouTube ad revenue. Its Instagram page has a quarter of a million followers, and Hagan described it as one of the company’s most important assets, even though most of the site’s traffic comes from Twitter or Facebook.

Christopher Cargill, who works as GRM Daily’s in-house videographer, director, and photographer, joined the company four years ago. He told BuzzFeed News he’s seen GRM Daily‘s audience evolve – not only in terms of numbers, but also in how views span from around the UK, to all over the globe. “Over the last four years, as grime and UK rap artists have grown, we’ve grown too, and vice versa,” he said.

Christopher Cargill, GRM Daily’s in-house videographer, director, and photographer.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed News

One of the reasons for this increasing popularity, he said, is global rap artists taking notice of the UK grime scene. When Kanye West performed at the Brits in 2015, he brought Skepta, Jammer, Krept & Konan, and Stormzy on stage with him for a performance of “All Day”.

Skepta / Twitter

And last year, after Drake performed with Rihanna at the Brits, the Canadian rapper ditched the afterparty and headed straight to Village Underground in east London for a surprise appearance at a Section Boyz gig – a resounding endorsement of the scene.

Cargill said it was inspiring to see artists like Skepta and Stormzy being recognised globally for their talents. “Grime was very independent,” he said. “Young people had to put their hands in their pockets, basically. They would work, get their wages, go to the studio, pay someone to make a video… So it’s admirable [to see] young people working so hard to be the best they can be from making music.”

As the scene goes increasingly mainstream, GRM Daily‘s work is becoming less niche than it once was, and national media platforms are starting to pay attention.

Last year, Krept & Konan were invited on to Channel 4 News to comment on the musical war of words between Chip and MC Yungen that was being described as one of the greatest music beefs in history.

Channel 4 News / Twitter

But there has also been criticism of how media organisation represent or misrepresent British MCs and rappers. During the same Channel 4 News interview, for example, presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy asked the pair a seemingly unrelated question on gang violence. “How does what you do cross over at all with the culture that is worrying a lot of people?” he asked.

Later that year NME was forced to apologise after it published a review of Giggs’ Landlord album in which the reviewer had mistakenly misheard the lyrics “man rates her” as “man rapes her”.


Hagan was forgiving about these scenarios, but said some media platforms probably don’t have a true understanding of grime.

“I don’t think they completely get it, but they’re learning,” he said. “Everything is a process and eventually they’ll have a better grasp of it. People fear what they don’t understand, and sometimes stupid things happen.”

Hagan seemed equally relaxed about GRM Daily‘s competitors, which include Linkup TV, an online talent and entertainment channel showcasing unsigned and emerging talent that recently released its debut magazine. There’s also SBTV, a YouTube channel that recently announced a partnership with the Press Association to launch a youth-focused news service. In 2015 its founder, Jamal Edwards, was honoured by the Queen with an MBE for his contributions to the music business.

But competitor platforms were not an issue, Hagan said. “GRM Daily is more than a business, it’s about taking responsibility for documenting something important.”

Kobe “Posty” Hagan

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed News

Some of the youngest members of the GRM Daily team started out as huge fans of the site in its early days, like Saquib Butt, 21, who works as the site’s artist liaison.

Before joining the company he was studying for a degree in journalism. Six weeks into his university course, he decided it was not for him. “I’m from an Asian background so my mum was ready to beat me up when she heard I’d dropped out of uni,” he said.

Butt, who’s from Watford, said he had been feeling unchallenged by his course, and was already writing news stories for websites including a GRM Daily rival, the name of which he was keen not to reveal to BuzzFeed News. In just six months, he said, he increased the likes on their social media page from 30,000 to a quarter of a million – an impressive achievement that got him noticed by Hagan and eventually a job with GRM Daily.

Alex Griffin, a 22-year-old journalism graduate started off as one of GRM Daily‘s contributors, writing articles for the site every now and then. Less than two years down the line, he is GRM Daily‘s editor-in-chief.

It was also a similar journey for Jaik Bramley-Fenton, who started off as a contributor for the site as a way to make a name for himself. He is now GRM Daily‘s social and brand manager.

Speaking to them, it was clear they’re passionate about the work they’re doing. And like Hagan, they have no concerns about grime artists and UK rap’s growing presence in the mainstream.

“With any sort of genre that hits a mainstream audience there’s always going to be some sort of tampering or changes made, that’s natural,” Bramley-Fenton said. “And there’s nothing wrong with it.

“The media are very quick to find loopholes and negatively spin things – that’s one thing I am concerned about. A lot of grime artists and rappers in the UK do find themselves subjected to some sort of media hate whenever they get any sort of fame.”

Griffin said there’s a stigma around grime music becoming mainstream, and often criticism from fans who accuse up-and-coming grime artists of jumping on the bandwagon. But for him, the growth of the genre is positive. “More people are embracing the culture,” he said, “and for us it’s only a good thing, so long as the correct people, like us, are still here, curating the culture.”

Left to right: Christopher Cargill, Jaik Bramley-Fenton, and Alex Griffin.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed News

But the road hasn’t always been so smooth for GRM Daily. Five years ago they said their YouTube page was removed, forcing them to start a new one. “That was the hardest time for us,” Hagan said. “Our income was cut, we didn’t know which direction to take, we had to start all over again. It was difficult but we came through it.” BuzzFeed News has reached out to YouTube for comment.

“Just being able to maintain this position for seven years, I think is a big thing,” Hagan said. “With any business there’s going to be a lot of ups and downs, and there has been a lot. But every day we’re in the market and we’re providing a good service.”

Source: Buzzfeed

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