The Museum of London presents Grime Stories: From Corner to Mainstream, a new exhibition honoring the music, people and places central to the grime scene and its roots in east London.
Co-produced by one of the early documentary filmmakers of grime, Roony “Risky” Keefe, the exhibition features a series of newly commissioned films exploring the community at the heart of grime’s success, a large-scale illustration by artist Willkay and personal artifacts from the MCs and producers who created Grime’s unique sound.
Grime music emerged twenty years ago in the early 2000s, thriving through an informal network of record shops, youth clubs and pirate radio stations. By 2004, London’s grime scene had achieved mainstream success when albums such as Dizzee Rascal’s Boy in da Corner received widespread acclaim.
Grime Stories: from the corner to the mainstream addresses its local origins on the street corners and estates of central East London. In collaboration with those who were present at the creation of the scene, the exhibition looks at how the area has changed over the 20 years since and what impact these changes are having on the future landscape of the dirt.
The exhibition focuses on a range of films, one of which sees co-producer and documentary filmmaker Roony touring East London in his black cab with influential figures in the UK grime scene: grime MC and producer Jammer, Ruff Sqwads Rapid and Slix and Troy ‘A+’ Miller from Practice Sessions. A key documentary filmmaker on grime, Risky uses his expert knowledge to carve journeys into the past that tell the story of grime about black people and working-class ingenuity. Footage featuring Skepta and DJ Slimzee examines how these once-upcoming artists found a way to share their music uncensored through pirate stations like Rinse FM.
In an era before social media, Roony’s Risky Roadz and Troy ‘A+’ Miller’s Practice Hours DVDs were instrumental in launching the careers of countless MCs, distributed through London record store Rhythm Division.
East London’s young artists of today are highlighted in a film collaboration with the Ruff Sqwad Arts Foundation, in which emerging talent discuss the future of grime and how they’re making music in the face of the city’s gentrification.
A central feature of the exhibition will be a nod to British grime pioneers Jammer’s basement in Leytonstone. Nicknamed ‘The Dungeon’, this iconic location was the birthplace of Lord of the Mics, one of the most important battle platforms to ever exist on the British music scene.
An installation features the keyboard on which Skepta’s That’s Not Me was produced and graffiti from the basement walls of Jammer’s parents’ house detailing the illustrious names of East London Grime, with an interview film from the legendary Dungeon recording studio.
The exhibition includes a newly commissioned large-scale illustration by artist Willkay, showing the changing face of East London as the concrete of urban settlements sits alongside the glass buildings of Canary Wharf. The composite view from a rooftop perspective pays tribute to the informal network of pirate radio stations and high-rise antenna arrays that allowed grime music to gain worldwide recognition.
Display co-producer Roony ‘Risky’ Keefe said:
“Grime is a culture of its own and uniquely embodies London’s attitude and DIY spirit. In two decades it has given so much back not only to the city but also to an international audience. Grime’s influence changed music forever. This exhibition at the Museum of London makes me proud that the legacy of grime is being recognised, knowing how far the scene has come and how important it is to London culture. Grime continues to push boundaries and Grime Stories: Corner to Mainstream will bring his story and pioneering work to a whole new audience.”
Dhelia Snoussi, curator of youth culture at the Museum of London said:
“Grime Stories: From the Corner to the Mainstream tells the tale of grime in the fabric of London’s history: one of place and community, all built without the support of mainstream radio and friends in high places. The worldwide success of the scene would not have been possible without the social and physical infrastructure of grime music. Focusing on significant landmarks that have nurtured music, Grime Stories explores the relationship between sound and place, and questions what sonic implications urban gentrification might have for music in east London.”
Grime Stories: From the Corner to the Mainstream is a FREE exhibition opening on Friday 17th June 2022. The Museum of London is open seven days a week (10am – 5pm).