"Grime is a cultural export": Meet the people taking UK rap global with their second annual awards ceremony

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For anyone who’s ventured anywhere near a festival, computer, television or radio in 2016, grime has been pretty much unavoidable. Albums from Skepta and Kano have been nominated for the Mercury Prize, while Giggs and Wretch 32 have recently released banging new records. And all that without mention of Stormzy, who is big enough to announce the biggest ever football transfer and commandeer a theme park for his birthday, without even having recorded his debut album. This week (September 7), The KA and GRM Daily Rated Awards will celebrate all that and more at London’s Roundhouse. GRM Daily has been dedicated to supporting emerging grime talent since 2009, and staged its first awards show last year. Ahead of the second edition – which features performances from Ghetts, Rude Kid, Ray Blk, Mist and four top secret special guests – we speak to GRM Daily and Awards co-founder Kobe ‘Posty’ Hagan and Awards co-founder Phil Kemish about their “glamorous” event and the future of the genre they love.

Why did you decide to launch an awards ceremony?

Phil: “We just felt there wasn’t an awards show that put a credible platform together for the music we really care about. People had touched on it with categories, but not a whole awards dedicated to showcasing the talent and the artistry. No one had seen a show like this. Last year was the first time most of the grime scene have been in one room.”

Kobe: “This was what we wanted GRM Daily to do when we started. It’s good to finally have it somewhere very tasteful and classy and for everybody to be taking the genre so seriously. It makes us feel like we can help push it further and break down more barriers, like people not being able to perform in certain venues. We want to make sure we help make grime and UK rap as big and accepted as hip-hop is in America.

Was it difficult to get off the ground?

Phil: There were quite a few moments last year when I didn’t think it would come off. Ten days before we launched the awards we lost the venue. The support from venues was mostly good, it was mainly the local authorities and police that looked at the awards and said ‘let’s have a look at your line-up and guestlist’. At one point I was asked to provide every single nominee and artist’s real name and ID, so you can imagine that was never gonna happen. The awards was co-founded by KA Drinks, so when we’re sat there with a FTSE 100 company and a genre that’s been around for 10 years and is pushing boundaries and we’re still getting turned down, it was quite frustrating. We managed to put it into a small venue in Islington which was actually a gospel church called Gracepoint, there were no problems. Everyone was happy and proud we’d put together a show for these artists. There was a great quote from Harvey and Megaman from So Solid Crew, they said they felt privileged to be among so many great talented individuals and that we should feel blessed because in their day they were up against the Spice Girls. It was a really nice sentiment.”

How important is it that these awards exist?

Phil: There were a lot of issues with diversity around the BRITs this year. The BPI [British Recorded Music Industry] have been really great and have come on board to support us. They’ve given us some of their team to help run the show, it’s not something they shout about or we shout about. Kobe and I are on the diversity board of the BPI, which was put together after the BRITs. We’re there to help ensure that music that shows the diverse nature of Britain is showcased properly.”

Kobe: It’s essential. It’s the most credible and the closest to real an awards show can be. Because we work closely with the artists day in day out throughout the year, they’re getting recognition from people who understand the music properly. We’re so in the music with them, it’s essential for us to have the awards. Other establishments are possibly just establishments that exist and acknowledge people from afar, whereas we do it up close.

Who’s coming?

Phil: “Everyone from politicians, to The Only Way Is Essex, to Craig David. When I think back to where we were it’s quite amazing. Ed Vaizey [Former Minister For Culture, Communications and Creative Industries] is coming down. It’s about how this culture can affect the view of young Britain – grime can have an affect from playground level, not just musically, but politically it’s got a big voice. When I spoke to Ed’s team I said ‘why don’t you come and understand what this is about?’ It’s all good sitting on Twitter and saying ‘let’s support Stormzy’, but unless you come to a grime show and understand the energy and the stories then you don’t deserve a place in this.”

Who’s performing on the night, any surprises?

Phil: “We’ve always been about new acts so there’s gonna be this amazing mix of big names and acts people may have never seen live. You’ve got Mist in there, Ray Blk live with a piano and a cellist, then heavyweights like Ghetts and Rude Kid. There are four big surprises that are all big acts too. I’m really excited now. Everybody is coming from the scene.”

What will the atmosphere be like?

Kobe: “Filled with excitement. It’s a celebration of people coming together that don’t necessarily see each other every day but are fans of each other. It’s also gonna be a place where people that do are gonna celebrate together. It’ll be glamorous, fun and full of surprises.”

Grime’s having a big year. How do you reflect on it?

Phil: “We’re seeing artists we’ve supported for… wow, 10 years some of them, start to have success, not just at underground level but being nominated for Mercurys – look at Skepta and Kano. Wretch 32’s album just dropped, Giggs was number two, it’s been a standout year musically. Grime has been accepted for its true colours, whereas the first time round the mainstream tried to make it sound like the mainstream, with poppy choruses. This year the music feels real and people respect it. The subculture has grown. There’s a big amount of people listening and supporting now and that only happens after you’ve paid your dues. Giggs, Kano, Skepta, Wretch, Ghetts – they haven’t just come out this year, they’ve had dedicated fanbases for 10 years. It’s only Stormzy who’s really broken who hasn’t released an album yet, that’s the scary thing!

Kobe: “I’m just excited about the amount of music. We’ve had albums from the biggest and the best in our genre and Stormzy and Wiley are still to come. It’s never been like this before.”

How excited are you about the future?

Phil: “We’ve been working with most of these artists since the start of their careers and this genre isn’t gonna go away. Next year will be even bigger. It’s about what we can do that helps elevate this outside the UK now. It’d be really nice to see more and more countries coming on board. More and more people in the UK are talking about grime as a cultural export for Britain and starting to realise they should be proud of it. It was born on the streets of Britain, it’s one of the fastest growing genres and we created it.”

For more information on The KA and GRM Daily Rated Awards go to ratedawards.com and grmdaily.com. The ceremony will be streaming live on both websites from 8pm on Wednesday night.

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