UK rapper Giggs has been killing it on the grime circuit for a decade. His 2007 track “Talkin’ Da Hardest” became a staple of the South London sound.
Ever since then, Giggs has been held in high regard in the UK, his 2016 album Landlord peaked at number 2 on the UK albums chart.
Tracks like “Whippin Excursion” are just good hip-hop songs, not just for a UK rapper, but any artist.
Giggs’ whispery, monotone delivery contrasts with the commonly over-articulated wordplay of his UK contemporaries, he brings a sort of Americanized trap sound to his music. He raps about topics that we’re familiar with in American rap, drug dealing, inner city poverty, and generally being the man.
So when Giggs appeared twice on Drake’s More Life ‘playlist’ it would make sense that he would be one of the more palatable options for American rap listeners that turn up their noses at UK grime. But instead, Giggs’ appearances on “No Long Talk” and “KMT” were mocked, memified, and mostly made fun of.
This prompted think pieces and counter reaction from the American hip-hop intelligentsia, with people like DJ Akademiks proclaiming that Giggs had a ‘wack verse’ on Drake’s album.
Now Giggs has dropped a surprise mixtape Wamp 2 Dem (Jamaican patois for what’s wrong with them) with a promo video that takes not so veiled shots at his haters.
I’m not sure I understand the hate for Giggs from an American perspective. Sure, he’s not the greatest rapper of all-time, but on “KMT” where Drake copies XXXtentacion’s flow down to the last cadence, it’s cool to hear something original from Giggs.
And as for his mixtape, Wamp 2 Dem is fire from the outset. The first track, “Gully N*****” features Giggs flowing effortlessly over a horror movie type beat for the entire song with no chorus. It’s a song that (besides Giggs’ South London accent) could belong on any contemporary Atlanta rap album.
To that end, Giggs recruits 2 Chainz, Young Thug, and Lil Duke for Wamp 2 Dem, so whether American listeners are ready to embrace Giggs, American artists already have.
There’s definitely a good amount of prejudice against UK rap from American listeners, but as mature adults, we should all be able to get past the fact that people have different accents in different places of the world.
I mean, if we take a step back for a second, it’s actually pretty cool to see the emergence of rap in the UK.
Without hip-hop, foreigners’ ideas of American culture are represented by Donald Trump, oversized fast food, excessive displays of patriotism, and cars that use too much gasoline inefficiently.
But hip-hop best represents who we really are as a country, it gives voices to communities that may not otherwise be able to express themselves on a larger scale.
In this sense, people around the world can see what places like Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York are really like. Not the movie or political version, but the human version.
This is what Giggs does for London, and South London more specifically. It’s not all tea, crumpets, the footy, Harry Potter, and people named Pippa, Giggs shines a light on the real version of London in a way that a lot of Americans would be ignorant of.
So, instead of immediately writing off Giggs and the rest of the UK grime scene, we — as American rap listeners — should embrace that our country’s music and culture has the reach that it does, that it’s causing offshoots and different styles across the globe.
And contrary to general opinion, there’s a wild diversity of sounds coming out of the UK. Here’s a brief run down of some very good, and very different, grime artists. This isn’t necessarily an introduction to these artists, most rap fans will have heard of them, but rather to show the varying styles and sounds of UK rap.
Skepta is probably the biggest and most successful grime artist in the history of the genre, at least in terms of American success.
The north London native is a global superstar, he’s been embraced by brands across the world, and been featured on popular American artists’ music.
Skepta’s music makes for pretty easy listening, his punchline heavy lyrics and melodic flow make sense to an American ear. The effect of the London battle rapping scene, how most of the more season vets of the grime genre got their start, is clear in Skepta’s delivery.
At this point, Skepta is the artist that most embodies contemporary grime, for better or for worse.
The 21-year-old from East London J Hus dropped Common Sense at the beginning of the summer and it’s still one of the best releases of the year.
J Hus is a much more musical artist than Skepta or Giggs, able to rap sing in different flows over a variety of beats that draw from all over the world. At times J Hus is vibing over an Atlanta trap beat, then a UK club production, then a West African-infused dancehall record.
In a genre where old heads like Giggs and Skepta are just now getting widespread attention after more than a decade in the game, this 21-year-old has a very bright future ahead of him.
While Rejjie Snow isn’t from London, the Dublin, Ireland native brings a whole new perspective to UK hip-hop.
Snow has a much more lyrical, 90’s New York style. It’s a reason that Snow has gained such a fanbase amongst American hip-hop hipsters.
On “Purple Tuesday” Rejjie Snow flows alongside Joey Bada$$ while the Irishman sounds like he could’ve been an original Pro Era founder.
Perhaps Snow’s acceptance within the American underground, and to a certain extent his sound, is due to his time in America as a teenager, he attended Florida’s Montverde Academy and later Savannah College of Art and Design on soccer scholarships.
Whatever the reason, Snow’s style is a stark contrast to many of the other artists out of the UK.
There’s a lot on offer when it comes to our friends across the pond making hip-hop.
We are all hip-hop heads of the world, it might be worth your while to stop making trash memes about UK rappers and actually listen.