For those of us who grew up in the UK in the early 2000s – particularly in London – grime is a genre we probably first came across at the back of a double decker bus while some dude blasted LimeWire-downloaded MP3s out some tinny Motorola Razr speakers. To us, it’s a genre inextricably associated with YouTube channels like SBTV, DVDs like Risky Roadz with grainy PC printed covers and the Kidulthood trilogy. But the genre has undergone a few evolutions since then, and for the teenagers of 2018, grime means something very different.
For a brief blip in the late 2000s, grime got really fucking weird. And when I say “grime”, what I mean is that the genre’s biggest stars started doing duets with Emeli Sande over Elton John samples, or releasing tracks that were more fitting to Ibiza than someone’s basement in Wood Green. And then it slowed down for a few years, before returning as something bigger, bolder, more polished, but also intrinsically tied to its roots. And now – from Skepta’s 2016 Mercury Prize win to Drake being signed to BBK to Stormzy’s domination of this year's BRIT awards – it’s safe to say that grime has become a much more mainstream, glamorous entity.
All of this got us thinking: what do today’s teens make of all the grime hits that millennials grew up with? Would they still skank to Skepta if we played them anything released before "Shutdown"? Can they tell us what a Dizzee Rascal is, or has Stormzy’s brand of pre-watershed gospel-fused “grime-lite” taken over completely? It’s probably not a great idea to loiter round some school gates unless you genuinely want to get arrested, so I decided to go to the only other place I could think of where teens congregate in intimidatingly large groups; the ninth circle of hell itself, Westfield Shopping Centre.
Lucy: “Oh my god! I’m not a fan.”
Noisey: Hey Lucy. I know this is one of the worst questions to ask, but what kind of music are you into?
Lucy, 18: That is a horrible question, but I guess Drake mainly. Pretty much always Drake. And recently I’ve been listening to Not3s a lot too.
Do you listen to much grime?
Mmm not a lot. I’d listen to Stormzy and maybe Skepta but I couldn’t really name anyone else!
Let’s give "Murkle Man" by Jammer a listen. This is a classic.
Haha! Oh my god! I’m not a fan.
Eh? Why’s that?
He’s just shouting the same thing. Like screaming the words. Yeah, I don’t think I could listen to this. Do people actually listen to this?
They did in 2005, believe it or not.
I’m really not surprised that it hasn’t stood the test of time.
What about something from a few years down the line when grime got poppier, like "Wearing My Rolex" by Wiley?
Wiley, my man! This is a tune! I remember this being on the radio when I was like nine or ten. It’s really catchy.
It is. Thanks Lucy!
Abbie, and Poppy: "Dizzee Rascal did 'Bonkers,' right?"
Noisey: Hi guys, what sort of music is popular with people your age?
Poppy, 15: I think everything really. I like quite a lot of different genres.
Abbie, 15: Pop music is always popular, but my friends all listen to lots of different things.
Grime is a popular genre right now, but I’m guessing you’re both too young to remember when it first started making the charts with people like Tinchy Stryder and Dizzee Rascal?
Abbie: I remember them but I’m not sure if I would remember many songs! Poppy: Dizzee Rascal did "Bonkers" right?
Yes. That one came out when I was the same age as you are now; can you believe?! What do you think of "I Luv U", though?
Abbie: It’s a really long intro…
Poppy: It sounds quite different to the stuff I’ve heard by Dizzee Rascal. I like it though.
Abbie: I can’t really tell what he’s saying because of how fast he’s rapping but I like it, it’s really energetic. There’s a lot going on.
Would you listen to this again?
Both: Yeah I think so.
Sweet. I wonder if you remember Chipmunk? Or Chip, as he’s known now.
Here, have a listen of this one, which he did with Emeli Sandé. It’s called "Diamond Rings".
Poppy: It’s ok. It’s a lot slower than the other one. I prefer the first one. You can dance to it more.
Abbie: Yeah I agree, I think this one is kind of boring.
Daisy: "This sounds a bit dated, maybe?"
Noisey: Hi Daisy, do you remember "Number 1", Tinchy Stryder’s 2009 single with N-Dubz, or were you still a foetus when this came out?
Daisy, 17: I remember this! Yeah it’s a tune! I actually think it sounds a bit dated maybe? But it’s still good. Maybe it would get a bit annoying after a while though.
If somebody stuck it on at a party would you ask them to change the song?
Probably not but I’d think it was a bit of a weird choice.
Let’s have a listen to some JME. What do you think of his track “Serious”?
I think I recognise this one. It definitely sounds familiar.
Is it because Stormzy uses this beat on his last "WickedSkengMan"?
Oh yeah, that’s probably where I recognise it from then!
But which do you like better?
Probably Stormzy but maybe I should listen to JME more because I do like this. He’s quite funny!
Thanks for your time Daisy. Don’t stay out too late!
Sobek and Kianna: "Man, this Wiley intro is really long"
Noisey: Hi do you like grime?
Sobek, 18: Yeah it’s ok, I’d listen to it sometimes.
Kianna, 17: Don’t mind it, yeah we listen to a bit of grime!
Kianna: Loooooove him! Love him.
What about grime stars from the older generation like Jammer or Lethal Bizzle?
Sobek: Ummmm, nah, I don’t really listen to that sort of stuff. I’ve heard of Lethal Bizzle but don’t think I know Jammer at all.
Kianna: Yeah maybe Wiley! What’s that one, "Heatwave"?
Let's listen to Wiley's "Wot Do U Call It". That’s the name of the song; I haven’t just forgotten what it’s called.
Sobek: Man this intro is really long...mmm it’s ok. He’s kind of just repeating the same thing though. Does it just keep going like this though?
Hang on, wait til he gets to a verse…
Kianna: I’m not so sure. I don’t like the beat, it’s kind of stressful!
What about this one from Wiley’s crew Roll Deep, this is called "When I'm 'Ere".
Sobek: *nods along*
Kianna: Yeah I’m definitely feeling this one a lot more, I could definitely listen to this one.
Sobek: Yeah I like this one better.
Ok kids, good luck with your SATs.
Melanie and Bhavani: "Err, 'Talking Da Hardest' is quite fast, isn't it?"
Noisey: Hey do you like grime?
Bhavani, 19: Errrr not really no.
Melanie, 18: No.
What about UK rappers like Giggs – he’s not grime – and you might know him from Drake’s album More Life, and he was also in that Nike advert recently?
Bhavani: Yeah I like Drake.
He’s the best, but give this a listen, this is a Giggs’s single from the vintage year of ‘07 called "Talkin' The Hardest".
It’s OK, you can be honest. Your faces say it all.
Bhavani: Er, it’s quite fast isn’t it? I prefer slower songs I think. Yeah I don’t really like this.
Melanie: Yeah it’s not really my thing. It’s kind of dark and, like, a bit aggressive? I prefer friendlier stuff, he sounds kind of angry.
Melanie your facial expression is one of acute physical pain so I think we should move on to something a bit lighter. OK how about this one, it’s called "Take Me Back" by Tinchy Stryder.
Melanie: Noooo I don’t really like this either.
Bhavani: Haha yeah me neither.
Ok, well, I tried.
Alex and Alan: "The 'Duppy' video looks like it was made on someone's phone!"
Noisey: Do you guys like grime?
Alex, 17: It’s OK.
Alan, 18: Not really.
But what about Kano's classic "P's and Q's"?
Alex: Yeah, I like it. Quite a long intro though it should start a bit quicker.
Alan: It’s hard to hear what he’s saying over the beat, I don’t understand what he is saying.
Alex: Yeah maybe I would like it more if I knew what it meant!
Alex, you’re still technically an infant in the eyes of the law so I can’t ask you this one, sorry, but Alan, would you listen to this while getting ready to go out?
Alan: I don’t think so really. It’s a bit too moody so maybe it isn’t the right atmosphere for going out.
Fair enough! Do you guys know Skepta? Let’s try this one, which is from 2006, called "Duppy" and has a bunch of features.
Alex: Again I have no idea what this guy at the start is saying. This one is a bit more funky! Alan: Yeah I think this one is a bit easier to dance to. What is this video though, it looks like it was made on somebody’s phone?!
Yeah well, this was before all the Nike Air collabs so budget was probably a bit smaller.
Alan: Yeah you can tell.
Alex: It’s kind of repetitive as well, he’s sort of saying the same thing over and over again. Like rhyming the same word which isn’t really that impressive is it. I still like it though. You can hear what everyone is saying a bit better than on the other track.
Cool, thanks guys. Don’t talk to any other strangers, OK?
You can find Rosie on Twitter.
* An earlier version of this article has been modified in order to adhere to VICE editorial standards.