This article originally appeared on VICE UK
Last Wednesday, as the nation nursed its communal hangover, Satan was working hard, Kris Jenner was working harder and Wiley was working hardest of all.
Fresh from his online beef with Dot Rotten, Wiley decided to dream a little bigger for 2020, sending for Stormzy on New Year's Day. The younger artist tried to brush Wiley off as a "weirdo", but the Godfather of Grime was not to be stopped, going on to post videos in which he criticised Stormzy's Heavy Is the Head album, telling Big Mike his "come-up is finished".
The whole saga started in August of 2019, when Wiley questioned Stormzy's decision to collaborate with world's-mustiest-superstar Ed Sheeran on a track called "Take Me Back to London" (Sheeran is from Suffolk). Ultimately, Wiley was just being Wiley, and everyone carried on with their lives – but on the 5th of January he dropped "Eediyat Skengman (Stormzy Send)", berating the younger artist over his September release "Wiley Flow", and kicked it all back off again.
To Twitter's surprise, Stormzy responded the next day with "Disappointed", using 808Melo's instrumental for Headie One and RV's drill banger "Know Better" to claim his crown. Wiley came back over a classic grime beat with "Eediyat Skengman Part 2", telling Stormzy, "If I see your mum down Croydon market / I'm gonna rip that weave off her head." And then it suddenly all got very Gossip Girl: Wiley started tweeting YouTube videos alleging that Stormzy cheated on Maya Jama with Jorja Smith (Stormzy has admitted to cheating, but denied it was with Smith).
On Wednesday, Stormzy responded with "Still Disappointed", three minutes of genuinely acerbic bars – mostly about Wiley's mum – over Kano's legendary "Mic Check" beat, while holding a cuppa and a zoot. He gave Wiley 24 hours to reply, which – at the time of writing – he hasn't.
Personally, I'm having a great time – this is the pre-winter Love Island drama we all deserve.
Never ones to miss a chance to completely misrepresent a story involving two black men, the British tabloid press jumped on the events of this holy week (four diss tracks! Four!!!) as sign of a "feud" between the Godfather of Grime and its reigning king. But anyone with an interest in grime beyond knowing the first couple of bars to "Shut Up" will know that clashes – essentially, where MCs battle lyrically, either live or on recorded tracks – have a long and storied history in the grime scene.
Originating in 1960s Jamaican dancehall culture, when it was DJs rather than MCs doing battle, the sound-clash has been a central tenet of a number of UK sounds, including jungle, UK garage and grime. Early scene figureheads, such as Jah Shaka, ran sound-systems and hosted clashes as early as the 1970s, while the first "World Clash" was held in London in 1993, between Bodyguard (Jamaica), Saxon (UK), Coxsone (UK) and Afrique (USA).
The unofficial home of grime clash culture is the basement of Jammer's parents' Leytonstone home. The space hosted the first ever Lord of the Mics in 2004, featuring what would become one of the most legendary grime clashes of all time: Wiley vs Kano.
Lord of the Mics began as a highly-sought after DVD box set, featuring MCs stepping up to lyrical boxing matches in Jammer's basement, and is one of the most important cornerstones in grime history. As succinctly explained by Jammer in 2014, "In general, clashes are an outlet to either be funny or to express anger without being angry in the physical."
In other words, it's (usually) all in good humour. When BBK asked the 20,000-strong crowd at the 2014 Red Bull Culture Clash to call Tempa T a prick ("When I say Tempa T, you say prick"), for example, it wasn't because they genuinely thought he was a prick, but because of his theatrical betrayal of the grime scene in favour of taking the stage with opponents Rebel Sound.
Another legendary Lord of the Mics clash was 2006's Skepta vs Devilman, in which Skepta threatens to "kill Devilman and dump him in Neasden". This one is particularly memorable for me, because I am from Neasden, but it's also one of the all-time greatest clashes in grime history for its quotable bars and word-perfect quick-fire deliveries in a time before the Notes app.
Ghetto vs Bashy Part 3 saw a clash nearly get physical after Ghetts lost it, claiming the lyrical content being flung at him was untrue ("I was a fucking bad-boy in jail!" he screams in retort to Bashy’s accusations). The infamous outburst was later sampled by Stormzy on his track "Bad Boys", featuring J Hus and Ghetts himself. More recently, Cadell vs Novelist's carpark clash is a standout, full of playground humour, laughter and wheel-ups from the car sound-system.
Ultimately, regardless of you who think is "winning" this clash, Stormzy and Wiley have got everyone talking about grime again at the start of a year in which we were set to be firmly tuned into UK drill.
"Are we telling facts or jokes / Ah shit, I forgot this is grime, so say what you like then" spits Stormzy on "Still Disappointed". Somebody call Jammer and tell him to get the basement set up again.