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Meeting the MCs Who Put Nottingham on the Grime Map

It might not be as big as London or Manchester, but through the bars of Snowy, Mez and Kyeza, Nottingham has more than enough to say.

by Jesse Bernard
15 July 2016, 4:25pm

This Saturday, 23rd July, BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Street Studio will be setting up shop in the Nottingham. They’ll be in the Intu Victoria Shopping Centre between 11am and 7pm and you’re invited to come down and record some bars, with with a chance to get yourself heard on BBC Radio 1Xtra during this month’s MC Month. To celebrate that, let’s take a look at grime in Nottingham as it stands.

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While it’s not as big as London or Manchester, Nottingham still has a lot to say. The working class community has always found a way to tell the city's story through art, and that art, in recent years, has taken the form of grime. This month, BBC 1Xtra’s Street Studio aims to shine a light on the grime scene in Nottingham and demonstrate the blossoming hub of creativity

Snowy, one of the city’s rising MCs – who has found himself on BBC 1Xtra, SBTV, Red Bull and Radar – is a great example of the top level talent knocking around in Notts. “It’s harder for Manchester because of how distant it is from London but here, we’re only an hour or two away,” he says. “Shottz Movement were doing sets with D Double E and Monkey a few years ago, so there’s that history [of a relationship with London grime] that’s always been here.” Mez, who won BBC 1Xtra’s #NextInGrime title last year, is figuring where to go from here. “There are things happening here, but how do you make it so that everybody sees it?”

Nottingham, like London and Manchester, has had its own issues with gang crime influencing the perception of grime. This is, after all, the city that has been referred to as “Shottingham” in the past. Areas such as St. Ann’s were not only home to much of Nottingham’s poverty and crime, but also to the grime culture that came from it.

“Nottingham’s a bad mind city and no one gets along with each other,” Snowy tells me. In the early years of grime, Nottingham raves were being cancelled and shut down due to violence creeping in. “Music people don’t mind doing music, but there’s people around them that are the problem most of the time,” he says. The themes dealt with by Nottingham grime are a reflection of a life that’s seldom acknowledged appropriately by the government and local authorities.

In 2014, Local Motive was founded as an online radio station. It’s been a primary hub for artists such as Snowy, Mez and the 18 year-old Kyeza to push their music. Whilst it’s scale of reach isn’t huge, its mere existence is far more valuable than its weekly ratings. A radio presence ensures there’s a platform on which Nottingham artists both aspiring and established can showcase what they have to offer.

Earlier this year, Mez, Kamakaze and Eyez went up against London’s AJ Tracey, Jammz and Dave in Red Bull’s Mind The Gap series. The clash made clear that different regions are developing styles unique to them, based on local cadence, mannerisms and nuances – Nottingham is at the forefront of that.

Being home to two universities has meant that, unsurprisingly, there is a demand for the grime events that are now popping up. “When the students are around, it’s popping and that’s great for us,“ says Snowy. With the students, there’s an opportunity for local artists such as himself and Mez to showcase their skillset to an audience whose reach is broader than the county of Nottinghamshire. Grime Soc, a society at University of Nottingham, was created with the hope of not only providing a platform for artists but also diversifying the university’s offering of music. “If you transfer the hype to where you want it to be, a lot of big stuff can happen,” adds Mez.

Snowy’s perspective on Nottingham’s grime scene seems to nail it – he’s aware of the success Notts has had compared to other cities so far but he knows more work and unity is needed for progression. BBC 1Xtra’s MC Month will allow for artists such as himself – as well as those who haven’t quite made it out of Nottingham – to flourish.

The BBC Radio 1Xtra Street Studio will be in Nottingham on July 23rd only! Come step up to the mic! Get down to Intu Victoria Shopping Centre between 11am and 7pm to record some bars to have a chance to get your performance heard on BBC Radio 1Xtra. Come show us what you’ve got right here.