How To Make The Ultimate Grime Documentary

Grime music is a rapidly growing, vibrant & vital genre steeped in a rich history. So why are there no good documentaries about it? This guide should help any filmmaker trying to capture the genre on film...
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Grime music is a rapidly growing, vibrant & vital genre steeped in a rich history. So why are there no good documentaries about it? This guide should help any filmmaker trying to capture the genre on film...

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I know people aren't going to like this. But I feel like I should say it anyway. There are no good Grime documentaries. Boom. It's out there. Deal with it. If you now hate me, and I'm sure a few will, just go down to the bottom of the page and take out your rage in the comments section. Otherwise, stick with me and I'll tell you how we can rectify this.

Grime has a great history, a fantastic narrative. Don't get me wrong, a lot of people have tried to document this movement, but there has been nothing seminal, nothing entirely memorable about them. Channel Four have championed pieces on it, in their bid to keep up with British culture. Wot Do U Call It, and more recently Life of Rhyme have both discussed the disenfranchised voice of a generation born in East London, yet they are all rehashing the same old story. DJ Target made an interesting radio show on 1Xtra celebrating 10 years of Grime, yet this, for me, still wasn't enough.

When you think of the history of Grime, you don't jump to an old video documentary, you pull out Boy In Da Corner, you reminisce about that time you were cruising around Bow listening to pirate radio, or a sweaty rave with a stage full of MC's all fighting for their 16 bars. So why isn't there anything around that has captured and crystallised that moment?

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Here are five things that could change this situation for the better. Someone get me a camera!

Don’t get bogged down in the history

YES, we get it, it all started with garage. We get that. You’ve told us a thousand times. I mean, we need to recognize the history; a documentary DOCUMENTS what happened. Recognize, appreciate, and move on. Don’t spend the whole time saying how big a deal So Solid Crew were, repeating the same stale stories over and over and over again (No offence to So Solid, they were great). Instead, look for the new, which leads me nicely to section two:

Find some new perspectives

I’d like to hear the tales of Grime lore told from a different voice; the kids from the ‘ends’ that grew up surrounded by this music in the early noughties, not JUST the MC’s and the DJ’s, and how it affected them, and where they are now with their lives. From people around the world that know about this style and how such a British culture has impacted them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to hear from the old guard, as it were: Logan Sama, BBK, Bizzle, Roll Deep; they’ve all been there from the start, I’m sure they all have stories to tell, and they’ve told many of them. So finding different eyes and ears is all part of painting the wider picture of grime, the national and international scope of such a London-centric genre.

Embrace the technology

Grime has evolved over the last decade in parallel with technology. These are artists that have embraced new mediums and technologies to further their successes. Advances in music production has given bedroom producers and MC’s the opportunity to make their own tracks within their own homes; the internet has provided hundreds of brand new methods of distribution and promotion. So embrace it! Use different technologies, explore how and why artists and consumers have used them so much, and maybe integrate these technologies into the film itself.

To see a bumbling middle class bloke like Moore or Theroux reporting out of the estates of E14 to highlight socio-economic inequalities and the consequent effect on music makes my stomach turn

Look forward, not just back

The future looks very positive for Grime, and whether the die hards like it or not, these guys are pushing into mainstream fame and success. Wiley’s just hit his first no. 1, Dizzee’s been killing it for years, Tinchy is going international. Even the underground scene is kicking off, with new MC’s and producers springing out from all corners of the globe and pushing the sound in different directions. Respect the roots, but look excitedly towards the future.

Take inspiration from elsewhere

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are a lot of documentaries about. All covering different topics, and all in different styles. So why couldn’t this one take a leaf out of Gimme Shelter’s book and use the fly on the wall, ‘rockumentary’ style reportage to capture the rise of Dizzee or Wiley? Or perhaps embrace Michael Moore’s one man righteous political and social fury? (I for one think this would be incredibly hard to pull off. To see a bumbling middle class bloke like Moore or Theroux reporting out of the estates of E14 to highlight socio-economic inequalities and the consequent effect on music makes my stomach turn... but with the right person, from the right angle it could be interesting. Hell, I’m not the one making the film! I’m just throwing the ideas out there!).

Another film worth looking at is The Art of Rap. This was a brilliant film, looking at the rise of US Hip Hop, from the perspectives of the rappers themselves. Ice T got out his big black book, phoned up a bunch of mates (who all happen to be Hip Hop royalty) and got them to chat about rap, where its come from and how they’ve embraced it, and also spit a few bars to the camera, freestyle. Now, whilst I don’t want to see a comparative grime documentary that just becomes a giant advert for SBTV, its a great concept that worked really well in this capacity. Essentially, don’t make it identical to all the other films about; we know where that’s got them. Throw an interesting angle on it.

The thing about Grime is that it is, and always will be, a very fresh sounding genre. It’s vital and alive and full of metropolitan evolution, and any film needs to document this to capture the heart of the sound. It’s tough, but it can be done. Are you brave enough?