In an otherwise unremarkable evening in the early 2000s, several men and women pour into a small room at the top of a council block in East London. These men and women, predominantly Londoners of Afro-Carribean origin, are seemingly drawn to this rooftop like bees to nectar. Some enter the room and do the rounds, emphatically greeting their peers, others slip in discreetly and take up their positions at the back or in the corners. They’re here for the music – that’s the nectar. 

This box room on top of a tower block in Stratford City, where the Olympic Park now stands is the site of Deja Vu FM – alongside Rinse FM one of the most important locations in the formation and crystallisation of Grime music. Over the course of the hour MCs and hangers on stream into this secret location responding to the call to arms being broadcasted over the London airways – in early Grime proximity was everything. By the end of the hour the room is filled with a Mercury Prize winner, an MBE holder, a convicted murderer, club promoters, a cameraman, several of the most influential artists Grime music’s history alongside numerous MCs that have since faded into obscurity. 

In the traditional telling of this story, the focus is for obvious reasons on two parties in particular, the Mercury Prize winner and the convicted murderer, Dizzee Rascal and Crazy Titch respectively. This is largely because the shoving match that they get into at the end of the hour happened to be captured by A Plus (the cameraman) and immortalised in DVD form. This combined with the musical back and forth that ensued in the following weeks so captured the imagination of London’s urban population – that Dizzee’s aggravated refrain ‘I’m not a Mook!’ is still relevant enough to be referenced in Skepta’s 2019 album – over 15 years later! However, here we’re not concerned with the 5 minutes of conflict at the end of the DVD but rather the questions that the whole hour raises about the early Grime scene. What motivated all of these people to answer the siren call of the radio station? Why were they willing to risk going to areas where their enemies were? How did it all work and who was making money? Why did so many of these events end in conflict? What changed? 

I’m going to try to answer some of these questions over the course of a few posts using a mixture of primary sources – including radio sets, song lyrics, books, street DVDs and publically available interviews with stakeholders within the scene. In general not many books have been written on Grime and those that have been do not really touch on the incentives underpinning the early scene. I believe that the incentive structure present at Grime’s inception created and shaped some of the features that make it such a unique and admittedly strange genre. This series is my attempt to better understand what exactly formed some of the distinguishing features of a genre that I love, this post will focus on how the scarcity of distribution (i.e. the lack of mainstream radio play and the limitations of Pirate Radio) shaped Grime culture.

Context – Emergence of an underground genre

To understand distribution scarcity in Grime we need to first understand the context from which it emerged. Grime is by definition an underground genre albeit one that has had moments where it has captured significant mainstream attention. Especially in the early 2000s, this meant that none of the music released had more than a remote chance of getting played on national radio, notwithstanding the breakout successes of More Fire Crew, Lethal B, Kano and Dizzee Rascal. While this post is not intended to be a history of Grime, it’s sonic roots have been significantly discussed elsewhere, some of the musical influences informing early grime are important to any meaningful discussion about the characteristics of the early scene. Sonically and culturally Grime can be seen as the result of various musical cultures and influences fusing:

 

  • UK Garage – From an instrumentation perspective Grime is a Genre that evolved out of Garage (an electronic music genre). The transition began in the early 2000s as a crop of Garage crews (most famously the Heartless Crew, the So Solid Crew and the Pay as You Go Cartel) began experimenting at the boundaries of the genre
    • Traditional UK Garage was light-hearted, euphoric, party music. It featured instrumentals that were light in tone and often contained vocal layering, it had a celebratory feel, the fanbase was DJ focused, and the MCs acted as hosts introducing the music, hyping the crowds and getting out of the way.
    • In the early 2000s there was a schism in Garage and crews above began to shift the the sonic template of the Genre. MCs, many of whom were refugees from the earlier Jungle scene) began to innovate incorporating increasingly complex rhymes and rhyme schemes into their sets. DJs began accommodating for this selecting more ‘open’ riddims (instrumentals) which provided room for MCs to perform uninterrupted by backing vocals. Producers began changing the tone of their instrumentals (though importantly preserving the speed) making it darker in a seeming bid to reflect the content that the MCs were rapping about – this shift in tone led to Grime (at this point an unnamed genre) sometimes being called Darker Garage.
    • To illustrate just how important the transition from Garage to early Grime was one can just look at the legacy of the Pay as You Go Cartel. While strictly speaking a Garage Crew, its members seeded many of the dominant Grime Crews in the early period spawning Special Delivery, Mucky Wolfpack and most importantly Roll Deep while being involved in East Connection and the Musketeers. Almost all of the early Grime artists came out of the Garage scene and most of them were acutely aware of the schism occurring, indeed Wiley’s first single ‘Wot U Call It’ (referring to the so far unnamed genre) is a comment on the split itself – In the song’s own words ‘I’ve heard they dont like me in Garage // Cos I used their scene to make our own sound’
  • Jungle
    • Many of the MCs and DJs that founded Grime in the transition era were former Jungle artists who had transitioned to Garage for a combination of reasons. These included the Garage’s rise in popularity in the late 90s, Jungle being a semi closed shop where the most popular artists kept newcomers away from the main stations and events, and lastly because Jungle itself began a sonic transition to Drum and Bass losing a lot of it’s more melodic aspects
    • These MCs entered the Garage scene with Jungle mindsets, meaning that they came with more complex rhymes and schemes as well as grittier content
    • It is in part the prevalence of these Jungle refugees that helped create the darker, grittier and more lyrically inclined subgenre of Garage that eventually evolved into Grime – one of the key features imported included prevalence of MCs rapping in Patois (Carribean Slang)
  • Dancehall – A high proportion of early Grime artists were of Carribean descent and consequently the influence of Dancehall and soundsystem culture permeates through the genre providing the blueprint for behaviours including
    • The prevalence of soundclashes – these are clearly imported from Dancehall events such as Sting
    • The importance of reloads (or forwards) – where the DJ restarts the song or instrumental to dissipate excitement / tension in the crowd
    • The idea of cutting multiple versions of the same song – where several different MCs would record vocals over the same instrumental making their own individual versions of the song which would then be sold via specialist record stores
      • In 2003 for example Wiley released 2 4-song EPs for the Ice Rink instrumental providing vocal mixes from 8 different artists (EP1 and EP2)
  • Hip Hop – though its influence is less direct than the other genres already mentioned, you can tell that the majority of Grime artists were Hip Hop listeners. And that, despite the tempo being faster – the lyrics, rhyming patterns, instrumentals and even the clothes the artists wore all provide clear evidence of Hip Hop’s influence. For example
    • Skepta’s legendary ‘Serious Thugs’ instrumental is a Grime remix of Hip Hop Group Bone Thugs n Harmony’s song  ‘Thuggish Ruggish Bone
    • In a Sidewinder Studio Set you can hear the Meridian Crew (JME and Skeptas’ initial crew) MCing over instrumentals from the Harlem Hip Hop group The Diplomats
    • There is even a Dizzee Rascal radio set where you can hear him mimic the flow of and interpolate lyrics from now deceased New Orleans rapper Soulja Slim’s song Soulja 4 Life – just compare this (Soulja Slim) with this (Dizzee Rascal)

 

What is most important when thinking about the spread of Grime, however, is its evolution from UK Garage and Jungle and it’s inheritance of these genres’ distribution methods. In the late 1990s to the early 2000s, Garage was a genre which straddled the underground and mainstream. The elements of it that evolved into Grime were largely on the underground side (i.e. less Craig David more So Solid Crew), and this meant that like Grime they had limited to no legal radio play whatsoever – it meant reliance on Pirate Radio.

Understanding Pirate Radio

Pirate Radio is perhaps the most important part of the Grime distribution puzzle. These illegal stations acted as the primary distribution channel for the music, and thus the music to an extent was shaped by their features and limitations. Pirate Radio stations were inferior to traditional ones in several ways:

  • The equipment was usually makeshift and thus low quality – reducing the clarity of the sound
  • They were limited in range and thus the core audiences were necessarily hyperlocal
  • The equipment was regularly taken down by the DTI a government body in charge of policing the airwaves
  • They were funded without advertising, but instead by the MCs and DJs themselves who paid subs for the right to be on air using the Pirate’s facilities
    • Radio stations would also make money through hosting events. Deja Vu FM for example had the Young Man Standing series of raves – these were often promoted on air by having a special Young Man Standing radio set featuring an all star cast of MCs, many of whom would be booked at the actual event in the evening
    • Deja Vu itself was at one point located inside Club EQ in Stratford and was operated by the club’s management.
  • It was impossible to measure the audience sizes on a Pirate
    • That being said, many stations did have a mobile phone number which was used a way of allowing audience interaction. While they were live, listeners would deliberately force a missed call to show their excitement as well as texting in encouragement, abuse and shoutouts to the artists 
  • Perhaps most importantly to Grime culture, Pirates were illegal meaning that disputes where handled in an ad hoc way
    • Power generally accrued to those with the most physical force behind them

However Pirates did present some advantages / unique innovations:

  • The programming was completely live and the DJ’s were able to mix freely leading to a much more club like atmosphere
  • There was little censorship
  • The geographic limitations of the broadcasting equipment necessarily created a local feel to the content – with the MCs and crews being local celebrities
  • The inability to gauge audience size unlocked more artistic freedom and experimentation – as well as encouraged more risk taking behaviours such as clashing

These factors all coalesced making the Pirates a hivebed for musical creativity, a petri dish for early Grime. What the features of this distribution channel did to the culture of the genre and behaviour of the participants, however, is a whole different story. 

While the Pirates were geographically limited in scope, they were still the only musical outlet for aspiring underground musicians across the UK’s ‘Urban’ areas. Thus there was always a queue of people waiting to take your slot on the radio station if you weren’t there. This was the era just before illegal music piracy became mainstream, before streaming services allowed an artist to publish a song and have it available everywhere, before social media was a viable method of attracting or informing fans. Thus the artists turned to the only outlets they had, their hyper local radio stations and even paid for the privilege to do so.

Having a slot on a popular Pirate was the lifeblood of a successful Grime artist’s career. Despite having to pay money to be there, it was the only advertising channel available to an artist and unlocked the limited economic opportunities that were in Grime (namely show bookings and vinyl sales) therefore the various artists were willing to do so (or try to sneak in without paying). Pirates were the predominant means of marketing for the artists, both to consumers and to show bookers. 

The strength of the desire to be on a Pirate is illustrated in the song ‘1999’ by Grime crew Ruff Sqwad – in which Shifty Rydoz mentions paying £5 each time he went to Heat FM in the year 2000. On the surface this seems like a run of the mill anecdote, but there are several factors that make it remarkable. Firstly, assuming Shifty is the same age as crewmate Tinchy Stryder, this means that he would have been 12-13 in 2000. Secondly, assuming he had 1 radio slot per week, that equates to £260 in subs a year for that station alone. Thirdly, getting to the radio was not easy, Heat was in Tottenham (North London) and the Ruff Sqwad members lived in Bow (East London) a 50+ minute commute away. Assuming £2 a week on travel (London buses weren’t free for under 16s until 2005) he would have spent ~£100 a year just to get there. Lastly, it was materially dangerous, being ‘caught slipping’ in deprived parts of London that you were not from. MCs ran a real risk of being robbed or worse on their way to and from the stations – Heat FM specifically has been described as a ‘death trap’ as there was only one bus route in and out of the area. The fact that 12-13 year old aspiring musicians were willing to spend £350+ a year, to cross London and in a real sense to risk their safety to be on Pirates illustrates just how core it was to unlocking the opportunities in the scene.

Grime artists were clearly at a minimum subconsciously aware of this and there are a number of behaviours and tactics they adopted to maximise the amount of radio time they had as well as its marketing impact. If you listen to old Grime radio sets the telltale signs are everywhere, with tactics employed including:

  • Forming crews
  • Set crashing
  • Fighting over the microphone
  • ‘Warring’

I’m going to try to unpack the underlying logic behind these various tactics below.

Forming Crews

In the early era of Grime almost all of the artists were part of a crew, given that at present most of the active artists are crewless, it’s clear that something about the structure of the scene changed making crews obsolete.

The most obvious reason for the existence of crews was maximising attention from any given slot on the radio. You may not have heard of Trim but you might be a massive fan of Wiley so in the end you tune in to the Roll Deep set and end up leaving a fan of both. If Trim had been on his own you may not have listened at all. Now couple this with the fact that many of the artists had individual fanbases and followings from before they joined their crews and it’s clear that crews were an obvious way for artists to cross pollinate each other’s fanbases. Grime artists were essentially bundling together several different styles to give their radio slots the maximum appeal.

This, however, does not on its own explain why crews have all but disappeared, as there is nothing to suggest that the cross pollination effect of crews should no longer persist. What, however, has changed is the fact that consumers now have an unprecedented amount of choice in what they can listen to. This combined with the reality that artists now have global reach thanks to the internet eliminates the scarcity of audiences that necessitated crews. In 2004 if you wanted to listen to Trim, you could try to buy a dubplate (a vinyl record) from a specialty record store (if you were lucky enough to live close enough to one) or you could tune into the Roll Deep Show on Rinse FM and hope he was on, and that would only work if you were close enough to East London to tune in to Rinse. Nowadays you can listen to Trim’s whole catalogue on Spotify whenever and wherever you want to – no more need to try to catch him plus whoever he happens to be with on a Pirate.

From Trim’s perspective his reach is also far wider than in 2004. With the internet Trim is able to amass and reach an international fanbase without the approval of a major record label or the need for mainstream radio play. In 2019 Trim can reach all of the people who might like his music on his own. There is no need for Trim to piggyback on Wiley’s popularity to reach new fans (or vice versa), not with the ability to reach every possible Trim fan worldwide. Hence the internet killed the Grime crew.

It must be noted that crews served other purposes, for example they also provided protection both physically (in the case of set crashings and violence) and figuratively (in lyrical warfare) – there’s safety in numbers. Trim from Roll Deep famously left the crew claiming that a fellow member failed to back him during a physical altercation – the crew no longer served its purpose so there was no need to remain in it. However, the key takeaway here is that crews were largely a marketing device used by artists to amplify their reach in an era of limited distribution.

Set crashing

Different DJs and crews had ownership of certain time slots in a Pirate Radio station’s programming (the legendary Nasty Crew, for example, held the Monday 8-10pm slot on Deja Vu FM). Consequently, MCs who were not invited to a particular time slot would often turn up to the radio during another group’s set and force their way onto the microphone, through any combination of clout, fear and friendship. In a 2016 interview early Grime MC Stamina Boy’s cavalier explanation of how he used to crash sets demonstrates how just normalised it was – You could be out doing whatever… you turn the radio on… [and realise someones] on Deja Vu… you [would then] just roll [and] jump on the set’. When talking about the motivations for doing this he says, ‘When I had my proper following… that’s what it developed from, the crashing of sets’. These were artists who were just trying to be heard – so they could sell their music or get booked. 

From the listener’s perspective set crashing was amazing. Every set was a variety show of sorts. You would have the staple crew who you had tuned in to listen to, plus the added mystery of who else would turn up, both invited or uninvited guests. This kept sets from getting stale and kept people tuning in to hear novel combinations of artists going back to back. Tuning in and hearing all of your favourites together was a real possibility despite them not being in the same crews. Moreover, given the competitive dynamics of Grime, set crashing opened up the possibility of spontaneous clashes emerging, where a ‘warring’ MC would turn up to another’s set unannounced to clash them. Examples of this involve Trim turning up to former crew mate Flowdan’s set and clashing him in January 2008 (after being called out on air for the best part of 40 mins) as well as Wiley doing the same to Trim almost 2 years later. With occurrences like these, the listener really had an incentive to tune in to the radio – you didn’t want to miss a thing.

The prevalence of set crashing made being part of a crew all the more important. This is another reason why almost all of the artists were part of crews – there was safety in numbers both when you’re crashing a set and when your set is being crashed. A famous example of a hijacking gone wrong is when the Musketeers, a lesser known crew attempted to force their way onto an East Connection Set on Deja Vu Fm – the end result of this attempt was a set of broken DJ decks, 2 bricks in the East Connection DJ’s car window and most damningly the entire Grime scene being banned from the Pirate Radio station.

Set crashing was a key way for an artist to be everywhere and being everywhere meant more sales and more bookings. Instead of being on the radio for 2 hours a week you could be on as long as the radio was on, and with no recourse to law enforcement this tool turned into a free for all. In the long run Grime artists’ incentives to set crash were unsustainable and did damage to the scene as a whole despite helping the individual perpetrators. 

In 2003 for example, MCs got banned from Rinse FM for regularly turning up in droves. In a 2014 interview DJ Geneeus, one of Rinse’s founders stated “The MCs just kept turning up. I’d arrive and there’d be 20 people in there. I knew we’d either get caught or someone was going to do something bad to someone else.” This was surprisingly prescient as just a few weeks later the fight between Crazy Titch and Dizzee Rascal mentioned earlier erupted on the rooftop at Deja Vu FM. According to Sharky Major, he and Titch were sitting at home listening to Deja Vu, heard what sounded like an interesting set and immediately headed over to Stratford to participate, at the time Titch had just come out of jail and wanted to build his name. In 2007, MCs were banned from Rinse again for similar reasons, one rumored incident preceding this second ban involved DJ Spooky of the Slew Dem Crew kicking down the door of the station in a bid to gain entry after having been denied it.

Set crashing as a behaviour, though perfectly rational, ultimately destroyed Grime Artists’ core marketing channel at the time. What is particularly tragic is that Pirate Radio being the core route to market, was the very reason why Grime artists were incentivised to ruin it. Set crashing as a phenomenon is a very interesting case of the tragedy of the commons – individuals acting in their own interests essentially destroyed the utility of radio for their entire class of users. This loss of radio access, first Deja Vu then Rinse, was one of the key factors contributing to the rapid decline of Grime from prominence in the late 2000s. 

Fighting over the microphone

This dynamic is most obvious in the few videos there are of the early scene – as MCs are performing you can often see more than 3 hands grasping at the microphone, with some even securing a light hold on it in an attempt to ensure that it goes to them next. In the first Young Man Standing all-star set you can hear the whole room shouting at Big Narstie for holding onto the mic for 3 entire minutes and vowing to not pass him the mic again – less than 10 minutes later you hear Narstie again microphone in hand (albeit for a much shorter length of time). The purpose of all this jockeying for the mic is summarised so clearly by an exasperated Remerdee (a member of Essentials a lesser known crew from South East London) over an hour later, who, after winning a tug of war over the microphone exclaims, “It’s not fair! Nah nah nah! We need to spit now blood! You lot are big already! You lot are big already! You’re big already! Let us spit! Let us spit! Let the new ones spit!” before launching into a flurry of lyrics.

Being on the radio was the route out of invisibility for these artists, it was how they sold their vinyls, got booked for shows and maybe even an album deal. Therefore to an MC – not much could be worse than crossing London, going through areas that are dangerous to you, paying subs and getting within reach of the microphone that could make you famous but then failing to perform. That being said, surprisingly few of these tug of wars resulted in any escalation of conflict but when they did they could be explosive. The incident captured in the DVD mentioned at the start ostensibly was caused by Crazy Titch refusing to pass Dizzee Rascal the microphone on time and Dizzee Rascal pushing him as a result.

Warring

‘Warring’ can be broken down into 2 main activities ‘sending’ and its cousin ‘clashing’. These represent 2 sides of the same coin and both remain a prominent feature of the Grime scene.

‘Sending’ or ‘Slewing’ is the process of calling someone out (usually another musician) or insulting someone. In this instance I am using it to refer to the act of doing it to someone who isn’t present and thus cannot respond in real time – though in reality a lot of the terms blend into one another. Sends are normally delivered live over the radio or as a recorded song (often called a war dub). 

Clashes, on the other hand, are not dissimilar to a rap battles. As opposed to sending, for a clash to occur both parties need to be present. They then proceed to perform lyrics aimed at each other back to back essentially in a bid to outclass the other performer – in most cases it is difficult to tell who actually won. Clashes often came after multiple instances of both sides sending for each other, ostensibly serving as a way of deciding who is better. That being said, several notable clashes have happened spontaneously (e.g. the Ghetto vs Nappa clash in first Young Man Standing radio set) while others occurred solely for sport (this is the premise of the Lord of the Mics series).

While competitive outlets exist in other genres such as rap (which has a rich history of diss tracks and battles), what is remarkable about the early Grime scene is the sheer frequency of wars. The artists were at war so often and with so many people that it has to be concluded that more often than not they were artificially looking for conflict. Examples of ridiculous pretexts for wars include:

    • Wiley vs. Dirty Doogz over Wiley ‘using/stealing’ the word ‘again’
    • Wiley vs. Lethal B over Wiley ‘using/stealing’ the word ‘roads’
    • Various MCs calling each other untalented (in less polite words) with little to no provocation
    • Wiley vs. the entire Movement Crew apparently because they didn’t let him join

Moreover the prevalence of crews increased the surface area of these conflicts. Often MCs uninvolved in the root war entered the fray on behalf of their crew mates leading to wider scale inter-crew battles.

This is not to say that all conflict in Grime was unserious or manufactured. Despite the incident that precipitated the ‘War’ being trivial, the actions of the warring parties would at times escalate tensions to the point of violence. There are enough reports of people getting stabbed, beaten up, dangled off buildings and shot at over war to give one pause.

It is hard to overstate how much ‘war’ was a feature of Grime sets from the early era. The combination of sending and clashing served 2 purposes for the participants. The former, by not requiring one’s target’s physical presence was possible to do constantly, especially given Pirate Radio’s lack of censorship. This combined with the fact that conflict and drama are huge drivers of engagement (just see Donald Trump’s Twitter feed for proof) essentially turned Grime radio into Eastenders. The artists were fully complicit in this – in a 2016 interview founding member of Nasty Crew Sharky Major states that Wiley had made it known (amongst the MCs) that he was trying to make the scene more interesting for the listeners through lyrical conflict and he was more than willing to instigate conflict with or without the consent of his opponents (though he would often phone them post-instigation to inform them that it wasn’t personal). As stated in Wiley’s own lyrics he was ‘looking for the top boys in every crew’.

MCs sent frequently, reacting to the most minor infractions and colluding to manufacture ‘wars’, because in this era all publicity was good publicity. Less known MCs would often ‘send’ for more prominent MCs, the ‘Top Boys’, to try to earn a response from them and boost their profile. Sharky Major, for example recalls Ghetts (formerly Ghetto) calling him from jail in 2003 asking who he needed to send for upon release to get his name bigger – it apparently worked because by to 2007 after wars with Flirta D, Wiley and Skepta he was indisputably one of the biggest artists in the scene and had released 2 albums. 

Sending involved MCs going to the Pirate station to call people donuts, snitches and much worse, to insult their target’s friends and family and to broadcast malicious rumours about their opponent. At its best all of this was done with remarkable inventivity, wit and using the medium of music and rhyme. In this era the MCs were extremely productive and would ostensibly spend every minute they weren’t on the mic coming up with new ways to assassinate their chosen enemy’s character.They had to because they could be sure that their opponent was at home doing the same. What, however, added even more electricity to the music emanating from these seemingly petty conflicts was how dangerous it could be. While the starting point of the conflict was often trivial, a lot of the lyrics used were not and it was not uncommon for the act of war to create actual animosity between MCs. This angst combined with both the lack of legal recourse available and the fact that an MC’s opponent knew exactly where they were broadcasting the slander from added a palpable risk to the act. Sending was not boring to tune into because there was a real sense of risk – artists were essentially trading their safety for notoriety. Something that Wiley found out when he got assaulted live on Rinse FM in 2006 having spent the best part of an hour slandering God Gift over the airwaves

Clashing meanwhile created some of the most memorable moments in Grime. It is many of these moments that were taped live and recirculated widely enough that they are still making their way onto the internet to this day more than a decade later. If sending is the trash talking before a boxing match, clashing is the fight itself. An analogy proven out in the very existence of the Lord of the Mics DVD (LOTM) series. You can view LOTM as a pay per view Grime event that has lifted its monetisation model from boxing, the artists even do promo runs before the DVD release to try and generate buzz for their clashes.

Grime artists and promoters were acutely aware of the draw of clashes and consequently held several of them at raves instead of on the radio. The artists essentially would send to promote the clash and then have the clash at a show to ensure it sold out and provide additional entertainment on the night. They were clearly monetising their conflict. For example, one of the first Grime clashes, Wiley vs Dirty Goodz occurred at Wiley’s first Eskimodance rave in 2002 after weeks of buildup on the radio. Thankfully this clash was recorded and widely distributed on a tapepack, but there are countless others that occured in clubs and radio sets across the 2000s that are completely lost to history. Perhaps this last point is why MCs were so willing to clash, there were limited long term consequences for losing unless you happened to be recorded. 

Rounding up

Over the course of this post we’ve seen that many of the features that differentiate Grime did not come into being randomly. Instead they are a result of the early scene’s incentive structure, which was largely shaped by the dominance of Pirate Radio. This reliance on a few Radio stations created scarcity and this scarcity created a form of hypercompetition for both space on the Pirates and publicity from each radio set as artists tried to generate the attention needed to unlock monetary opportunities. This meant that not only were they incentivised to pay for the privilege of being on the radio but they were willing to do much more. From engaging in several manufactured ‘lyrical wars’ simultaneously, to crossing London to hijack radio sets in hostile areas, to forming crews for a mixture of mutual promotion and self-defence, Grime in its nascent faze was the product of its environment. Its environment was Pirate Radio and Pirate Radio was scarce.

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