Grime War…Beef In The UK Rap Scene And Beyond (@DrLeeSalter)

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Beef In The UK Rap Scene

At the begin­ning of 2015 the rap­per, Chip, released a diss of Manchester Grime rap­per, Bug­zy Malone. Chip is best known as a suc­cess­ful “pop-rap­per”, and had recently attemp­ted to move back into grime. On “Pep­per Rid­dim” he calls out Bug­zy at the out­set, in the first instance as a reply to Bugzy’s set on 1Xtra Fire in the Booth, in which he dissed Chip.

Chip makes an attempt to lay claim to his status as a grime artist, whil­st ques­tion­ing Bugsy’s know­ledge and align­ments with oth­er rap­pers – namely Dev­il­man, Saskil­la, and Narstie.

Chip notes he’s taken 4 rap­pers down in just over thirty seconds and then moves back to Bug­zy. He minds Bug­zy that he gets paid to walk around Manchester, not­ing his fame. He then says that he may have done pop, but he made more money from that than Bug­zy did drug deal­ing, before deliv­er­ing the “cas­ket line” – that Bugzy’s “girl” still loves dan­cing to his harder songs. He then moves to ques­tion Bugzy’s claim to being a gang­ster. This theme envel­ops the diss – begin­ning with “turn into the Dev­il” – a claim Bug­zy makes about him­self when he loses his tem­per. For Chip it has a double-mean­ing. On one hand he’s not scared (“shook”, a ref­er­ence to Mobb Deep’s infam­ous “Shook Ones Pt 2”), and on the oth­er it serves as a link to a barbed ref­er­ence to Dev­il­man, who’s said to have influ­enced Bug­zy.

Bug­zy hits back with “Releg­a­tion Rid­dim”, a dir­ect and force­ful retali­ation. Buszy enforces his claim to be the Head­mas­ter of the School of Grime (a ref­er­ence to Chip’s earli­er tune). Bug­zy calls Chip out in three counts: that he’s a com­mer­cial artist who lacks skills appro­pri­ate to being an MC, that he may be suc­cess­fully com­mer­cially, but Bug­zy holds the streets – and thereby he poses a dir­ect threat to Chip’s safety, and that his time has passed.

Of the oth­er rap­pers Chip calls out, Dev­il­man hits back with “Chip­monk Reply”, in which he also calls out Skep­ta, with whom Chip had com­pared him unfa­vour­ably. Skep­ta replies with “Dirty” in which he accuses Dev­il­man of being a snitch, again­st which Dev­il­man retali­ates dir­ectly with “Skep­ta Diss”, where­in he sug­gests Skep­ta is too far away from the scene (due to him being a com­mer­cial suc­cess – a ref­er­ence to which is made in Skepta’s own song “I’m up here sit­ting in a plane”) to know that the “inform­ing alleg­a­tion” has been sor­ted.

Where­as Dev­il­man is simply com­pared with Skep­ta, Chip says Saskil­la is “up Tinie Tempah’s arse”. Chip thinks that Tinie had dissed him in his own Fire in the Booth. Tinie denies this. Nev­er­the­less, Chip’s claim that Saskil­la is liv­ing in the anal shad­ow of Tinie leads Sas, like Bug­zy, to make threats from the street as well as from the music scene.

Chip dir­ectly attacks Narstie (“none of my tings want Big Ol’ Narstie…”) for com­ments on the ori­gins of grime and makes it very per­son­al. Narstie talks rather than raps back, belittling Chip, which Bug­zy refers to (“got bur­ied of Tinie, bur­ied off Narstie”). But almost as rein­force­ment, Sas speaks out for Narstie (“he should shit in your mouth”) in his tirade again­st Chip.

One of the unin­ten­ded con­sequences of Chip’s ini­tial record­ing is that it was done with Jam­mer (the first per­son Bug­zy calls out “okay Jam­mer”) in the stu­dio. This led both Bug­zy and Dev­il­man to cri­ti­cise Jam­mer. Jam­mer then speaks out in 1Xtra to say that he’d arrived at the stu­dio to deliv­er the jack­ets whil­st Chip was record­ing, mak­ing his pres­ence incid­ent­al. The incid­ent could prove sig­ni­fic­ant as Jam­mer is seen to be sid­ing with Chip. Bug­zy ref­er­ences Jammer’s con­cern about his own situ­ation by telling us that he’d received a call from Jam­mer to ask if this battle was just music or if it would hit the streets.

Bey­ond

The pro­duced video tries to cap­ture this situ­ation as hon­estly as pos­sible, without adding to what the rap­pers say. It began with me one night cut­ting up Chip’s song, as it was the first inter­ven­tion, and because he takes on so many oth­er rap­pers, it is best placed to be inter­woven with oth­er raps. Then each of the oth­er songs is cut so that each claim can be met with coun­ter-claim.

This approach is essen­tially how I do act­iv­ist doc­u­ment­ar­ies, and fea­ture docs – to be led only by what is said by the prot­ag­on­ists, with no fur­ther explan­a­tion, and try­ing as hard as pos­sible to ensure that the chro­no­logy is kept.

All edits are made with these prin­ciples in mind – it has to be cut only from the songs and images from the battles, and it has to be as close as pos­sible to the “nar­rat­ive” of the tun­es. Where this has not been pos­sible – some­times because of the music, some­times because of what’s said, then I have rearranged, but I’ve kept this to a min­im­um. Some­times seg­ments are longer than I’d have liked, such as Skepta’s. The reas­on for its length, though, is because he begins with a ref­er­ence to Chip and then ends with the most sig­ni­fic­ant ref­er­ence to Dev­il­man – that he “snitched on some ser­i­ous cases”, which I then cut with Devilman’s reply.

Whil­st there is a tempta­tion to use effects, to add or change the music and imagery, this has been avoided as much as pos­sible to ensure the film is as true to the actu­al events as pos­sible. So, for example, the Skep­ta video I’ve used is rather plain and inact­ive, but this is what Skep­ta put out (or at least is what has been put out for Skep­ta), so it must be used.

The use of mocked up news­pa­pers and magazines was driv­en largely by the Skep­ta video – there’s simply not enough move­ment to make it inter­est­ing, and given the length of it, some­thing had to be done. A decision was made to flip pages mid­way in part so as to break it up a little.

The oth­er reas­on to use such means was so they could carry the lyr­ics for those inter­ested in what’s being said. Filling empty spaces is always a chal­lenge – try­ing to do some­thing that’s not a cliché, that’s not drawn from oth­er sources, and that’s not pat­ron­ising or unfunny.

Thus, most of the graph­ics are taken from the videos, and the quotes are all taken from the songs or from state­ments made by the artists involved, about the beef. The only mater­i­al any­where that is drawn from out­side is the ref­er­ences to young black people killed by the state – here, Joy Gard­ner, Steph­en Lawrence and Mark Dug­gan. I hope these lat­ter state­ments don’t come across as pat­ron­ising. They are in no way inten­ded as a cri­tique of the sub­ject mat­ter of the beef, simply a remind­er that at the end of the day, all these rap­pers face the same beef from the polit­ic­al and eco­nom­ic sys­tem through which they are mar­gin­al­ised.

By Lee Salti­er @DrLeeSalter

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Gata Malandra

Gata Malandra

Edit­or / Research­er at No Bounds
Gata is a music and arts lov­er, stud­ied anthro­po­logy, art man­age­ment and media pro­duc­tion ded­ic­at­ing most of her time to cre­at­ive pro­jects pro­duced by No Bounds.
Gata Malandra

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About Gata Malandra

Gata Malandra
Gata is a music and arts lover, studied anthropology, art management and media production dedicating most of her time to creative projects produced by No Bounds.

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