These 7 Women Are Pushing Grime Forward

DJs like Julie Adenuga, Alia Loren, and A.G bring crucial new perspectives to the genre.

These 7 Women Are Pushing Grime Forward Alia Loren by Jovon Lennon/Julie Adenuga courtesy of PR/A.G by Alex Zalewska

Sian Anderson is a BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ and freelance writer. In her column Grime Time, she looks at the stories behind the headlines in grime.

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The future of grime is being spearheaded by women. While the genre’s MCs and producers has always been overwhelmingly male—save a few trailblazing MCs like NoLay and Shystie—in 2016, the same isn’t true of the gatekeepers and selectors of the genre.

Grime shows today feature more diverse voices than ever, with online platforms like NTS and Radar Radio providing a creative, inclusive space for DJs that’s reminiscent of the pirate radio scene of the early ‘00s. In this new environment, more and more female presenters and DJs have been championing grime music and artists, giving their perspective on a well-loved art form that’s growing stronger by the day. Whether on national, online, or pirate radio, the following ladies rep authentic grime on their shows—so if you want to be schooled on the genre, tune in.

1. Julie Adenuga

New Website GangGang 📸 > @oliviarosegarden www.JulieAdenuga.com ❤️

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As someone who was born into a household that had a recording studio as a front room—for her MC siblings, Skepta and JME—grime was always the air that Julie Adenuga lived and breathed. “I never really decided that a grime show was going to be a part of my life. I just wanted to play music, and Rinse FM let me do that,” she tells me over email, of her first opportunity to be a presenter. [Full disclosure: Adenuga and I started out on radio together, co-hosting the show Mewzikbox on Rinse in 2010.]

Last year, Adenuga left her slot as the drivetime presenter on Rinse FM to become the U.K. anchor for Beats 1. On the global show, Julie plays all genres—including grime, which for years has been underrepresented on mainstream radio. “I just play it,” says Adenuga. “I don’t try to take on the role of spoon-feeding it to people steadily and gently so I don’t scare them. No one explains rock music before they play it, or drum’n’bass.”

As a presenter, every interview Adenuga does with a grime artist shows how close the genre is to her heart; and she reps the culture constantly beyond radio. “It’s about me celebrating what I care about, in any format,” she reflects. “Whether that be a radio show or an event or a TV show.” And she always stays down to earth, insisting that Dizzee Rascal telling her he liked her tinted prescription glasses is the highlight of her career. Coming from someone who’s been called a superstar by Dr. Dre, that’s a powerful message.

Hear Adenuga on Beats 1 every Monday—Thursday at 3 p.m. EST. Apple Music subscribers can follow her on Connect.




2. Madam X

👚@trm.toromai 📷 @lilbamb_

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DJ and label boss Madam X has been an advocate for MCs based outside of London for the past seven years. She grew up in the southern English town of Milton Keynes with Greek parents, but it was while at university in northern cultural hub Manchester that she discovered grime—and not just grime, but local artists’ distinct take on on the London-born genre. “We have such a massive roster of talented rappers and producers in Manchester,” she explains. “When they make grime, their 140 BPM interpretations come from Manchester’s musical history, which creates a totally different energy.”

Recently, NTS Radio have branched out of London with their Manchester studio, and in the process gave a regular slot to Madam X and her label Kaizen. The newborn imprint hasn’t released any grime so far, but the Kaizen radio show on NTS reps it hard, featuring local MCs such as Skittles, Fox, Black Josh, and Trigga. “The radio show flirts between percussive techno, bass, and grime...there’s definitely a subconscious Manchester energy within it.” Lock in.

Madam X is on NTS one Sunday a month. Listen to her latest show here.




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3. A.G

Alexzalewska.com 💞

A photo posted by A.G THE DJ. (@ayy_g) on

"Grime has always been a consistent source of joy and energy for me,” East London-born DJ A.G tells me over Twitter DM. After starting her DJ career with a show on pirate station Urban FM six years ago, A.G moved around the pirate radio scene, first taking up a show on Muzik Radio—a predominantly reggae station—then moving over to Mode FM, a grime haven, for her mix show. “It was, and still is, important to me to actually DJ, because it’s an art form.”

After the milestone of hosting her first show on Rinse FM at the beginning of 2016, A.G announced her residency on NTS Radio, where she’s already mixed sets for some of the most promising grime artists of 2016, such as young London MCs like Shizz McNaughty and Mic Ty. With a set coming up at Croatian festival Outlook, she’s focusing on the future: “My dream set would have to be with Wiley—but I’d settle for an unblock on Twitter, can we sort that out please? I didn’t do anything I swear.”

A.G is on NTS every other Thursday at 10 p.m. GMT. Listen to her latest show here.




“I see a lot of culture vultures in the industry. I want to be a DJ that listeners and supporters can look at and say, ‘She knows what she’s talking about.’” —Alia Loren
4. Alia Loren

"N O V with the bigger man sound". 📷: @blaowphotography

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Raised near to London in the British county of Essex, Alia Loren discovered her love for grime during her first year of college. “I’d listen to bars about pain, struggle and poverty,” she remembers, speaking via phone. “And I’d think, ‘If you’ve struggled and pushed yourself to get your voice heard, then I can do the same.’” Loren started to champion grime shortly after, landing a presenting slot on south London station Reprezent Radio—the U.K’s only radio station hosted entirely by under 25s—in 2015. But it wasn’t easy. “My parents didn’t understand,” she says. “I was brought up in a strict Muslim background, so a lot of the content that’s spoken about in grime...they wouldn’t approve of. Even being a female constantly around males is something they wouldn’t allow.”

After finding her feet on Reprezent, Loren moved over to new online station Radar Radio, and quickly established her weekly slot as the go-to-show for grime. At 22, she already has a clear idea what she wants to bring to the table. “I see a lot of culture vultures in the industry who leech onto [grime] and don’t care about the artist’s progression, or just want to feed off of the established MCs and disregard a lot of [new] talent that is in the scene. I want to be a [DJ] that listeners and supporters can look at and say, ‘She knows what she’s talking about.’”

Loren is on Radar every Tuesday at 2 p.m. GMT. Listen to her latest show here.




5. Flava D

DJ and producer Flava D grew up between seaside town Bournemouth and industrial city Birmingham—both places over 100 miles away from where grime originated in London. But, through a U.K. garage-loving auntie, she discovered pirate radio, and subsequently grime. “The very first tune I think I heard...was Southside Allstars’ ‘Southside Riddim,’” she remembers over email. “This was around the time I got my first copy of Ableton, and was learning how to make a standard drum loop as a producer.” It was when she started experimenting with grimier beats that she caught the ear of the godfather of grime, Wiley, who signed her to his imprint Eskibeat Recordings in 2009. She later moved on to respected grime label Butterz in 2012.

But as well as being a producer, Flava has built an international reputation for herself by DJing across London, America, and Canada. This year, she started bringing her flavor to Kiss Fresh—the beats-focused sister station of the U.K.’s bubblegum pop station Kiss—in a show she describes as “bassline orientated,” spinning the best in house, garage, and grime.

Flava D is on Kiss Fresh every Thursday at 11 p.m. GMT. Listen to her latest show here.




“There’s so many talented artists being slept on, and we have the power to get them played.” —Rebecca Judd
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6. Rebecca Judd

FRIDAY VYBZZZZZ & THAT! FOR THE FINAL TIME THIS WEEK JOIN ME! - @thisiswestside TILL 7PM 📻🚨

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At 21, Rebecca Judd is relatively new to grime, first being enticed by Chipmunk mixtapes and music videos such as grime collective Nu Brand Flexxx’s “Gash By Da Hour” back in 2006. Beginning her radio career at London hip-hop station Westside Radio, Judd held a rap and R&B show, up until 2015, when she co-hosted a one-off grime special. “From that moment the station management saw the potential a grime show could have on the station,” Judd tells me over email. Now, she hosts a specialist show on the genre for Westside, as well as running monthly live grime event The Den with Boy Better Know artist Frisco. As a presenter, Judd has a unique ability to tell grime’s story with accuracy and humor. “The scene is growing so fast as we speak,” she reflects, “It’s important we keep up, especially because there’s so many talented artists being slept on, and we have the power to get them played.”

Judd is on Westside every Wednesday at 10 p.m. GMT. Listen to her latest show here.




7. DJ Barely Legal

📷: @vickygrout 💕💕💕

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DJ Barely Legal has spent years repping grime across the world from a box behind the decks. “I’m 5”1’; part of my spec rider when I DJ is a box,” she tells me sincerely over email. Coming from Birmingham, home of MCs such as Devilman, Lady Leshurr, and Stay Fresh Crew, there’s always been plenty of grime and U.K. rap locally for Barely Legal to support. As a DJ, she started out on Rinse FM, guesting with Scratcha DVA, formerly the long-serving breakfast presenter, before taking on a weekly show on internet-based station Nasty FM.

But her first real break came in 2011, when she entered a competition for well-established BBC Radio 1 DJ Mistajam, to win the opportunity to have her mix played in the 1500 Seconds of Fame slot on his show. “Mistajam had emphasised the lack of women on his show and was encouraging more ladies to step up and submit mixes.” Barely Legal’s mix won, and made her the first woman to guest with a 1500 Seconds of Fame slot. She went on to be a resident DJ on the show in 2013, catching the attention of Wiley. “I had Wiley, God's Gift, Riko Dan, and Scratchy vocal one of my 1Xtra mixes a while back—that's a dream collective of MCs for me,” she remembers. Now, with her residency on MistaJam’s 60 Minute Mix on 1Xtra, you can catch Barely Legal bi-weekly spinning jungle, hip-hop, bashment, and, of course, grime.

Barely Legal is on Mistajam's show on 1Xtra every other week. Listen to her latest mix here.

These 7 Women Are Pushing Grime Forward