Grime crew Roll Deep are playing a Vice Kills show in Brighton, UK tonight (like an hour from now) along with some sort of DJ battle between the Klaxons and CSS. Sounds English. We're taking the occasion to post our Gen F feature on Roll Deep from the current issue after the jump, so go read that and pick up their excellent Rules & Regulations wherever you can find it.
Roll Deep fights the good fight
By Sam Richards
Grime is at a crossroads in 2007. Its novelty faded, the scene’s progenitors Roll Deep are digging in for the long term. They remain resolute, even in the face of security fears that have seen grime acts blackballed from many of London’s venues, and the fact that after selling 70,000 copies of 2005’s In at the Deep End they were still dropped by their label. Producer Target points towards the chorus of their new single, “Celebrate:” Our album went silver, celebrate that. “We came from a scene no one had heard of—we made the scene—so to go on and sell records around the world is something to be proud of,” he says. Emcee Breeze adds, “We’re unique in British music, so we’re breaking barriers every day.” New recruit Skepta continues, “If we hadn’t opened up the doors, UK rappers would still be putting on American accents.” Riko finishes, “You’ve got to work two times as hard as an indie band—this country’s not set up to support British urban music.”
The upshot is that their new Rules & Regulations—an album that started life as a street-level mixtape—has solidified to become a fierce, full-scale release, albeit one funded by Roll Deep themselves. It also acts as a forceful riposte to those who criticized Roll Deep for courting the mainstream with pop dalliances like “Heartache [Avenue].” New song “Badman” reveals a proud community conscience while “Something New” and “Hickory Dickory Dock” find Target and Danny Weed pushing their dislocated crash and clang beats to the extreme. Meanwhile, the crew is determined to keep fighting the battle on all fronts, likening themselves to a Transformers robot that can split itself up into smaller units when required. “With a team the size of ours, we use it to our advantage,” says Skepta, who pushes membership up to 16. “We can do underground raves like Sidewinder at the same time as opening up for 50 Cent.”
One significant absence from the current campaign is Wiley—Roll Deep’s founder and grime’s Godfather—who announced his retirement from the game in February. “Grime is an energetic sound,” explains Skepta. “Wiley’s at an age where he should be on the calm side of things, making songs rather than out front on stage. But he hasn’t retired totally, same as Jay-Z.”
Roll Deep’s goal—to be accepted on the same level as US hip-hop acts, or even just callow British indie bands—is one they’re working every day to achieve. Musically, they don’t see any limitations. “Grime is the best music because it’s a combination of every music in the world, all compacted right down and then blown up so it explodes,” reckons Skepta. And if their sheer, bloody determination fails to light the mainstream fuse? “We’re musicians,” shrugs Riko. “We’ve been doing this for 15 years. Whether we’re signed or broke, we’re always going to be making music.”