Wiley and Stormzy kicked off 2020 with the most closely watched grime beef in ages. Wiley's "Eediyat Skengman" and Stormzy's "Disappointed" tracks have got fans reminiscing about the halcyon days of grime, when it was lyrical competition was fierce, provocative, and often over-the-line insulting.
One of the reasons Wiley is known as the Godfather of Grime is his hair-trigger attitude towards beef: he'll start it anytime, anywhere, with anyone, blurring the line between a traditional MC clash and all-out war. Sometimes it will lead to great sparring through music and eventual reconciliation, but often it will destroy once-promising creative relationships.
Wiley's conflicts have only increased in volume and intensity since the advent of social media, and they divide fans. To some, he's an entertaining shit-starter, a talent staying true to the spirit of the genre. To others, it distracts from his prolific output of music. Assembled here is The FADER's best attempt at a comprehensive guide to Wiley's various grime beefs, collected with some of the tunes that came along with them.
Wiley’s return to big-time beef can all be traced back to Ed Sheeran. Believe it or not, Sheeran cut his teeth on the U.K. scene by collaborating with grime MCs including JME, Ghetts, and, yes, Wiley. However, Wiley has subsequently decided that Sheeran is piggy-backing off grime whenever he returns to that world, as he did on his recent Stormzy collabs. Sheeran put out an open letter defending his street cred in 2019.
Which brings us onto Stormzy. He and Wiley clashed in January, trading a pair of diss tracks each and begging the unlikely question: Is Wiley’s mum really living in Cyprus against her will? Stormzy was dragged into the beef on New Year’s Day when he tweeted Wiley and called him “annoying” after he took a shot at Sheeran.
Another feud harkening back to grime’s early days. The origins of the beef are murky and have been debated in forum posts dating back 11 years. One theory puts Dot Rotten on Wiley’s label Eskiboy Recordings in the early 00s; in this version of events, Dot was unhappy with how Wiley was using his beats, left Eskiboy, and recorded “Wiley Can’t Diss Hoodstars,” the first in a slew of sends. The back-and-forth was resuscitated last year when Rotten claimed Coventry rapper Jay1 didn’t pay him for production work, according to Reddit. Rotten then challenged the entire grime scene to a clash — Wiley took him up, and Rotten, apparently on one, then dropped nine Wiley disses in rapid succession. Wiley responded with “Curiosity Killed The Cat” and “Disrespect,” but the beef took a back seat as the Stormzy battle began to brew.
Wiley mentored Dizzee Rascal before he exploded with Boy in da Corner, and their stars seemed set to rise together. However, in 2003 Rascal was nearly stabbed to death in Aiya Napa, and held Wiley responsible. Since then, their only public conversations have come in the form of diss tracks like “Pussyole,” “Reply To Dizzee” (above), “Helping People Out,” and “Flip The Table.” Wiley’s even reached out with the touching “Letter 2 Dizzee,” but to no avail.
Sometimes Wiley’s motivations are complicated and deep, other times they’re simple. He dislikes Skepta because Skepta worked with Dizzee Rascal on “Money Right” in 2018.
Krept, one half of U.K. rap titans Krept & Konan, came under fire from Wiley in 2015 over the latter’s insinuation that the duo’s debut album The Long Way Home was unduly influenced by Drake.
It’s not just rival MCs that Wiley falls out with on the regular. His manager John Woolf has routinely been on the receiving end of some of his Twitter shots, and he's been fired on numerous occasions. Wiley’s distaste for authority goes way back, as early as 2006 he was saying “don’t want a manager” on Playtime Is Over track “Slippin’”
Drake’s embrace of rising hip-hop acts has been criticized by many as self-serving, but he rarely acknowledges the criticism in public. Still, he got pressed when the Godfather of Grime called him a “culture vulture,” and even got on BBC Radio to air it out. Wiley didn’t let up though, and later that same year repeated the criticism and accused his label OVO Sound of offering “shit record deals.”
Wiley and Lethal Bizzle’s hilarious back-and-forths were documented on iconic 2004 grime DVD Practice Hours. Choice cuts include Wiley telling Bizzle, “Your mum’s got athlete’s foot” and his response was to diss Wiley over Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” (a play on Wiley’s middle name being Kylea).
Back when grime beef took place on pirate radio and not Twitter, Wiley sent for Durrty Goodz during a Choice FM set. Legend has it that, listening in at home, Goodz and his brother, Crazy Titch, then turned up at the studio to confront Wiley over his words. The pair have since made up, however, with Goodz backing Wiley in his many battles with Drake.
One of the most notorious incidents in Rinse FM’s history came when the then-pirate radio station hosted Wiley on December 10. 2006. Wiley was attacked on-air by fellow MC God’s Gift and his crew Mucky Wolfpack, who pulled up to the studio after Wiley labeled God’s Gift “a donut.” The two later made up and collaborated on music together, but the energy never matched this moment in the booth.
Sometimes Wiley doesn’t like it when his fellow day-one grime MCs help promote his new music on social media.
Devlin and The Movement
Wiley clashed with a group of young grime MCs in 2006 called The Movement — Devlin, Ghetts, Scorcher, Wretch32, and Mercstone — after a rivalry between Ghetts and Wiley blossomed. This clash led to some legendary war dubs, including Devlin’s “Extra Extra,” Wiley’s “Nightbus Dubplate,” and Ghetts’s “North London Dub.” Devlin and Wiley would go on to collaborate on fan-favorite tune “Bring Them All / Holy Grime” and Ghetts appeared on “Bang,” both from Wiley’s 2017 album The Godfather. “We had a silly moment back in the day,” Devlin told Vice, “and I really regret doing it, but now we're adults and I was happy to do a tune with him.”
The Birmingham MC’s war dub “Shush,” aimed at Wiley and Dot Rotten, is the track that kicked off the Stormzy-Wiley feud. According to this Reddit timeline, Jaykae was responding to an aggressive DM from Dot Rotten — despite calling out Wiley, the Godfather said on Twitter that he didn’t consider the song a “proper send” because “[Jaykae] is with Stormzy and Ed.” Stormzy didn’t take kindly to this, and thus “Disappointed” was born.
Before grime was grime, Wiley, Maxwell D, and DJ Target formed a garage crew called “Ladies Hit Squad,” which eventually grew into the Pay As U Go Cartel. The group found success on the UK charts with the garage tune “Champagne Dance,” but success eventually led to frayed business relations between Maxwell and Wiley, and Maxwell outlines his version of events here. In 2002, Wiley released the song “Terrible” with Flowdan, Jamakabi, and Breeze, the first ever Roll Deep song — Dizzee Rascal linked with Wiley soon after, and Pay As U Go wasn’t long for the world.
The Glastonbury Festival
While not a grime beef in the strictest sense, it's too much of a laugh (and an insight into the depths of Wiley's pettiness) to include. As soon as he landed for a performance at the festival in 2013, Wiley complained about the weather ("Soon as I land …Rain ffs,") his manager ("Dear God Please Strike John Woolf Down), and the festival itself ("Glastonbury ain’t paying me enough to leave my comfort zone... fuck them and their farm.") He managed to get himself dropped from the lineup and later apologized to Glastonbury farm owner Michel Eavis: "I actually respect him and his farm."