With the grime narrative still a dominant force in popular culture in 2017, it’s often easy for people to overlook the underground micro-scenes that proved to be the genre’s lifeblood during bleaker, leaner times.
While Stormzy, Skepta et al. continue to light up grime culture through a mainstream lens, there are a still swathe of DJs, producers and MCs from all over the world, pushing the sonics into exciting and often abstract new territory.
Here, we profile ten instrumental grime producers – from Hastings to Tokyo – making their own mark on the music.
The producer behind that refix of Treble Clef’s grime classic, Ghetto Kyote, Glasgow’s Polonis has emerged as one of the leading figures of the city’s grime scene, alongside fellow producers like Rapture 4D and Hyderdub’s Proc Fiskal. He released his debut EP, Farmer, on Bristol’s Pear Drops earlier this year and continues to churn out new tracks at a rate of knots, including eye-catching collaborations and remixes with Grandmixxer.
Originally from Hastings but now based in Bristol, Drone has made huge strides over the last 12 months. A grime producer firmly embedded in his new surroundings, his friendship with Bristol producers like Lemzly Dale, OH91 and Hi5Ghost has seen his tracks take on harder, grittier tones. He has a debut 12” on the way over the next few months, following the release of his debut EP Signals back in the summer of 2016 – keep an ear out for standout track, Arctic.
Another Bristol producer on-the-up, Sir Hiss’ material has already been supported by grime vets like Spooky and Grandmixxer, as well as Sian Anderson on BBC 1Xtra. Melody is often at the core of his work, although he’s able to switch up his arrangements on a sixpence too, as his scorching Jungle edit of Sir Spyro’s Topper Top testifies. His most coveted track to date, Blood Diamond, has just been pressed to wax as part of a V/A 12” release on breakout label, Dream Eater.
Based in Finland, Inner has kept his ear firmly to the ground with regards to UK sounds, building his own icy, grime-trap blueprints in a similar, shadowy world to producers like Last Japan, with whom he’s also collaborated on a number of as yet untitled tracks. Now a member of Signal Life, the label headed up by Finnish producers Desto and Twwth, he released his excellent debut 12”, Black Label, in June.
Based in Shanghai, Swimful makes hi-def, melody-intensive grime steeped in the sino tropes and classical sounds of East Asia. Laced with eski references and OG grime arrangements, his music is instantly recognisable, helping him emerge as one of the scene’s most unique beatmakers. Swimful’s most recent EP, Pearls, was released back in April and also featured a remix of the title track by revered stateside beatmaker, Letta.
Winner of Red Bull’s recent Riddim Rally producer competition, Anz has been bubbling under for the last year or so, quietly earning the respect of those in the know. Her grime beats are often fierce and rough around the edges, but forged in the club, also spiked with the right sort of energy to get people dancing. She recently released her debut 12” on Chow Down – the tight-knit crew who run one of Manchester’s best small club nights.
Boylan and regular sparring partner Trends have pioneered their own brand of demonic, scything instrumental grime that has seemingly been a key inspiration behind the launch of Slimzee’s new sublabel, Rotpot Records. Dark and built for impact, some of the sonics share parallels with early, Caspa & Rusko style dubstep, but as a solo producer, Boylan has also shown a flair for sharp, minimalist sound design – see his remix of Logos’ Glass, released by Different Circles sub DEVILS, as a case in point.
Brighton’s Jook got the Boofy and Lemzly Dale co-sign at the turn of 2017 when he released two-track, low-end monster Juice / Behind Schedule through their Sector 7 imprint. At the time of writing, it still ranks as one of the best instrumental grime releases of the year so far, and although he keeps a low profile – as well as keeping a firm grip on new material – Jook has become a go-to producer for grime beats built for sound systems.
Based in Tokyo, Double Clapperz are a producer duo consisting of UKD and DJ Sinta, both of whom have helped champion grime across Japan for the last five years. As producers, their music functions around bruising 8-bar sounds and rasping low-end, akin to producers like Spooky and Trends. Their latest 12”, Get Mad, ships from November and features a typically nightmarish (in the best possible sense) collaboration with Boylan.
A favourite with the Boxed crew, Oxford producer Jawside’s music has been a fixture on radio sets and in the club for a minute now, although his music remains unfairly slept on outside of said spaces. His track, Blurred Rain featured on Boxed’s second 12” release back in 2016 and latest record Intent For You – think OG grime textures, fizzing square-waves and raw, neck-snap percussion – was released via his Sea Lion Gang collective (also featuring Strict Face, Plesk Parallel, TryTryDieDown and Glot) earlier this month.