Forget what you’ve heard—grime’s not dead. Sure, much of the scene has been incorporated into the mainstream, with grime’s great early MCs trading their lyrical edge and brutal beats for chart successes and daytime TV appearances. Despite this systemic watering down, shreds of integrity remain. Nearly a decade on, the pioneering grime godfather Wiley is still at the helm of the movement.
Like most of the original grime MCs, Wiley grew up in Bow, East London. He inherited his work ethic from his father, also a musician, who juggled a day job alongside DJ sets at Jamaican sound system parties. As a young MC, Wiley developed his skills on London pirate radio and hawked CDs from the trunk of his car. He went on to reinvigorate British rap as a member of Boy Better Know and Roll Deep, two influential London crews.
Wiley is notoriously at odds with an industry that just don't get his music. He badmouths “journalists whose job is to make [him] look bad,” and has had very public spats with everyone from Jay Sean to his former lyrical sparring partner Dizzee Rascal. In 2010 he ushered in the new year by firing his manager via Twitter and releasing 200 free tracks online.
Despite racking up six solo records, he still remains a crucial part of Roll Deep. The crew allows him the freedom to shape and guide the careers of a new generation of grime superstars, be they producers, MCs, or general tastemakers.