The 25 Best Grime Tracks of 2015

We will defend this list to death.

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Dec 21 2015, 12:02pm

Alright, yes we get it, 2015 was the year grime conquered the globe/the charts/ your da's limited awareness of popular culture. Even the Yanks have been fascinated with the tracks that've come out in the last twelve months. Although they still claim "they can't understand what they're rapping about" - yeah mate, tell us again about that Future record.

But America is not the reason grime's had a massive one this year. What's really made it great is the swell of pure creativity that's run through its bedrock, washing up new artists, resurfacing old ones, and churning out banger, after banger, after banger.

If only someone was here to put these tracks in order of how many 100 emojis they deserve. Oh wait, that’s what we’re literally about to do. Show this list to all your mates who think grime in 2015 is just the same two songs on repeat.

25. Chip - "Pepper Riddim"

Spitting over the instrumental of the year, produced by Ruff Sqwad legend Prince Rapid, Chip addressed his issues with Tinie Tempah, Bugzy Malone and Big Narstie, as well as sending shots Devilman’s way, resulting in a flurry of wardubs flying in all directions across the scene. This is Chip at his Fuck Radio finest, and there aren’t many MCs who can hold their own at his level.

- Paul Gibbins


24. Kano - "New Banger"

Kano had been conspicuously absent from the grime revival until this year, but there was a sense of inevitability about his return, and "New Banger" was the result. Kano is still one of the most talented mic men that this country has ever produced, and in case you’d forgotten, this was his timely reminder. On "New Banger", K-A swaggers all over the beat, shouting out the MCs who helped build the grime scene in its early days, and also dishes out some of his grittiest lyrics for years, with bars about drug dealers, hitmen and prison spells.

- Paul Gibbins


23. Big Narstie & Show N Prove - "Gas Pipe"

This is gassed. It’s Gabriel Batistuta slinging a bicycle kick into your face gassed. It’s bass-shaking-the-floor gassed. It’s Raging Bull gassed. It’s a fat boy riding the wave gassed. It’s going apeshit gassed. It’s so gassed, I just burst my pipe.

- Angus Harrison


22. Polonis - "Ghetto Kyote Refix"

Scotland ballsed up the referendum, but one thing they seem to be able to do without disappointing everyone at the moment is grime. When this Polonis edit of the classic instrumental "Ghetto Kyote" emerged it shirked the glassy sheen of the nu-grime aesthetic that pervades a lot of tracks at the moment. It's mucky, harsh, jagged and piercing, retaining the orchestral shriek of the original and rearranging its bones to create a different beast altogether.

- Joe Bish


21. Ghetts x Rude Kid - "Who's Got A Problem?"

There’s something devastating in the ferocity of Ghetts delivery. As an MC he remains one of the more unsung champions in the scene but with performances like his defiant run “Who’s Got a Problem” that surely can’t go on much longer. His work with Rude Kid here makes for a tense burst of a frenetic power. Completely destructive, but totally in control.

- Angus Harrison


20. Maxsta & Darq E Freaker - "Gully"

No chorus, just a rudeboy with rudeboy flows on a rudeboy beat. Maxsta is one of the top 10 MCs full stop and this just reminded everyone of this in 2015. If I was going to war this is the tune I’m going to war to.

- Sian Anderson


19. President T - "Kill Off Killy"

Dropped just in time for Halloween, “Kill Off Killy” is surely one of the most low-slung, terrifying affairs on our list. Over the heft of some of JME’s most threatening production to date, and accompanied by some suitably dark visuals, the track showcases the sort of promise President T can offer when he has the right group of people around him supporting his work. Don’t let its steady pace deceive you, this one is a stone cold killer.

- Angus Harrison


18. Elf Kid - "Golden Boy"

"This one’s a stonker”, Elf boasts, darting in and out of Lollingo’s orange-soaked flip of Amerie’s consummate smash hit “1 Thing”. And then there’s the video. Guys doing the gash by the hour dance, crews clutching their bottles of lucozade and off-brand juice as they gather round the bus stop: summertime on the high-street has never been portrayed like this. If there’s one debut track from a new artist this year that really speaks of promise and possibility of days yet to come, then “Golden Boy” is it.

- Ryan Bassil


17. Sir Spyro - "Side By Side (Feat Big H, Bossman Birdie & President T)

Boss boss boss boss bless with the bars - this wasn’t the track with the smartest wordplay or punchlines, but it went harder than just about anything else - hear it in the club and watch everyone's arms star flailing around like they’re hosting the weather on meth. All the Bloodline MCs come through, but it’s Spyro’s beat that makes it. Imagine everyone else jumping on it for years to come.

- Sam Wolfson


16. Stormzy - "Know Me From"

Stormzy is great because Americans don’t understand him. He’s like Cheeky Nando’s in aural form. Merky? Peng? Bare? Wasteman? Pagan? What are these things, America is saying, all the while being unable to avoid the fact that “Know Me From” puts a lot of Stateside rappers to shame with its production, big-balled confidence, and music video—which, above all things, features Stormzy’s mother. In age where Ellie Goulding and George Ezra can make you feel ashamed to be from the UK, Stormzy is a reminder that being British is sometimes a wonderful thing.
- Ryan Bassil


15. Novelist - "Endz"

While Stormzy and Skepta have achieved chart success and flirted with mainstream recognition this year, Novelist has remained steadfastly underground and "Endz" is the anthem which highlights this better than any other. A throwback to the days of Channel U, with buzzsaw synths and minimalist drum patterns, "Endz" could easily have been released in 2004, but this isn’t just a nostalgia trip. This is grime at its most authentic, made by one of its most authentic and interesting stars.

- Paul Gibbins


14. Maxsta - "No Retreat"

Jheez! Boothroyd’s glitch-ridden production takes Maxsta’s “No Retreat” to another level. Where’s the drums, you're saying, wondering why the track isn’t kicking off like the hip-hop production you're used to. That’s not the point though. Maxsta’s more low-key than that. This is grime at its most raw and street level.

- Ryan Bassil


13. Safone - "She Wants A Man From Brum (Feat Trilla Pressure0121 & Bomma B)"

This is the best ever song about girls leaving their boyfriends so they can date someone from Birmingham. Might be the only song about it too, tbh.

- Damon Ages


12. Wiley & Zomby - "Step 2001"

We can’t really put it better than this Youtube commenter: “I like the original but oh my geeezzzz this is sick fam.. ”

- Manny Marvelous


11. Skepta - "Nasty"

Skepta’s had a hell of a year, storming stages all over the world with real, authentic grime sounds and shutting down wherever he goes. It would have been easy for him to simply ignore Devilman sending for him in his response to Chip’s “Pepper Riddim”, but instead he went to the studio the same night and strapped a wardub for his Lord of the Mics 2 foe. Spraying over Wiley’s classic, dark and brooding Morgue instrumental, Skeppy ended the war once and for all. He claimed that Drake was influenced by him to produce his diss tracks for Meek Mill, so it’s possible that Nasty was behind the biggest story in hip hop this year too.

- Paul Gibbins


10. Cadell - "3 Is The New 6"

It seems being an incredible talent while being extremely divisive runs in the Cowie family. Cadell is the younger half-brother of Wiley, and is no stranger to the same kind of striking honesty and informed self aggrandisement. “3 Is The New 6”, produced excellently by the World's Worst Human Zomby, is full of exciting talent and iconoclasm. The video features the young MC setting light to a BBC Radio 1 pass, while promoting young internet radio station Radar Radio. It's nice to see, considering the amount of Live Lounge begging that occurs when a new artist starts to get some attention. Grime isn't meant to be about playing for the establishment, at least it never used to be, and Cadell reminds us of that with a blazing flow and slouching confidence.

- Joe Bish


9. Stormzy - "Shut Up"

It takes the kind of inimitable confidence that Stormzy is blessed with to tackle an instrumental like “Functions on the Low” and genuinely believe you can do it justice, but that’s exactly what Stormzy did with “Shut Up”. J Spades might have called him a backup dancer, but the swagger, lyricism and ability on show in “Shut Up” just went to show exactly why Stormzy is one of the best MCs in the country. Not only did it beat the X Factor winner's single in the charts, but the original freestyle video, filmed in a local park, has racked up 14 million views to date.

- Paul Gibbins


8. Kano - "Garage Skank"

Apart from having the best euphemism for getting smashed - "White boy wasted, Gazza'd out" - and the best par ever - "Well, your girl's poom-poom stinks like the A13 Beckton exit" (the junction is located next to Europe's largest sweage treatment plant) - "Garage Skank" mostly just proved that three years out the game doesn't mean anything when you're Kano.

- Sam Wolfson


7. AJ Tracey - "Spirit Bomb"

2015 was all about South of the river MCs coming through: Stormzy, Novelist, The Square, as well as rap acts like Section Boyz all repped South in a way we haven’t seen since Southside Allstars days. But it feels like in 2016, AJ Tracey could be the guy to take things West. AJ came through on Mode FM, as well as making regular appearances on Radar Radio, and his freestyles have all been insane. But it’s on "Spirit Bomb" where he best showcased his lyricism, second guessing the listener from the word go.

- Sam Wolfson


6. Lady Leshurr - "Queen’s Speech 4"

“Brush your teeth!” And here endeth the lesson from Lady Leshurr, a Birmingham-based grime MC whose fourth installment of her Queen’s Speech freestyle series went viral in August with over a million views in a week. With timely nods to Rachel Dolezal, Fetty Wap, Rick Ross, and a problematic reference to Caitlyn Jenner (misnamed Bruce Jenner), “Queen’s Speech 4” gave UK hip-hop a fun, fresh do-over. In an industry that tends to be London and male-centric, Lady Leshurr came through to occupy a space she has made her own, with a boss flow, undeniable hooks, and tongue firmly wedged in her minty fresh cheek.

- Emma Garland


5. Novelist - "1 Sec"

This song is all about delayed gratification. The track always promises its subject matter - “1 Sec let me chat about flows, 1 Sec let me chat about road” - but he never does, just teasing across Mumdance’s beat, until, in the final seconds, he delivers on the promise with three killer lines, “Man thinks he’s brave, bold, blacked out on the baitest road. Couple of a YG's wanna take his phone”.

- Sam Wolfson


4. Skepta - "Shutdown"

What else is left to say about this track? It’s built on Drake’s Trussmedaddi Vine, it references the Brits, it has crossed over, being played out in the United States, Canada, and beyond. Of course, you already know this, because “Shutdown” owned the year, providing a tangible moment that lasted months, with people across the world using the track’s title as a sort of slang-word for any event that kicked the fuck off. So what now? By entering the global lexicon and becoming a sort of Drake level meme, “Shutdown” will live on beyond 2015. It is this year’s biggest grime moment on so many different levels.

- Ryan Bassil


3. Jammz - "Hit Then Run"

The track which kickstarted Jammz’s spectacular year, “Hit Then Run” has all the elements that makes grime music so exciting, including a sick beat, reload bars and a huge chorus. The tune set the underground alight, becoming a rave and radio smash, and propelled Jammz from a radio regular into a stage-show don. Any MC looking for a role model in the scene right now should be looking at Jammz, and “Hit Then Run” is him at his very best.

- Paul Gibbins


2. Skepta - "Back Then"

Skepta put a few of the year’s best tracks, most of them exuberant in their outlook and mobilising in their intent. But “Back Then” was more like old school Skepta - pissy, petty, a with us or against us mentality. Even when he’s talking about one the biggest successes of the year - the Shoreditch Shutdown gig - there’s an air of fuck you nihilism: “David Cameron on the phone to Obama/Man are shakin' and panickin’/When they see the Shutdown Shoreditch gatherin'/Come off my TV, all they do is stand up and pose like mannequins/I put my voting card in a black bin and I dash that like javelin.” Also, you know Skepta’s feeling this Plastician beat when, in the opening seconds, he makes the same sound I make after I take my first sip of a Diet Coke after a particularly heavy night out.

- Sam Wolfson


1. JME - "Man Don't Care (Feat Giggs)"

From the moment “Man Don’t Care” walks in the room it’s making eye contact, it’s in your face, it’s shoving people around, it’s broken a glass bottle in half, it’s pointing in your direction, and it’s screaming “YOU!” With bars hot enough to melt steel, JME takes all of thirty seconds to weaponise everything you usually carry in your pocket, to such an extent that you’ll never look at a set of house keys the same way again. And it’s all delivered over droning 8bit keys and drums that sound like the door knocks of someone who most definitely means harm (we’re talking Jack Nicholson in The Shining kinda door knocks). Basically, “Man Don’t Care” was one of the most vicious tracks of the year, but vicious in the most invigorating way, like a Clean & Clear face wash made out of punches and stamps.

- Joe Zadeh

Who's on the panel? Alex Hoffman, Sian Anderson, Caroline SM, Fred Macpherson, Joe Zadeh, Hattie Collins, Ryan Bassil, Paul Gibbins, Joe Bish and Emma Garland.