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UK weekly edition, Wenesday, August 1, 2007

There’s plenty of things going on in U.K. society that might baffle the average American, and local radio is a good place to start.

Why exactly have the Sugababes, basically a poor man’s Spice Girls, been able to roll out hit after hit? Why are different variations of techno so popular that Brits would remix Beyonce and Shakira’s “Beautiful Lie” to a decidedly non-hip-hop beat?

America exports so much pop culture that it’s easy to snub our noses at any other music. But for your rap fan, the U.K.’s “grime” music scene comes closest to what some of us listen to back home.

According to the BBC Web site, grime originated in East London around the turn of the century, coming out of the U.K.’s garage and drum ’n’ bass scenes, which are basically variations of techno to most American ears.

It emphasizes rappers delivering spitfire rhymes over beats that are faster than those found on American hip-hop records, with artists delivering tales of life on the street and life in general, not unlike American rap.

Plus, you get those great British street accents and references to all types of things English.

As with all burgeoning music scenes, the grime camp is split between the underground purists and those looking to cash in on their talents.

Regardless, the music is out there, and mainstream stations spin it all the time. Those grime artists making waves right now include Lady Sovereign, a pint-size English girl who Jay Z signed to Def Jam Recordings, and Dizzee Rascal, perhaps grime’s most prominent ambassador.

Some in the States have even taken notice.

“I like Dizzee,” American crunk rapper Lil Jon said in a 2006 BBC article. “Even if I don’t know what the [expletive] he be saying.”

Got a question about something you’ve seen or heard around the United Kingdom? E-mail us at:


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