If you have your finger anywhere near the pulse of popular mainstream music in Britain, you will have noticed that two of the so called ‘forefathers of grime’, Wiley and Dizzee Rascal have scored major chart hits, (their highest entries to date no less) have been achieving major airplay and have generated substantial interest their most recent singles. 'Wearing My Rolex' by Wiley charted at number 2, and Dizzee, with some ‘assistance’ from slab faced Calvin Harris and Chrome sat upon the top spot with ‘Dance With Me’ for four weeks, which to be fair, sounds more like a traditional Calvin Harris song than a Dizzee Rascal one. Both Dizzee and Wiley are considered major players in the UK grime scene, with Dizzee a former member of Roll Deep, and Wiley a current member and solo artist in his own right. Ignoring their relationship with each other, which soured several years ago and led to each producing their own accounts of what happened, both are important figures in the scene, although Wiley hasn’t matched Dizzee's mainstream success. Previous to his number 2 entry, Wiley’s biggest success was the single ‘Wot Do U Call It?’ which reached 31, back in 2004. This is a remarkable leap, but his success, and Dizzee’s prolonged success away from the traditional grime sound poses several questions.

The influence of the grime sound upon Dizzee Rascals work is plain to see, with last years ‘Maths and English’ drawing heavily from his early sound. However he has been gradually distancing himself from the scene that was so perfectly encapsulated with his Mercury winning debut album ‘Boy in da Corner’. A modern classic, this album rightfully catapulted the young Dylan Mills to wider public consciousness and stardom. But since then his prolonged popularity has not been due to straight up grime tracks, but often a varied sound, encroaching on pop. So is it a case that Dizzee winning the Mercury meant that not only did he give grime mainstream attention, he altered its course forever? Its clear Dizzee knows where he came from, but doesn’t want this to limit him. His willingness to work with artists such as Basement Jaxx, Arctic Monkeys, Lily Allen and Calvin Harris, shows he is not afraid to experiment, and in his live show he frequently draws from this. The fact that these collaborations have had varying degrees of success is unimportant. Inferences can also be drawn from the fact that his most ‘poppy’ track to date, ‘Dance with Me’ does not appear on his latest album. This may be down to timing issues, but could indicate that Dizzee knows his roots lay with Grime, and track such as this are worthwhile ventures, but do not belong on his albums. He recently answered critics that have suggested his focus is too much on the mainstream, saying "Some people might see this as me selling out but no way. Every track I write I try to make different from the last and as my profile has risen with all the festivals and live shows I've done, I've wanted to experiment more. My audience has got more diverse, which I love. I've even started seeing teenyboppers in the front rows". You would be hard pressed to criticise him when he justifies himself so well.

As far as Wiley and ‘Wearing My Rolex’ goes, the change in style seems more abrupt, rather than a gradual progression. The song itself, if you managed to avoid it a few months ago is not at all bad, with an infectious baseline and female vocals complimenting Wiley's distinctive voice. The fact that he barely raps ('spits' if you want but I feel silly using such words) in the song except for a short repeated verse, coupled with the tone of the song- it’s far more upbeat and geared towards the club scene- raises a few issues. His success which has stemmed with this song is largely a positive thing, but it seems to confirm that in order for any Grime artist to achieve real success beyond the scene itself, they must abandon many of the characteristics that make Grime such an exciting genre, and thus cease to make Grime. This assertion of course, all this ignores the possibility and capability of Grime artists to branch out, and incorporate a rage of elements into their sound. Dizzee has been notable proof that in fact this can be done. Whilst Dizzee has taken influences from various artists he has had the chance to work with, Wiley has more obviously taken inspiration from the electro scene. Both grime and electro movements cannot boast a wide audience, but Wiley has benefited from taking the popular aspects from both. Listening to D.Ramirez, who describes his sound on his Myspace as House/Electro and Techno, it becomes apparent that there are definite similarities to his music, and Wearing My Rolex. WMR also recalls artists such as Bodyrox, who have recently had some success in the charts, so much so that for the first 10 seconds, it could be the same artist. So is it a case that Wiley has just cottoned on to what is popular right now, and is unashamedly appropriating elements of this, with his main objective to make a hit? If so, many will argue he isn’t writing music for the right reason, and is ‘selling out’ his roots. But it could simply be that he has recognised another growing movement, and appropriated aspects which he feels benefits his own. Parallels can certainly be drawn between the situation Wiley and Grime find themselves in at the moment, and a variety of underground movements that have had fleeting flirtations with the mainstream, but there is certainly no model for this kind of thing. [caption id="attachment_1319" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Wiley"]Wiley[/caption] But why change now? Wiley has hinted that, ‘Grime Wave’, his latest mix tape, available now as well as his forthcoming album, are, despite the name, a departure from the Grime sound that made up previous releases, and 'WMR' is a clear indication of this progression. The general view within Wiley’s existing fan base appears positive, albeit it not completely. For the most part, they seem to be pleased that Wiley is achieving mainstream success, but feel it is for the wrong output. WMR is considered inferior to much of his previous output, but has the required elements for a mainstream hit. Dizzee however from the offset seemed to incorporate a wide range of influences into his music. ‘Showtime’ released around the same time that Wiley hit the top 40, features ‘Dream’ which features a sample of Captain Sensible’s (of The Damned fame) ‘Happy Talk’. A grime artist featuring a sample of a punk legends, quite frankly ridiculous solo work, yet making it work and fuse almost seamlessly with his own grime influenced sensibilities, shows that Dizzee always had a penchant for eclecticism, and additionally, had quite a talent for it. It is important that such experimentation does not end up diluting both genres, but creates something which brings together the best of each respective genre. There is of course the risk that by moving away from the scene, Wiley may end up alienating some of his supporters. The mainstream is notoriously fickle, Dizzee Rascal is very much the exception to the rule as far as success for grime artists is concerned, and will move on quickly, so in order to maintain success Wiley must continue to make popular songs. It’s for certain, though, that there will be nothing like the widespread loyalty afforded to him by grime fans from his new listeners. Some have suggested that Grime has 'been and gone' and from a mainstream perspective this may be true. However the presence of artists such as Skepta, who released his debut album proper in autumn last year, and other Roll Deep members such as JME, shows that whilst its chance of mainstream success eroded substantially a year or two ago, the grime scene is still nothing but healthy. Some have heralded Wearing My Rolex as proof that finally 'Grime has come good', but there is a strong case to suggest that it is no longer Grime that Wiley is making, and it is, like most underground movements, a watered down version that is accepted by the mainstream. Even if you disagree with that, there is also the claim that ‘Grime came good’ when Dylan picked up the Mercury Prize. No one would be grudge Wiley success, but has this success come at a price for the genre he has done so much for? The very fact that I'm writing about Wiley shows to a certain extent the exposure has paid off for him, as I usually focus my efforts on music made by nerds and social outcasts in the 1970s and 1980s, but whether this increased exposure is a positive thing as a whole remains to be seen. Beyond Dizzee and Wiley, the current success afforded to Lethal Bizzle, who has managed to win over several hostile crowds, most notably at this years Download festival, shows Grime artists can achieve, although often this comes as a result of abandoning what defines them, and effectively joining another scene. Lethal Bizzle has collaborated with Gallows, as well as many Indie artists, and his association with this has led to him being adopted as a 'token grime artist' by many young people more accustomed to listening to the Wombats and Babyshambles. Whilst this kind of diversity is to be applauded, it seems only when grime artists conform to certain requirements do they achieve attention, and Bizzles greatest achievement remains the strictly grime track 'Forward Riddim (AKA POW)'. You can count on one finger the number of grime artists that have achieved sustained mainstream success, which suggests the genre is destined to remain underground. This, it can be argued, benefits grime as it is not warped by external pressures for something catchy. But as a counter point, mainstream success does not always result in a compromise in the output, and can allow greater access to the music. But why should grime artists sole objective be to achieve radio one airplay? Dizzee himself has been quoted as saying "Experimenting with dance music is a good way for British rappers to get on the radio and into the charts." Of course being on the radio and making money from hard work is reward for making music, but it could easily lead to a situation where artists compromise their integrity, and beginning to make music they think will sell, rather than concentrating on making music that is actually good. In addition, the motive of making money, whilst often associated with Hip Hop and grime, traditionally does not lead to the most artistically pleasing music. Part of the attraction of the genre is that it is fairly ordinary young people, talking with no punches pulled about the reality of their day to day life. Why is it that such an exciting, and, for the most part, critically acclaimed movement is not accepted and does not interest the public? Why does it take a dramatic change of direction for an artist to become truly acceptable? And why do radio and TV stations (with the exception of a few, more specialist stations) rarely or, never champion such music? R&B and Hip Hop rules the charts, yet UK music is ignored and shunned to a large extent in favour of American counterparts. Aiming to emulate the stars from 'across the pond' hasn’t worked out for artists in the UK either, Roll Deeps ill fated 'In at the Deep End' a shining example of this, it led to them being dropped from Relentless. The album suffered from the group attempting to keep aspects of the grime genre which made them unique, but combine it with a mainstream popular hip hop sound. What happened, despite selling 85000 copies, was that they got the worst of both worlds. So is it possible for a grime artist to achieve mainstream success, yet still support the grime scene? Only time will tell, but it certainly appears that in order to achieve real success, grime artists will have to branch out from their surroundings, and make poppy club 'anthems'. With Wiley achieving success by moving away from grime this could see others follow suit and the decline of the genre, alternatively it may just mean more attention is afforded to Grime, and Wiley can use his new found exposure to give grime the boost it needs to really break through. In a country that allows Soulja Boy success, why are artists doing something genuinely interesting, catchy and with its own distinctive British characteristics generally neglected? Obviously promotion and financial aspects come into it, but it is puzzling as to why there seems to be no Market for Grime. Dizzee has become somewhat of a media darling, making appearance everywhere from Glastonbury to Reading festival, on Channel 4 talking to Gordon Ramsey about food, and on the BBC Culture Show (I should know, I was at the filming. I’m glad I managed to get that in there), but it remains to be seen whether Wearing my Rolex is the end of grime as we know it, or whether this is just evidence of Wiley et al being able to expand their influences and produce a greater range of music, excelling and incorporating a varied range of influences. Either way it should be interesting.