Interviews News 21 November 2016
Author: Trudy Barry

GRM EXCLUSIVE: A.Dot’s ‘Story of Grime’ breaches the urban barrier

Author Trudy Barry
21 November 2016

As part of the BBC’s Black and British season, MC and 1Xtra DJ A.Dot has put together a classic grime clash, called Grimeageddon. The lead up to the event has been documented in the BBC documentary, Story of Grime featuring help from Jammer, Wiley, Ghetts and loads more big names. GRM caught up with her to find out exactly how the documentary came about, and why it’s such an important time to be celebrating our scene.

Tell me about the Story of Grime, how did it come about?

“Basically I really wanted to do a documentary about something that I actually cared about and my whole career as a broadcaster is based on me coming from the grime scene as an MC. My foundations are there, so I really wanted to do a documentary which explored it, because it’s having an incredible time. I wanted it to trace back the story of grime for the new heads that have jumped on the grime bandwagon. 

“All eyes are on the grime scene right now, it’s become a bit of a trendy thing you get a lot of the newcomer fans that don’t necessarily know the history, so I thought it would be incredible to tell that story through the specific medium of grime, which is clashing. 

“Clashing has been one of the most exciting parts of grime. You can tell the story of grime through that using clashing as your timeline. Which made me think, why don’t we tell the story of grime by taking it back to those old school Lord Of The Mics vids? Take it back for the 15-year-old newcomer grime heads who in 2004 weren’t listening to anything, let alone grime. 

“The aim of the series is to tell the story of grime through clashing with the aim of putting on my own royal rumble clash: GRIMEAGEDDON. Some might argue that a lot of MCs these days haven’t got that hunger like back when the only way to be heard or seen was through something like LOTM. Can I still draw that hunger out of MCs and get them to step in the ring that is GRIMEAGEDDON?

“It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of blood, sweat  and tears. Lots of wasted trips around the UK where MCs said they were going to meet me and didn’t turn up. There was a lot that went into it, but I was able to draw on the help with people like Jammer. You can’t talk about clashing without talking about Jammer. I also talk to Wiley, Ghetts, Logan Sama… It’s a journey that I took with a lot of help from a lot of people. I also speak to the new gens: AJ Tracey, Jammz, Dave, but I think if you’re telling the story of grime you need to tell it properly. 

“I think an important part of it for me was having the archive footage as well. There’s a lot of people who wont have seen Wiley and Kano in the basement so it’s important to have one place where people can kind of get their quickfix, their lesson.”

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The series is part of the BBC’s Black and British season. Why do you think grime culture has become such an important element within British black culture?

“It was an outlet. You can even say that grime is a genre that’s bound by race. I think there’s no race lines when it comes to grime. When it was born in Bow E3, it did give young black British youth a voice that they didn’t really have before.

“There was very few visual platforms for black British artists. You heard them on pirate radio but you didn’t see them and I think grime came through at the perfect time. You need to look at people like Logan Sama to see that he’s defied any kind of barrier you want to put on it in terms of race and these days in terms of social standing. 

“It’s not a working class thing anymore, you get these middle class guys in Kent going mental for grime, you know what I mean? I think that’s testimony to what its been able to do.

You mentioned it was a difficult series to make. What was the most challenging part for you personally?

“Where do I begin with this?! What I love about the documentary is you see the stresses of trying to put on a clash. I definitely got a few additional grey hairs during the process! What I found is, with clashing, you put a camera in an MC’s face and you say ‘yo are you on clashing?’ and they’re like ‘yeah I’ll clash you and I’ll clash your nan!.’ But when the camera is away they’re like ‘you know what, my dog ate my lyrics and I got the flu.’ 

“The hardest thing for me was getting the MC’s to back up their talk. That was tough. Just getting people to sit down and take the time out to get involved in this. It was difficult.”

You have your 1Xtra show and you spoke already about grime transcending races. As a woman presenting a documentary about a male dominated genre, do you think it’s significant that a woman is producing this seminal piece?

“I think it is! I don’t even look at it like ‘I’m a girl who’s making a grime documentary’. I think this is the most important step in terms of making it an open genre. But I think that’s the case across media and entertainment in general. As soon as you stop looking at it as tokenism you’ve already jumped over the biggest hurdle. If I was like ‘oh my god I’m a girl and I’m doing this’ it makes it a big deal, whereas it should just be “I am a presenter, that is the voice of this show.

“If I can ignore that and I can look at it as ‘I’m a broadcaster who is the voice of this documentary series then I think we can begin to expect more opportunities like this.

“We speak to Nolay in the series, she’s a wicked part of the series actually, and she talks about that as well. She doesn’t need to be just ‘a girl’, throw her in a room with a bunch of guys and she’ll swing, you know? Doing this documentary hopefully is a progressive move in that way.”

How did it feel to transfer your radio skills to on-camera?

“You tryna say I got a face for radio?! The toughest thing was actually having to look half decent for the camera! With radio nobody can see you so I can just rock up to the radio station, likewise with MCing, you can just rock up to studio. 

“Other than that its all entertainment to me. I love entertaining, whether I’m on stage MCing or if I’m behind the mic in a radio studio doing the 1Xtra breakfast show, it’s all a performance to me and this documentary allowed me to take a step back and tell the story from a spectator’s vantage point. 

“This gave me the opportunity to take all my knowledge and experience but actually step back and tell the story to the viewer. Having that background meant I can be true to the story. What you have to realise now is there’s a lot of people that wanna jump onto the narrative and tell the story or articulate this movement, but I think people can see through it when it’s somebody who hasn’t actually known the history.”

This documentary is about the history of grime, but where do you see it going from here? What do you think is the future of grime?

“The exciting thing about grime is that it’s unpredictable. I don’t think anybody could have seen this coming 4 years ago when everybody was saying ‘grime is dead’. I think to even try and speculate where it’s going would be impossible. The story of grime up to this point has just been so unpredictable. 

“I would say there is more life in grime, but where it’s going is anybody’s guess. It’s down to the new generation of artists to keep it going.”

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A.Dot’s Story of Grime is available as a boxset on BBC Three’s Youtube channel from Monday 21st November and in feature length on BBC iPlayer from Thursday 24th November.