Like most Americans, I was introduced to grime in 2003 when Dizzee Rascal dropped Boy In Da Corner. I still remember how much of a visceral thrill it was listening to tracks like “I Luv U” and “Cut ‘Em Off“. It was influenced by hip-hop, but it was a completely different mutant strain spawned in East London: a cytoplasmic soup of UK garage and jungle, incubating in the pirate radio underground. It felt like the second-coming of Wu Tang ’93 – hyper-masculine collectives rolling nine or ten deep in hooded sweatshirts who didn’t give a fuck about your car or your chain. In the thirteen years that followed, I moved onto other things (dubstep, UK funky, footwork etc) but didn’t really keep close tabs on the grime scene. I’d occasionally listen to a mixtape when it drifted across my radar, but I wasn’t actively listening to Rinse FM or anything.
Recently though, I’ve been getting excited about grime again. Artists like Visionist and Rabit have been taking instrumental grime into new directions. I also really enjoyed the new Skepta album released this year. Lethal Bizzle is a name that I came across often when I first started exploring the genre. He’s one of the veterans of the grime scene. His 2004 track, “Pow (Forward)” still stands as a seminal grime anthem – an unrelenting barrage of aggression that was actually banned from clubs for purportedly inciting violence.
Before its release, Lethal Bizzle hyped up “Box” as the “Pow” of 2016, but for me the track doesn’t reach those heights. It features JME (Skepta’s younger brother) and Face. The song’s conceit is simple: if you talk shit, you will get punched in the mouth. Not sure if the song is directed at anyone in particular or just a general preemptive warning. Unfortunately for me, the lyrics, delivery, and the beat fail to uphold this premise convincingly. On his verse, Lethal Bizzle rhymes “Hadouken” with “talking” which I’m still on the fence as to whether it’s cringe-worthy or actually clever. JME lets us know that “Nobody wants a punch in the face. That’s why more time I give man a slap.” Wait, what? Personally, I feel like if you’re going to hit someone, you had better commit to knocking that person out as quickly as possible. The beat is serviceable, featuring distorted bass jabs and skittering percussion, but the song never quite gels together for me.
2 out of 5