He Said The U.K. Music Scene Was Up Next, But Nobody Was Listening
Updated: May 11
A little over a year ago a young creative and someone who is insightful about new trends in music, took it upon himself to write about the upward trend ingoing on in the United Kingdom. He predicted that artists like Jorja Smith, Dave, AJ Tracey anda number of others would soon be mainstream, but no one was listening. Take a moment and read the article Wale Mustafa wrote, as we have decided to resurface the article where he was right on a number of statements.
"The United Kingdom is no stranger to great music, and when we look into its past, we’ve witnessed black, British born artists from the likes Sade, Mack Morrison, Dizzie Rascal, as well as a handful of others, gain international attention that cemented their own legacies in pop culture. While their predecessors may have been overshadowed at times by the success of bands like The Beatles, The Police, Pink Floyd, and many, many others, the present crop of young, black talent in the U.K. is extremely exciting and has massive potential. Now more than ever the spotlight is on these young artists like J-Hus, Stormzy, Jorja Smith, Santan Dave, AJ Tracey, and more than handful others in the U.K. to push their music to the international level, but this isn’t just for any reason.
Stormzy’s Gang Signs & Prayer is certified platinum in England and won album of the year at the 2018 BRIT Awards beating out Ed Sheeran & Dua Lipa. J-Hus had one of 2017’s best rap albums with Common Sense, which included the hit, “Did You See?”. Jorja Smith got two of the biggest co-signs any artist in the world can get at the moment with two tracks on Drake’s 2017 playlist More Life, as well as a solo track on The Black Panther Soundtrack curated by arguably the best MC in the game, Kendrick Lamar. Her first single, “Blue Lights” is an incredibly written track that depicts a profound message on social stereotypes revolving around black crimes and the police, (even turning to Mobb Deep for some lyrical inspiration). It’s a track that really cuts deep and while it was penned in the thought of knife crimes in the UK, it’s message reaches the effects of police brutality in the US. All of this prior to releasing her debut album Lost & Found which comes out this Friday, June 8th.
On top of that, we have the two young MC’s who have been making a lot of noise in the UK grime scene over the past few years, in large thanks to their absolute banger of a collab, “Thiago Silva.”
The 20-year old Dave is what you would call a conscious rapper, but make no mistake about it, he can still drop bars about flexing and having fun whenever he wants. His stylistic range is exceptional and is really what sets him apart from many young rappers around the globe. This is especially important for hip-hop at a time where rappers of the same age over here in the States are making names for themselves from “clout-chasing” & trolling. Dave can pen a 7- minute, politically charged, award-winning track while still providing club anthems like his collab with MoStack and No Words, just on one EP. Not only do his tracks gather massive amounts of plays (Over 1 million monthly listeners via Spotify), his visuals are top-notch as well with 10 out of 11 of his YouTube videos well over 1 million views and 2 of them being over 25 million.
On the other side of the “Thiago Silva” tag team is the 24-year old MC, AJ Tracey who has serious control over the mic, just go watch his packages freestyle, please. His most recent release Secure The Bag featured the explosive opening track, “Blacked-Out,” and his second collaboration with one of the most aggressive young rappers in the U.S. in Denzel Curry on “Alakazam.” While he provides a more energetic, trap-inspired sound, he still has his island-inspired riddims like his two most recent singles “Mimi”, and “Butterfly” featuring fellow up-and-coming artist, who is equally a star in the making, Not3s.
While at the moment these artists are primarily known west of the Atlantic, they have started to make waves in the U.S. and besides their obvious musical talent, this is partly due to the promotion and collaborations with OVO and A$AP Mob. As previously stated Drake’s collabs with Jorja Smith, and Dave (as well as the two tracks on More Life with grime OG Giggs) have done nothing but help the case for the new wave of talent in the UK. However, the contributions of Drake’s manager Oliver El-Khatib, are not to be overlooked. Oliver, as we’ve heard name-dropped by Drizzy in many songs, does a great job at finding young talent and presenting their music as well as faces to a larger audience by premiering their music on OVO Sound radio, and featuring them on the OVO Sound page and website. The A$AP Mob has numerous collaborations with Grime OG Skepta who also made an appearance on More Life and most recently on A$AP Rocky’s latest album TESTING, on the standout track “Praise Da Lord.”
Skepta’s contributions to the U.K. to U.S. connections are not to be overlooked. On his last two releases he has put out multiple tracks with American artists ranging from Pharell and A$AP Mob to the Almighty Based God himself, Lil B. While these were big moments for the MC, there may have been none critical to the Grime genre than at the 2015 BRIT Awards when Kanye West reached out to the artist through Theophilus London and essentially cosigned the whole grime scene with his performance of “All Day” which included the likes of Skepta, Stormzy, Krept & Konan, as well as 20 plus others bringing Grime to the forefront of Music in UK, and giving it the international attention it deserved.
Even with all these great accomplishments from the young talent in the UK, there’s still a lot more. Ramz’s “Barking”, which peaked at number 2 on the U.K. singles chart in
February and is certified Platinum in the U.K., is such a catchy chune that you’ll be singing about your ting from Barking that probably doesn’t exist. Octavian’s “Party Here” is an incredible fusion of dancehall, house, and hip-hop that forces you up out of your seat and really groove to the hook. Not to mention Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up” just reached the top 10 on the billboard 100.
There’s really nothing better than watching a whole movement take place right as it happens, and I have no doubt that the young, black, British, and extremely talented artists pushing all of this music forward will continue to grow a fan base on an international level, especially in this streaming era where music is more readily available than ever, but I’ve said too much at this point, just go listen to the music and enjoy it."
As you can see he was spot on with the movement that has taken place. Jorja Smith has become one of the new faces of R&B, while Dave has had a breakthrough not only in music but in acting as well. It is only a matter of time before their music is not just considered a trend anymore, but a new hub for talent in the music industry.
Below we have attached a curated playlist exclusively done by Wale. Take a listen: