Grime's ability to twist and turn on a near-daily basis informs the sound's white hot creativity.
Beats can pop off within hours, MCs can add their own flex, and tracks can soar to prominence before dipping back down within a few days.
At the heart of this, though, lie an array of DJs who help make this all happen, even if that isn't always recognised to its fullest degree.
The rise of club nights such as Boxed have shone renewed light on production talent, while MCs have always been the most undeniably visual component of grime.
The DJs, though, deserve their props too. Often technically devastating and with a near unchallenged knowledge of the sound, the DJ acts as a conduit between producer and MC, while their own curatorial skills help maintain grime's inherent momentum.
Clash writers pick out a few DJs who deserve to be recognised.
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For some, Spooky's name is synonymous with the handful of anthems he's produced over the years at the coal face of the grime scene (see 'Spartan' and 'Joyride' if you're in need of a primer) - but longtime grime fans will know him as their favourite DJ's favourite DJ.
He’s a record obsessive and comfortable blending across formats, genres and eras with the best of them. Catch one of his 'all night long' sets and you'll be treated to a marathon session taking in roots, reggae, dub, dancehall, bashment, jungle, garage, UK funky and grime (of course).
Coming up with Slew Dem crew, he knows how to manage a roomful of MCs clamouring for the mic and a wheel-up.
Perhaps most importantly, however, he’s absolutely dedicated to that cornerstone of grime: radio. He’s a night shift regular at Mode FM, and crops up all over the broadcast spectrum – running sets on Déjà vu, Radar, 1Xtra and Rinse FM (despite previously being banned from the station) – using the platform to break new MCs and producers alike. – Will Pritchard
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Among the scene’s most underrated DJs, it’s safe to say you’ll never quite hear a set like one of Score5’s: he packs a crate of pristine dubplates that few others could lay claim to. From bootlegs to custom vocal dubs, crackly classics and upfront beats provided by the scene’s current crop, he mixes the lot immaculately.
A former Rinse FM mainstay, he kept a low profile during the early 2010s but cropped up a couple of years back with a new show on Radar and the launch of Reloadz – a record label that aims to recapture the white-labels-sold-out-of-your-car-boot spirit of the early grime scene, putting out limited vinyl runs to exclusive mailing list members.
Unfortunately, Score5 (and his label) seem to have fallen quiet once again; but if you do see his name appear on a flyer then you’d be a fool to miss out. – Will Pritchard
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Slimzee, AKA Dean Fullman, has been pioneering grime with a quiet confidence since its conception. Starting out as a bedroom DJ in the eighties, experimenting with hardcore, then moving on to drum and bass, jungle and garage, Slimzee immersed himself in pirate radio culture, before co-founding Rinse FM in 1994.
Later, before an OFCOM bust and subsequent ASBO brought his pirate radio career to a grinding halt, Slimzee went on to form Pay As You Go Cartel with Major Ace (RIP) and also collaborate with the likes of Wiley – a fellow Bow Bows pupil – and Dizzee Rascal to build what is now one of the UK’s most popular musical genres.
Since then, he has become an innovator, helping to change the landscape of UK music from the Rinse FM airwaves and the London raves to the New York City party scene. – Patrick Fennelly
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Hailing from the States but with the UK coursing through his musical veins, J-Cush is a DJ whose repertoire covers everything from the most classic to the most cutting edge grime, as well as funky, footwork, trap, rap, reggaeton, club and a bit of everything in between. If it hits hard then it’s in his arsenal.
Armed with some of the deadliest dubs to grace the Rinse airwaves, his sets are a joy for their sheer unpredictability, energy and finesse. Most exciting is when he uses his extensive network of contacts and affiliates to bring anyone from Oneman, Slimzee, Target or TOTAL FREEDOM along for the ride; while a personal highlight from his huge back catalogue of radio shows is this set with Ruff Sqwad and friends.
Listen out for Fuda Guy dealing ruthlessly with Timbaland’s classic ‘Jigga What, Jigga Who’ instro, and the crew eating up a bag of classic Sqwad beats. – Alex McFadyen
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If you wanted to get a sense of what’s popping in grime right now, you’d do a lot worse than to spend your Thursday tuned into A.G’s MnM NTS show. Regularly dropping a rapid-fire selection of instrumentals that bottle the energetic spirit of grime, along with her own quick-chop edits, the East London-born DJ often has guests like Novelist, Kamakaze and Frisco swing by the studio to ride the riddims.
After cutting her teeth on pirate stations like Urban FM and Muzik Radio, A.G quickly gained high profile slots on Rinse and Radar, where her hosting skills have made her a firm favourite. Consistently keeping things exciting and fresh, and pushing the genre forward, A.G is making light work of the whole ‘tastemaker’ thing. – Felicity Martin
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Grandmixxer came of age during grime’s first wave, a time when – sonically speaking – virtually anything seemed possible. This sense of creation without limitation guides his work, with the turntablist and producer later becoming drawn into the orbit of the Boxed clubnight.
Ever the individualist, Grandmixxer recently launched his own label, with South London Space Agency blasting off with a party at Hackney Wick venue Mick’s Garage. Leading from the front, each set from the DJ right now feels like a mission statement, fusing his incredible knowledge of grime’s roots and pathways with a distinct awareness for where the sound could lead next.
Added to supreme technical ability and a knack for picking out tracks that pop in the club, Grandmixxer is one of the best all-round DJs in any genre right now. – Robin Murray
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Last Japan’s multi-faceted realm finds the London figure occupying many roles. A producer – his ‘Ascend’ saw AJ Tracey shoot to prominence – and label co-owner, his curatorial skills come to the fore as a DJ, with his sets fusing an in-depth awareness of grime with the confidence to challenge the confines of the sound.
Technically brilliant – a set on behalf of Clash at London’s KOKO venue just before Christmas confirmed this – his regular contributions to the Circadian Rhythms show on NTS underline his ability to see far beyond the confines of genre, and use this to reinforce a distinctly individual voice.
With a background in design, each set from Last Japan feels carefully curated, a fusion of influences into a complete and eye-catching whole. – Robin Murray
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