Feature – A Toast to Butterz
The explosive re-emergence of the genre once hailed to be the UK’s answer to hip hop has been astronomical and well documented. Most put this down to the work of a select few huge personalities, but for a scene to turn into a movement; to cause change and bring longevity, egos need to be cast aside, in favour of returning focus to the cultural shift that started it all. Last year was dominated by the usual suspects, the legends of the game, the mainstays in Florence from Bromley’s ‘Unay 2015’ Spotify playlist. But if grime is to be taken seriously for years to come, the future belongs to a pair working tirelessly to reconcile UKG with the rave culture that spawned it. I sat down to discuss the future of grime with co-founder of Butterz and Jamz, Elijah.
Back in 2014, Meridian Dan with his precursory single ‘German Whip’ said: “It’s all the same scene; house and grime is all dance music.” Say that now, and self-proclaimed UKG purists would queue up to disagree with you. But historically, emceeing was never a performance art. Harshly accented punchlines delivered at breakneck speeds were intended to bring even more hype to the – hardly lethargic – garage and rave crowds that populated the underground scene. Of course, people chose favourites and the MCs outgrew the DJs, they outgrew the music and inevitably left to pursue careers in their own right. They blew up and burnt out quickly. This time around, the Butterz label are here to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself.
Elijah and Skilliam, names synonymous with the rise of Rinse FM, renowned for their travelling UKG and bassline carnival, Jamz, met at University and bonded over the similarities of their left-field record collections: This was after the initial fall of grime, around the time of Roll Deep Crew’s dystopian anthem ‘Good Times’. They started in music with a show on their student radio station, playing cuts that they spent time and effort ripping from DJ sets and bootlegging from demos. This extended past grime, for them as for Meridian Dan, it was all the same scene, the only thing important to them was the energy.
Towards the end of last year, the pair spent 6 weeks marauding round Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and London with instalments of their club night, Jamz, bringing with them the DJs and MCs who make up the Butterz crew, and select guests who make up the extended family. DDoubleE, FlavaD, PMoney, RoyalT, Spooky and Swindle all featured at events that go off just like they used to back in the day. No stage, no spotlight, just a serious sound system and an old school attitude, changing the game by taking it back.
“There were already grime nights, with an MC, Warmup MC and a DJ. That’s it. We bring more energy. They weren’t orientated around a party. I felt we could bring that, and with people like Flava D and P Money, that’s what we’re doing.”
The emphasis on party is key for Elijah and Skilliam. They are not characters or figureheads, they are Butterz. They are the drivers, the managers, the PR team, the label heads and the resident DJs. They are modest and they are honest, and you can always rely on them to turn Wire into a madness.
“We keep it small, keep it local, and look after a handful of people we know are sick.”
Skepta, Kano and JME never stopped working, and have beduly rewarded by Grime’s return to favour. Stormzy, Novelist and Jammz are leading the line for the new boys under the spotlight, and now, embarrassingly, MCs who seemed to turn their back on that fiercely underground world in favour of mainstream success are crawling back, begging for some relevance and economic reward. Chipmunk left Alvin and the boys, shortened his name and started a slagging match with anyone who bothered to cast him a sideways glance. Tinie Tempah joined in, even with a huge pop single with Jess Glynne sitting at the top of the charts. Famously Greek Dappy used the N-word, and it all smacked of desperation. Elijah and Skilliam don’t care about all that; their ambition and vision encompasses the good of the scene, and they’re under no illusions about what the spotlight on grime means for them.
“Skepta is doing well and smashing it in America and he should take the credit for that. But there’s no scene over there. People get caught up in specific artists and view their success as a scene success. A Skepta win helps Skepta, and whoever he chooses to work with. It doesn’t help Butterz.”
Luckily for Butterz and luckily for followers of the scene, Elijah and Skiliam have a work ethic that is simply unparalleled: they’re always looking for opportunities to throw a party and instead of waiting for the movement to spread, they’re out there spreading it themselves. Even if Grime dies out, Butterz will be raving through and beyond 2016.
Grime 2015 is out now on the Butterz Label.
(Photo credits: James Gould; Elliot Young)