A night at the BBC 1XTRA Proms for a spectacular grime symphony…

A night at the BBC 1XTRA Proms for a spectacular grime symphony…

by Tom Fogden

Back on the 12th August, the Metropole Orkest performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall. A pretty normal affair at one of London’s most iconic music venues – probably most well known for hosting the classic Proms. However this time, accompanying the largest Dutch jazz and pop orchestra was a collection of some of Britain’s best rappers and grime artists.
Yes, you read that right. Grime and rap at the Royal Albert Hall. The unlikely collaboration formed part of the 2015 BBC prom season – and was the highlight event for fans of their urban music station 1Xtra.

If you know Vicky, you will probably be aware that her favourite rapping normally involves presents. However, I (yes, Tom, the eponymous boyfriend of Lots of Love, Me.) am an enormous fan of this type of music. Always have been, always will be. So it seemed only natural that when the opportunity to attend the event came along – I jumped at it.

The line-up certainly looked strong. Chip, Fekky, Krept & Konan, Lethal Bizzle, Little Simz, Stormzy, and Wretch 32 all performing their biggest tunes accompanied by a full orchestra. Or als je Nederlands spreekt, an Orkest.

So, what happened on the day? Well, as MistaJam, co-hosting alongside 1Xtra colleague Sian Anderson, rightly observed “there have never been so many black tracksuits inside the Royal Albert Hall.” And, rather than the usual take-your-seats-fifteen-minutes-early-so-you-can-get-prepared normally seen at the Proms, the fans poured into the venue with seconds to spare before Stormzy’s opener.

Stormzy. Croydon’s finest. The wicked skengman. Performing at the Royal Albert Hall. The world-renowned venue named for the questionable member piercing former British royal. The show started with the six-foot-plus, Adidas-tracksuit clad, grime scene darling’s ‘Know Me From.’ The crowd, predictably, went wild.

Left; Stormzy, Right; Little Simz

If you haven’t heard ‘Know Me From’, you need to catch up with grime’s recent renaissance. The samples are genuinely unique (I mean how many other music scenes could legitimately sample Shirley from Eastenders?).

Next up was Stormzy’s insanely popular ‘Shut up’ freestyle over Ruff Sqwad’s ‘Functions On The Low’ beat. And, when I say insanely popular, it’s getting on for six million YouTube views. Not bad for a video filmed in a park…

The night continued in the same vein. Banger after banger were performed to a baying crowd, who were beautifully unfazed by their surroundings – skanking and bouncing up and down. Even the “prawn sandwich” seats got involved with some questionable dancing. Ok, I’ll come clean. The questionable dancing was me.

However, special mentions have to go to Little Simz, Wretch 32 and Krept & Konan. Little Simz combined social conscience and introspection with her song ‘Wings’, which many people with little knowledge of the rap scene believe the genre lacks, and a straight grime banger in her ‘Bars Simzon.’

Wretch 32 initially appeared dressed for the front row of London Collections: Men, but then reverted to a black Adidas tracksuit for his last songs. He delivered two of the most memorable moments of the evening – firstly bringing out the incredible Shola Ama for ‘Don’t Go’, whilst also treating conductor Jules Buckley like a god for the remainder of the night, handing over his (probably very expensive) chain.

Krept & Konan, however, stole the show. They came. They played ‘Freak of the Week’ and ‘Don’t Waste my Time.’ They conquered. It was as simple as that.

Krept & Konan

For most people, I imagine there are a few questions remaining. Does an orchestra and a rapper work? The answer is, of course, yes.

Can an orchestra replicate the electronic beats often found in grime? Not exactly, but it can give the beats a new depth and presence which transforms the sound and provided a whole new level to listening, and enjoying, grime and rap music.

Is it a gimmick? Hmm. This one is tricky. It might seem gimmicky, but it works. It really is something that you have to see/hear to believe. But once you do – you will become a classirap convert like Vicky and I.

Photography Credit: BBC/Mark Allan