Over the past couple of years, grime has garnered more column inches than record sales. East London's variant of rap -- with its unforgiving delivery style dished out by tough-looking kids over PlayStation beats and stolen samples -- has faltered as its practitioners try to convert cult appeal and street credibility into mainstream success. Meanwhile, the British indie scene, the staple diet of middle-class students, has proved unstoppable: gig attendance is at record levels; everybody's grandma now knows who the Arctic Monkeys are, and Pete Doherty's spotty visage sells more newspapers than Jordan's chest.
So the idea of those floppy-fringed guitar players uniting with the hoodie-clad rappers seems comical -- but that's exactly what has happened, and it's known as "grindie." The term was coined by grime producer Statik, who initially only used it as a joke, but grew to like it. The joke has taken on a life of its own: his Grindie Volume 1 compilation has recently gone from being passed around among downloaders to being distributed to the music press via the publicists used by Oasis.
It splices DaVinChe with Franz Ferdinand; Scorcher with Ladyfuzz; Ghetto and Demon with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The 64-track CD opens with a mumbling message from Doherty, followed by members of the Rakes and Test Icicles, all giving a shout-out to grindie and their mate Statik, whose networking powers are staggering.
As NME newspaper editor Conor McNicholas explains: "They find it incredibly flattering because the grime scene is perceived as a lot cooler and lot more real than the indie scene."
But why is grime looking towards indie? Is it simply that grime artists are jumping on the bandwagon to make some cash? Is this grime's last stand? Not at all, according to Statik, although he admits "things were getting kind of stale." But he had grown up listening to every kind of music, including the Rolling Stones. "I remember my mum first putting on Paint It Black when I was eight years old. I just couldn't believe how amazing it was."
As with many grime kids, he was the right age to be massively affected by Nirvana during his teens, after which rock music "went through a really poor time in the 1990s. There was only Oasis and Pulp, then just angst like Travis and Coldplay. I do think Coldplay are amazing but you can't be sad constantly. I prefer my stuff to be a bit more energetic." Which is where the current rock scene comes in -- ever since Franz Ferdinand said they wanted to make music for girls to dance to, the beat has become the centerpiece of indie, making it perfect fodder for grime remixers to get their hands on.
The lyrical content is also closer than one might expect. The mixtape leads us from rappers talking about nipple-sucking to Bloc Party singing about a girl using her breasts. Wylie -- a grime MC whose much-hyped solo LP failed to generate expected sales -- threatens violence to those who cross him, but so do indie hipsters the Kills.
The response from the crowds at indie and grime nights is surprisingly similar too, which isn't something the MC Lethal Bizzle bargained for when he started playing grime clubs. In fact, Lethal, who is now the best-known rapper on the indie scene, only crossed over as a happy accident. "There was a point last year when nobody wanted to book him," explains Nadia Khan, manager of his record label. His tune Forward Riddim had become associated with trouble in clubs, his shows had become subject to frequent cancellations from nervous promoters, and were subject to risk assessments from the police.