The following feature appears in the September 2016 issue of NYLON.
Born out of East London’s Bow neighborhood in the early 2000s, grime music has become the voice of a voiceless generation, with many likening the genre to punk for its DIY, anti-establishment nature. Whereas hip-hop spoke to and for the ghettos of the United States, grime did the same in England—but that is pretty much where the comparisons end. Stylistically its influence comes from Jamaican soundsystem culture more so than it does American rap, being that it was created in an environment with a penchant for jungle, U.K. garage, ragga, and dancehall.
The beats are metallic riddims that blast at 140 beats per minute, derived from Fruity Loops plugins and Music 2000 (yes, the Playstation game); the lyrics are just as icy, with bars centered mostly on the trappings of street life. With the help of MCs such as Wiley, Dizzee Rascal, Kano, and Skepta—as well as newcomers like Stormzy, AJ Tracey, and Novelist—grime is now respected not only as a genre, but also as a culture. It’s all in the walk, the talk, and the swag.
It’s also a male-dominated scene; very few females have made long-lasting impressions. However, grime’s popularity can be partly attributed to women such as Lady Leshurr, whose “Queen’s Speech” freestyle videos helped the genre go viral, and without writers Chantelle Fiddy and Hattie Collins, who were the first to cover the genre in the press, we wouldn’t even have a name to call this thing. Here, we touch base with five other lady bosses who are dominating the worlds of journalism, radio, photography, and, of course, music, all in the name of grime.
Known to many as the first lady of grime, MC and actress Shystie has undoubtedly earned that title. Having set out on her musical journey back in 2003 with a remix of rapper Dizzee Rascal’s “I Luv U,” she is the epitome of a boss: She was one of the first in the scene to get a major record deal, played the leading role in the British television series Dubplate Drama, and can count rapper 50 Cent among her many fans. “I’ll forever be grateful to grime,” says Shystie. “It’s set me up for nothing but success.”