Meet The Five Most Powerful Women In Grime

Lady Leshurr photographed by Vicky Grout.


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.

Illustrated by Liz Riccardi.

Shystie, MC
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.”

Photo courtesy of Balenciaga / Photo via @McDonaldsSverige Instagram

I'm cackling

Last year, Balenciaga released bright red square-toed mules which bore a striking resemblance to McDonald's french fry cartons. Now, the chain has fired back at the designer, threatening to release its own version of the shoes.

McDonald's Sweden posted a photo to its Instagram of a person wearing actual McDonald's fry cartons as shoes, and honestly, if there weren't yellow M's printed onto them, I'd have a hard time distinguishing them from the Balenciagas from a distance. Though the post doesn't directly reference the Balenciaga shoes, one can only assume that's who they are trolling.

McDonald's version actually makes for some pretty fly slip-ons, if you ask me. Good thing the Swedish branch of Mickey D's seems to be considering releasing the shoes if the post receives enough attention. The caption of the Instagram post translates to, "If we get 103042 likes we release these for real," though it only has about 17,000 as of publish time. These would likely cost much less than the Balenciaga shoes, which cost $545.

Internet, do your thing. I want a pair.



Photo by Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images.

It marks her third duet with Nas

Here are some words that I never expected to read or hear again: There is a new song with Amy Winehouse. But here we are in 2019, and Salaam Remi has granted me a wish. On Valentine's Day, the Grammy-nominated producer and frequent Winehouse collaborator (also responsible for hits like Miguel's "Come Through & Chill") released "Find My Love" which features rapper Nas and that powerful and haunting voice that I have come to love and cherish so dearly.

Representatives for Remi said that the Winehouse vocals were from an old jam session the two had. Remi was a producer on both of Winehouse's albums, Frank and Back to Black. "Find My Love" marks the third time Winehouse and Nas have done duets under the direction of Remi. They were previously heard together on "Like Smoke," a single from her 2011 posthumous album Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures, and "Cherry Wine" from Nas' 2012 album Life Is Good. Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011, before they could complete production on her third album. My heart is still broken about it as she is by far my favorite artist.

"Find My Love" is set to appear on Remi's Do It for the Culture 2, a collection of songs curated by him. Check it out, below.