Introduction Grime community where the essential foundations of


The purpose of this research proposal is to
investigate and examine the Grime Culture community in Cardiff. I will employ
the ethos of ethnography and other fieldwork techniques to help shape my
research. Through key concepts such as
ethnicity, values and spaces, my research will show how these are interconnected
to form a healthy and constructive Grime community where the essential foundations
of the culture are kept intact. My personal
definition of Grime is that it is a quintessentially British rap art form. My
interest for the subject is derived from being part of the scene in a media
production sense as well as being from similar backgrounds to the individuals I
am researching. I will utilise previous works and theories within my chosen
field to help inform my research proposal.

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 Grime is a hybrid of American Rap/Hip Hop and
Jamaican dancehall, but with aspects of 1990s rave, Punk (Campion, 2004), Drum
‘n’ Bass and Garage (McKinnon, 2005), this is reflected by some of the artists
I intend to engage with. The defining characteristic of Grime is that it
constituted a distinctly British musical style, it opposes the consumerist ‘bling
bling’ soundtrack to upward mobility that Americanised Hip-Hop signifies, but
acts as the cri de couer of the dispossessed, the narrative form of urban life’
(Melville, 2004: 31).

certainly appears to be a renewed interest in grime. In recent years, there has
been a cultural convergence with the mainstream industry, this has put Grime in
a position where it could be considered seriously, but in doing so, did not
lose its music essence (Rose, 2016).

matters because it’s a timely metaphor for our mixed-race society, taking
influences from many cultures, yet managing to sound utterly, resolutely,
determinedly British (Colins, 2014). It is an important part of the British
experience, it is one of the few genuinely working-class music scenes to have
emerged in recent years, and one whose influence is written through pop’s
mainstream (Gumble, 2016). Just as scenes like punk have been celebrated and
nurtured, this new wave of grime deserves the same treatment.?



As Grime
is rapidly becoming another subculture phenomenon it’s important for me to
establish what the term is currently defined as. The focus and meaning of the
term subculture has changed over its life span within the social sciences. These
groups after often seen as opposite and resistant to parents, ‘respectable’ youth,
adult working-class, and middle-class cultures (Hebdige 1979). Subcultural
instances, according to Hebdige (1979), occur when a solution to a particular
set of circumstances is needed, usually in relation to the parent culture. I
expect my research will show how this subculture has benefitted the communities
of which they evolved from, subverting from the typical narratives and
stereotypes we usually associate with urban and ethnically mixed subcultures.

 I will explore ways in which Grime music can be
linked to ethnography. Ethnography
and participant observation entail the extended involvement of the researcher
in the social life of those he studies (Bryman, 2016).  The primary goal within ethnographic research
was, and is, of assuming the position of ‘seeing through the eyes of’ of a
social group, to discover the ‘precise nuances of meaning within particular
cultural milieu’ (Ferrell, 1999). Therefore, it is essential for me to engage
physically with the culture. Participant observation is the most common
ethnographic component, ‘interviews, conversations and discourse analysis,
documentary analysis, film and photography and life histories all have their
place in the ethnographer’s repertoire’ (Hobbs, 2006).

suggested by Barron, forms of contemporary
popular music parallel key facets of ethnography, not simply in terms of
sociological analysis, but with regard to popular music as an ethnographic
resource (Baron, 2013). Paul Willis’ conception of the ‘ethnographic
imagination’ argues that contemporary British hip-hop in the form of ‘grime’ is
a potent exemplar. This is due to the uncompromising cultural and spatial
nature of Grime music, a factor that marks out grime as a distinctive musical
genre with a distinctive ethnographic form. The reason for this is that it is
experientially rooted music about urban locations, made from within those urban


 Key concepts such as values and spaces, combined
with methodological approaches will reveal how the collaborative work of these urban youths produced these
politically significant subcultures (Bromwell, 2015). It is important for me to understand the cultural formation of Grime and
the elements that have contributed to its unique style, this can be done
through observation, mainly through online platforms, physically attending
grime events and interviewing a wide variety of people. The values of the culture include technology convergence, self-teaching, lyrical content, authenticity and
entrepreneurship. Spaces include hubs of coalescences such as street corners,
schools, neighbourhood nightclubs, pirate radio, etc. These sites are often
unseen, the reason for this is that they have little interest or relevance to
the broader society. Grime producers, often, address the urban
environment around them, usually describing in often graphic detail the
activities that occur there or mapping the cultural byways that delineate their
localities and give meaning to the space that is portrayed (Forman, 2002). One
could argue that Grime artists are effectively ethnographers, because many of
the key purveyors of Grime music emerged from city spaces and lyrically
expressed the lived realities and material conditions of those spaces, in an
avowedly ethnographic fashion.

 Grime music maps out social life in a
variety of British urban spaces. As such, this marks out grime not merely as a
distinctive musical form, but also as a distinctive ethnographic musical
expression. Therefor carrying out primary research within Cardiff should bring
a wealth of information, as the scene has developed substantially in recent


Related antecedent modes such as garage
and hip-hop and historical discourses, help contextualise forms of Grime,
particularly with regard to the lyrics. A key component of UK Grime is its
lyrical content tends to be micro-focused. It can and does allude the typical structural
issues and themes that link it to its US counterparts, but most consistently, Grime
is concerned mainly with everyday life, it is about life as it is experienced
by the artists themselves (Baron, 2013). I must analyse artists lyrical content
to really understand the messages they are trying to convey. Grime songs
articulate urban worlds as they are seen through the eyes of those who live
within these social environments. In this sense, such recordings can and should
be added to the repertoire of ethnography because they constitute qualitative
‘documents of life’ (Rose, 2014).

 By mapping the development of Grime and
identifying artist key exemplars, such as Dizzee Rascal, The Streets, Wiley,
Lethal Bizzle, Skepta and Kano. It can be argued that this style of music
enables listeners to gain insights into meanings of human existence from the
standpoint of insiders (Jorgensen, 1989). Grime therefore is effectively
eth-nongraphic in nature, it is derived from participant observation in the
most immediate, lived sense because its leitmotif is the streets, and the
status of performers can be compared to that of Gramsci’s idea of the ‘organic
intellectual’ (Baron, 2016). I expect the performers that participate in my
research, to demonstrate and exercise a political, intellectual, and moral role of
leadership within their hegemonic system.

argued that a vibrant mode of hip-hop would become identifiable in the UK,
where it constituted a response similar to the social conditions that assisted
the growth of hip-hop in New York in the mid-1970s, and which would represent
an example of a genuinely indigenous form of street music (Batey, 2003). I
would like to research into artists who do not merely illustrate the visibility
of the British form, but also demonstrate a distinctive progression within the


Using Stokes (1997) analysis, music can
and should be added to the ‘cocktail’ of ethnographic methods, because music
communicates such a potent sense of place and culture – an ethos, I would argue
that this is the central nature of UK Grime. The subject matter of this music
fundamentally concerns human agency and the social and environmental contexts
in which this agency lives and expresses itself. For this reason, a good ethno-
graphic insight can be gained from this type of music.

expresses social milieus which
grants the listener a distinctly emic perspective. The ability to share
an insider’s perception of social reality and specific cultures (Campion,

 Many of these artists produce
distinctly ethnic perspectives based on British ethnic identities, formed from
working-class populations. These populations faced not only the rigours of
low-paid employment, but also racial abuse and violence from sectors of British
society (Hall, 1978). Consequently, many grime artists are the inheritors of
their parent’s grievances. Therefore,
as Quirk (2004) explains, grime is a genuinely powerful musical movement
produced by the hardest circumstances. It is clear that the artists within this
scene reflect there on backgrounds and surroundings, although I would argue
that other artists often reference different subject matters in their lyrical

 The participation of youths from a variety of backgrounds is a testament
to the tenacity of this art form. The presence of a culture of rap in this city
is certainly in part related to the recent global dominance of London popular
culture. However, it is necessary to bring to the fore the significance of alternate
routes that have contributed to the production of Cardiff’s music cultures. In
particular, I want to highlight the significance of African and Caribbean
migration to the formation of this city’s rap culture as well as other ethnic
minority influences. The historian Joseph
Heathcott argues that ‘ska and reggae provided important groundwork for rap
music, he described how island people brought the Jamaican sound system, The MC
and vibrant dancehall culture to the immigrant neighbourhoods’ (2003: 185). Engaging
with historical discourses and community will help determine the development of
the culture in the future. Grime has been consistently
characterised by strong local-level involvement and personal expression
(Hebdige, 1988).

Paul Gilroy’s assessment of rap music, the prevailing perception is one that
focuses upon violence, the ‘normativity of death’ and representing ‘largely a
masculinist gangster paradigm, where the female figure is usually framed in a
derogatory way, all of which reflects the ‘decimation of the poor black
community’ (2005: 63). While there is much within the historical discourse of
Rap and Hip Hop music to agree with this, UK Grime is different, and certainly
more multi-faceted than this critical evaluation suggests. 

Grime is not intrinsically ethnographic,
although because of its cultural and spatial specificity, grime is a form of
music that presents documents of urban spaces and is characterised by ethnic

 Malinowski stated of the anthropological
tradition ‘it is good for the Ethnographer sometimes to put aside camera, note
book and pencil and to join in themselves with what is going on’ (Malinowski,
2007). This experience can be achieved through Cardiff’s Grime music scene,
whereby contemporary ethnographers and students of urban spaces such as myself,
have a distinctly pop cultural means by which they can obtain a liberal coating
of ethnographic Grime.


Methodology (300)


observation acts as the one of the key strategies within fieldwork research,
due to the nature of my investigation it will feature extensively. Interviews
will play an integral part to gaining access to people’s thoughts and opinions.

 Kruger (2008) describes gaining knowledge from
the inside or as an active member enriches the researcher’s knowledge of the
social dynamics, this offers an advantage when it comes to interviewing
subjects. On the other hand, as
Hammersley (1990) notes, ethnography is perhaps the loosest of all the social
science methodologies, as it is not so much a method, but an ‘approach’
characterized by diverseness. This is the reason for using unstructured
interviews, case studies, participant observation, secondary documentary
analysis and the life history, as this all constitutes ethnography. Kruger
(2008) describes gaining knowledge from the inside or as an active member
enriches the researcher’s knowledge of the social dynamics, this offers an
advantage when it comes to interviewing subjects.

 The idea of ‘Covert’ and ‘Overt’ statuses described
by Bryman (2008) as the act of either disclosing your intentions to your
subjects or revealing your identity to you research field. It’s important for
me ethically, to disclose this information when possible to the individuals and
key informants I will be studying, in order to gain the trust of the participants.


the works that have been previously examined, it is clear the role of the ethnographer
has typically taken the stance of an ‘outsider’ coming in to a scene which is unknown
to them, or an academic with a completely different background entering the
research community.  The unique position
I find myself in for this investigation, is that I will enter my field not just
as a researcher but as an active member too. This will give a slightly different
approach to my studies, I believe because of my position I feel the reliability
of the ethnographic research is validated as I am well informed although

 Social media practices and
technologies are often part of how ethnographic research participants navigate
their wider social, material and technological worlds and are equally part of
ethnographic practice. It’s important for me to take this platform into account
as social media and the convergence of other platforms has largely contributed
to the success of the scene (Hattie, 2016). Therefor I will find a lot of
content to inform my research through these sources.

 The quantitative and qualitative research
methods I intend to use represent a useful means of classifying different
methods of social research. Ethnography as a method of research is used to explore a culture or
group of people, there for it is firmly located within the qualitative research
paradigm. My aim is to discover and document this culture through face-to-face
interactions and intimate conversations with people. These conventions are
identified as being characteristic for qualitative research and are applicable
to ethnography. 




Ultimately my aims are to examine how Cardiff’s
Grime scene constructs itself through theoretical ideas such as ethnicity,
values and space and to prove how a small city like Cardiff can be true to the
original concepts and messages of Grime culture and present its own ideas which
are big in nature. My research will subvert from this idea of Grime being a
predominately black genre, as the individuals I will be gaining information
from, all have multicultural identities.

 I want
my research to show how black
and white urban youths use rap to come together to explore their creative
abilities. Through examining the production, dissemination and
use of Grime music in Cardiff, I will be able to show how this cultural form
plays an important role in the everyday lives of youths and the formation of
identities. I want my subject participants to offer alternative view points and
predominately I want my research to overturn stereotypes and show
how rap culture has contributed to the
production of vibrant and multi-ethnic public sphere.


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