Charting the Rise of Arabic in Grime
Over the past few years, Grime has become one of the most popular creative forces in the UK. Few other genres of music are as exciting, as innovative, or as reflective of being young and British than this uniquely UK sound; meaning many artists who create it have now gone from underground kings to household-names.
Grime grew out of London’s ethnically diverse boroughs, and its beats and bars have never been afraid to take cues from a variety of cultures. While the genre’s early days were largely shaped by UK garage and the Afro-Caribbean communities most of the artists hailed from, we’ve noticed something to suggest the music has lately become even more indicative of Britain’s multiculturalism:
There’s a lot of Arabic in Grime these days, don’t you think?
Since Skepta dropped ‘That’s Not Me’ and the genre surged back into the hearts of music fans and critics alike, people have been singing along to bars containing an uptick of words like ‘Deen’, ‘Ameen’, ‘Aki’ and ‘InshaAllah’.
Speaking of which, Skepta mentions ‘Deen’ in his national anthem, ‘Shutdown’, when he chastises contemporaries who – how should we put this – aren’t as pious as they make out:
You wanna act like a G for the camera
You say you’re Muslim, you say you’re Rasta
Say you don’t eat pork, don’t eat [REDACTED FOR THE CHILDREN]
Liar, you’re just a actor
Blood, you’re not on your deen
And if Selassie saw you he would say
“Blood take off the red gold and green”
This habit isn’t even all that new. Before they broke the UK charts and made a Freak of the Week-shaped dent across the globe, south Londoners Krept & Konan dropped a freestyle in 2011 that probably has more Arabic words in it then the entire archive of articles on this website.
Of course, this evolution has also seen other dialects converge seamlessly with primarily English lyrics. Shide Boss, an MC of Asian heritage from Nottingham, collaborated with Chip in 2016 to release ‘You’re The One (Tu Hi Heh)’, an underground banger with a hook entirely in Hindi.
So what accounts for this Arabic phenomenon? We don’t actually think it’s related to any sort of deliberate decision. Grime MCs have always been a product of the environment which shaped them. And in the last few years, these environments have welcomed more people from a variety of backgrounds into their communities, causing languages and habits and idiosyncrasies to bleed into the cultural output.
The fact Grime is currently so popular – especially with young people – suggests this generation is one that embraces the idea Britain contains multitudes, and British culture can thrive on the cultures of others.