D DOUBLE E with JAMMER , EARS and STEADY MERKIN' SOUND as part of the RUN THE ROAD release tour at the Richmond (129 Peter), Saturday (March 12). $10. 416-204-9660. Rating: NNNNN
While Queen West hipsters smugly enjoy G-Unit and Dipset records on the ironic tip, in East London, UKMCs are passing around a mic in smoky high-rise flats, spitting cockney fire through pirate radio transmitters like their lives depend on it.
Of course, the grime scene (the hyper love baby of UK garage, jungle and hiphop) is no longer a secret. Recently, the unanimously overhyped M.I.A. won it some attention; Mike Skinner, aka the Streets, has been called the UK Eminem for years; and Mercury Prize winner Dizzee Rascal became grime's poster boy with his debut, Boy In Da Corner (Matador/XL). But they're just the tip of the iceberg.
"Dizzee and Streets, they're good representatives for England, yeah?" says MC D Double E from his crib in Forest Gate, East London. "But there's a lot of fire where that come from."
A prominent member of the second, more underground wave of grime stars (including Wiley and Kano), D Double E understands North Americans are still in the dark about grime, so the genre's international success will depend on who represents it first.
"Some shit artists that have got through," he says. "Then Americans look at them like they're the big ones.
"We need real people at the front to show them what's goin' on. Grime is representing the road, and it will grow."
Vice is banking on it. The trend-conscious mag's boutique label has been a long-time grime/garage supporter. It's now introducing the scene's up-and-comers to North American audiences through the Run the Road comp (originally distributed in the UK by 679).
The various producers put their own spins on grime's syncopated sequencing of electro kicks, snares and off-kilter synth lines, providing some shit-hot beats for the blaring energy of the album's posse cuts, including the Streets' gutter-ass Fit But You Know It remix featuring Kano, Donae'o, Lady Sovereign and Tinchy Stryder. D Double E himself is a standout on tracks Destruction VIP and Cock Back.
So how does it feel to be a pioneer?
"Oy, man, it's strange still when I think back to when I first started until now, how things have changed, like, going from just a normal guy sitting in my room to someone that's big across the world. But it's a big step. We're part of the new music. In the future, people will look at people like me and Wiley as the beginners."