Grime is the most authentically British sound to emerge from the UK in decades. Until mid-2016, Grime artists remained thoroughly underground, with little recognition in the wider musical community and even less monetary gain. However, since mid-2016 when superstar Drake revealed a newfound obsession with London Grime collective Boy Better Know, Grime has been launched state-side and been thrust into the mainstream UK charts.
Alongside this long-awaited come up has come the opportunity for relationships to be built with the marketing world.
We look at some of the most interesting collaborations happening, and what can be learned from them.
Redbull is a veteran supporter of Grime, and alongside their other extreme sports sponsorships and endorsements (Redbull Cliff Diving Tour, Snow Thrill Skiing Competition, Formula 1 and Stratos Jump), Grime has slid into the mix perfectly. Grime’s anti-authoritarian theme fits in perfectly with the brand image. Redbull has matched the process of Grime becoming a mainstream sound by developing a page on their website which is specifically dedicated to supporting artists, recommending Grime documentaries and promoting events
Aside from their Grime-A-Side (a YouTube series which brings together artists from different cities to clash, Redbull have an open-mic style Riddim Rally for new artists to flex their lyrical muscles, released a special Xmas Cypher with MC AJ Tracey and collaborated with FACT to ask Grime producer Kamakaze to produce a beat using a Redbull can.
Although this relationship between the company and the genre is longer standing than others, the ideas are fresh and constantly pushing boundaries.
Kano and Mercedes
Being one of the most recognised pioneers of Grime, Kano’s work ethic and dedication to the genre has landed him serious status. After co-producing and starring in critically acclaimed UK drama Top Boy, Kano also helped himself to land a series of collaborations with Mercedes. Stepping away from the ‘gritty’ setting generally matched with Grime, Kano reached into the land of luxury cars, and the result is a convincing bad-boy-superstar advert for Mercedes.
Alize, Big Narstie & Caggie Dunlop
Alize – the drink of choice for many a rudeboy back in the day and wannabe roadmen of today – but how should you actually drink it? The drinks company brought in bombastic rapper/TV personality Big Narstie and Made In Chelsea’s Caggie Dunlop, and in a bizarre mix of completely opposed personalities and alcohol, they created a range of cocktails to launch the beverage back into the minds of night-club-goers everywhere.
Stormzy and Anthony Joshua
Sports and music arguably go hand-in-hand – 9/10 Olympians mention listening to some kind of motivational song or particular artist before competing and when training, and the music and sports social spheres have historically mixed. As sports stars win rewarding partnerships with brands, their own image becomes a valuable commodity. Anthony Joshua, the UK’S IBF Heavyweight Champion and heartthrob, chose for Stormzy to perform before his fight against Charles Martin. This was a massive win for Stormzy, and clever PR for Anthony Joshua.
Relentless, Ghetts and Rude Kid
Grime is aurally fast-paced and lyrically unforgiving – relentless if you will. The energy within the music perfectly matches the brand image of the energy drink, so it only made sense to bring the two together. In a near-impossible challenge, Producer Rude Kid and Grime MC Ghetts agreed to create a 6 track EP (recorded and mixed at the Relentless Number Five Studio), film 3 music videos and premiere the entirety of the work at a final gig in The Laundry, Hackney. The challenge was quickly launched into the Twittersphere as the hashtag #SixFiveThree. The EP is now available on iTunes, and features across YouTube and the Relentless Energy Website.
Skepta and … Everyone
Skepta is arguably the grime artist of favour in the US at the moment, and this has led to some incredibly lucrative deals with omniscient sports brand Nike, Japanese lux leisure brand Uniqlo, and even a collaboration with skater brand Supreme. With the image of Grime artists generally focussing around tracksuits and puffer jackets, it only made sense for these leisurewear brands to reach out to the MC.
As with all influencer-focussed marketing initiatives, latching on to superstars is a sure-fire way for companies to remain relevant, expand their audience and resultantly remain top dogs in the marketing world. However, the sheer diversity of the brands who have latched onto Grime MCs remains the most intriguing part of these collaborations. Uniqlo, for example, generally a brand associated with the function-focussed design and high-quality materials, have received a new group of trendy twenty-something consumers looking to mirror their musical idol. Similarly, RedBull branching into music events is something which, although differing completely from their extreme sports endorsements, fits with their brand identity. Essentially, the take away is to be confident and as diverse as possible without compromising your brand identity.