Even within Britain, grime has long been considered a niche genre. Pioneered by east London artist Wiley in the early 2000s, whose dark, stripped-down 140-beats-per-minute rhythms drew on U.K. garage and two-step influences and updated them, the sound then evolved on the rooftops of inner-city council estates as pirate radio prospered and MCs such as Dizzee Rascal and Crazy Titch literally battled to have their bars heard over the airwaves.

Now in 2015, the genre is garnering huge mainstream success, all without compromising its sound. At only 22 years old, Stormzy broke into the U.K. Top 20 in September with a freestyle over foundational Ruff Sqwad rhythm “Functions on the Low,” while veteran Skepta is being feted by the likes of Kanye West and Drake in North America.

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