get to know the unsung female heroes of grime

Though it’s often men who claim the shine and reap the rewards, there are many incredible women in and around grime who have been integral in helping to shape the genre and its surrounding culture. i-D Features Director Hattie Collins talks us through...

09 September 2016, 7:10pm

Chantelle Fiddy, journalist, A&R, manager, benefactor
There are many titles one might bestow on Chantelle Fiddy, but lets roll with the Godmother, The Godmother of Grime. Alongside Martin Clark, the journalist was deep in the trenches of grime before the genre even had a name. A key part in gently lifting the 140BPM-based culture from Bow and disseminating it to the masses via her work at Touch, B&S, and Mixmag, Fiddy's coup de grace was her brilliantly irreverent, and hugely informative blog Fiddy's World of Whatever (RIP). From organizing the iconic Wiley/ Dizzee/ Crossways (Three Flats) shoot by David Tong, to putting on the raviest of all raves — Straight Outta Bethnal at the 333 (the place where, as JME recalls in This Is Grime, Boy Better Know as a brand was born) — Fiddy has helped shape and disseminate the scene from day. As well as her role as journalist, blogger, and promoter, she also unofficially A&R'd, putting together Run The Roads 2 and remixes like this Lady Sov one featuring a young JME and Skepta and, alongside Skepta, the Pranging Out remix for the Streets Ft. Devilman, Wretch, Frisco, Bossman, Tinchy, Skepta and Ghetts. One sign of the respect bestowed upon the Fidz by the scene is the amount of mentions she's had in MC's metaphors — most famously perhaps Skepta's "I load magazines like Chantelle Fiddy." Currently working in management, Fiddy can be found carefully curating Jammer and Ratty's Lord of the Mics brand and running Jammer's Jahmek the World record label, as well as acting as producer on a forthcoming Viceland documentary on the scene and a series for BBC3.

Lady Fury, MC
Last spotted at Eskimo Dance back in 2012 — but who hasn't been heard or seen since — Fury had the balls to clash Crazy Titch with Tools So Small and slewed Shystie several times, most emphatically over the "Lean Back" beat. Though Fury disappeared from the scene in the mid-noughties, her contribution as a leading MC during the scene's nascent years can't be forgotten.

NoLay, MC
Still going strong, Isabella Gotti blew a hole in the scene with her appearance on 679's Run The Road compilation. Since Unorthodox Daughter, NoLay has remained one of the fiercest, most fantastic MCs in the scene, giving boys, girls, and everyone else a run for their metaphorical money.

Rebecca Prochnik, Live Agent
As Crazy Titch recalls in This Is Grime, Rebecca was among the first to spread the sound to clubs outside of Hackney, Bow, and Stratford, even in its earliest phases, focusing on moving through Europe and into the States. Her first signing was Wiley and Roll Deep, but soon she was working with the cream of the underground such as Titch, Skepta, JME, Tinchy Stryder, and J2K amongst others. Currently running her own agency, Earth, Rebecca continues to represent some of the scene's finest artists as they finally (and deservedly) reach larger and larger audiences worldwide.

Lady Sovereign, MC
A contentious one, perhaps, but I'd fight for Sov's right to be a part of grime all day. Unfairly shunned by the scene since finding her way to stardom as a 14 year-old on the forums, Sov the MC came to be after she dropped A Little Bit Of Shhh. Regarded as too gimmicky by some, the one-time i-D cover star was touted as the 'English Eminem' and signed to Def Jam by Jay Z in 2005. Despite auspicious beginnings, the dream quickly crumbled, with Sov hanging up the mic a few years ago. We keep our fingers crossed for a comeback — or maybe even a Jentina rematch.

Hyperfrank, Blogger and journalist
Arriving around 2006 for the so-called 'second wave' of grime, the-then teen's contribution to the culture is incredibly important. As well as her brilliant blog, radio shows, nights, and petitions for Dizzee Rascal shows, Laura and her pal JP Patterson (the Fiddy to my Collins), supported the scene when No.One.Else.Cared. It's thanks to the likes of Laura, JP, Spyro, Sian, Julie, Butterz, P Money, Rival, and Kozzie that there was a still a scene for grime to return to in 2013. We need to applaud Laura's ongoing commitment and belief in the culture, because it's thanks to the likes of Hypes that grime is still alive and thriving. You can catch Laura's work on Complex, i-D, and MTV.

Ny, Singer
The first lady of grime, Ny laced her luscious vocals on beats for former boyfriend, Wiley, before making her own mixtape featuring everyone from the Godfather to Plan B, Pro Green and Purple (another long-forgotten name in the scene). Split Endz won Ny both love from the scene and the cover of RWD.

Sarah Lockhart, MD, Rinse FM
Lockhart's contribution to UK grime and dubstep culture can't be overstated. As CEO of Rinse FM — the original platform for grime which has been so pivotal in shaping British culture — she campaigned for five years to successfully achieve the station's license in 2010. As well as founding FWD>>> and Tempa (SNM), Sarah's role at EMI Publishing meant MCs got paid — and stayed paid. Cited by Wiley as the woman who helped him to understand the importance of PRS, Lockhart has published music from acts such as So Solid, Wiley, Ms. Dynamite, Skepta, JME, P Money, and Novelist… to name just a few.

Shystie, MC
"I grew up in H-Town, living life on the block…" Shystie only had "One Wish" and that was to make her own mark on the scene. Making her name with her version of Dizzee's "I Luv U," Shystie had flows and she had bars. She signed to Polydor and released a debut album, Diamond In The Dirt, but like other MC's at the time signed to major labels, the marketing was off, the audience was misunderstood and the record failed to connect. She went on to front Channel 4's Dubplate Drama and continues to record; a fashion week favorite, Shystie can occasionally be seen popping up in Nasir Mazhar campaigns and beefing (like the rest of the world) with Azealia Banks.

Sam White, Photographer
This photographer was one of the few, indeed, only female photographer to document the scene back in the day.LivinInTheGrime was the blog, which although hasn't been updated since 2006, still provides a brilliant snapshot of the scene, from Bossman balancing his baby sister on his knee to a teenage Tinchy performing with Wiley. Sam went on to work briefly in publicity at Polydor records (randomly, she took me to interview Snoop at the EMA's one year), before taking off to travel. The whereabouts of Sam today are unknown, but her visual contribution to the scene lives on via the internet.

Lilz, PR
If you know Lilz, you know Lilz. The PR is a thunderous ball of energy, taking no nonsense as she strides through the scene making sure it's being represented in the right way, by the right people. Most likely seen behind the scenes at Eskimo Dance, over the years Lilz has promoted releases by everyone from Wiley to Scorcher, Fekky, and — of course — Wiley and Cheeky's seminal shoobs, Eskimo Dance (the next one will be at Croydon's Boxpark on October 29, right in time for Halloween). Special thank you to Lilz for hooking us up and taking This Is Grime on tour with Eskimo Dance this year, ensuring we got unrivaled access to the amazing energy of this influential rave.

Mizz Beatz, Producer
Discovered by Jammer when she was just 17, the Leytonstone producer played a short, but sharp, part in the scene. When the first beat you make features D Double E, and the second Wiley, inevitably the pressure can get to you. Following remixes for Lady Sovereign and features on MTV, Mizz Beatz took some time out and disappeared from the scene. After tracking her down for This Is Grime, Iman told us of her plans to return to music. Now back in the studio, we look forward to hearing more soon — after all there's too many man, too many man, in here!

Julie Adenuga, Broadcaster
In a powerful position thanks to her Beats 1 show, this former Apple Store employee is now taking grime to a global audience with Apple's radio platform. Initially making her name alongside buddy Sian Anderson on Rinse FM, Julie's power lies in her personality; what you hear on the radio is what you get in real life. As well as a broadcaster and presenter, Julie is a rising philanthropist, recently setting up the mentoring charity One True Calling with Sian.

Sian Anderson, DJ, broadcaster, PR, promoter
Whether hosting her hugely popular 1Xtra show which champions the true up-and-comers, taking part in panels, putting on raves, running PR company Sightracked (past and previous clients include Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, Wiley, Kojey Radical), writing for i-D and The Fader, or being a mom to a newly-born (and very, very cute) son, Sian seems to make 24 hours a day stretch into 48. A truly passionate gatekeeper of the scene, you can often find Anderson protecting its name over on Twitter.

Grace Ladoja, Manager
Skepta often shouts out his Metallic management crew, Grace and Radha, who have quietly and calmly helped Skep to shut everything down. Helping to introduce the Tottenham rhymer to a fashion crowd a couple of years back, Ladoja — who is also a creative in her own right collaborating with everyone from Nike to FKA Twigs — has been the MC's right-hand-woman as he navigates both chart success and brand partnerships.

Rachel Campbell, PR
Now over at Atlantic Records overseeing WSTRN, Campbell has been deep in the grime for years via her own company, Wired, which reps everyone from Little Simz to Fetty Wap. Her most successful client, arguably, to date happens to be one Michael Omari — more regularly known as Stormzy. A key part of the south Londoner's team, Campbell has plotted Stormzy's rise to the top with care and attention, ensuring the key message gets across — a great human who makes great music. Watch Campbell's career rise alongside that of her 6'4 client and remember where you knew her from.

Vicky Grout, Photographer
Perhaps enjoying one of the fastest-rises in photographic history, hard-working Vicky Grout can be seen out and about at any grime event you might mention. Known for her portraits of Section Boyz, Skepta, and Novelist, Grout's unassuming nature and ability to get to the heart of the action has made her one of grime's go-to documenters. The subject of a recent exhibition of her own, Grout's work will be exhibited next month in Leeds as part of An Eye On Grime, by Red Bull and This Is Grime of the scene's visual history.

Cat Park, PR
Now over at Ten Letter looking after (among many, many others) Jammer, 67, Frisco, and new film The Intent, Park started her professional life over on seminal station Channel U. Another impressive woman who gets things done by being really, really good at her job, Cat, alongside Shireen Fenner, makes sure that column inches aren't taken up solely by the stars of the scene, but by the true underground voices too. Working tirelessly to promote and protect the scene, this proactive PR is another who will go far.

Caroline SM, Creative Director
This hard-working woman just helped Posty put on GRM Daily's Rated awards — attended by everyone from Stormzy to Skepta. As well as her work at the leading grime website, SM is also an A&R over at XL and hosts a show on Rader radio. Watch out for this woman — who knows where she'll go next!

Lady Leshurr, MC
We'll let this recent i-D article do the talking for Leshurr.

Honorable mentions:
The moms
A. Dot
Mz. Bratt
The R&G dons Sadie and Shola Ama
Baby Blue who was technically hip-hop, but hey.
The new (and not so new) crew coming through: Rader's Alia Loran, Flava D from Butterz, Madam X, and DJ Barely Legal

'This Is Grime' by Hattie Collins and Olivia Rose, published by Hodder, is out today.


Photography Olivia Rose

music interviews
olivia rose
this is grime