We spent our Sunday afternoon in a sweaty East London basement watching the sixth installment of Jammer’s popular Grime clash.
Traditionally the Lord’s day, last Sunday-for 150 Grime obsessives at least, was given over to Lord of the Mics. Starting out in Jammer’s mum’s East London basement back in 2002, the series has retained pride of place in the hearts and minds of producers, MC’s and fans of the genre ever since-with the sporadic timing of each edition only serving to add to its’ mystique. Clashes between the likes of Wiley and Kano, Footsie and Scratchy, and Skepta and Devilman, have been etched into Grime legend, with the battles providing some of the most visceral and controversial moments in recent British musical history. At the center of it all is the aforementioned Jammer, a jester of sorts undoubtedly, but also a relentlessly shrewd promoter and businessman.
With last year’s LOTM 5 a relatively low key affair featuring a bevvy of up and coming MC’s (save for the heated headline clash between Lil Nasty and Maxsta), it was clear that Jammer needed to up the ante with number six-and thankfully he duly obliged. In terms of ‘active’ MC’s, there are few names bigger than P Money and Big H-with both commanding large followings thanks to years of commitment to the scene. As the pair had previously been slated to participate in clashes with other MC’s on separate occasions (P with Ghetts and Big H with Scratchy), finally locking them down appeared to be a coup for Jammer.
Billing it as ‘The Biggest Clash in Grime History’-was a typical piece of Grime hyperbole, but amongst the dedicated legions of fans there was certainly a palpably high level of anticipation about this one-and for good reason too. As well as a being a classic case of North versus South (Big H hails from Edmonton, P from Lewisham), there were also clear differences between their styles. H, five years P’s senior, has long been renowned for his authentic ‘road’ bars-which were lent credibility thanks to his association with the controversial Bloodline Crew (of which Skepta was formerly a member). P Money has never lent as heavily as H on gun talk and crime references, instead winning fans over with his rapid fire, skippy flow and highly memorable hooks. Up until a month ago it was the latter who’d most often flirted with crossover success-thanks to frequent appearances on Rinse FM and collaborations with the likes of Magnetic Man and DJ Zinc, but H’s guest verse on his running mate Meridian Dan’s ubiquitous chart smash ‘German Whip’ has suddenly propelled him to heights P Money has yet to reach commercially. With these interesting contrasts added to by some obligatory pre-bout antics (see above), the stage was nicely set for what looked to be an exciting clash.
With the Grime scene never especially renowned for its punctual nature, Hyponik probably should’ve taken it with a pinch of salt when they were told to arrive at Dalston’s Birthdays venue at the unconscionably early (for a Sunday!) time of 11.45am. As it was the hour or so spent waiting outside provided ample time to enjoy the sight of bewildered residents trying to work out why exactly there were a hundred or so affable roadmen packing the pavement at midday. Once the throng were admitted entry there was still a sufficient amount of build up before the main event, in the form of a couple of support battles-with East London’s Opium edging Leeds MC Dialect in the highlight of the two.
Slated to start clashing at 2pm, it wasn’t until 3pm that Jammer informed a by now restless-and considerably bevvied, crowd, that Big H had finally arrived at Birthdays. A frantic call was placed over the PA to get the former Bloodline member downstairs and on stage, and after a few impossibly long minutes he joined P Money front and centre. Seeking to allay to the tension Jammer wasted no time in commanding the ever dependable Logan Sama to run the tunes and we were then soon underway. H started off with a few well aimed digs at his opponent-drawing loud cheers with every lyrical blow, before handing over to P Money who enjoyed an equally raucous response. At this early stage in the clash the two looked primed to deliver on every bit of hype that had preceded them – with this writer joining the rest of Birthdays in gluing his eyes to the stage and the spectacle unfolding. That was until all hell proceeded to break loose.
As P continually told us afterwards, his rival had admitted the previous night that he had never actually watched Lord of the Mics. This pretty astonishing fact might go some way to explaining why Big H completely neglected to adhere to its time honored format of three rounds, three verses per MC per round. Seeking to stop the contest after only a verse each was exchanged in every round, Big H contributed to a gradual fraying of tempers from both the spectators and P Money himself. Quickly resorting to what Grime fans would refer to as ‘normal bars’ (his trademark references to ‘AK Rifle’ cropped up countless times), rather than specially written verses aimed at P, a real low point was reached when he drew for the lyrics to ‘German Whip’. With that cop out leading to P Money’s spectacularly aimed retort that H’s whip was in fact “French” and that he “winds his windows down with a wrench”, the flailing MC looked to be dead and buried-and so it proved.
Rather than ceding defeat gracefully-admittedly an unlikely possibility at a Grime clash, H refused to continue spitting but still ludicrously claimed that he had put P Money ‘in a coffin’. Facing the jeers of the crowd, his embarrassment-cloaked under layers of misplaced bravado, soon became obvious. Refusing to participate in the customary bonus round, he instead left the stage, drawing the ire of P. Clearly up for a contest rather than the lame duck shooting which he had just taken part in, he pleaded with H to return to the stage-although with every passing minute his begging became angrier. Telling his vanquished foe that what the crowd had just witnessed was “worse than 8 Mile” provided a particular high or low point-depending on which way you looked at it.
Eventually H did return out to the stage-either out of pride or because he couldn’t face trying to pass a hundred or so angry Grime fans on the way to the exit, although when he did he only made matters worse. Telling the crowd that if they wanted to hear more from him then Jammer would have to pay more-a bewildering claim when he had already reportedly been given ten grand for his services, inflamed everyone present. With Jammer finally losing his temper and telling the disgraced star where to go, this was officially a wrap.
Committing what can only be described as career suicide in front a crowd of his peers-including the likes of Tempa T, Big Narstie and D Double E, as well as paying fans and journalists such as yours truly, its pretty safe to say that Big H’s future in Grime looks almost non existent at this point. Losing a clash is one thing, but to flame out so spectacularly and with such a lack of dignity was truly something else. Social media of course blew up-and continues to do so in the aftermath of his defeat, whilst H for his part hasn’t done anything to slow down the stream of abuse rightfully aimed his way. Releasing a statement on Tuesday which claimed that crowd noise meant much of the clash went unheard (it didn’t) and tried to arrange a rematch (not going to happen), he destroyed any remaining shred of credibility he may have had left. Whilst his collapse certainly proved to be unforgettable viewing-many will surely buy the DVD to witness it themselves, it was a disappointing end to a day which had been well arranged and promoted by Jammer, ably competed in by P Money, and enthusiastically supported by a loyal group of rowdy fans.
Photography: Tim and Barry
Words: Christian Murphy