Photo by Ray Fiasco.
“I wouldn’t say I see myself as a historian of grime. Historians usually look at an event from the outside. My account comes from the inside, I was there standing right next to Henry VIII…”
Darren Joseph, aka DJ Target, has witnessed the birth, decline and re-birth of a genre of music comparable to punk in its cultural significance for the UK and the world, as he explains over the phone: “Grime is the UK’s voice of inner city youth. It’s the UK’s answer to hip-hop, it even has a similar sort of history, arising from the same kind of social conditions… Ours just sounds different, and is influenced by jungle, garage, and dancehall.”
Not only has Target witnessed grime bloom into what it is, he has also been a part of it, producing early grime tracks and spinning tunes for the UK’s best MCs, in grime collective Roll Deep. Today, he hosts his own radio show on BBC 1Xtra and is able to give a platform to emerging artists that are doing new things in grime and beyond. He details his journey from naïve kid to grime veteran in a new book he is releasing this month: Grime Kids.
On the cover is a photo of him and the ‘Godfather of Grime’, Wiley looking fresh- faced and fearless. Wiley, aka Richard Kylea Cowie, was one of Target’s childhood friends. The pair grew up together and got into the same kind of music at the same time. They even got their first job together, packing food at a Jamaican patty place, and were subsequently fired when they got caught having a food fight by the owner, Wiley’s uncle: “Even Wiley got fired, and it was his uncle who owned the place!” Target laughs.
“I wanted people to know that the history of grime isn’t all just people with hoods up being all serious, there were a lot of clumsy mistakes along the way…”
The book is bursting with stories like these, from trying to sneak into clubs with Wiley using mascara to paint on moustaches, to selling jungle vinyl to a baby-faced Dylan Mills aka Dizzee Rascal. What makes the text different is that the stories are all raw, first-hand accounts, as Target points out: “The book goes into my life but it’s not about me, it’s about me witnessing the birth and continuing life of grime… I think I knew I could tell the story in a different way because I wasn’t telling it from a distance, I had witnessed everything first hand.”
One of the most astounding things about the book is the fact that Target had no ghostwriter when doing it, despite it reading so smoothly. This was a challenge at first, the 38 year-old DJ explains: “I haven’t written since school. At time it felt like I was doing an English assignment but one that I was actually passionate about… I think the moment I realised I would be able to do it was when I sent the first chapter to my editor and it was sent back with barely any corrections, barely any red pen on the page.”
The history of grime could almost be taught in English classes as if it were Shakespeare, given the amount of drama there is in it. Target’s book, however, reveals the side of the tale in which a bunch of kids were just changing music forever without really knowing what they were doing: “I wanted people to know that the history of grime isn’t all just people with hoods up being all serious, there were a lot of clumsy mistakes along the way”, he explains when I mention how much humour there is in the book. He adds further:
“The thing is, if you had said to me when we started doing all this that we would be here 15 years later making a living out of it and talking about the importance of what we had done I don’t think anyone of us would have believed it. We were just doing what we wanted to do for fun and making it up as we went along.”
With such a detailed insight on such a significant narrative, could we very well see a film or a TV series commissioned in the future? “Literally the minute I finished the book, I was getting people calling me up asking about commissions, so I think it’s something that could definitely happen,” Target replies with barely a pause.
And here is an organic opportunity to ask a clichéd question: who would you want to play you in a film, if you could choose anyone? Target laughs and replies humbly: “Someone cool I guess… To be honest, the fact that I am here being asked who I would like to play me in a movie is surreal, it’s not something I would have ever thought would have happened.”
Grime Kids: The Inside Story of the Global Grime Takeover is out now, published by Trapeze.