Video games have played as much of a vital role in the creation of grime as the sounds and styles of dancehall, UK garage, and jungle music. Most of the genre’s early hitmakers will tell you they used the Playstation game Music 2000 to make their icy, earth-splitting riddims on, while super-fans on forums such as reddit claim the very first grime instrumental was made all the way back in 1994, via Wolverine: Adamantium Rage—a game for Super Nintendo and the Sega Megadrive.
The jagged synths, square wave bass and sub-aquatic bleeps of games like Sonic The Hedgehog have inspired grime’s beats and bars throughout the years, too, as has Street Fighter—the iconic Japanese fighting game franchise from Capcom. From the legendary D Double E naming a whole track after the game, to Blay Vision naming his latest riddim, “Cammy”, after one of its characters, Street Fighter’s influence has been very much felt. “I was playing Street Fighter with Jme, Shorty and a few other mandem, and Shorty was brukkin’ up everyone with ‘Cammy’ at the time. While I was waiting to play, I just opened FL Studio and cooked up this riddim, basically,” says Blay of a tune that has reinvigorated the grime scene after endless talk of the genre being “dead” by the online-but-never-outside’rs.
A native of Tottenham, North London, Blay Vision—an MC/producer who has worked closely with the likes of Boy Better Know, producing for his heroes Jme and Skepta and helping to fly the flag for their borough—is someone who has been on the verge of a breakthrough for quite some time, but his time has finally come with the release of “Cammy Riddim”, an instrumental with enough low-end bass and intergalactic synths to take you to another realm. “I definitely want to solidify myself as a certified producer,” Blay tells me over the phone during his 9-5 lunch break. “Everyone always says the same thing when it comes to my music: ‘Blay, you’ve just got that sound.” So I’ve embraced that and tried to create a sound that people would have to come to me for.”
Get to know more of Blay Vision after the jump.
“I definitely know that our sound is rated because even before Skepta dropped the ‘Skepta Interlude’ on Drake’s More Life, me and Skep actually made a beat for Drake, and he went crazy for it.”
COMPLEX: “Cammy Riddim” is heating up the grime scene in a major way right now. How does it feel knowing how much of an impact it’s having?
Blay Vision: It feels great, to be honest. I grew up in a time where “Str8 Riddim” by DJ Mondie and “Ice Rink” by Wiley were the go-to tunes, the first two tunes I heard with all the big MCs on, so to be a part of that kind of conversation today is amazing to me. There’s been a few riddims in the meantime that’s done the same—like S-X’s “Wooo Riddim”—so to be in that line-up now just feels great.
Take me back to the moment you were in your production suite, putting this anthemic riddim together. Set the scene for us.
I was in my bedroom. I was actually playing Street Fighter with Jme, Shorty and a few other mandem, and Shorty was brukkin’ up everyone with [the character] ‘Cammy’ at the time. In the lobby, basically, if someone’s playing, you’ve got to wait for their game to finish and then it’s the next person’s go. So I just thought, “Fuck it! While I’m waiting, let me just open FL Studio and cook something up.” I cooked up this riddim while I was waiting, basically. The next day, I listened back to it and was like, “Hold on! This tune’s kinda cold.” I was vibsing to it, posted a couple clips on my Instagram story, and then Manga [Saint Hilare] and Dapz On The Map shouted me about it. I didn’t know what to do because I wanted to keep the song for myself [laughs]. But then people kept on shouting me about it, like, literally non-stop. But when I saw that clip of Skepta, [DJ] Maximum and Frisco in New York with the crowd going mad to it while they were going ham, I was like: “Nah, this tune’s bigger than me now. I can’t just keep it for myself.”
Everyone from Renz and Cadell to Devlin and Flirta D have laced the instrumental, with new “Cammy Riddim” freestyles landing almost every day from MCs around the country. What, or who, was the initial spark that caused this domino effect?
When I saw how everyone was reacting to the tune, I had an idea to do a similar thing to what Jammz and Jack Dat did with “French Montana”. So I basically shouted Manga, shouted Dapz, shouted Mayhem, shouted Jammz, and was like: “We should all do a version and put it out, and then I’ll put the instrumental out and if anyone wants to do a version after that, they can just cop the instrumental and do it.” I posted clips on my socials and people were going crazy, so it got to a point where I said, “What if I made a huge Cammy EP?” But then I realised that the admin inside of that would’ve been too much. So I basically came up with the plan to put the instrumental out and whitelist it through my distribution so nobody could get any copyright strikes. This was gonna be one of those tunes that I wouldn’t monetise; I knew the impact would make up for it. I said to everyone, “You can keep your streams because studio and shooting videos, all these things cost money. So keep any money you make from it and be in control of your own business.” That took the stress off my head, having to keep a track of everyone, getting everyone’s PRS and working out who needs what payment.
Have any new doors opened for you off the back of “Cammy Riddim”? I’ve seen a few freestyles get on Spotify’s popular Grime Shutdown playlist, which some said hadn’t been updated for months.
Yeah, definitely. Through this, it put me in contact with a lot of MCs that I didn’t have contact with. I’ve had conversations in the past month with artists like Ghetts, Jaykae, Lethal Bizzle… They haven’t done versions yet, but I’ve been able to connect with them, so now, when I make something, I’m just gonna send it through to their email. A lot of MCs in the next year are going to get a lot of tunes from me in the email. It’s up to them if they use them—no pressure—but at least now I’ve got the chance to have that open dialogue. I’m trying to sort out some things on the business end right now, having a few conversations with publishers and stuff. I want to get the music in the best place possible because I make a lot of instrumentals, so there’s always music to use—whether that be for adverts, games, and things like that. I’m trying to head towards that field to see if I can maximise productivity.
Apart from yours, obviously, whose “Cammy Riddim” freestyle is your favourite? If that’s too tekky to answer, you can give me your Top 3.
Right now, as it stands, I’d say Flirta D is my number one. Number two would be Manga, and number three would be President T… Actually, I’ve got to say Prez T second because, I can’t lie: he absolutely merked it! There’s so many versions, it’s mad. But yeah, I’d say first is Flirta, second is Prez T, and third is Manga.
“For all of us who are doing our thing, we’re so confused about the ‘grime is dead’ talk because things are healthy for a lot of us.”
As well as being a producer, you’re also an MC. Being skilled at both, how does one discipline inform the other for you? Are you a better MC because you’re a producer, or are you a better producer because you know certain pockets an MC can go in?
I think I’m a better producer because I’m an MC. I noticed that when I make beats, a lot of MCs mess with my tunes because they can vocal them quite easily. I come from the Jme and Skepta school of producers. They’re the kind of producers that got me into making beats. I had a show with Prez T recently and he said that when he listens to my music, he hears the inspirations that I have. He was like, “Yeah, it sounds like this person and this person all mixed in one.” And I’m like, “You know what? These are the people I listened to growing up, so if anything, you’re flattering me telling me that my music sounds like theirs.” Because that’s the aim: those kinds of pockets I’m trying to hit.
Not too long ago, I put together a list feature for Complex on the MCs pushing grime forward, which included new names and older ones too. It dropped in amongst talk of the genre being “dead”—again!—which I’ve heard too many times for my liking. How do you feel about the current state of grime?
It’s funny, because for all of us who are doing our thing, we’re so confused about the “grime is dead” talk because things are healthy for a lot of us. I think the business side of grime is what makes people say grime is dead, more than anything. From public perception, you might see other genres—like drill, for example—and everyone’s drippy, flexing, got the diamonds and stuff, whereas grime isn’t really like that. With grime artists, you don’t really see them flexing the same way, but that way is what the masses are gravitating to more these days. So people in their heads just think, “There’s money over there.” It’s the same way with drum & bass, but I speak to drum & bass MCs and them man are guaping! They’re hitting up three shows on a Saturday, four on a Sunday [laughs]. They’re going in because the scene is healthy. If you’re into grime, you know it’s booming because you’ve got people at Manga, people like Jammz, who are really pushing it. And that’s two out of a lot more I could name.
I’m hearing the grime influence creep into more and more mainstream music these days. No one can tell me the production on Brent Faiyaz’s “Price Of Fame” wasn’t inspired by some old Eski, Jammer or Terror Danjah beat. Have you picked up on that influence as well?
Slyly, yeah. I definitely know that our sound is rated because even before Skepta dropped the “Skepta Interlude” on Drake’s More Life, me and Skep actually made a beat for Drake. We were in the studio from 6pm to 6am making music and I remember, like it was yesterday, reading the replies from Drake and thinking to myself, “This is mad! This guy is the biggest artist in the world and something that we’ve just cooked up on a greezy one, he’s going crazy for.” Unfortunately, it never came out, but it was a mad experience to see that reply. Even with that tune, me and Capo Lee actually vocalled the beat so that’s gonna be on a project called Northern Lights, coming real soon.
What’s the two to three-year vision looking like for Blay Vision?
I definitely want to solidify myself as a certified producer. Everyone always says the same thing when it comes to my music: “Blay, you’ve just got that sound.” So I’ve embraced that and just basically tried to create a sound that people would have to come to me for, and I want to make that as sick as it possibly can be. Everything in the next two to three years, for me, is really about solidifying my sound, putting my stamp on it and making people know when you come here, you’re going to get quality, you’re going to get greatness and you’re going to get a vibe.