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Lady Shocker on the evolution of grime culture in Bow and beyond

The ‘first lady’ of the Wolf Pack crew, a formidable clash opponent, and with a burgeoning solo career, Lady Shocker has been a mainstay of the Bow grime scene since its earliest days.

‘I was born and raised in it,’ she says. ‘I know nearly every MC in the game and that’s because I went to every youth centre, every club.’ We talk at Zealand Coffee, the site of Rhythm Division record shop, where every major grime artist cut their teeth. Lady Shocker is no stranger to the likes of Wiley and Kano. Kano’s DJ, Bionics, lived a couple of doors down from her when she was growing up. Everybody was part of the same community.

‘At the time it didn’t seem like it was limited, but it was because there was only one club on Monday in the whole of London, so everyone would go to that one club. That’s how you met people.’

Lady Shocker’s calling within that world soon became clear. Every artist is wired a little differently. She was an MC. ‘When I listen to a good beat, I get the vibe of, “What can I write to this?”’ she says. ‘Whereas producers would hear a good beat and catch a different vibe.

‘I like expressing myself, I like the different flows. Every aspect of writing just got me.’

Her love for it is obvious as we talk. Lady Shocker is a student of the craft, as well as a believer in the energy that fuels it. Although grime isn’t always respected by the mainstream press (or politicians), Lady Shocker has experienced its positive impact first hand.

‘No matter how much of a bad light people shine on it, grime gets people away from a bad place. It gives them a living, something to focus on,’ she says. ‘No matter how much negativity it gets it’s a wonderful thing to become its own genre.’

‘People in grime are talking about the same stuff people in hip hop and have been talking about for years,’ she says. ‘Because it’s English people want to frown upon it more, question it more, and pull us up about it more. It’s basically the same sort of anger that you hear in the start of hip hop.’

Grime has grown to match hip hop in commercial appeal as well. The times of pirate radio and streetside MC clashes seem almost quaint now grime artists are topping the charts and headlining major festivals.

People can make money from it now, whereas before artists were mostly limited to the hustle of vinyls and raves. It is more of a business now, which Lady Shocker largely welcomes, although she never wants to lose sight of the fire that started everything.

Although her cadence has changed since the early years, she takes the time to go back and listen to her old stuff. ‘There was something about that rawness that always has to remain the same,’ she says. ‘I always take time to check myself and go back and remember the times where it was nothing but fun.’

For Lady Shocker, who turned 32 this year, that rawness is a frame of mind rather than an innate quality of youth. ‘When Wiley retires that’s the age you can spit grime to,’ she laughs. ‘It can only be as old as the person that made it,’ she says. ‘That’s what life’s about, experimenting, trying new things, and doing stuff you love.

‘Without a way to express yourself you wind up going crazy.’

Listen to Lady Shocker’s new track This is the Third, talking about living in Bow E3.

Lady Shocker singing grime artist Bow 1

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Frederick O'Brien

Fred is a writer and researcher with a background in sustainable development. His research has featured in The Independent, the Evening Standard, and the New York Post, among others.

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