Is grime the Leicester City of the musical world? Back in 2005, when Skepta and co were making beats in North London, it’s fair to say they were underdogs.
But look how far grime has come along! Drake signing to Boy Better Know (and even has a BBK tattoo), Skepta nominated for an Ivor Novello (a far cry from the standard ginger singer-songwriter nomination) – Tottenham has even been described as ‘trendy’. These achievements don’t even tip the iceberg to how far grime has come as a genre, from 5000-1 odds it seemed like in 2005, to the uproar of not even being included at the Brits (#BritsSoWhite).
Remember 2005? Those were the days of dial up connection, YouTube’s creation and George Bush Senior emerging for his second term in office. Nope, me neither. Anyway, it was also the year that Meridian Dan emerged as grime MC, the Tottenham born man cropped on Skepta’s cult-classic ‘Private Caller’. Skepta having a rather vibrant history before his Boy Better Know days, being in Meridian Crew with Meridian Dan before they parted ways in 2005.
‘Private Caller’ is a challenging listen, well in comparison to the luscious production that features on Skepta’s 2016 album ‘Konnichiwa’, working with the likes of Pharrell Williams. These were the days when Skepta was still a DJ, and before the whole world had an ‘obsession with his kind of expression’. ehh. Anyway, Meridian Dan’s features in ‘Private Caller’ towards the end with an eight bar verse. The result is a bit of an oddball, with the Tottenham MC rhyming ‘Dan’ on each bar. One way I suppose to get the world to know your name I suppose. However, Meridian Dan does deserve a bit of credit as he did not envision remaining in the scene at this early age.
If you read the comments of the video it’s become a bit of a trip down memory lane, with long-term grime fans sharing their nostalgia about the genre. It also features grime artist Frisco before he dropped the e from his name.
If you look deeper into the comments, they question whatever happened to Dan? Was he just a wasted talent? Was he just Skepta and JME’s mate? Was he ever going to return to music? The ‘German Whip’ man disappeared faster than he could say ‘Konnichiwa’. Swapping the 2005 grime scene for a life in the ring, pursuing a boxing career to address a “few anger management issues”. Being a tall guy and towering above his peers, he accepts that he was “just like a typical guy that goes into boxing”. The result of this amateur career was positive, and he “sorted out” all these anger issues.
Although, grime is a particularly expressive genre to resolve these anger issues. For instance, the ongoing battle of words between newcomer Bugzy Malone, and S-Club/ grime veteran Chip. It’s a pretty scrappy contest, and the winner must surely be decided by a points decision. I digress, Meridian Dan favoured boxing in his 2005 days, as a “physical person… who loved sport”. He sounds fond of these days, “it taught me about respect and not to judge anyone really.” Maybe Bugzy Malone- esque disputes aren’t on the cards then?
Anyway, boxing wasn’t the Tottenham MC’s only avenue. He took a job as a steel erector and weldor. He even worked on the mammoth London Shard skyscraper doing heavy steel work. A pretty lucrative career he veered way from, saying that he made “loads of money” and could afford a “German whip”.
Yet Meridian Dan was far from done with music. Alongside with working “55 hours a week” he was venturing off to “pirate radio at night time”. At the same time, grime has been subject to a bit of a renaissance, to which the success of ‘German Whip’ definitely aided.
“Then German Whip [featuring Big H and JME] landed, I got signed [to PMR]. I had loads of people sending me music, I was in the studio late at night. Then I thought, you know what, I can’t do both having to start work at 6am in the morning.” Rather euphorically, and a bit MLK-esque, Meridian Dan just claimed to “follow the dream”.
‘German Whip’ is a tricky affair. You may remember the song in 2014 as a homage to leaning back in german car with blacked out windows. Now, depending on your perception of grime, there is two different camps you sit in. Camp A considers ‘German Whip’ as an influential crossover track which helped break down the boundaries between grime and the mainstream charts. This view is encapsulated by many music critics, who consider Meridian Dan’s efforts as the moment grime was taken seriously as a genre. Although Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Boy in da Corner’ back in 2003 turned Dizzee into an international grime superstar, those days have long past. With Dizzee arguably turning his back on grime in favour of holidaying around pools with Calvin Harris. Further, embarrassing cameo’s with James Cordon, Lethal Bizzle mocked on Top Gear and Chip appearing with the Chuckle Brothers – it’s fair to say that grime was not treated with respect by the rest of the population.
Camp B argues that German Whip is a bit of a gimmick, they laugh in the face of grime and see Meridian Dan’s untamed vocals as unfinished. This camp is distinct from those who wish for grime artists to appear on Top Gear and be made a laughing stock as they wish for grime’s successes, and are not stuck in their four door saloon listening to Clarkeson’s compilation of driving anthems eating Foxes Glacier mints. Anyway, this more open minded listener discerns ‘German Whip’ as undermining grimes conquest to be a serious genre. For instance, Meridian Dan’s lyrics “see man driving a German whip/ blacked out windows leaning back”, speak for themselves in undermining the grimes’ progression.
Regardless of where you sit in camps, Meridian Dan’s single did achieve extensive success. From entering the UK charts at 13, it got the attention of 1Xtra and Zane Lowe. Yet Meridian Dan acknowledges “it feels like it’s the people’s song, people have taken it on and owned it”. This is a fair reflection, I recall house parties in Essex where teenagers went through a phase of chanting the song religiously- far cry from risk assessment 696, and gigs being shutdown in London.
Anyway, apparently Meridian Dan still does own a German whip. You’re welcome.
Meridian Dan was also involved in another rather pivotal moment for grime. On Tuesday 3rd of March 2016 Kanye West performed impromptu alongside Skepta, JME, Novelist and, yes you guessed it, MERIDIAN DAN. For those fans who were lucky enough to acquire a gig ticket, it was really was a night to remember.
Punters embraced arctic conditions to see the self appointed ‘greatest rockstar on the planet’, who was rather diva-ish and very late on. The gig was cathartic and of enormous significance, over the course of the gig US hip-hop and UK grime combined seamlessly and chaotically. Most importantly, grime was placed on an equal footing, breaking down the elitism of US hip-hop. Although Yanks claim half the time that “they can’t understand what grime artists are rapping about”- that night only promoted the grime takeover.
Speaking to Meridian Dan about that night he sounded like an excited schoolboy, in awe of an idol. Apparently the chance to perform arose as Kanye had heard “German whip, and asked for me to come down”. Meridian Dan reminisces fondly “we had a little chat, said congratulations on the song. He’s a cool guy, he’s humble and down to earth”.
So Meridian Dan has been on quite an adventure. If you ranking his grime career in order of 100 emojis it deserves, there’s too many to rank. But what’s happening with the former steel erector now? Is there a second model of German Whip?
Well if you’re keeping up with Meridian Dan this year, you’ll be aware that Dan is a very busy man. He’s released a three singles ‘Couple Killers’, ‘I Ain’t Shook’ and most recently ‘Don’t Feed the Animals’. These feature as part three quarters of a mini Meridian Dan story.
The newest single ‘Don’t Feed the Animals’ is energetic and feisty. The MC spits “nothing in life worth having comes easy trust me I’ve been telling them that” over dubstep infused beat. Apparently the new single is “about people trying to get the worst angel – like good angel, bad angel”. He suggests that it’s like where “a situation is trying to lead you down a dark path, but your conscience says no”.
The quality of production is perhaps unsurprising, since it was produced by acclaimed producer and multi-instrumentalist Jakwob. The 27 year old is quickly becoming a star in his own right working with the likes of Ellie Goulding and reaching mainstream success with the DnB song ‘Fade’. Meridian Dan describes the producer as a “really cool guy”, where they “go for a good laugh and make good tunes”.
Now the purists may wonder what happened to Meridian Dan’s album titled ‘I am London’, announced on the back of ‘German Whip’ successes. Disappointingly for some, Meridian Dan seems in no rush to release a debut anymore, rather more content with the singles he’s releasing. Watch this space though.
Our conversation reaches an another twist. Meridian Dan is a rather big Tottenham Hotspur fan judging from his instagram. And given their rather successful, *cough 3rd place* season- it seemed like an ideal chance to ask him on his thoughts.
“We didn’t get off to a great start, but we kept growing and growing. I love to see it, I’ve supported Tottenham forever as long as I’ve been interested in football. The new stadium is coming, Pochettino has said he will stay for the next five years.”
Rather boldly Meridian suggested “I think basically that Tottenham will be the premier London team in 2018. Arsenal are suffering, Wenger needs to run and jump. Chelsea, I like Abramovich, but that’s the only thing I like about them. And West Ham… Come on?!” This was a hard sentiment to accept given I’m a West Ham fan. Needless to say, the conversation didn’t last too much longer after this.
So it’s clear there’s more to Meridian Dan than ‘German Whips’… despite owning one. Rather fittingly, the Tottenham MC ended the interview with:
“That’s what you’ve gotta do in life, just go hard you’ve only got one chance. If you’re a bin man, be the worlds best bin man.”
Meridian Dan’s latest single ‘Don’t Feed the Animals’ is out now.