Boys in the corner: Simon Wheatley’s images of Britain’s most exciting music subculture

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By transforming the book into a multimedia iPad application, Wheatley has brought greater depth to its original content with short films, additional photographs and sound clips of interviews.

“The iPad has provided a platform for us to evolve as documentary makers, as most people’s visual literacy centres on the moving image,” he explains. “The videos have given a chance for some of the guys in front of the camera to explain their lives more than I could ever do with just photographs.”

Indeed, the timing of the release could not be more pertinent in 2015. After a decade of flickering chart success thanks to artists such as Tinchy Stryder and Tinie Tempah absorbing a more commercial style, grime has recently re-entered the broader British, and indeed global musical conversation in its original, undiluted form.

For Wheatley, this renewed interest in the genre make its origin story even more vital. “I want to remind everyone where grime came from,” he continues.

As a subculture that serves as an outlet for the grievances and creativity of black British youth, there is a dissonance between its fiercely ‘for us, by us’ ethos and its exposure to wider audiences.

Crazy Titch, a leading grime MC jailed for 30 years in 2006 for murder
Crazy Titch, a leading grime MC jailed for 30 years in 2006 for murder

These contradictions, captured so vividly in his photographs, are perhaps best symbolised by the story of the MC Crazy Titch, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2005 for murdering a fellow musician, allegedly over a disagreement about song lyrics. His iconic portrait appears on the front cover of the book, a poignant encapsulation of the vibrant talent and startling violence within these overpoliced, underserved postcodes.

“There is such an enormous generation gap now,” Wheatley concludes. “We are living in a very strange age.”