Interview: Grime Pioneers Tim & Barry Lay Out The Past, Present And Future Of Their Underground Empire

Interview: Grime Pioneers Tim & Barry Lay Out The Past, Present And Future Of Their Underground Empire
Image via Publicist

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 15 years or so, you'll no doubt be aware of at least one element of Tim & Barry's empire—whether it's Just Jam, Don't Watch That TV or their eponymous TV series. Together, the pair have chronicled and supported just about every strain of British underground music—from grime and funky house to Afrobeats and bassline—with a level of authenticity and individuality seldom seen. Their style is immediately recognisable—the fuzzy, DIY green-screen visuals behind all your favourite heroes—and they've gone on to inspire pretty much everyone to pick up a camera since.

Across the years, Tim & Barrywho met during university over twenty years agohave captured and incited too many iconic moments to list them all. Skepta's "That's Not Me" video (for which they won a MOBO) and their photography of Crazy Titch and M.I.A will go down as pivotal moments in the history of UK music. By immersing themselves in the culture, they got unprecedented access to countless artists and that gives their work an identity all of its own.

Now, after all these years, Tim & Barry have just wrapped up a new series of Tim & Barry TV, featuring a new generation of talent, including names like Zone 2, Skengdo & AM, YGG's PK and Lyrical Strally, Naira Marley, Belly Squad, IQ, AdeSTP & J1, Mez, Big Zuu and Jammz. With that concluded, we caught up with the pair to discuss the recent series as well as their upcoming, star-studded Just Jam Reloaded, featuring Novelist, Skengdo x AM, Kamaal Williams, Devilman, Belly Squad, Nídia, Mez, Grandmixxer, Murlo, Kenny Allstar, YGG, Headie One, Mad J, DJ Funkz, Sam Wise and Afro B.

How did you go about picking the artists for this current round of Tim and Barry TV?

Barry: We just wanted to work with the new generation, really. In a way, we've been wanting to do a new series for a while, but obviously we're busy with the Just Jam stuff. Also, we didn't wanna just shoot a series for the sake of it. So when we came up with the idea, that's when really we would've liked to have shot this series. We started thinking about it a couple of years ago, because I think it has been the last couple of years that a new generation of MCs have been breaking through. A lot of people from the new generation like Dave, MoStack, Mist, Krept & Konan, Not3s, J Hus... All these people that we followed and saw blow up, but we didn't have a series at that point. So really, it was just the new generation and all the people that we've been into from grime, UK Afrobeats, and the drill, road rap or rap scenes.

What's new about this compared to past series?

Tim: It's just a new generation of artists. When we stopped the last series, road rap was blowing up. We saw a lot with Giggs, and road rap was kind of coming about. Now that has kind of established itself. When we stopped, there wasn't really that many people coming throughit was all the guys we've already worked with, shot a bunch of freestyles with like Skepta or D Double or Tempz, lots of names. We haven't just shot one freestyle with these guys; in some cases, it was four or five. So it seemed like a good point to take a break for a moment. Now there's a new generation of grime, so from that scene we've got like Big Zuu, PK, Lyrical Strally, Mez...

Barry: Jammz.

Tim: Oh yeah, Jammz and Novelist. There was a chance for us to shoot a new generation of grime, but also, outside of grime, there's been a lot of exciting stuff happening with all the other sort of Afrobeats, bashment and rap stuff, you know? I guess most of it doesn't really have a name. You've got the UK drill scene that's got a name, but everything else is still quite up in the air.

Barry: Whenever we do any sort of projects, whether it's Just Jam or freestyles or whatever it is, the concept has got to be there in its foundation. We've got some newer equipment we've started playing with doing interviews. As we were sharing some interviews, we realised we could do something really creative with freestyles that we've previously done. So it's not a massive concept, but the series is about a journey and a movement. Previously, we've always had MCs stood still and either shoot from one or multiple cameras and put it together. With this one, we just wanted take it back to that sort of raw essence, so it's just one take all the way through. We'll start in one point and finish in a different point. The whole point with it is that MCs are moving through this space, as we are, and they're spitting at the same time which can sound kinda easy, but Big Zuu did five and a half minutes of relentlessness. So it sounds easy...

Tim: I wouldn't even say it sounds easy.

Barry: Nopeyou're right. It's really hard and tiring for the MC because they've not only got to remember their bars and listen and spit absolutely on point, but the all time they're walking and we're doing our little journeys. You're coming across the public, because we're doing it in public places and we're sort of navigating the public as we're shooting, so that sort of adds to the real. One of the things that we always try do is make the work that we do representative of the artist that we're working with. 

What that concept reminded me of was the Jme video where he was playing on his Xbox or something whilst trying to freestyle. Were there any problems or any members of the public coming up to any of the artists?

Barry: No. Amazingly, so far, that hasn't happened. People have just sort of either given us the glance over the shoulder and carried on, or they just carried on with their business.

Tim: You would have to have someone really cocky. You would think that you would but, actually, if you're there at the time, it's someone doing something really unusual; you don't see someone you know walking down the street spitting. Also, we're walking, so by the time people see it, it's like "what's going on there?", and then we walk past and we're gone. I think you will, at some point, get the "Oi oi!", but that hasn't happened yet.

You've also got the Just Jam Reloaded show coming up at the Barbican this weekend (Saturday 17th March). Was it always the plan to do them so closely together?

Tim: There's a reason for that. We programmed the Just Jam show at the Barbican and the series at the same time, and we wanted there to be some kind of link between the two.

Would it be some of the same artists?

Tim: Yeah, there's a bunch of the same artists. Belly Squad, Mez, Headie One... I think there's about 8 of the 14 artists that are also on the line-up. So there's a real crossover between the two.

When was the last Just Jam?

Tim: It has been a bit of a break, because we've been busy doing this! The last one was the end of November, I think. We didn't do one in December because Barry went to Canada and we broke up, kinda. To be honest, we haven't done one in January because we're focusing on the Barbican show. So we have taken a bit of a break from doing those shows, mainly because we're a small team and we wanna nail the Barbican show.

So does this mean there will be more big events in places like the Barbican?

Barry: Watch this space! [Laughs]

A new episode of Tim & Barry TV lands every Wednesday exclusively on Hubrick (sign up here). For 'Just Jam: Reloaded' tickets, head on over to the Barbican website. 

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