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The Legacy of Channel U

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On Friday 15th July, news broke of the passing of that Darren Platt, founder of Channel U and an integral part of shaping modern UK music.

Channel U

His platform, in taking grime to a larger audience, helped to launch the careers of many UK artists from Tinchy Stryder and Chipmunk to Big Narstie and Ghetts.

Platt once remarked: "Our pirate radio spirit allows budding UK artists to have their home made videos aired".

The channel played around the clock clips, showcasing some of the best home-grown talent. In spite of the often-good music, a lot of the visuals were budget because, at the time, that’s the best many of the aspiring artists could do.

However, this was a mark of innovation from individuals who exhibited the same chutzpah as mega moguls Jay-Z and Diddy - who have gone out and ‘got things done’.

For instance, N Dubz got a massive break via Channel U with their song and budget video ‘You Better Not Waste My Time’ before Polydor Records snapped them up a few years later and released the track a single, shooting the video again.

Years down the line – Stormzy revealed that his ‘Know Me’ video, which scooped a gong at the MOBO awards, only cost £40 to make! This for me, along with Skepta's £80 video for 'That's Not Me', was like an affirmation of Channel U's legacy - shoot budgets can be the least of an artist’s worries, if the talent is accounted for. It is, as they say, 'a minor'.

Channel U harnessed much of the demand for grime presence in the mainstream, it predated a time where labels were willing to offer financial backing to the genre and before crossover hits were standard procedure.

Being utterly frank, some of the songs were completely random and quite laughable, but even this was a part of the revered entertainment factor that the channel represented. Most of it was as catchy as it was creative - gift-wrapped from the youth for the youth.

We - the viewers, the school kids, the inner city crew - had so much time for it. It was, after all, “our thing”.

Did it help to give second generation immigrants like myself a greater sense of identity and reconciliation with UK culture, as well as solidarity with our English counterparts? Yes. Grime belonged to all of us and of it, we were immensely proud.

Whether you were the teen who would walk back from school, rapping all the words to ‘WifeyRiddim’ by TinieTempah (like me) or the one, nodding vigorously like a bobblehead toy, whilst playing songs like ‘My Youth’ by Stylo G, Sickman & IceKid at the back of the bus; many people felt the channel’s impact.

Surpassing the music, the lyrical content even influenced local slang, popularising various phrases such as ‘wifey’ (significant girlfriend), ‘longage’ (an overdrawn, time consuming manner of behaviour) and ‘boied’ (disrespected).

Through his pioneering work with Channel U, Darren Platt helped to make grime a household name in the UK, far before the music was deemed ‘cool’, ‘safe’ and palatable in the mainstream sphere.

We salute you, Sir.

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