London’s JA Accent: How Jamaican Patois Married Cockney English to Create the Youthful Voice of London and UK Urban Culture
INTRODUCTION: The influence of Grime music on British culture and dialect
Back in the early 2000s when Grime music first came onto the scene it was very much an urban underground genre. Tales from the streets, battles, clashes and beef featured heavily as young, predominantly Black MCs, took to the microphone to air out their grievances and verbally ‘merk’ a man.
The raw emotion that emulated from Grime music was so intense that when certain tunes were played in the club, many of the 'man dem' would get so fired up that harmless scuffles often erupted into brawls.
This association with violence and mob mentality in clubs, led Grime music to become public enemy number one and was essentially banned from the London club scene for many years to come. Raves, parties and events featuring Grime music began shifting to areas outside of the city...
But this genre of music wasn't done and thanks to TV stations such as Channel U, Grime music wasn't confined to London. Yes, it was a London sound but its appeal was far-reaching and as the new digital age emerged, its influence began to dominate youth culture across the UK. What began as the sound of the streets in London - rebel music for the disenfranchised Black 'yout dem', soon gained mass appeal to the White kids in suburbia too. Brands and mainstream media went from ignoring Grime music to endorsing it.
TALKIN’ BLACK ON THE BARS: London music and youth culture re-defining linguistics
As mentioned earlier, the majority of the pioneering Grime MCs were young Black men, most of whom came from Inner City London aka The Endz. Being Black and from The Endz, these young artists had a distinctive way of talking - a product of their environment. Influenced by their heritage/culture and inspired by other London dialects such as Cockney English, many young people from these sides spoke with a distinctive dialect.
Throughout the years, many commentators had attempted to label this dialect - from speaking like a ‘road man,’ Jafaican, London street talk, British urban slang or simply talking Black or Chavvy - this way of speaking took on many labels. Over the last decade though, a more appropriate term was pegged for this district London urban voice - MLE.
So now that we have an appropriate name – how do we describe MLE?
Multicultural London English or Multilingual English (MLE) has become a recognised term used to describe the mixed dialect heard across London, as well as other UK inner cities, with an ethnically diverse population. This dialect is a hybrid between Jamaican Patois and regional accents, such as Cockney, with nods to other influences including US slang.
The English Cockney accent or Cockney Rhyming Slang dates back to the 19th Century. Originally from east London, it was predominately spoken by White working-class Londoners. Cockney Rhyming Slang describes an unrelated word pairing, that rhymes with the actual word being verbalised. For example ‘apple and pears’ is used to express the word stairs or 'storm and strife' is an expression for the wife. Over the years, Cockney Rhyming Slang was adopted by people across the Capital and is now more commonly heard in Southeastern counties such as Surrey, Kent and Essex.
As a native Londoner, of Jamaican heritage, I have a vested interest in the coming together of these two culturally rich dialects. Having now established a career as a British female voiceover artist, I am keen to express these London dialects in an authentic way.
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By Chantelle LDN - The London Voice