‘THIS IS GRIME’ takes a look back at RWD Mag’s legacy…

Grant Brydon

4 years ago

By Grant Brydon

RWD Mag still life, Olivia Rose

It’s been great to see a new generation of grime fans coming up this year during festival season, but the culture has always been one that’s a little difficult for beginners to do their homework on. With so much of the history lost in old tapes, radio sets and club nights, it’s a culture that you can only really learn about from those who lived it.

Luckily, Hattie Collins, ex-RWD Mag editor and veteran grime journalist, has made things a whole lot easier with her new book THIS IS GRIME. Along with photographer Olivia Rose, Hattie has created a document that tells the thrilling, inspirational and often times conflicted tale of the UK’s best musical genre, speaking to almost everyone who has influenced the culture from before it even had a name, right through to new school guys like Stormzy, Novelist and Blakie.

With RWD Mag playing a vital part in the documentation of grime over the years, she also rounded up some stories about our history, which she’s allowed us to share in the below excerpt of the book – but we’d really urge you to go out and read the full thing, which you can buy here.

“I was editor from 2006-2013 (I think!!!). RWD was a brilliant, chaotic, crazy seven years and I loved (almost) every insane minute. It plays a huge part in the history of both my career and the scene. The contributions of Nigel, Chewy, Dacre, Martin, Rozan, Danny, Matt Mason and I (if I do say so myself!) are reflected within the book by both the anecdotes of artists and the amount of people in the book that. In one way or other, passed through the doors of The Bible’!” – Hattie Collins

Grime begins to spread outside of the scene and into the hands, hearts and minds of cultural commentators…

I remember the first RWD I got was from a chicken shop, Kansas Chicken, the best £1 chicken and chips in Hornsey, it was on lunch break, Year 7. Around eleven years old, That’s where I would pick up my copy every month from then.

Nigel Wells (MD, RWD)
RWD was the first, the inspiration, no-one else did what we did. You weren’t part the scene if you hadn’t been covered in RWD.

RWD was there at the beginning, obviously – it stemmed from Sass Magazine. It definitely helped me; it was a strong magazine in my time.

Nigel Wells
I was working selling cars and was in-between jobs. A then-pal had already put out an issue of [RWD, then called] SASS from money he had borrowed from [a friend called] Palm and asked me to help him out. The first issue had no money from ads, so I got ad money through getting record shops to advertise in the magazine and distribute it. It worked and quickly RWD grew. Palm introduced me to DJ Chewy (who had all the music knowledge) and Dacre (the ex flyer designer). I covered sales and managed everything. Things were moving forwards. Jimmy at Public Demand and I got on well, so Warners, via London Records started supporting with adverts from people like Artful Dodger and Craig David. But there was a problem with the boss – he wasted the little money we had on kicks for his girl and parking tickets, to the point where we couldn’t even post SASS out to the advertising clients. Long story short, a lot of shit went down and we started RWD in competition with SASS with £5000 from the Prince’s Trust. Matt Mason found us and put his experience and skill behind us. I would love to say we never looked back… but, you know the truth.


Matt Mason
There have been a few moments in life when I felt that I was looking at the future. That I had to stop what I was doing and throw everything at making that future happen. I was at a meeting with Ice FM in Camden and a pallet of magazines arrived. It was issue one of RWD. It had female garage act Ladies First on the pink and yellow front cover. There was a Versace ad (it wasn’t real, they booted it) on the back cover. It was glossy and perfect bound – really high production value. It looked like Teen Vogue. I instantly got it. People had tried to start ’zines for the garage scene before and they had always looked gritty and grimy – black and white, stapled together. But that wasn’t us. This wasn’t heavy metal or punk. RWD was a success because it looked as stush as its readers. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to get involved. It was the right format and the right time. I called the number in the front, told them I wanted to help and I had experience in magazines and advertising. I met the founders, in their first office in the back of Marvel City Records in Crystal Palace. They didn’t have an editor and they asked me to join. They told me they’d give me a cut of the business. They’d pay me in cash, when we had it. I was twenty-three and I joined as the founding Editor-in-Chief on issue three, October 2001. I never had a second thought. I knew it was the future.

Rozan Ahmed (Deputy Editor, RWD, 2000-2004)
Everything about RWD was small, except our vision. We literally blazed through the industry and became the number one urban music and lifestyle title within three years of solid grind. We broke boundaries with our content and brought a sense of pride to local creativity and musical wizardry. We weren’t afraid to call out the bullshit. We incubated artists whenever possible. We broke their stories. We helped them shape their stories; Wiley, Skepta, Kano, Lethal B, Dizzee, Ms. Dynamite, So Solid… they all used to come and just hang out in RWD. We became a hub and a safe haven. RWD didn’t just document. We lived. That’s where our power came from, in my opinion.

Alex Donne-Johnson
Staff debates got heated. Filing cabinets got thrown around.

Matt Mason
Some crazy shit happened at RWD. Crazy shit. Drug deals going wrong and guns getting pulled in the office. The constant weed cloud in the office. The banter, the fist fights, sleeping under our desks on deadline day. Having to pull out all the computers and hide by the bins at the back of the of ce because the debt collectors were at the door. It was one of the most intense and creative periods of my life.

Chantelle Fiddy
We looked at RWD as a scrappy, irritating little brother; there were always spelling mistakes, barely any grammar, you paid to be on the cover, etc,… it was such a chaotic set-up, but a very loud and bolshie one, which denitely wound us up at the time. Perhaps we had our heads up our arses a bit? They would boast about their numbers, print and online and actually, they were totally trouncing us at Touch and Deuce, although RWD was of course free. But Matt Mason is right; the mistakes really were part of the magic. RWD needed to be as rough and road as the scene itself; those early years were its glory years, in retrospect and most writers from that era would agree they have the utmost admiration for what they did.

THIS IS GRIME by Hattie Collins and Olivia Rose is available now (Hodder & Stoughton). Buy yours here.