Top 5: The five best ‘Fire in the Booth’ freestyles
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Top 5: The five best ‘Fire in the Booth’ freestyles

Charlie Sloth’s ‘Fire In The Booth’ is a well-known UK hip-hop radio segment and has been a mainstay in the culture for over a decade. Initially created to give up-and-coming acts a platform to shine, ‘Fire In The Booth’ remains a spot for the best in the UK to show off their rapping ability and is notoriously, almost always used to compare artists to one another. The ‘booth’ is where MCs give all they have to offer and where they prove themselves. Before the ‘Fire In The Booth’ existed, the UK’s most prominent freestyle platform was SB.TV and its YouTube series ‘F64’. However, during the mid-2010s, it was overtaken by ‘Fire In The Booth.’

With the emergence of new platforms and the evolution of old channels, contemporary UK hip-hop has a vast array of YouTube-based freestyle segments. The two most popular are ‘Daily Duppy’ and ‘Fumez The Engineer’. However, it is impossible to downplay the importance of ‘Fire In The Booth’ and its predecessors, such as the ‘F64.’ While contemporary Youtube-based series tend to cater exclusively to new artists, ‘Fire In The Booth’ has always been a cross-generational space where old and new MCs are welcomed.

More broadly, different platforms cater to the various subgenres of hip-hop prevalent in the UK. SBTV and Grime Originals remain the most significant YouTube channels for sourcing Grime, while Pressplay Media and GRM Daily are primarily dedicated to the UK drill genre. However, the beauty of ‘Fire In The Booth’ is that it does not take into account what faction of UK music you belong to. Its sole purpose is to showcase whether or not you are a good lyricist, irrespective of the kind of music you make. Unlike its competitors, ‘Fire In The Booth’ has not had to reinvent itself. It remains relevant despite the fluctuating trends plaguing UK music.

GRM Daily (originally called Grime Daily) was forced to reinvent itself as a source for UK drill. SB.TV and online platforms such as JDZ media are now seen as insignificant. Other previously active sites, such as The Grime Report and S-Star TV, are now defunct. ‘Fire In The Booth’ is legendary, and as a mainstay defying all odds, we are going to look back and list the top five best freestyles from the segment. You can take a peek at our picks below.

The five best ‘Fire in the Booth’ freestyles

5. Bugzy Malone

Bugzy Malone was arguably the first emcee from Manchester to cross into the mainstream. Nowadays, young fans are more familiar with Aitch. However, Bugzy Malone was around before Aitch was even 15 years old. Emerging on the Grime scene in the early-2010s, Bugzy Malone’s career began on the now-defunct YouTube channel Grime Daily. Now known as GRM, the site was shut down and forced to rebrand in 2012. Following multiple appearances on JDZ Media and SB.TV, the rapper (real name Aaron Davies) garnered much attention due to his skill and lyrical ability.

Bugzy Malone was well-respected within the grime scene following his many project releases on the Mixtape Madness website. However, he only crossed into the mainstream once he entered his feud with Tottenham emcee Chip. Their beef played out publicly, with the two exchanging diss tracks. Following Chip’s ‘Pepper Riddim’, which dissed many artists, including Davies and Big Narstie, Bugzy released the ‘Relegation Riddim’, which many believe destroyed Chip. The feud put Bugzy Malone on the map. Shortly after, he got invited to perform on ‘Fire In The Booth’, and his freestyle was legendary.

4. Akala

Nowadays, Akala is primarily known for his social commentary as opposed to his music. However, fans need to remember he began his career as an emcee before he transitioned into academia and business. Akala is the brother of the legendary female UK garage rapper Ms Dynamite. However, he never lived in the shadow of his sister and succeeded independently in the grime and hip-hop world. However, Akala’s music is what many would call conscious rap. Akin to the UK artist Lowkey, Akala’s material was incendiary and racially charged. As such, he didn’t receive much airplay and transitioned into social commentary and business.

Akala first emerged in the grime scene in 2005 with his ‘Roll Wid Us (Remix)’ and iconic track ‘Shakespeare’. However, given grime’s limited scope for positive messaging, the emcee (real name Kingslee Daley) pivoted into the world of political hip-hop, and although he had a cult following as a musician, his beliefs, ideologies and unique take on the world were received much better by the mainstream when he delivered them more formally in interviews, TV debates and political forums. However, in 2014, Daley picked the microphone up for Charlie Sloth and gave a profound ‘Fire In The Booth.’

3. Scrufizzer

This choice may be contentious, but Scrufizzer is one of the most overlooked and underappreciated rappers in the UK today. Scrufizzer first emerged from West London in 2007 and was ubiquitous online. The West Ealing artist (real name Amary Lorenzo) went to school alongside the late Jamal Edwards and was one of the first individuals to appear on SB.TV. As a producer and emcee, between 2008 and 2014, Scrufizzer was a regular feature on every grime YouTube channel, including SB.TV, The Grime Report, S-Star TV and JDZ Media. Due to his perseverance and collaborations, Lorenzo began to receive support from Zane Lowe, Annie Mac, Dizzee Rascal, Ed Sheeran and even Wiley.

Scrufizzer’s lyrical ability is second to none. However, the speed with which he raps and his complex flows undoubtedly make it hard for some to understand what he is saying. Still, for those who regularly listen to fast-paced grime music, it is incredible to behold and astonishing, to say the least. His ‘Fire In The Booth’ is a prime example of his exceptional lyricism and flawless delivery.

2. Devlin

Devlin is a silent assassin in the UK scene and has even been certified by the pioneer of UK hip-hop as the number-one lyricist in Britain. Irrespective of what genre is currently popular, whether it’s afrobeat, drill or trap, no one can consistently match the lyricism that Devlin has provided for over a decade. Sonics go in and out of fashion. However, through it all, this Dagenham artist has released quality material and, unfortunately, is undeniably lyrically superior to those who currently boast their platinum plaques. In the music industry, even the most mainstream artists can crash and burn just as quickly as they rose. However, maintaining a healthy level of fame while still having your artistic integrity is a difficult feat.

Devlin first arose around 2004 as part of the OT crew, a Dagenham-based grime collective popular on the underground. However, noticing his skill and in awe of his lyrical ability, in 2005, when Plaistow rapper Ghetts was assembling his supergroup The Movement, he recruited Devlin to be a member. Unknowingly, this was when JME was forming Boy Better Know. Before long, the two camps would begin competing and creating musical history. For any individual with knowledge of UK hip-hop pre-2007, Devlin will undeniably be within their top five.

1. Wretch 32 & Avelino

Akin to Devlin, Wretch 32 was also in the supergroup The Movement and is one of the UK’s best artists. The collective comprised of Ghetts, Scorcher, Wretch 32, Mercston and Devlin was a group that toed the line between grime and hip-hop, and its bedrock was lyricism. Ghetts and Wretch 32 have slowly but steadily managed to grip the scene to the extent that other members didn’t. However, Wretch 32’s ‘Fire In The Booth’ shows why he surpassed his peers.

Wretch 32 is a machine concerning lyrical ability and his capacity to make a cohesive body of work. The Tottenham emcee (real name Jermaine Scott) crossed into the mainstream in 2011 with his epic singles ‘Traktor’ and ‘Unorthodox’. However, these songs did not solidify him as a legend in the UK scene as they were considered too commercial. However, in 2012 following his tour with Example, he began releasing more profound material and, after collaborating with a range of other UK artists, managed to cement himself as a respectable rapper.

Scott had always been an admirable lyricist. However, his 2011 pop detour partially diminished his credibility as an emcee. Still, by 2014, he had re-established himself and garnered attention from major labels. In 2015, he released a collaborative mixtape alongside Avelino, a fellow Tottenham artist. The project, entitled Young Fire, Old Flame, did exceptionally well. To promote the album, the two artists performed a ‘Fire In The Booth’, widely considered the best of all time. A must-listen; you can hear it in the video below.