Musically, ‘Pow!’ is three and a half minutes of riotous energy: a cacophony of claps, frenetic synth stabs and sub-bass punches as ten of grime’s (then) leading MCs frantically cram raucously barked rhymes into a miniscule timeslot. But culturally? It turned the dancefloors of smoove R&B clubs into mosh pits for the first time. Clubs banned it. And grime acquired a reputation for violence that would see the police develop Form 696 – a risk assessment form that required promoters to specify audience ethnicity (at least initially), plus names and addresses of performers – and use it to close down nights where the genre was being performed.
But ‘Pow!’ rose from the ashes. First, as an anthem for misunderstood urban youth after David Cameron – then leader of the opposition – tried to take a hardline anti-knife crime stance by quoting its lyrics in a Mail On Sunday article entitled ‘lyrics about guns and knives do destroy lives’. Then later, the re-recorded version (‘Pow! 2011’) became the soundtrack to the 2010 tuition fee protests. Demonstrators clashed with riot police. Concrete blocks were thrown through Treasury windows. The nation’s media furiously penned articles about the revival of anarchic youth protest in Britain. And the song playing on street soundsystems throughout? ‘Pow!’, of course.