From teenage blogger to masterminding one of the most hotly anticipated albums of this year, Caroline Simionescu-Marin is living a proper grime fairytale right now. Through her sheer enthusiasm for British underground music, she’s become a major player in the scene – to the point where she gathered the freshest and most exciting grime, trap and R&B voices in a London studio last year for secret recording sessions.
So secret, in fact, that Snapchat was banned from the studio. It was worth it, though. The result is ‘New Gen’, a 17-track compilation album, which is released this week.Oh, and here’s another thing: Caroline has only just turned 22. When we catch up, Caroline is bossing a shoot – riding the camera truck with one eye fixed on the monitor – while watching upcoming rapper Nines film his latest video.
Back in 2015 Caroline was working at dedicated grime site GRM Daily and putting on packed-out nights in Dalston basement bars featuring a cast of performers who excited her like Stormzy, Bonkaz, Avelino and Kojey Radical. ‘Being young myself, they were my peers coming up,’ she explains. ‘They were at the point of putting out their first freestyles on YouTube. Working with these guys I realised they are just too talented.’
‘None of us had made an album before but I thought:
Fuck it, let’s try.'
Caroline and ‘New Gen’ co-producer Renz dreamed up an album that could showcase all this shamefully untapped talent. It wasn’t long before the industry started paying attention. Caroline’s New Gen show was one of the most popular on outrageously cool streaming station Radar Radio.
Her guests included AJ Tracey, a regular in 2017 ‘ones to watch’ lists, and Ray BLK, recent winner of BBC Sound of 2017. The peerless XL Records – home to Adele, FKA Twigs, The XX and The White Stripes – headhunted Caroline for an A&R post and jumped at the chance to release ‘New Gen’.
The album itself is a bold, restless, blistering barometer of UK music. The aim was for artists to get the chance to break new ground by working with collaborators and getting superior standards of production. It took months of working seven days a week – and also having to endure assumptions that Caroline was merely the girlfriend of the male artists passing through – but it was worth it. ‘I want to be like Diddy: he wanted it so bad,’ says Caroline. ‘None of us had made an album before but I thought: Fuck it, let’s try.’ Thank heavens she did.
Meet the ‘New Gen’
‘New Gen’ is released on Jan 27 on XL.