Lagos to London: Afrobeats and Grime Mashup 2020
Jamie Adenuga, known professionally as JME, is a Nigerian-British grime MC, songwriter, record producer and DJ from Hackney, London. He is the co-founder of the crew and label Boy Better Know. He was previously part of the grime collective Meridian Crew alongside his older brother, Skepta.
Born in Hackney (4 May 1985) into a family who are originally from Nigeria, Jamie Adenuga (aka JME) grew up in Tottenham, North London where he lived in a council house. He attended St. Paul’s School and then Winchmore School in Winchmore Hill, Enfield along with his younger brother Jason, elder brother Joseph, and sister Julie — the Adenuga J’s.
He subsequently graduated from the University of Greenwich receiving first class honours in 3D Digital Design.
Britain’s Most Creative Family: The Adenugas
A new memoir by their mother, Ify Adenuga, Endless Fortune, explains how they got here. It was drawn from diaries she kept about “any little culture shock I experienced” as a Nigerian immigrant bringing up her kids on a London council estate.
From Lagos to London
When the Nigeria-Biafra secessionist war (1967–1970) ended with the surrender of Biafra, his mum Ify Adenuga (an Igbo woman from Eastern Nigeria) moved back to Lagos for work before flying to the UK in 1980.
She hopped between relatives, cleaning the Bank of Illinois in the City of London for £11 a week. Those relatives advised her to head home, warning her London would be harder than Nigeria, but she enrolled to study business management and met Joseph when both worked shifts at the Top Rank bingo club. By the early 1990s they were married with four children, living streets away from the Broadwater Farm estate where riots had broken out in 1985.
“It was difficult at times to keep the roof over our heads”.
Struggling to meet mortgage payments, they lost their first home in Tottenham and were rehoused by the council on the nearby Meridian estate.
Growing up, the Adenuga house was a Nigerian enclave in 90s Britain — brooms were woven from straw, and their father would DJ house parties into the early hours — remember Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series?
As Skepta recalls:
“The moment you step out of your house, you step into a different world. Your friends, the people around you, they could live next door to you, it doesn’t matter, they don’t understand what’s happening behind that door.”
Early in the millennium, grime was emerging, evolving out of UK garage and drawing on Jamaican sound system culture to become the soundtrack of Britain’s inner cities. When the sound took hold in north London with pirate radio stations such as Heat FM, boys from Meridian – JME and Skepta among them – were on the frontlines.
Their freestyles and radio sets were captured on grainy DVDs, their skittish flows throwing up portraits of their lives as they sliced through growling, often Skepta-produced instrumentals.
They inherited their creative spark from their father, who had studied architecture, and as a child in Nigeria would craft yo-yos from beer cans and string.
“Back home there was no money – you don’t get toys,” he says.
Growing up, the kids watched him build things from scratch, such as a desk for Julie, and repairing fridges and freezers.
“They got all that skill, knowledge, creativity from him,” Ify says, sat next to her husband. “They got their personality and being themselves from me.”
So, today 9 December 2020, guess who won the Best Grime Act at the MOBO? You’ve got it, JME (aka Jamie Adenuga).