Before his set at the second weekend of Coachella 2014, Henry Steinway, better known as RL Grime, was as nervous as he's ever been. The 23-year-old LA native wanted to do something special for the festival he attended years ago as a high school student. Tossing and turning the night before the set, Grime was startled by a call from his management at 5am saying that one of his favourite rappers, Big Sean, would join him on stage. The set became his favourite thus far, and encapsulated the serendipitous nature of 2014 for Grime.
His rise to prominence this year is the culmination of several years of touring, plus three previous EPs, singles and remixes of the likes of Kanye West, Benny Benassi and Drake. Though he also had a big-room EDM project, as Clockwork, in 2014, he decided to focus on making a solo album as RL Grime, turning down lucrative remix offers in the process.
His stunning debut album, 'Void', released in November on Shlohmo's WEDIDIT label, is loud, abrasive and perfectly executed trap, demonstrating how much potential for diversity there is within the sound.
"I wanted to make an album that told a story," he explains over the phone before a gig in Las Vegas. "This year was about figuring out how I wanted to present myself musically to the world. I just wanted show to people what I'm into, what I like and what I'm able to do."
When he has a rare moment at home –which doesn't happen often – Steinway plays FIFA and NBA 2K. He supports the LA Lakers in the NBA, and Arsenal in the Premier League ("they'll get it together this season," he says, optimistically). Even though Clockwork remains part of his career – he plans on reviving it in the future – for now, Steinway is excited by the potential, including remixes, that RL Grime offers him. "I didn't feel the dance music that Clockwork is associated with is ready for an album, or if it even makes sense," he says. "With the RL project I've had the freedom to try new things, and I've grown naturally, which is just the way I wanted."
RL Grime's highlights of 2014
The bass, siren synth, huge drop and deceptively nasty snares showcase the RL Grime vision
The Lab: LDN
RL Grime's July session in the Mixmag office got over 150,000 plays on Mixmag TV (and countless more on SoundCloud)
'Valhalla' feat Djemba Djemba
Layered ideas and textures, including multiple breaks and a big, anthemic sound, prove his versatility
Watch RL Grime's massive session in Lab LDN from earlier this year.