From teenage blogger to masterminding one of the most hotly anticipated albums of this year, Caroline Simionescu-Marin is living a proper grime fairy tale 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 was released at the end of January. Oh, and here’s another thing: Simionescu-Marin has only just turned 22. When we catch up, she’s 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, Simionescu-Marin was working at dedicated grime site GRM Daily and putting on packed-out nights in basement bars in East London’s Dalston, featuring a cast of performers who excited her – think 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’re just too talented.”
Simionescu-Marin 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. Simionescu-Marin’s New Gen show was one of the most popular on outrageously cool streaming station Radar Radio.
Her guests included AJ Tracey, a grime MC from West London’s Ladbroke Grove and a regular in 2017 “ones to watch” lists, Ray BLK, recent winner of BBC Sound of 2017, 67 (“a drill group from Brixton who are huge on YouTube”), Steflon Don (“she’s already had co-signs from Drake and DJ Khaled; she could do whatever she likes”) and J Warner (“he can exist in the experimental space of someone like Frank Ocean”). The peerless XL Records – home to Adele, FKA Twigs, The XX and The White Stripes – headhunted Simionescu-Marin for an A&R post and jumped at the chance to release New Gen.
The album 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 – but it was worth it. “I want to be like Diddy. He wanted it so bad,” says Simionescu-Marin. “None of us had made an album before, but I thought, you know what, let’s try.” And thank goodness she did.
New Gen, is out now. Listen to the album at www.anghami.com/album/2071771.