Murdered in Front of 12 Friends - Yet No One Saw a Thing; Record Producer Richard Holmes Was Killed over 'Disrespectful' Song Lyrics. His Death Is a Chilling Insight into the World of Grime Music

The Evening Standard (London, England), November 25, 2005 | Go to article overview

Murdered in Front of 12 Friends - Yet No One Saw a Thing; Record Producer Richard Holmes Was Killed over 'Disrespectful' Song Lyrics. His Death Is a Chilling Insight into the World of Grime Music


Byline: KEITH DOVKANTS

IT WAS after midnight when the boy with the gun turned up at the place they call The Gazebo. It's a fancy name for a rain shelter that serves as a hangout, and when he arrived more than a dozen young people were sitting around, talking, drinking and smoking.

Richard Holmes saw him coming.

He stood to face him, and as he did, three pistol shots rang out. The bullets tore into 21-year-old Holmes at close range and he fell dying. His killer walked away and the crowd at The Gazebo watched him and recognised him, as they were meant to.

That was part of the ritual.

Those same young people were at Holmes's funeral yesterday with his mother, father, sister and brothers, and they joined the family at a celebration of his life later, in the community hall a few steps from where he died. Three weeks have passed since Holmes was shot down in front of his dozen or so friends. To this day, each and every one of them has refused to talk to the police.

That, also, is part of the ritual.

The murder of Richard Holmes was a death foretold, carried out in accordance with a creed that is fast becoming the prevailing influence among young people on London's estates. It turns around guns, notions of status and "grime" music, a genre that is taking over where rap left off. Grime is violent, confrontational, and its rites are inflexible.

The motive for the murder of Richard Holmes is concealed in a line of grime-music lyrics. It is, as we shall see, a trifle, but within the grime code it demanded a homicidal response. The Gazebo where Holmes died is now a shrine, festooned with flowers, mementos and candles that burn all night.

There is also a T-shirt on which someone has written him this message: "My Nigga 4 life".

Holmes was white, but the culture within which he lived and died makes no distinction of colour or race, nor, indeed, gender. While its roots are in the Afro-Caribbean rapper milieu, grime embraces all ethnic groups. It began on the council estates of east London and gathers together young people of the disaffected white working class, Asians and marginalised blacks.

Its appeal extends much further.

Holmes came from a loving, middleclass family rooted in the ideals of hard work and home. His mother Lynn is a schools liaison officer; his father Gary runs an industrial cleaning business. Holmes lived with them in their comfortable house in a leafy part of Chingford, one of London's north-eastern suburbs.

He died on the Chingford Hall estate, only a couple of miles away in distance, but light years away in many respects. The estate, like others across London, is home to a youth that has grown up poor, often with one parent, familiar with school exclusion, drugs and the law of the street.

These are the influences that spawned grime music, as a new generation sought the next big thing after rap. To the uninitiated, it may sound the same, but there are important differences, something Richard Holmes knew very well.

He had tried a few jobs - working with his father, training as a fishmonger - but his ambition was to be a record producer. He adored music and, under his street name Richie Rich, was a key member of the Piff City Paper Boys Entertainment collective.

This group of friends includes MCs (microphone controllers) who rap out lyrics to a bass-and-drums beat. The songs disclose the grime creed. The lyrics are, in themselves, a code and a value structure.

WITH Holmes as producer, the collective brought out a number of compact-disc recordings of their own songs, made cheaply in a private studio and sold informally around east London.

One song on a recently produced CD makes a reference to leading grime artist Durrty Goodz, the stage name of 23-year-old Wayne Mahorn.

Mahorn graduated from rapping on an east London estate to become one of Britain's leading music stars with a lucrative recording contract.

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