“it’s worth the visit”
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Welcome to issue #11 of Wordplay Magazine, in your hands you hold the UK’s only printed publication dedicated to bringing you the most complete coverage of Hip-Hop, Graffiti & its surrounding culture. This Issue we haven’t held back on anything, heavy weight US names such as Action Bronson, Public Enemy & Immortal Technique all got our undivided attention while we pay homage to some of the UK’s best with exclusive interviews & photo-shoots with Micall Parknsun, Verb T & Edward Scissortongue, flicking through these pages you’re going to be confronted with some of the hottest talent circulating our fine environment at the moment. Whether you’re here for your Hip-Hop fix, Graffiti graze, Fashion fill up, Reggae remedy, B-Boy bite or you’ve just stumbled upon us, we truly hope you can find something amongst these pieces of paper that will not only keep you entertained but keep you captivated. As always we are ever grateful for you’re continued and positive energies from you, our readers & the ever growing list of incredibly talented artist’s. Yours Truly Team Wordplay.
Editor - Matt Neville email@example.com Deputy Editor - Rikki James firstname.lastname@example.org Art Director - Samüel Johnson email@example.com Web Editor - Stephen Keable growthdesigns.co.uk
Katrina Durden - firstname.lastname@example.org Thomas Hawkins - email@example.com Danny Hill - firstname.lastname@example.org Mike Pattemore - email@example.com Joe Downes - firstname.lastname@example.org Matt Ward - email@example.com
Robbie - firstname.lastname@example.org Jack Duffield - email@example.com
Anis Ali - firstname.lastname@example.org James de Ara - jamesdeara.co.uk Luke Copping - cargocollective.com/lukecoppingphotography Kevin Foster - kevfoster.com Christine Walker - email@example.com
Kenza Marland / Abi Lewis / Kitty Richardson / Jess Johns Clem Samuel / Matt Smith / Luke Bailey (Menace) Bozak / Tommy Slack / Charlie Whatley / Beat Butcha Harley / Delphina Scott / Jam Baxter / Mark Jorgensen Pippa Rankin / Nick Caro / Alex Burnard / James Monro
Lord Finesse -
RetuRn of the funky man IntervIew by Joe Downes PhotograPhy by James De ara
You’re part of arguably the greatest crew in hiphop, when was DITC formed and how did you all meet? Diggin’ in the Crates started with show and Diamond (D), they were 2 well-known DJ’s in the hood who I looked up to. Diamond had a single called ‘I’m not Playing’ with Ultimate Force, I definitely knew Diamond had experience as a producer as did show, show was producing records at a young age so when I did Funky technician with mike smooth, I wanted to embrace these two and have them on my project. In my younger high school days I battled ag who at the time was dating a chick who lived across the street from where I used to work on Funky technician, that’s how he came aboard with ‘Keep it Flowin’ and ‘back to back rhymin’. During the making of these show was looking for an mC and a was looking for a DJ, that ‘s what started the magic with show and ag. During the Funky technician days I was shifting mixtapes on the same spot as a dude called buckwild, buck ended up coming on the road with me when mike smooth wasn’t about, he saw me making beats, grabbed his 1200 and quit his job in a supermarket to become the person he his today. now on the source tour in 91’ I took buck on the road, it was Cooley Live, shante, biz markie, rso, the a team & three groups; the Little bastards, Powerule and organized Konfusion who had took oC on a tour with them, I would advise you to look up any of these names, great, great artists back then. after the tour buck went off to work with oC on some demos in the hope of getting a deal, that’s how oC came aboard. Fat Joe the neighbourhood hustler and Diamond were doing demos and promos for red alert; red alert had been bumping their stuff from an early period, before Fat Joe ended up getting a deal with relativity. so now you got show & ag, buckwild, oC, Diamond and Fat Joe, which brings me down to big L who I met during an autograph signing, him and his man come in the store with his guy approaching me ‘yo my man is nice, he wanna rhyme for you’ I handed him my managers number saying “if he’s nice ill see what I can do for him” but big L sent him back. ‘nah my man said look, he wanna rhyme for you and if you don’t like him he will never fucking bother you again’ I had to give this guy a chance, when he had finished rhyming I got straight to business and asked for all his numbers, the dude was so incredible. that’s how you got that whole network, it was like the stars and the Planets aligned, none of this shit was planned, it was kind of like a backwards wu tang, that’s how I saw Diggin’, because we all did us, we was all solo when we formed and I think that’s greatly more complicated and complex than it is to form a group and then try and go solo. when you’re solo and you form a group, that shits like 7/8 chefs in a kitchen trying to cook peas and rice, everybody got their own way of cooking them and you’re all looking for the perfect peas and rice, it’s a complicated situation. Are you still close to the rest of the crew? yeah I’m real close to the rest of the crew, I speak to show damn near everyday, I haven’t spoken to him in a minute because I’ve been out here and these hours are twisted, I speak to ag, I speak to Diamond D, I speak to buckwild, basically everybody Do you still dig in the crates? oh yeah, that’s going to be a ritual forever, you know, I love just looking for music and seeing music I’ve never heard before, seeing covers and titles that make me go ‘woah what’s that shit’ you know, that’s just automatic, Diggin’s like breathing to me.
What’s your favourite record in your collection? I been asked that before, and I really don’t have a favourite, at one point in time some of my favourites were heavily sought after records, like ‘oliver sane’ was my shit along with a record called ‘the exciters’, Japanese soundtracks have always been a favourite of mine, there’s still a couple Japanese pieces I’m looking for but I really don’t have one stand out joint more like a selection of favourites How did you get into beatmaking and what’s your favourite piece of equipment to use? I got into beatmaking watching show, I used to watch him sitting there chopping beats and creating new sounds, i kind of just stood there and would observe and analyse what he was doing and when he wasn’t on the machine I would touch it, he’d show me how to do certain things up until the point where I thought ‘I wanna get one of these’ and ended up sourcing one around ‘the return of the Funkyman’ days. I started making beats in the crib, I locked myself up for quite a while just learning the sb1200 and 950 until I wound up with my little beat cassette which I shopped to people who were like ‘yo you didn’t do those beats’ a majority of those beats ended up
on ‘Lifestylez of Da Poor and Dangerous’ if you listen to those, they were some of my first beats even if they don’t sound like it. equipment of choice, changes everything, it used to be the sP1200 and akai s950, until I noticed Dre and them using the 3000, I was looking at how quick they were loading all this music, it would take me like 2 or 3 minutes loading beats on the 12 and the 950, I moved onto an mPC3000 and an s6000 which I rocked for a while. my weapon of choice for a large portion of time was the mPC4000. Present day its all about renaissance & ableton, I use ableton like I would a 950 and renassaince like a 1200, the outcome is spectacular. Your battle with Percee P in ‘89 is cemented within the roots of Hiphop history, can you tell us some stories from other battles you rocked around this time? I battled a whole bunch of unknown dudes, I mean Perce was probably the big title fight, you know how boxers box all these unknown dudes, I was just beatin’ up on the unknown guys, but Perce was like ‘that fight’ I wanted to be the best and I travelled all over the bronx trying to battle
everybody that said they was nice. I had heard stories about Perce and I was like well ‘I feel he’s in my way, he’s an obstacle’ and to be the best I wanted to beat him, so we battled, who knew that it was going get as big as it became, people are still talking about that battle and even I’m shocked. Percee P is one extraordinary individual lyrically, he’s something crazy. What was it like discovering Big L, being beside him as he developed into such a extraordinary MC? wow, probably the greatest blessing of my career, knowing that I discovered somebody that talented and the chance to bring that person into the game and for him to leave such a legacy. I mean I worked with notorious bIg, I worked with Dr Dre, I worked with Krs one, I worked with roy ayers, but with big L it was like a seed had been planted which started growing but never got to grow all the way. To my knowledge, your first appearance was on ‘I’m the King’ with Raheem, how did that come about? ok, you’ve been doing your homework! yeah that
was my first appearance definitely, raheem was a kid that I went to Catholic school with, he’s kinda responsible in a way for where my style developed from, I thought he was going to be like the next rakim or something, he was that dope, he’s actually the one who put me up on wu tang before wu tang was wu tang. raheem went to jail and that kind of messed him up, that’s why you haven’t heard any more joints from him. What were your inspirations back when you were coming up and what inspires you now? my inspiration was just the whole culture of hiphop, it was something that looked like fun, seeing people setup equipment, put ropes up and tell people they can’t get behind the ropes, they were cutting not only the latest hip-hop but cutting rare breaks and grooves, in the middle of the night they had a certain mC who they’d let on and rhyme, those dudes where the ones getting all the chicks. I didn’t have a lot of money but I felt it was something I could get into and even become well known in, I wanted to be the one getting all the chick (laughs), so yeah that’s where it started for me. I mean I look at hip-hop from a whole different perspective now, the reason I’m doing this
“I just thInk I’m an artIst and that’s what people have got to understand, fIrst and foremost, as an artIst you have to let me grow” now is totally different from when I came into the game. I don’t want to say ‘save hip-hop’ coz people say hip-hop is dead, I don’t believe that, I believe that we got a newer generation that’s being looked at and being marketed in a way that’s dominating hip-hop as a whole, it’s getting a lot more light, you got to think of where hip-hop started from and where it’s at now and the money being generated, when we got into it, it was purely for the
culture and to see what we could bring to hiphop as a individuals, lyricists and more importantly as DItC, money was a part of it but it wasn’t the dominating factor. now it’s more money, money, money, which has become a dictating factor for a lot of artists, there’s nothing wrong with doing it to make money but it’s discouraging whenever you’ve got these new artists coming in and they don’t know its history, not only do they not know the history, they don’t care about it either, thats something that only really happens in hip-hop, you can’t go into these genres and disrespect the foundation and legacies, take r & b for example, you can’t not know who sam Cooke, al green, barry white or James brown are, only in hip-hop are you allowed to enter a genre and not really care who artists like Kool herc, afrika bambaataa, Jazzy Jay and red alert are, these are the founders, these are the trailblazers, theodore, Flash, Furious 5, the treacherous 3, for me that’s discouraging. getting older is inevitable and what motivates me now is to do music that’s going to be the blueprint for an older, intellectual crowd that want substance, so the music I want to do has to include substance, my music has to touch people, that’s what I’m doing right now, focusing on how I’m about to touch people with what I’m about to do, not for a radio record, I don’t believe in radio records, I’ll do a record that can get played on the radio but I’m not into doing ‘a radio record’ or a ‘ club song’ if it gets played in clubs, great, but that’s not what I’m about, I’m about, once again, the funk, the soul and the lyrics, that’s what motivates me right now, everybody’s too busy playing simon says. I imagine you have an endless amount of unreleased joints in a vault somewhere, can we expect these to see a release? It’s been coming out the past few years, merging Underboss entertainment with slice of spice, has seen us release a whole heap of shit. as for unreleased material there’s a few pieces I don’t want to talk about. I know there’s a joint I did with big L that never came out and a joint that I was talking to Large Professor about which me and neek the exotic did back in like ‘90/91 in his crib. there are a few rare joints that have found there way onto tapes or whatever but I need to find them!, there are some pieces out there, I’ll say that. What are your thoughts on the Fatboy Slim track Rockafeller Skank? well, the way it went down I feel I was swindled in a way, I was called because they used my voice for a hook to a song, when they came to me or whoever in the label and said ‘Look, they used your voice in a hook to their song’, I was coming from a hip-hop standpoint, I’m thinking a hooks anywhere between 4-8 bars that has been scratched in or put in a chorus format, I know how it is clearing samples so I didn’t want to be a dickhead, I’ve had to pay a lot of money for a lot of different things so I kind of cleared it without a full perception. I hadn’t even heard the song and that was another thing, I cleared it in good faith, they just sent me the paperwork but no song so when I finally heard the song I was like damn, I’m the whole song. by the time the paperwork was done there wasn’t really any going back. I’ve made money off of it so I’m not going to sit here and say I haven’t, did I get my fair share? of course not, but I don’t really bring it up and I don’t talk about it because unless you can go back in a fucking time machine what are you going to do about? and that’s my thought in life. that’s my take on that, but they’ve done great things, I wouldn’t say that it’s because of me, but that record was a hit, I don’t know if it was their biggest joint, it probably was.
Looking back on your career so far, what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt? I just think once you say yes, you’re responsible for yes, you’re very responsible for that word yes, so when somebody asks you to do something, if you have a hint of doubt or you feel a certain way and you really don’t want to do it but have said yes, that will have a great impact on you because your instincts were telling you it doesn’t feel right, if you say yes, no matter how shady the other party is, you have said yes and as a man you have got the choice to say yes or no, when you say yes you agree to it no matter what happens, with that being said, whenever I’m looking into shit I think things out and if it doesn’t feel right any inch of the way I’m more quick to say no. my theory is I’d rather you be mad than me be mad, we’re in a business where people really don’t look out for you, they don’t give you a raise, you gotta demand a raise, it’s not like ‘ok he did a track for £5,000, let’s give him £20,000 now’ it’s not gonna work like that, unless you say ‘look I’m not doing tracks
for £5,000 no more, I’m doing tracks for XyZ’ that’s a valuable lesson I’ve learnt in hip-hop. Have you ever tried graff or breakin���? I tried graff but I never graduated, so I’m kinda dope at graff but I’m not nowhere to the level where I’m throwing up tags and burners, I’m nice, you know, my handwritings crazy but nah I’m not like that. I knew a kid when I was in Junior high school and that’s all he did during the whole class, we could be in social studies and he’s doing burners, he was trying to help me develop a handstyle, what he told me to do was write letters and then amplify the outline around the letters, I started and I’m somewhat ok but I’m not good at it like that. What do you like to listen to when at home in your own enviroment? stevie wonder, roy ayers, and earth wind & Fire, they make me feel good, I like that feel good music, when I hear it I feel it, there was a lot of good
times with all that, I know I’m missing somebody I always listen to, but definitely stevie, I love stevie man, to see him go through them different decades and his music and his style evolve, thats impeccable man, earth wind & Fire, I love that music man, that music is spiritual. What’s your favourite punchline of all time? oh wow, that’s just too broad of a question, there’s too many, in different levels of the game I would of thought I said some fly shit and then said some flyer shit you know. It starts off with the punchlines and the compounds, ‘Knocking Niggas off, you know what I’m about/I’m in command y’all, I smack niggas up like Peurto Ricans play Handball’ at that time Peurto ricans was playing handball heavy so that was the line. I started thinking of other things ‘Large Fort Knox size, if I’m not rolling like a rockslide I’m laying in the cut like peroxide’ then it started becoming more slick talkin’ like ‘My time is money and you can’t afford my 5 minutes’ ‘You got some nice players they just on the wrong team’ it’s just how it’s set up that makes it incredible, It just comes to me ‘I don’t player hate, I simply make niggas just quit playing’ there’s so many lines but you have to hear it in a rhyme, just me saying the line doesn’t do it justice, there’s a build up, it’s a combination of things that you don’t see. Which Mc’s have impressed you over the last 10 years? Joell ortiz, Jadakiss, Fabolous, Jay electronica, sheek Louch & stylez, I love these dudes because they take time out to think about what they’re going to say. ag has been reborn, I don’t know who this new ag is but that dude is reborn, I call that dude ‘the secret’ that’s my inspiration right now, I can listen to these dudes while they’re rhyming over funk and hiphop, but once all that electronic shit comes on I just switch off, I don’t want to
listen to that music, they could be saying the most incredible shit since the bible and I’d probably skip over it because the music just took me somewhere else.
So we can expect a release in 2013? 2013 definitely, that’s all I can say, there will be a lot of different things floating about to show people, you’ll see.
What are your thoughts on the current hip-hop scene, is it refreshing to see artists such as Kendrick Lamar & Joey Badass for example, start to embrace that raw 90’s sound again? yeah I’m definitely a fan of those two, they’re going against this current state to do some original shit, that’s how hip-hop was, it was about doing some original shit. I look forward to working with Joey badass, we spoke on the phone and I definitely want to work with some of these new generation of artists, it has to be artists that I truly believe in 1,000% I want to sit down and build with these dudes, coming out with a end result that’s going to be magic, it ain’t just going to be ‘ok he hot, he got a buzz, he got fans, I’ve got to believe in the magic, I got to believe in the cause behind the artists, but those two are a great start, they’re kind of like changing the tides.
Are these eminent releases all your own production? nah, I’m definitely going to be affiliated with a couple of the dudes, nottz has done a joint for me already, I love nottz man, you’re going to be hearing a lot from a new dude called J Clyde as well, that’s what it is so far, me, J Clyde and nottz, I ain’t getting stuff from nobody else just yet. It’s going to pop off, I’m not going to let the cat out the bag, and we’re going to take it slowly, let it out here and there.
What can we expect from your upcoming release ‘The Underboss’ grown man shit. boombap, funk, soul and when I say boombap, it’s boombap but elevated, it’s more musically constructed, not in a bad way, people take your words and turn them somewhere else, I just think I’m an artist and that’s what people have got to understand, first and foremost, as a artist you have to let me grow, when I did ‘the awakening’ in ‘95/96, people really didn’t understand it at the time, I hear people telling me now ‘yo that was slept on, it was incredible’ I just tell people to appreciate artists In the hope it doesn’t take 15/20 years for you to appreciate what I’m about to do now, so if in 2013 when I drop something I don’t want you telling me in 2020 or 2025 ‘yo man I slept on that’ it’s a gift and a curse.
Have you missed being in the studio after such a long spell away, how did it feel stepping back into the booth? well I ain’t really back in there just yet, crafting beats is just like it’s regular for me, getting in the vocal booth is going to be something else, I think out of every project I’ve ever done, I’ve never prepared as hard as I’m preparing for this new one, I’ve done major joints but this joint has a whole lot of preparation behind it, deep preparation and focus, I’m trying to make a statement, I’m trying to let people know it’s cool to do real music and win with it. It ain’t just about doing it, I’ve got to win with it, if I don’t then the plan is not what I wanted it to be. Any shoutouts? If I do that we’ll be here for another 3 hours, just shout out to the whole DItC, shout out to richard at slice of spice and my partner, my man Davel mcKenzie.
Will Not Be Televised -
FOCUS ON LOCAL
words by MArK JorGENsEN photography by pIppa raNKIN & James de ara
Ok, so we haven’t kept it all that local. Since the last piece we did for Wordplay we have carried on putting on shows with all sorts of top US artists, the pinnacle of which being a full 14 date European tour for none other than Lord Finesse. Nevertheless, on every single bill we’ve had – including Jeru, DJ Premier, Bumpy Knuckles, Inspectah Deck this year to name a few - there have been too many supporting homegrown names and faces to mention. Well, actually we will mention two.
The first mentions of sykes are said to date back to ancient sumeria. The Epic of Gilgamesh – reputedly one of the world’s oldest transcripts contains multiple references to the presence of a smoky character named ouelle bill syksas - often found lurking around dusty ginnels offering wisdom in the form of stanza. There are numerous cultural references about him too, most famously in dickens’ oliver Twist, (albeit a questionable one who in the modern age would almost certainly have found himself on a
numerous registers or had his address printed in the daily Mail) but different mysterious variations of his character appear throughout almost every culture and era, like santa and JoHN FAsHANU. yes, despite him being mentioned back as far as 4000 bC, it’s peculiar that he’s actually 26 year old rapper from Manchester. bill sykes AKA The wonderkid, AKA old bill sykes, AKA damascus Gary, AKA Iridescent Leslie, AKA dreaded Centaur, AKA Gifted ritalin, AKA william Gatley, AKA The Gideon Prince, AKA Frigid Milliband,
If you drew a spider diagram of the hip hop scene in the UK at the moment, a good place to start would be to just have a piece of paper with Pete Cannon written in big letters. Then you should probably question why you were drawing a spider diagram of the hip hop scene in the first place, throw it in the bin and stop being a peen. Then you should listen to Cannon’s remix of Tin of worms by Jam baxter (feat. Chester P) and instead write a list of people who could make a rZA-esque beat THAT good using live drums and guitar, while somehow finding the time to theorise, manage and cultivate the most prominent hip hop hairstyle of our age.
you’re probably better off just getting that piece of paper with Pete Cannon written on it out of the bin. but anyway, let’s digress from the rap admin...Pete has far too many ongoing projects with too many artists to even begin to mention, but his recent collab with Us heavyweight Guilty simpson, reality Check with Lunar C loitering around half a million views on youTube and upcoming High Focus mixtape are a few that particularly stand out. Anyone who has ever heard of, worked with or admired the hair of Pete would agree that he is one of the best, most consistent and prolific producers anywhere and is someone who has, does and rightfully should have top artists from across the globe queuing round the block to work with him.
has been almost ever present on wNbT bills, both independently or as part of TNC (The Natural Curriculum); smashing every single one of them. They might have got the apocalypse stuff wrong, but the Mayans did add a footnote to say that if they were wrong about 2012, then 2013 would be the year of sykes. sykes has been a consistent presence around Manchester for the last couple of years with TNC and with a number of solo projects and collaborations on the horizon, and is our tip for big things this year. sykes is one of the most naturally talented rappers around. Anywhere. Holder of the world record for longest drunken freestyle - a staggering 19 hours after a bottle of rum and a night at the roadhouse - sykes is drawing attention not only across the UK, but across the pond too. dJ Clipse played his track ‘Particle’ live on radio in the states and (friend of Televised/best human being in the world) dJ boogie blind is among vocally high profile fans. His video ‘dirty old Man’ on youTube is one that I can repeatedly watch and find timelessly brilliant, but there is soon to be a lot more sykes presence online. New video ‘where Are you’ has recently dropped to a rave reception across the board and has provided a perfect platform to grab the scene by the danglers this year. Anyone new to sykes should check out all of his previous material including the TNC album and solo projects (bluntskins f/ Cheech and Pro P), but with shedloads more in the pipeline including collaborations with Eric da red (little Leaf dog!!), smellington Piff and plenty more, those dastardly Mayans might have been right about something after all....
Alongside Konny Kon (wNbT resident dJ/ambassador for simian relations) we have accumulated a talented family of artists who perfectly illustrate just how strong the scene is at the present time. Pete is central to all of that, as well as being official dJ for Leafy and bVA at all of their wNbT shows up and down the country. It’s not just sykes and Pete, mind. The last year has seen us work with a host of top UK talent who have got big projects/releases this year dr syntax and The Mouse outfit, dayse, sparkz, shotty Horroh and a shitload more. oh and, for the record, rA the rugged Man is an absolute wang. The End.
T-SHIRT LINE COMING SPRING/SUMMER 2013 FOR VIDEOS & GALLERY OF EVENTS SEE WWW.WHITECANVASPROJECT.COM
Konchis & Physiks -
IntervIew by James monro PhotograPhy by tommy slack
Konchis and Physiks are a formidable Glasgow based pair who have emerged from the highlands as front runners in a new generation of beatmakers and rhyme sayers north of the border. With an extensive back catalogue already at their disposal, an explosive live show and the impending release of new album ‘The Lying, The Rich and The War Globe’ set for an early 2013 release, the future is bright for the pair. When did you guys meet and start making music? Physiks: as far as I can remember I’ve always been very musical, whether it was doing silly freestyles in school for jokes or banging my head on a table in a rhythmic pattern for hours and hours. I don’t think I ever took anything too seriously until I met konchis. I was immediately drawn to his spectrum of styles and laid back attitude and pretty much from day one we have been creating crazy sounds together. K: I grew up around a lot of early Ukhh and reggae so it caught my ear from a young age. when I was about twelve or thirteen I started getting into writing verses and going through the whole learning curve that follows but it was always the beat making I was really into. my music teacher at school introduced me to some fossilised version of logic in 2nd year; it was sick because I was able to get to grips with music software on school time and I also finally had a way to block out the sound of some mad bastard in the corner banging his head on the table. by third year we were certified og’s, smoking weed at break, tagging up the auditorium and confident enough to start making music properly. Coming from Glasgow, what influences your music? P: lots of things - the main ones being life, my friends and crew, Ukhh and various substances and liquors. K: all of the above, but also, there are so many talented cats up here that it’s hard to not be inspired and influenced by them. whether you’re after mc’s, producers, DJ’s, singers, writers, b boy’s, photographers, promoters, designers etc. they’re all there doing their thing.
What can we expect from Konchis and Physiks in the future? P: we have an album about to drop real soon titled ‘’the lying, the rich & the war globe’’ all produced by konchis, as well as a few other projects ongoing at the moment but you know how it is, I like to take life one day at a time and see what leads us where. Is there anyone we should be looking out for from your native town? P: there are so many emcees in scotland doing their thing and killing it right now but for me, my personal favorites to name a few would be mog, gasp, loki, louie, Perfect Practice, Jinx, el green, Zayn, tongue acrobats & Jakeybytez K: all of those, but also including respek ba, marrik layden Deft, stanley odd, hector bizerk and the sentinalez. Production wise definitely: scatabrainz, bill breakz, s-type, Jaisu, soundthief, David ross, Inkke, yutani, bunty and bigg taj. If there was ONE artist you could do a collaboration with (dead or alive) who would it be? P: big l K: bob marley What THREE albums couldn’t you live without? P: this is a very cruel question but i suppose if i had to choose they would have to be ‘’mog - based on a blue story’’, ‘’loki & scatabrainz - summer knows a Darker shade of grey’’ and last but not least ‘’contact Play - champion Fraff’’. K: I agree, but also ‘scatabrainz - moonlight music’, ‘gunshot - twilights last gleaming’ and ‘ enter the wu-tang (36 chambers)’. Far too many though.
Where can we see you tearing up the mics? P: anywhere in glasgow really, i’d say I attend about 90% of the hip hop nights here and i’m also lucky enough to have the best promoter in these woods as my special lady. she has put on some of the biggest nights here and through that journey we have had the honour to support some really big names and make some new friends too. K: For sure, large up a-ball, had craaazzy support slots the past couple of years What song would you sing if you reached the summit of Mount Everest? P: Probably some ridiculous drum and bass number to combat the sheer adrenaline and chemicals pumping through my body that lead me there in the first place. K: general levy & m-beat - Incredible. or tempa t - next hype. What’s your view of the UKHH scene right now, and who do you rate? P: Uk-hh is at a peak right now there are so many good artists out there and the crowds have been increasing also, I would be here for days if i was to start dropping names. I basically rate anyone who stays true to what they believe in and has the guts to step on a stage and share their view on life. K: Definitely, it’s really refreshing to hear so many new fresh mc’s, and the battle circuit has created alot of hype too. boom bap Festival was biblical, and I think it speaks for itself in the fact that Ukhh is thriving enough again to throw that kind of full scale event. Finally any shout outs you want to make? massive shouts to wordplay, the being emcees, volition, easy riders, a-ball events, badmouth battles, tommy slack tDslr For the Photos, contact Play/high Focus Family, two tone committee, 141 ,southside Deluxe, cheap booze, Drugs and hIP-hoP.
Girl on top
INTERVIEW BY MATT NEVILLE
Tell us when you started, what got you into graffiti and what crews did you start with? I started properly in 1996 or 1997 I think, over 15 years ago. Before that I used to write on random stuff and sprayed my room up but I never had a tag or really knew that much about the graffiti scene. I started writing as my boyfriend at the time decided to do it and wanted some company… I am good company ;) LMB was my first crew, it was fun, we just wanted to get up on the streets and fuck about really. We managed that pretty well. Painted some ok walls and made friends/enemies. I also started Girls On Top about the same sort of era with a girl called Ned. Mainly for fun really and I was always the only girl painting out which I thought was a bit weird. I still don’t really understand why so many people love graff but so few girls actually paint. GOT is the only all female crew in the UK, who’s active in the crew these days and how did you form? There are a few girl crews around the world now. Few N Far from the US, NM from Barcelona to name my personal favourites. Also watch out for the Girl Power movie coming out next year they have been all over the world talking to girl writers, it should be good. GOT started back in about 2000 as I said with Ned but really only kicked off properly about 2006 when I linked Mira and a
few other girls from overseas we all met on the GraffGirlz (rip) website, it was a cool thing to find other girls like me from all different countries and really interesting to see their different styles and attitudes. It’s still rare to find other girl writers and when you do they are usually one amongst a load of lads. Today it’s Me, Luna, Punish, Pixie, Lyns,Neo-Nita, and the AWOL Claudia de Sabe…. It’ a friendship thing, it’s good to have like minds to chat to about what you love. Who/what inspires you? I love painting, simple as that. I want to get better and paint bigger and sicker walls, like this last year I have been working really hard on youth projects and making enough money to survive London, next year is gonna go boom I think for painting… I hope. These last few years have really been about observing the rad stuff that has been going on around the world via the internet, seeing some of it in person and getting my thoughts and ideas straight. I’m trying to get into a position where I can make them a reality, but not rinsing my resources on just simple stuff just cos I need a painting fix. It’s expensive to paint big and that what I want to do most of all. Ideas wise I get inspired by jokes & silly humour, bangin letter styles, lyrics, natural beauty, and just life around me. I wish my output was greater than it was but man you have to make money which sucks.
“Go and be a model if you wanna paint some weak shit.” Who do you rate these days? Utah for bombing hard with Ether, Aryz, for painting enourmous beautiful buildings, Moas, also love the old NY guys Dondi, Futura, Serve and Ghost are my enduring favourites, Musa from Barcelona is the boss, Ders RT, Nylon & Boogie SML are always fresh, Mad C for sheer scale. Love Devise VFL and also always loved Mickey TFP style. Age old question but how does a male dominated culture react/treat you within the scene? Mixed reactions and I think it depends who you are and what you bring to the party, initially I was a novelty but I’ve been around for time, they all either know me, love me or hate me now. I see some girls still rocking their bodies not the cans and I think it’s a sad way to get fame as a writer, you are meant to burn, not look better than your pieces. Go and be a model if you wanna paint some weak shit. There is a whole world of fresh female talent with the cans if you wanna look for it. The Aussies have a strong scene and I’m going out there to paint the LadyKillers jam in Jan in Sydney. Looking forward to that and linking with the crews out there a lot! Spice is painting and she is seriously sick. Girls don’t take no shit!!
“sometimes i want to fuck shit up, other times i want to sneak about in the cold and sometimes i want to be a nice Girl.”
Would you say female writers bring something different to style in graffiti or is there no noticeable differences between the sex of a writer? I think there are some differences overall, like in general girls are more likely to paint softer subject matter I see lots more swirls and flowers and animals painted overall and lads paint more demonic characters and violent scenes, but that is a total generalization. It really depends on the individual all the way. Like sometimes I want to fuck shit up, other times I want to sneak about in the cold and sometimes I want to be a nice girl. I love teaching, I don’t have kids of my own, and I get a lot of enjoyment passing on my love of painting to kids and I hope they carry on with it. Many new paint products, which do you choose? Whatever is the best quality for the best price, I like Belton for jobs as it is reliably lightfast plus I like 94. I Try n avoid other brands cos they smell gross, handle badly and ain’t always lightfast, it’s ok if your piece is gonna go in half an hour because the next person is waiting to paint over you but I want my stuff to last if I’m making the effort. I love krink pens too they are unbeatable, and dirty mixed up inks. They always make me happy. What’s the maddest thing to happen to you while painting? There was a ghostly black dog that saved me from getting nicked, it appeared from nowhere by my side as a police car drove past me after I had left a trail of tags behind me. It then followed me home and proceeded to head butt the glass doors at the front of the building trying to follow me in, for ages. That was pretty weird. It became known as the Graff Dog. Loads of stupid things happen really more on missions to me, like my own stupidity is funny, I am so shortsighted I fall over things a lot, got egged by a car of people on my birthday all the good stuff. Ask Creak. Any more shows/exhibitions planned for 2013? Tons… going to Aus and NZ to paint and hang for 2 months Jan and Feb. Also got a few group shows around March, then a G.O.T crew show in May in New York at the Bob Bar in Eastside Manhattan, watch out for us! Any shouts? All of GOT- love you, Jojo, Esta, Chil, Kronos, Creak, DPM, B.S.E, THC/BRS, GFS , Distant Planet rave crew, all my other safe mates and all the UK hip-hop fam. Check out http://www.flickr.com/photos/thcuk and www.girlsontopcrew.co.uk
Dabbla Self-ConfeSSed Badman
By Katrina Sheâ€™ DurDen PhotograPhy By aniS ali
One dark and dreary London evening I found myself heading to North London to meet Dabbla, a well-established MC who is part of the London Zoo collective, with over a decade of experience behind them. Having worked with a collection of some of the biggest names, and crossed into more genres than you can get your head around, Dabbla was definitely that much needed light relief from the London weather. I spoke to him at Jam Baxterâ€™s place about London Zoo, his solo work, projects with High Focus, Dubbledge and Stig of the Dump and just generally being his own badman.
What was your first taste of hip hop? Snoop Dogg’s Dog Pound, all that nWa shit, that was the first insight into a world i had a calling to. How did that develop for you? it was kind of weird because obviously it was american, and we didn’t really have a way to relate to it. But it just sounded so cool and we just wanted to learn all the lyrics and imitate and pretend that we were proper g’s, when really we were just a bunch of english kids begging the vibe and liking it.
“I’d rather make someone laugh than make someone sIt there and thInk I’m really deep”
How did you adapt yourself to hip hop, or mould it to fit you? hip hop was my first love, but i got into the rapping side of it through drum and bass. But drum and bass and hip hop are linked, at the time, a lot of it was sampled from hip hop. Plus the reggae influence; i was always heavily into reggae as well. yeah, that’s how it sparked. how the fuck i ended up here, i don’t know, from a drum and basey kind of hip hop kick start for me. What made you pick up the mic? i suppose Skibba D really; listening to english people tear the mic up in raves and finding our own thing and then starting to write really. it was just an imitation of what you like and adapting it to your own kind of style. What name did you use back then? My name back then was andrew Boogaloo P. then it was twist. then Dabbla, which stuck (Jam Baxter: it’s like when you change your name by deed poll, you’re only allowed to change it three times). How did London Zoo come about? i went to uni in Manchester and met Pierre green, who’s one of the london Zoo producers, he was a garage DJ and i was a drum and bass MC, so we instantly hated each other. But was a mad mash, because he was always playing in all the student clubs, and i was always trying to beg my way onto the mic, and i finally got on the mic and tore it up and it went from there. We went to ayia napa and did the whole garage thing, and that’s when we came up with the name and the symbol. then i had people at home i knew, and so did he. this was all around the Freeze FM era, where we actually got thrown out for playing dubstep, because they didn’t know what it was! Which is mad, because dubstep’s the biggest sound in the world now, well, except for house – should have been a house DJ! You’ve called yourself alternative in the past, how did you become comfortable in and merge so many genres? Well, london Zoo was more of a sound system than a crew when it started, there was five or six DJ’s and only 2 MC’s, and all of them played different sounds, and it was just a fusion of all those sounds. i guess that’s whats helped our survival because we’ve never been put in a box, and could never die in one. Do you feel that’s what gave you the exposure to go into the mainstream a little more? yeah, well, for me it’s all about the live shit. i didn’t start recording tracks until years after. Just being able to go into a dance, read the crowd and be able to smash it over any tempo, any type of music and create a vibe and make everyone feel nice!
What’s the most natural sound for you? For me, at the minute, i’m getting heavily into my 140 [bpm] shit. i’ve always been comfortable on it but, obviously having made hip hop for a while, you get used to a kind of groove. now, hip hop; i feel like i’ve done everything i can do with it, so i’m kind of trying to experiment with some half stepping, doing slow lyrics over a really fast beat, and the other way round too. i’m on that 150 shit that ghostown’s now coming with – there’s a tune called Badman which will be on the Dead Players album. Kind of middle eastern flavour as well. Take me a through a typical day in the life of Dabbla? Well, at the moment, i’m working like a slave over Christmas; that’s the only time i can make proper money. So, right now, i’m waking up at 6am and i’m in a warehouse until 6pm – not exactly the glamorous life of a musician. then i leave, the cape goes on. hit the studio, get stoned, don’t really come up with anything, get pissed off, get some food – should probably wash by this time as well. try and get some sleep because i have to be up early, and then all these ideas come to me as i’m about to go to sleep. So i’m probably scribbling until three in the morning, by which time it’s too late to record. But as soon as Christmas is over, i can just get up and make music. How do you balance the caped crusader vs real life responsibilities? Well, Dabbla was always my alter ego. it’s my artistic licence to be a cunt. there’s a cunt in everyone, it’s just about how you get it out and deal with that side of you. and this is my way of doing it - getting all the sick thoughts and weird awkwardness, social inept penguin activity and channeling it into a song. i found it weird because i would turn up to shows and people would think i was more of a cunt than i actually was, but it was my own fault. then i went, “right, that’s not who i am” and over the last couple of years, i’ve blended my true cunt in with my normal self, levelling it out.
When did you realise that London Zoo really started kicking off? We got a booking in Switzerland, and we decided to take Dubbledge with us. i never really knew him but i respected him as a rapper, and he had heard of us and we hooked him up with the show, so he was happy to come. We all wrote so many tracks with all the Swiss people, really had a vibe going. one night, we were digging through one of the DJ’s crates and we found the [roni Size and Cypress hill’s] Child of the Wild Wild West and then we just did some pisstake 8-bar freestyle. that turned into lips 2 Floor. that was kind of when we realised we had something people needed to hear, so we put together a mixtape, which was really our first album, called living long ting on Dented records. that was how london Zoo came to be really. Did you think it was going to be that record that catapulted you into the public eye? nah man, it was meant to be a skit! Breaking up all the songs we put hard labour into. But it goes to show, shit that you flow with and have fun with, and don’t labour too much with, turns out to be the gold. i remember when someone booked us specifically to do the tune, but we didn’t know the lyrics and we had to freestyle the whole thing. it was just us on the spot, having a vibe with it. if you have fun, people have fun with you. That was over 10 years ago, how has the journey shaped since then? i wanted to make a load of pisstake music, but i didn’t want to dig a hole for myself, so i tried to make some serious music, but it didn’t really happen. i’ve got to be in a really low place to make something too serious, i’m not one to pour my heart out on a track. i’d rather make someone laugh than make someone sit there and think i’m really deep . i would much rather have people go “haha, he said “tits”. i think laughters the key.
Catfood was released last year and was coined one of the best albums in UK hip hop in 2011, why’d you think it got that status? at the time, we hadn’t put anything out in a while and we were sitting on about four albums worth – albums always evolve and change. i think Catfood was us going “let’s put out the cream of what we’ve got” and give a little something back. We’ve had a lot of support and been shown a lot of love.
“I’d go nuts wIthout It. musIc Is everythIng to me.”
How has it been being both a solo artist as well as a member of a group? i’ve always worked on my solo stuff, but i prefer being in a team of like-minded people. i get more done when i’m with people i like working with like this guy here (points at Jam Baxter). When we get in the studio, there’s a vibe, i enjoy it. Sometimes, when i’m on my own, i have no one to vibe off but myself and it’s a lot harder. i’ve got my solo shit but i’m going to wait a while to put it out, let all these colossal collaborations do their thing then maybe i’ll put out a solo album. Who has been the most interesting person to work with? taskforce. We weren’t in the studio long, spent most of the time in the pub! But, yeah, always been a fan of them and happy to see they’re still doing their shit. this whole thing is one long journey of self-discovery and when you see people still doing it and enjoying it, it makes you think that this was the right thing to do. Where would you say your influence comes from? i like to think Busta rhymes, because he has always been my favourite MC. oh and myself really. got to big myself up for getting out of bed and doing what i do. i think i’m my own badman! i look up to myself. oh and Foreign Beggers, they gave us our first squeeze on the label and helped us get our first release out. they took me on tour with them as well, pulled me up on stage in australia. they’ve shown me a lot of love, and i have a lot of love for them. What do you listen to? like, Jewish gypsy soul mixes, Favela funk mixes, Brazilian ghetto music. not too much Mcing, unless it’s my favourite MC’s. My favourite MC’s? Jam Baxter and the whole of the high Focus camp, Dubbledge, Stig. i’m lucky because i’m working with all my favourite MC’s. What motivates you to keep going? Seeing the next generation coming up and flying the flag and pushing things further. it’s much more of a community now than when i got into it. People were more huddling around what’s theirs whereas now people are more willing to help people out and hook people up or collaborate with them and it’s just a much nicer vibe. Tell me about the Dead Players project... it’s me and Jam Baxter and ghostown, who’s probably one of the best that this country has every produced. it’s an honor to work with these guys. it’s the kind of shit that could tear up a dancehall rave and, as two white kids, we’d probably be accepted with open arms. it’s nuts different music. the first beat i did was the Badman tune, then the first track me and Jam did was that Darling tune. (Jam Baxter: it was just us having fun and not thinking about it too much, jumping on ghostown’s weird future shit. i think it works).
What about Problem Child with Dubbledge and Sumgii? Me and Dubbledge have always made tunes and we just sort of wanted to brand it. it’s more like a trap, uK take on crunk with double time lyrics over sublow beats. Sumgii’s doing a lot of work with Piff gang as well. So it’s all uK music! What else is coming up? recorded an album with Stig of the Dump, the Barzini Brothers. he’s alberto Barzini, and i’m Pedro Barzini. our DJ, Pierre green, is Paulo Barzini. i write bars, analyze and destroy it. this was the first time we sat down and just lay down the most natural approach to the beats we are working with and just be sure in what we do. that project was very liberating, to be free like that and have no one tell use we couldn’t do this or that. at the end of the day, it’s me and Stig, we can do what we want. and with us together it’s double ‘don’t give a fuck’. What can we expect from that? there’s one hook that goes “Pussy, pussy. alcohol and weed, and more money than the world has ever seen”. it’s simple, but it’s true. Can’t really knock it. We tried the tune in Bulgaria and they went potty for it, so it works. Maybe i shouldn’t be chatting about it, but at the end of the day, if it pops in the head and it has the right intention – just to have a laugh and be free, and that’s what it is.
What’s the most important thing for you with your music? My soul. Being able to look at myself, however this shit ends up and think that i did it right, not to cringe over it. it’s all about how you measure success. i could leave music today and be happy with what i’ve done and feel like i made a little stir. and of course not making boring music, there’s a lot of it out there. So what’s your strategy? i don’t have one, just doing what i love with people i love chilling and working with. love is the key. Sounds like a pretty good life! it’s the coolest thing about me, take it away and i’d just be andy, that bloke! it’s part of my life, i’d go nuts without it. Music is everything to me. What are your most memorable moments? the weirdest was, i had to do a gig in an all girls’ school. i had a launch night and a music teacher wanted me to come into her school and demonstrate the rap scene. they were all around 14, so i couldn’t swear, so i was like “how the fuck can i do this, have you heard my music?!”. But it was good, felt like i was giving something back. My most memorable was probably last new year, i was in australia and Foreign Beggers made me get up on stage and do lips 2 Da Floor. i was pissed out of my face, i fell over the barrier and landed on my face. that’s how i want to be remembered, falling over doing what i love to do.
We catch up With SeeN to fiNd out hoW life iS treatiNg him iN pariS aNd hoW it compareS to NYc IntervIew by Matt nevIlle
For our readers that don’t follow graffiti, meet SEEN, this guy is a world renowned graffiti writer and is held in high regard as a legend in the movement. Although he wasn’t the first he is certainly one of the longest running and more than paid his dues back in the day, back when NYC was showing the world what true graffiti was all about. Things have changed for him these days though, and we caught up with him in Paris to find out what’s life like away from New York.
“In fIve years tIme I can pIcture myself on a horse, at duSk With a cigarette iN the corNer of mY mouth dIsappearIng Into the sunset” You’re now living in Paris, how is the French capital treating you and whats the graffiti scene like there compared to NYC? I didn’t know about France and one could say I came here by accident, I landed here in 2007 after my very first exhibition in Paris SeenCIty, everything was new for me, although I didn’t speak French, people were very nice to me. I discovered the French culture and I quickly became fond of it. I discovered “Pétanque” this game rocks!!! I’m not involved in the graffiti scene, but I met some good crazy French characters!
Do you get back to New York often? not so much, I have traveled quite a bit, but whenever I left nyC for more than two weeks, I would always end up asking myself “what the hell am I doing here?” and often changed my return ticket to come back sooner. but then as soon as the plane touched ground in the big apple, I though “why the hell have I come back?” I had been thinking of moving to europe for at least ten years so when Steve De la borie suggested the show in Paris I say yeS and so the Paris exhibition was the trigger! the time had come for a change.
Do you paint with local writers? yes but not so much, I’m an old person now, but I met some great guys!
How are the tattoo parlours going? Do you still tattoo? tattoo Seen is still on in da bronx of course! I haven’t tattooed in over 12 years, but still from time to time I’m back there too haha! you know I was doing so much tattooing, seven days a week, all day long that eventually I burned out. It took too much of my life up, so I had to stop tattooing.
Do you still paint regularly? I paint everyday in my studios, but my last train was for xmass 98 in nyC, since this day officially I’m retired, but this is for the official version, from time to time I had to say “I’m back” haha!
Tell us about these new fresh Seen tees? I started with airbrush on t-shirt in 1981, since day one it was a real success, so I opened a store downtown. I was also one of the first in the application of graffiti in fashion. I began by painting graffiti inspired designs on clothing. the success inspired a number of followers and soon a trend had emerged in nyC. In 1986 Seen StUDIOS nyC was on and I started silkscreening. So it become bigger and bigger until in 1999 I didn’t have anymore time for taking care of my business so I stopped, and now more than ten years after I’m back in the business! the idea is to create a line inspired from my history and from my paintings and wholecars. Since I stopped people have been asking me where and when they can get some Seen tees and hoodies, so here they are! I try to stick to and remember the flavor of the new york subway from the 70’s 80’s, I don’t want to produce a lot so all the Seen tees and hoodies are very limited to 100 copies worldwide. like this you can’t cross a guyin the street with the same Seen tee… at least in your town. Only limited series and special series! when the Seen tee is sold out it will be sold out for ood, no re-print, sorry. Can we get them in the UK? If you want to be sure to grab one go to www.blKmarket.net this is my official website. we are dealing with the stores around the planet, so if your favorite store don’t work with us yet, ask them to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org Do you have a spray paint product of choice? Since I landed in Paris I work with beat and Clash this is an Italian company and I feel very good with them. they are professional and the quality beat up all the others brands, but I have to say I do miss my OlD rust-oleum, Krylon and wet-look. What next? Where do you see Seen Studios heading in the future? los angeles and las vegas are the future, and of course still Paris and new york! but I try not to think too far ahead. I don’t make plans for more than three months in advance. In five years time I can picture myself on a horse, at dusk with a cigarette in the corner of my mouth disappearing into the sunset, like a poor lonesome cowboy, haven’t you heard about lucky luke!?
Angel Haze -
Self confeSSed greateSt female rapper? IntervIew by KItty rIchardson Photo by charlIe whatley
This was no accident. The hordes of fans straining the barriers, the major label record deal, the wordplay and knock-out charisma; Angel Haze owes everything to careful planning, practicing and RapBattles.com, if she’s to be believed. I’m not entirely convinced that this kind of talent is just the product of a lot of Googling and good time-management skills, but who am I to argue with hip-hop’s hottest export?
Michigan-born, New York-adopted Haze secured her place in the rap game back in July. The apted-named Reservation EP was an eclectic masterpiece, with acoustic-driven conscious gems rubbing up against hard ghetto stylings, all glued together with Angel’s machine-gun flow. Her most recent mixtape Classick is currently warming her seat while she flexes her muscles on stage and does the occasional bit of modelling for Next. From a strict religious upbringing, Angel - real name Raeen - has gotten very big, very fast. It’s been a good year for women in rap (hello Azelia, Kitty Pryde et al), but the 21 year old’s phenomenal output means she’s successfully side-stepped that awkward ‘female rapper’ category and gone straight to mass appeal and getting phonecalls from Nas. All of this, achieved with no alcohol, drugs, or filthy groupie indulgence. It’s enough to make you question your existence.
“I’ve known what I wanted to do for four years, and now I‘ve got the opportunIty to do It.”
Before KOKO filled up with the smell of anticipation and lots of wasted teenagers, Wordplay caught up with Angel backstage to talk, shoot, and develop a reasonably weighty crush.
Have you managed to stop at all since you got to London? nope, non-stop touring since sunday night. I got into london on a plane at seven o’clock and ever since then it’s been all day long. How do you stay awake?! I don’t know, I guess I just have to realise that my dream is also a job, and that I have to be prepared for it, and do shit I don’t wanna do. I mean I wake up at fucking 7 to go radio, to go do a photoshoot and then another photoshoot... Have you had to do a lot of that? oh yeah. Photoshoots I think are probably the worst fucking part of this. not the photoshoots for the shit that lets you be you, but the shoots for glam magazines and fashion shit. well, also I recently signed to next modelling agency... yeah... it fucking sucks. That’s debatable! Though I’m sure if you’ve been waiting around in a cold studio for hours in something tight and uncomfortable... well, I like the rapping part! *laughs* I like the bit when I get to interact with my fans and do shows and jump around like a wild animal - that’s the fun part. then there’s the extra part that you don’t really get told about when you end up doing all this crazy shit. Do you find there’s a discord between who you are personally and on the record, and who you have to be in this kind of ‘up and coming’ hype-d tornado that you’re currently living in... I wouldn’t say there’s a discord. I feel like in the moment when we need to we can become someone else. For me it’s easy because I transition in and out of being raene and then being angel haze and then all these other different things. It’s sort of become part of the job. I risk the chance of turning into a diva sometimes when I’m freaking out at people, and then part of me has to be like ‘c’mon dude, what are you doing?’. I feel like I’ve got to stay grounded, that it’s really important to not treat people like shit, not try and act like I run things. But’s it hard to stay grounded - especially having blown up so quickly from being unsigned. I’m guessing you had a fair few tastes of shitty underground gigs before this to give you some perspective right? no. not really. Well, fuck you on behalf of every musician ever! *laughs* hahah... well, it’s basically been mostly clubs. the first club I played over here was bump. It was really ... scene. I mean, I don’t go to clubs. I’ve never actually been to one in my own time so... Is that because you haven’t been old enough? well, I just turned 21. you can club legally in the states at 18, anyway, but for me I’ve never really been that interested in. also, I don’t drink so. I don’t do any of that shit, so I like to be in places that accommodate me. and clubs are full of people sniffing cocaine off credits cards.
“poetry Is so dIfferent to rap because It’s all expressIon, whereas rap Is expressIon plus metaphors plus beIng slIck plus confIdence plus personalIty.” Have you always been this confident? Uh uh, no. It’s something I had to train myself to be. I figure that if you know you can do something, and you know you’re good at it, people want you to be insecure. no one wants to see someone with that much confidence, that relentless ‘Icanfuckign dothisshutthefuckup’ confidence... but I’ve been practicing this shit for 4 years straight, I know I can rock. I did allll the research...because I didn’t wanna suck. Wikipedia? rapbattles.com man! I had to learn so much. It was actually a task to do this shit. when I say that I’m the best, I mean I’m the best to me - I don’t think everyone in the world should think that. but it took so long for me to get here that I’m gonna be fucking confident y’know? If I was walking onto stages with my head down, whispering into my mic, you wouldn’t be here right? Powerful women don’t have it easy in any business. How have you been received by your male counterparts? they don’t talk to me. rappers don’t talk to me, period. the only ‘rapper’ I could consider a friend is childish Gambino and he’s not really a rapper. rap has too many egos in it, so I don’t bother trying to befriend any of them. the only person who’s ever reached out to me has been nas. he said he thought I was “sick” and he’d like to be a part of my movement, and I was like - oh shit. but the thing is I never wanted to co-sign with anyone. I wanted to be able to do this shit by myself. Which seems like it’s going pretty well for you.. you just gotta have that drive, man. You used to write poetry right? Is that what eventually got you into rapping? ohhh man ... poetry is so different to rap because it’s all expression, whereas rap is expression plus metaphors plus being slick plus confidence plus personality. In poetry I can say whatever I want. at the moment I don’t write because I’m not miserable enough! to be an artist you have to be in touch with that misery, to let it simmer and be able to grasp it. You’re not the first person to say that. Do you think success might quash your writing? I don’t know. I see a lot of dumb shit as I succeed more and more that inspires me. like the ‘shit I don’t like’ freestyle.
To your sexuality. You’re openly pansexual, and it seems like hip hop has gotten a lot more tolerant about ‘the gays’ in general recently, what with Frank Ocean coming out. Is it as accepting on the inside? hmm. well, on my label and stuff they don’t really ask about it. I don’t date anyone, so I’m not flaunting it around and I like to keep my personal life really really personal. I don’t need any opinions from them, but they know I’ve stated before that I’m pansexual and they’re like “whatever”. Not dating’s a choice I’m guessing? yeah it’s a choice. I mean, I’m not good with relationships so I just stay out of them! I’m working on work. I mean... it gets lonely as fuuuck, so lonely... but because this is what I wanted, I have to sacrifice a lot of shit right now. But the ... ‘opportunities’! nah, I don’t do it. see, my brother and my manager and I, we all went out for the hoxton thing, and they sent me back to the hotel early to get some sleep. so I’m in bed at half eleven and they’re out partying, my brother fucks some groupies they were like ‘oMG angel haze’ and he was all ‘I’m her brother’. they just Gave him the pussy. I don’t get anything.
How much control are you going to have over your new material? total control. they don’t tell me to do anything. I took a youtube video down that everyone wanted to keep and I said ‘fuck you, I’m taking it down’. It’s my choice. when I did the deal, I got 99% of what I wanted. I got the best lawyer in the world. I guess it depends who you are - I think when people think of major labels they think of illuminatic things and everyone trying to control you. I feel like if you know what you wanna do, if you go in and you’re like ‘I’ve got my next 7 albums titled’, then they’ll let you do it. If you come in with no creative direction then they’ll tell you what to do, and you’re gonna become a robot. I’ve known what I wanted to do for four years, and now I‘ve got the opportunity to do it. It feels pretty good. Angel tweets at @iamangelhaze, and the Classick mixtape is available from AngelHazeMusic.com.
Immortal Technique -
The Rebel ARms ReTuRn
INTERVIEW By KaTRINa ShE’ DuRDEN
I heard Immortal Technique was back in the UK for the first time in 4 years. Naturally, the first thing to do is call my editor. Again. And again. I have been following Tech since the beginning, as I was reminded by DJ Snuff (of Caxton Press), since the days when he stepped into Deal Real Records shouting out “Revolutionary Volume 1” and no one had a clue who he was. Now is quite a different story - internationally famous, or infamous, depending on your political views, with a huge worldwide following, as well as three studio albums (Revolutionary Vol 1 and 2 and 3rd World) and compilation album, The Martyr. He is also the head of Viper Records and, most recently, producer of the documentary about his life, The ®evolution of Immortal Technique. But it’s not just about the music to Tech, it’s about the message. “It’s about having a purpose” and Tech goes above and beyond. In 2008, using the proceeds from The 3rd World, he set up an orphanage in Kabul, Afghanistan, without any corporate or external funding. He is also an avid political activist, in particular, supporting prison and hemp law reform. So there I was, in the basement of a Shoreditch watering hold, sitting across from Tech, Poison Pen and Swave Sevah, with a million and one questions to ask this pioneer of conscious hip hop. Covering every topic from his music, to cultural imperialism and freedom of speech, Tech spoke both passionately and articulately, radiating and commanding respect, not just as an established musical artist, but a natural leader and teacher.
What inspired you to go in the direction you did with your music? The first record I did, Revolutionary Vol 1. came out a week prior to September 11th and I didn’t get any distribution for it until several years later. at the same time, I had seen so many MC’s bask in the glory of the 90’s, the Islamic influence on hip hop, the lessons of street knowledge - then it almost seemed like they abandoned that because they were afraid to criticise the nation. Everything that had gone wrong for the uS had been wiped clean because we were not only the victims of an attack, but the victims of a government that had been ignorant enough to ignore all the warning signs of what was going on. which is, at best, ignorant, and at worst, dumb. I took that energy of feeling like people were trying to silence my voice, trying to look over the issues that were still gripping america and I wanted to speak on that. and being that we launched into a war on terror the way we launched into a war on drugs, with no clear agenda, fighting an ideology rather than the cause of the problem - that inspired me even more so to say “this will not be forgotten”. We’re not just going to whitewash history because of a few things that have happened over the course of a few years. Did you experience any barriers from the media or DJ’s when trying to spread your music? I don’t know how y’all do it out here, but american radio is pay-for-play, so if you had the money, you’d get on. I never paid them in that way. It’s one thing to service a record, I understand that when you pay for someone to solicit what you’re trying to do - that’s just a mode of business. That’s something that’s necessary, but bribery and thievery is a whole other story. So I never relied on radio or any of these other outlets that had a monopoly on the media to dictate to me how successful I was going to be. I decided I was going to hit a hard, guerrilla marketing, grassroots campaign. We’re going to do it the old fashioned rock ‘n roll way. Tour, tour, tour. We’re going to leave and not come home ‘til months later, exhausted but able to feed our families and support them with what we had made. Great memories, great friendships. I mean, I’ve known these mother******s [Swave and Pen] for over a decade. I really don’t hang out with people I don’t know because I don’t trust them. I’ve been in a scuffle with these two brothers, I know what we gon’ do. I think to me, yes, there were many doubts about independence in the beginning, not just from other people but even from myself. I definitely questioned “am I doing the right thing?”. Then, when I saw how much corporate control as I got more into the game, I realised I was, because I wouldn’t be able to have a voice as an individual. Everyone here is, not just representing a medium of journalism, but representing themselves. Now, imagine that every single time you reach out to ask a question, someone tapped you on the shoulder and said “you can’t ask them this or this, you have to ask them this”. Now you know what it’s like to be an artist in the industry. You’ve mentioned that you’ve struggled with it in weaker times, how did you fight that corporate influence? I wouldn’t call it weak times, it’s more poor times, that’s all it is. If someone says “heres $10,000 to write an article about something”, you may think it’s a good idea. But when you look back on that article you may think “wow, I wrote the wrong piece. I was given an assignment” and suddenly you’re conflicted because this isn’t true anymore. I never had to go through that because I never took the money. I learned this business from gangsters that used to run this back when n****s didn’t
have rights. In a sense, this industry was built by gangsters. There was a time when black and indigenous people couldn’t petition in court, they didn’t have civil right. Who do you think collected their money during that time? Individuals that came from some kind of mafia background. That’s why the record business is functioning that way. That’s why, in the beginning, you got 8-10 cents per dollar that you sell and all the costs of the record are deducted from that. If that’s not some gangster s*** that someone set up, I don’t know what is. As a latino, did you find it difficult to come up in the industry? you know what’s funny - they didn’t expect us to rhyme. They expected us to DJ, dance and write graffiti, which I did too, I started writing graffiti before I ever rhymed. What gave me confidence was doing the battles. Back in those days, the battle scene had opened up and then it really didn’t matter whether you were black, white or latino, you’d get up there and kill it, people were forced to give you respect. That’s the gauntlet you had to pass through in my era, the late 90’s early 2000’s. Nowadays people skip that step, they skip the college experience. Squandering the intellectual capital they built up. How did your early influences, including travelling to South America with your father, affect your mentality and your music? I think anybody that’s grown up in harlem or Brooklyn, and travelled to another country, you get a vision of another dimension of poverty. at the same time you feel blessed. “I thought I had it rough because the hot water don’t come on - these people don’t have water at all”. Or to see someone who takes the paper chicken is wrapped in and soak it in hot water to make soup, or when you see people that’r selling cardboard hamburgers. you and I know it’s cardboard, but it’s in between two pieces of paper and covered in ketchup - it’s food. It gives you a sense of humility, makes you realise you’re doing something larger than yourself. and the world is a lot bigger than this small petri dish inside an empire you live in, which is a police state called New york City. What does hip hop mean to you? a philosopher. To me, hip hop is an expression of the soul. hip hop comes from sacrifice and pain, and the influence of Jazz and Blues. and what are Jazz and the Blues? Suffering, sacrifice, the soul of the people. When you take soul out of the music, then you have whatever pop commercialness people want to throw out. also, hip hop is saying what people may not want you to say sometimes. It’s like, journalism, someone once said, it’s printing what people don’t want you to print, everything else is public relations. hip hop is saying the real s***, and if it’s not real then it’s just pop rap, happy slappy stuff. Is hip hop dead? No, hip hop may be under occupation, but that doesn’t mean the people are defeated. you can come put your flag here, but that doesn’t mean you own this country. you live in the green zone in the industry - that’s nice and safe. When you come to the streets, step on people, and get you’re head chopped off. When you think that because the corporate world kisses your ass on BET and MTV and all these other outlets, you have to measure that against the work that you actually put in as an artist as an artist and as a person. There’s a difference between demanding respect and commanding respect, and if you don’t know the difference then you don’t know what respect is.
At what point do you think hip hop changed and divided? I feel like it was a trend, not something that popped up out of nowhere. During the golden era of hip hop is probably when it started. Even at the very advent of hip hop, when people realised it was a multi-million-dollar business - before it became a multi-billion-dollar-business! I think that’s when it started, when people decided they could make money off of our culture. But at first, our culture revolved around expressing things that were relevant, and prevalent, to our people. Now, it seems hip hop has become a caricature of itself, and it forced us to become caricatures of ourselves. Imagine defining British people by one thing; or Jewish, or Indian, by one small aspect of their culture. They depict us as mindless savages in the mainstream, or that we are all ignorant. Or that a woman can be defined is by selling her pussy. There is no dimension to the character. It is almost a dehumanisation of people of colour. I mean, you don’t have to see it that way because maybe you’re not comfortable seeing it that way. The proof is in the pudding. you show us nothing but that image, what do you think they’re going to emulate? you show us how the complete image of what it is, and of what culture it is and what the people are, you get a complete picture. But going back to your previous question, I wouldn’t say it’s dead because I exist, Poison Pen and Swave Sevah exist; because there are so many different dimensions to the underground and the independent music scene - it’s not just one thing. The Middle Passage: When’s that coming? S*** …[laughs] That’s a very good question… [Poison Pen: It’s getting hot in here now! [laughing]. The Middle Passage has been delayed because I went on the road for three years. Because I ended up working on the ®evolution of Immortal Technique, which came out and, I’m happy to say, is very successful. Me and my good friend, Gary Stewart, put together a project which took seven years to edit down. We had terabytes of footage, which is why the DVD extras probably have 2-3 hours on there. We’re about eight songs into The Middle Passage, and there are a few more left. I have a lot of, I wouldn’t call them high profile, but very well-respected guests. There are things I have to clear; samples that have to be taken care of, things that have to be re-placed. There are a lot of dimensions to it. It’s interesting that I call it The Middle Passage, because it is the path from freedom to slavery. When I was in the underground, I felt like I was free - “we don’t need to clear a sample, put it on a mix tape! Throw it out there! Sue me for what?!” [laughs]. That’s how we felt. If I do a song with a commercial artist, I don’t need to clear your label. We did a song - I’ma put it on my youTube channel, wherever. as an independent artist you have that freedom. Once you reach a certain threshold, you then start that middle passage journey that’s bringing you out of freedom towards slavery in the commercial world, where every aspect of what you say is decided by people who have no connection to our culture. I’m glad you went to some business school and know market things to young, impressionable children. That does not mean you should be the gatekeepers of hip hop, because you don’t know anything about our struggle.
Your most meaningful and personal track? There’s a track I’m writing for The Middle Passage which is very personal - you’ll know it as soon as you hear it, and you’ll know I really put my heart into it. There are many songs I have that are like that. For example, ‘Caught in a hustle’ I wrote for my cousin that passed away. he died because he had a hole in his heart, and that’s the first line of the song: “They say the odds against me are crooked and impossible, like I was born with a hole in my heart as an obstacle”. The music I make doesn’t just come from my imagination, although there are aspects of that, but it also comes from real life. So that would be one of them, ‘Mistakes’ is another one. a lot of people know me for ‘you Never Know’ and ‘Dance With the Devil’, the story rhymes. Everyone asks me for another story - which was kind of the joke behind ‘Goonies [Never Die]’. When I had my little sister or my little cousins, I could just come up with these fantastical stories I made up in my head. That eventually led to me being able to freestyle, because that is spontaneously grabbing things from your life and throwing them out there. For me, it’s not so much just the music that’s personal, but what I choose to do with the capital I build up, not just the trust of the people, but also the finances. The project we did in afghanistan and the mission we did to haiti, things that actually have a significance that go well beyond the music. For me, music is just is the beginning, I’ve always wanted to have a much more complete and involved role in the way the world works and to be able to show people they don’t have to rely on the cookie-cutter image of how business or art is done. It’s not meant to be put in a box - you can’t fit it on the canvas. In order to win this game, you have to get to a square that is not on the chessboard. you have to invent your own square! Because trying to play the game by their rules; you’ll never win - they’ll keep changing the rules on you! It’s like a third world democracy. “Oh yeah, we can have democracy?” - “No No, you can vote that time, then you’re done” - that’s how we start to feel on the underground. you sell records, get that million views on youTube - “alright, but we’re still not feeling your message”. If that’s the case, I’m not going to beg to be part of it. I’m not part of that generation. There’s a certain part of american history where people of colour were begging to be part of america - “please can we just have equality? Can we eat at the same restaurant as y’all?”. hip hop had the kind of attitude that said “F*** you! If you don’t want me to eat at the table with y’all, then I’m going to take the whole plate”. That’s it.
You were huge underground, now you’ve taken politically conscious rap onto the international stage. You speak of on a lot of homeland issues and how they relate internationally, do you plan to attack different sides of the debate, from a more foreign perspective? at some point you have to realise there’s not one side, there are multi-dimensional sides. Put it this way, I hosted debate on my twitter about the conflict in Syria - you can imagine how many sides I received from that, even from one group of people. It wasn’t a simple discussion, it was a very complicated and passionate one. I can write things from the perspective of an american citizen, as a world citizen, a human being. The music I make is universal, so the message hasn’t been lost on England or France etc. at the end of the of ‘Dance With the Devil’ I tell people that this happens in every city in every country. and yes, rape does happen in every city in every country all over the world - how do you think we all got here?! Why do you think there are some people that are more light-skinned than others. To speak more directly to the point, now that I have the ‘clout’, as some people say, I would definitely like to work with more international artists, whether they’re from the uK, africa, Latin america… and it happens when it can, obviously because I have scheduling constraints, but that’s definitely something I would like to look into because I think that would expand the global perspective.
“ It’s harder to lIve as a revolutIonary, than sImply put on that clIché mask of dyIng for revolutIon.”
Are there any artists here that work on that global frontline with you? I had one of them come through for the show, Lowkey, obviously, someone who has been a big supporter of mine from the beginning, and who I’ve supported. We’ve also had a lot of interesting conversations behind the microphone about activism, revolution and about the amount of pressure that exists and the responsibility you take on. If you’re about being a revolutionary, then people scratch their fingernails off to find some piece of hypocrisy in you, because revolution is sacred to them. Because they think this ordinary man is not like the iconic revolutionary figures they’ve read about. unfortunately, most people are too ignorant to realise that these iconic revolutionary figures are some of the most flawed people in history, because they dedicate their whole life to some ideological crusade. There is a balance. I know people love and respect revolution, so I’m not afraid of encountering [scepticism], in fact I relish it it, because it gives me the opportunity to grow. The Martyr was an interesting record, you make strong references to sacrifice for an ideology. How is living for the principle, and how has everything else been affected? It’s interesting you bring that up, because I had to challenge the principle of the Martyr. at the end of the actual song, I talk about how I had a family and I lost all these things and now I’m fighting, and I dream about these things almost like I wanted to stop where I was and go back to that time of peace and then I realised I couldn’t go back because it doesn’t exist. at the end of the Martyr, when he’s supposed to die, he actually lives. The point it makes is that you don’t have to die for revolution. The point of the Martyr is not to destroy yourself, but to build yourself and live for revolution. anyone can romanticise death: “I can strap on a bomb and kill my enemies”. But that’s easy compared to living the rest of your life, raising children to be members of society that aren’t ignorant, partisan or religious fanatics. It’s harder to grow up every single day and work a workingclass job and organise people in your community against corrupt politicians, to divest in companies that you see support governments that have horrible human rights violations. These things are harder to do. It’s harder to live as a revolutionary, than simply put on that cliché mask of dying for revolution. So in that sense, the Martyr challenged the very stereotype of what a Martyr was because at the end, he takes a breath.
You have mentioned the microphone being a powerful weapon... I think the microphone is a weapon against ignorance. I think entertainment can be used to educate, but also to pacify and placate people and keep them ignorant. It’s like a newspaper can be used to expose the truth, or to be a permeater of yellow journalism; nothing but puff pieces. and money is money, and at times it is difficult to just follow your heart and do (and write about) what you truly believe in. It’s easier for me to do that in my position because people expect me to be abrasive, people expect me to be crass and rude. and yes I am a vulgar man at times, but I assure you my music is not. I do not run and hide from topics. I made a song like ‘Dance With The Devil’ not to glorify rape, but to show people it exists and you can’t hide from it. I cannot tell you how many times a beautiful, innocent young girl came up to me after a show and said “I was the victim of this”. and my response is always the same “no, sister, you’re not the victim, you are the survivor”. We rhyme about murder that happens, not to glorify it but because we were touched by that person. a friend of mine was killed on Christmas Eve (RIP Mo - we love you) for nothing, family man, a good brother - not involved with gangs or drugs. Murdered for no reason. Sickening. We rhyme about these things because we want to bring these subjects to light. I feel like the only way I’ve had that opportunity to do that is by being independent, and that’s why I wave that flag so hard. How do you feel the Internet and Social Media has affected music and political consciousness? I think it’s definitely opened up the floor for a lot of people from different parts of the world to be part of the conversation. It’s also opened the door for a lot of clowns and frauds. however, social media has done nothing but help the independent artist and given them the opportunity to connect with fans that, for a long time, the industry had a monopoly over because they had a monopoly over communication. It used to be that ‘video killed the radio star’ - now it’s internet that killed the video star. MTV don’t even play videos no more, too busy playing reality shows. Why? because it’s cheaper to pay any sucker who wants to be famous than to pay an actor. Fame is like a beautiful woman with herpes. So beautiful, but you don’t know what you’re f***ing with! Personally, I think I’ve benefited from the experience of social media, because we used it to promote ourselves and then to promote causes that are dear to our heart. For example, I just did a fashion show for the victims of domestic violence. We use the “underground celebrity” to push what is important to us as well. That’s part of our warrior code. Other people won’t do anything if theres no money involved - they want to sell, not to build. We are not scared of the people, we don’t hide from them. I’ll walk through the London crowd feeling safer than Bill Clinton in harlem. Because I think that when people see what I do, they can see there’s a purpose other than just being self serving.
“anybody who Is oppressed Is usually aIdIng In theIr oppressIon In some way, they just don’t know how.” Freedom of speech is an on going issue in various parts of the world… I’ve never been an apologist for a regime that doesn’t allow freedom of speech - I’ve never played partisan lies that way. When someone has said “Technique, you’re a supporter of Latin american revolution, what about Cuba?” I tell them “you can’t convince me that the justice system is fair to people of colour now” because you know statistically it’s not. My father was locked up just for criticising the government - there is something fundamentally wrong with that. When you have governments in which they allow you to speak your mind, I’ve never seen that as a way of destroying it, it’s just a way of making it more mature. If you can’t take criticism then how immature are you?! We as a people want the same things, we are one human race. When we deviate from that and play this superiority game with one another, we don’t get anywhere. Cultural imperialism has shaped the current paradigm, how do you feel about that? I’ll put it this way, there are a lot of people that are here, because they were there. a lot of african and asian people saw Western society as the benchmark of opportunity, so they sent all their kids here to learn. But at the same time, what did we learn? Technology? Is the West great because it’s technologically advancement. It’s wonderful we’ve invented a way to get to the Moon or Mars, but you haven’t cured racism, jealousy or greed. you’re still a savage, an incomplete human being. If humanity were wiped out right now, our legacy would be the well-groomed, superstitious warrior ape. I dare any of you motherf***ers to disagree. If you go to the Natural history Museum and you see early Cro-magnon or neanderthal man - imagine you stop shaving and cutting your hair (even the Taliban get a shape up, believe me, I’ve been to afghanistan and been to a barber shop there), your toenails everything, no clothes or deodorant. What would separate us from the early man? Not so much. So what makes us claim superiority? an organised society? Weapons of mass destruction? are we civilised because we’ve learned how to harness the power of atoms to wipe us off the face of the earth? If anything, I would have thought that has de-evolved us even more because we are not responsible enough to hold onto that. and now, the people that claim to have the most responsibility over nuclear weapons and want to prevent anyone else from having them are the only people who have ever dropped them on a civilian population of people! I find that ironic.
Why is the economy not working for those of ethnic minorities? It goes back to something John henrik Clarke, a great harlem historian, said. he had a debate in harlem and he made a criticism of Louis Farrakhan and he said “if he said I will not ride in a limo until my people manufacture the limo, then at that point he could have revolutionised the auto industry”. If you look at it in a way that you are, not just a consumer, but the producer of these things - we’re too happy getting money being a middle man, not taking risks and collecting the upfront money, rather than staying for the long haul and building a business. I think there are people of colour that come from an immigrant perspective and their hustle is very different. There’s a difference in the way they run their business. I’ll go into a store in harlem and there’s some shorty who’s almost mad you’re there. Then I’ll go to the haitian or the african store - “Salaam brother, what do you need? I’m here to get whatever you want - let’s work out a deal”. The pride of ownership, the pride of business. unfortunately, I think some of these brothers are like those NBa players from the 90’s who skipped high school and went straight to the league, and they don’t know how to manage finance. I’m tired of artists who have millions of records sold opening up nothing but dance academies. We don’t need no jiggaboo school no more, n****a! What we need are academies that teach math, science and business - you know why? Because learning to dance and sing is very good, but it counts for nothing if you do not learn the business. a lot of people have made money, but theres a difference between making and maintaining money. any bum with a lucky punch can become champion of the world, but it takes a real warrior to hold that belt down Muhammed ali style. It’s one thing to achieve and another to maintain and that’s something I feel the black and latino community can learn a lot from. What you going to invest your money in? What are we going to purchase into? Do we own our own homes? Do we control our image? Does someone else decide how we are depicted? I guarantee if we did this to any other people, there would be cries of racism. But we haven’t realised our power in the market place, and that applies to any people that are oppressed. anybody who is oppressed is usually aiding in their oppression in some way, they just don’t know how. The oppressor will always use the oppressed against themselves in some way, shape or form. In the Caribbean, they did it by separating the black and mulatto (which is a racist term anyway) people. Catholic from protestant. They’ll find any division they can. We need to get off of that.
How has hip hop developed? One of the best developments has been more people going independent, stepping away from the mainstream way. Obviously, the music isn’t as aggressive as it was before, but I think something that has replaced it is a little more fantasy and imagination, which I don’t think is a bad thing, I just wish there was more balance involved. The way [afrika] Bambaata, explained it to me once upon a time, was that there were people, back in the day, on the plantations that sang - not because they liked the plantations, but they sang to cope with the reality of their life. Not everyone wants to hear songs about how f***ed up things are all the time. at the same time, if a member of your family died, do you think you want to sit in the car after the funeral listening to club or happy hip hop. But sometimes you want that, if you’re at a wedding, you want everyone to dance and wile out! at the same time you want balance and perspective. I may be in a car with something wrong with my life and I hear a song, and it speaks to me in a way where something that seems impossible is now possible. Whether it’s “Toast To The Dead” or we rhyming about a dear friend that passed away or ancient ruins, then we are bringing balance and versatility. Coming up, there were so many different influences and each of those art forms had certain bases. a Tribe Called Quest had a jazz origin. you had rap reggae, I loved hearing that - heavy D and Super Cat. unfortunately what I see these days is the segregation of not only hip hop, but music. Especially in the uS, more so than in Europe. It’s all music! and that’s what gives, not just hip hop, but humanity, dimension. If you were in a position of political power.. What would you do? If I was the ruler of the world, the first thing I’d do would be to un-make myself the ruler because I understand that absolute power corrupts absolutely and I would somehow lose perspective. I would start out doing things for a good reason, and then, I don’t think I’m above that. I’m a human being and we still have limitations. We are still an incomplete human race. One day, we will evolve to the point we don’t have racism, or rape or murder. all of you would probably say “Technique, this’ll happen forever”. Maybe for us, but the point we know know we’ve evolved into something else is where we know we won’t do that, and the other humans will look at you and say “that’s the war ape, they’ll kill each other for anything; to dress better and put stones in their neck, as if that matters”. Why can’t we all just be together. I’m not proposing a communist utopia. But if I was a world leader, I think the first thing I’d do is get rid of nuclear weapons and level the playing field. all of a sudden, powerful nations would be confronted with the idea that they would actually have to see each other. It’s more personable. Rather than the demonisation of a people. I would make it illegal to make a human being illegal. Theres no such thing as an illegal human being - that’s a perfect way to dehumanise people. I would require people about those because I’m doing those in to learn that we are all one human race, and that race is a social construct that people use to divide other individuals. Like I said, because they didn’t have the courage to say “we stole you because it was in our power to do it” - that’s what caused racism. Because after slavery was over, everything that was used to justify it was left behind. all the religious and scientific propaganda. For example, there was an african Pygmy that was kept in the Bronx zoo in the early 1900’s and shown as an early example of the missing evolutionary link. People are taught to worship civilisation, as if the creation of buildings is the benchmark of that.
“I thInk the economIc system Is collapsIng rIght now, but, lIke I saId, these are people that are used to changIng the rules of the game.”
you’ve been taught to idolise the Roman Empire, as if it wasn’t the height of perversion - beastiality, rape, mass murder, the destruction and wholesale genocide of a people. But just remember that every sedentary, calm people an empire has ever run into, crushed and oppressed are those that usually rip it a part in the end. So you should be very nice to the people you tread upon. Do you believe the Western empire that’s in power right now is crumbling? I think the economic system is collapsing right now, but, like I said, these are people that are used to changing the rules of the game. If it was real Capitalism, they would let all these companies fail and say “this is free market, no government bail outs!”, but that’s not what happened. They gave out bail outs to every financial institution. But I think that if we talk about government and society, we must remember ‘government’ is just a word, it’s just people that rule over other people.
What’s next for you? ‘The Middle Passage’ is coming out, then I have two EP’s coming out after that, but we can’t speak conjunction with other artists and it’s a surprise, but when you see who those people are you’ll understand. What about the grassroots projects? I do community events everywhere I go, it’s what I love to do, not out of obligation. I’m always impressed when I see somebody that’s in a struggle similar to what I went through and asks me how to build themselves as an independent artists and asks me all these questions about how to develop themselves. When I see people whose minds are turning that way, I consider it a great honour to impart my knowledge and even my mistakes onto others.
RZA SHOT BY KAI REGAN www.wesc.com/chambers
Action Bronson -
A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
IntervIew by thomas hawkIns PhotograPhy by James de ara
The date - December 15, 2012. The place - A moderately suave hotel in Shepherd’s Bush. The occasion - an evening with rap music hit machine Action Bronson. Truth be told, it was more an entire day of fun and frolics with the man many are hailing a beacon of light in the otherwise turgid and pale US rap scene. Call him what you will; Action Bronson, Bam Bam Bronsolini, Hollywood Bronson, The Symbol, this list MOST DEFINITELY goes on; the 28-year old rapper from Queens, New York has been making power moves in a near perfect assail towards the very top of the rap music tree ever since his debut ‘Dr Lecter’ dropped in 2011. Correct us if we’re wrong, but there appears no sign of any components in the incredibly well tuned Bronson machine slowing or combusting on his one man assault to the upper echelons of the scene. The question that we have to ask is this; what exactly are the key factors behind Bronson’s transformation from largely anonymous chef-turned-lyricist, to respected underground rap heavyweight, to taking office alongside the biggest names in rap royalty in what feels like the blink of an eye? Well, remarkablyconsistent releases have done him no harm whatsoever, but as we are sure you will agree, it takes much, much more than that to become a rap legend.
We have thought long and hard and have come up with what we feel is a pretty strong recipe for Action Bronson’s success… Take a back catalogue of solid rap releases and add a hearty portion of charisma. Never hold back on the charisma. Let these vital ingredients simmer in a huge pan, but at the same time slowly add a sprinkling of spices; namely, a pinch of ‘incredibly unique content’, a tablespoon or two of ‘indulgent food bars’ along with a dash of ‘style that commands the attention of all rap fans’. Once the dish is simmering, be sure to sprinkle some ‘all-star collaborations’ and ‘spectacular live showmanship’ to the broth and finish off with a pinch of freshly squeezed ‘major record deal’. A recipe for success we are sure you will agree. Wordplay caught up with Action Bronson to pick his brains on how he came from the bottom but ended up at the top, how the past shaped his present and how he sees his future unfolding….
I’m really interested when I speak to rappers about where their love for rap music first manifested. I always tell people about walking in the country with my grandad as a ten year old and spotting a Wu Tang CD discarded under a bush. I pull it out and its Wu Tang’s first album ‘Enter The 36 Chambers’, I get home and stick it on and listen to it and think what is this devil music? I’d like to know when hop hop music first sparked in your life? well I don’t have a story like that (Laughs). nah you know just growing up in new york, that was the thing to do, everyone was listening to hip hop at that time. I was born in 1983 so I would say I started listening to it around 1989/90 when I was able to go outside by myself and just explore, I remember the first time I listened to that shit was at a birthday party sleepover at my homies house, we we’re all just doing the skit, fucking put ya dick on the table, laying ya nuts down and bang them with a spiked bat (laughs) nah we would all just go back and fourth with the skits and we just fell in love at that time man, bought every single album that ever came out. Just go to the record store, see all the tapes and just buy all of them, tell mammy to buy all of them, please mum! Tell me more about the transition from being a fan to becoming an artist. What made you pick up the pen and start writing bars? honestly, it was just because my friends where doing it, it’s like drugs. I would say it was four years ago that I first started to write raps n shit. and you know I just liked it, I kept going and kept going, didn’t wait on anybody you know and crafted my shit. You know thats quite an amazing statement, four years ago to this very day when you first picked up a pen? You can’t knock that, that’s an amazing thing... Its true though, anyone who knows me knows, you know I was working in kitchens my entire life, I always loved hip hop and rap but I never ever picked up a pen, not even as a joke!
“The mosT imporTanT Thing To me is making sure ThaT my kids are Taken care of, so im able To provide for Them and They can live The life ThaT They deserve.”
Lets talk about the explosion, four years from when you started writing to where you are now, that’s quite a significant change. How has your life changed? the only thing thats hard is being away from my babies, you know my kids. but in the long run this is what its all about, you gotta go out there and provide for them. I live the same life, I’m not gassed up or anything like that, I still live five minutes away from where I grew up. the only reason I moved out was because they were complaining about the weed smoke (laughs) that’s the only reason. you know I lived in an apartment, me and my mother my entire life, I was comfortable, I didn’t need to leave. I’m just able to do lots of things I wasn’t able to do before, you know I can live anywhere, I can buy anything I want, within reason. the most important thing to me is making sure that my kids are taken care of, so I’m able to provide for them and they can live the life that they deserve.
What do you tell them guys? they know, they see me on the fucking internet at my shows n’ shit, you know. they just know I’m going to work. Amen, so lets talk about Rare Chandeliers. I kind of want to break it down into four questions. First off let’s talk about the artwork, because in my opinion artwork is always an important tool, it says a lot about the record before the play button is pressed, how much input did you have in this? well this is exactly how it went down. I got with the homie Chris from vice, who works with me closely. he gave me a list of artists he knew did the type of thing I was looking for, so we got at one dude, but he wasn’t available so got at another, Jonny samson, got him on the phone and was like yo! I want an aligator with a gun, I want a fucking bitch with a knife for a hand, I want me in a tuxedo with a shotgun and a wolf on my head (laughs) he thought of the wizard and the kung Fu shit and he also thought of the midgets. Jonny samson is the fucking man, he also did the artwork for the symbol, which is me doing a split in a tuxedo, just sitting in a split position, you know a regular day with all kinds of weird looking bitches surrounding me. he did everything I expected and more, he couldn’t of summed up the album better, if you listen to it and look at the cover it really ties together. then someone just turned it into a gif and I saw it and I was like yo! we have to use that as the cover, I’ve never seen anyone do an animated cover before, I saw it and I went nuts! Lets talk about production…. I’m a genius man, I pick everything right (laughs) I’m on a good run. Production wise the record is off the chart. You’ve worked with a bunch of esteemed producers in your time but the Alchemist and Action Bronson is a match made in heaven. That guy, has he ever made a weak beat? How did this come about, and how good was he to work with? yea, I mean we met on the internet and obviously I was star struck, I’ve been a big fan my entire life but we just started working, we just clicked and now its like chilling with your brother. having fun, just laughing, there’s an ill beat on and we’re just jotting things down. How much did the beats he sent you influence your writing process? there was no sending anything, I went to his house in La, he made the beat and I wrote the rap right next to him and that was that.
“i’m a genius man, i pick everyThing righT”
I feel like the bars on this are more literal than previous efforts that you’ve put out, there is a more simplified tone and it feels like you and Alchemist are working on a real level. yea, well I don’t know what you mean by simplified, what the fuck are you trying to say man (picks up a fork and laughs). Thats a far more noble reason to do this than 99% of the people doing it. So what is it like leaving your kids behind when you’re touring and traveling? What are your kids saying to you when you’re heading out the door, are they asking you not to go? of course, you know they don’t understand whats actually going on, they get it but…
Haha, you know, very in your face, straight up and down punchlines, nothing subversive. Basically, ‘this is what it is’, the beats saying this to me, so I’m saying this in response to the beat. It’s very hand in hand with the producer. I don’t know if I agree with that, give me an example
Like the punchlines are often backed up with ad libs that simply state ‘BITCHES’ or ‘WEED’ - you just drop them in there like BANG! yea yea its very literal, ok I understand what your saying now, I feel sometimes you’ve got to just say what the fuck it is, like I’m not smoking little pieces of a record, no, I’m smoking weed you know, I’m doIng drUgs, yoU’re a bItCh and I’m FUCkIng yoU In the ass, I’m takIng yoU to grease wIthoUt LeavIng the CoUntry……………silence………….. (Laughs). Let me ask you why you put ‘Rare Chandeliers’ for free, what’s the deal with that? Is it a nice thing to put something out as glorious as that for free or do you feel sad because it deserves to make money? of course, it deserves everything, it deserves everyone to spend a thousands dollars on it. but to be honest I don’t care, you know its going to generate more popularity and money comes no matter what, whether you sell it or not, but yes we were both like ‘meh’ but we understand what it’s about, you don’t know how many people will see this you know, could be millions already. We’ve talked about the past, we’ve talked about the present, let’s talk about the future. I’m really interested in the Hollywood Bronson tag, because that sounds like a future thing to me. There’s a lot of perks in making classic rap albums, you can get free trainers, helicopter rides you know there are different tiers to this game, you might even get your hands on a couple rare chandeliers you never know. Where are you trying to take yourself? shit I could do with a helicopter ride for sure (laughs). I see myself in movies no doubt about it, like my friend slain look at him, motherfucking slain is in a movie right now with brad Pitt, James gandolfini, ray Liotta called killing me softly, he was in a movie called the town, he’s an inspiration honestly so there should be no reason why I can’t see myself doing the same thing. So what about a movie about your life? you know we’re trying to make the symbol into a short and we’re going to start from there, the guy who did the video for me rik Cordero is putting it together, we’re gonna have me and riff raff and a bunch of good characters in there. I want to highlight something that happened in the UK a few years back, which was significant in the UK hip hop scene; a rapper called Chester P he ran this campaign called ‘Chester P for Mayor’. Basically he tried to galvanise the youth to back his manifesto for him to become London Mayor. I was thinking Action Bronson for President has a nice ring to it, so when can we expect a campaign from yourself? I honestly don’t give a fuck about politics, I don’t care about things like that because I’m shallow (Laughs) and I don’t need that in my world, honestly, I was never into politics, I’m not a politician, I’m just a real person. I wouldn’t be able to go out there and unite the people, that’s the problem. you know I wouldn’t ever put myself in that position to compromise my integrity. Yea thats a manifesto in itself...
SIN CRU - FBA - AlFReSh.Co IntervIew by Matt nevIlle
On a brisk snowy afternoon we ventured through the historical city of Cambridge, destination Alfreshco for a link up with UK veteran Kilo. Upon arrival we are presented with a real life American Subway train, resting itself amongst piles of snow & Shiny ice, you can imagine the grins on our faces. Kilo ushers us through a big metallic gate slowly opening to unfold a setting that would have any hardcore writer pinching themselves, we wont divulge to much information as we have planned a full on feature but just be known we stumbled across an extremely happy Kak furiously constructing a sick piece on one of the many dope spots provided by Big Dave & his Alfresh.co wonderland. After making our way back into the warmth we finally sat down with Kilo who proceeded to indulge us with this.
What year did you start? I started on paint in 1984 but I was doing a little bit of sketching in 83’, but I didn’t actually use paint until 84’ For me it was all about Sin Cru, which was in the 90’s? yeah it started out as a graffiti crew in 1991, and then it transformed into a hip-hop organisation in 95’ so yeah our first focal point was in graffiti. Breakdancing? yeah the whole lot bboying, djing and mcing, we’re always a little bit sporadic, that wasn’t really my ex-wife’s or mine area, we had Disorda involved for a while who helped out quite a lot, not many people know it but ty he’s a member of SIn Cru along with Jehst & Mystro, unfortunately this was around the same time we began to fracture a little bit, just at the point when they were involved, but that was all originally through Disorda really, he was looking after the music element.
Are you still breaking? nah not really, I officially retired last april, I mean if I go to a club now and certain music is played, guarenteed I’d throw down but I’m not practicing or teaching, I just made a conscious decision I wanted to go back to my roots & focus on graffiti. Sin Cru are still teaching and doing there thing which is dope. Shokone? Shokone he was originally one of the Sinstars in its graffiti environment but we sort of went in different directions, he went off and did his solo stuff and left the fold if you like but he was originally there at beginning. the first people in Sinstars when we formed where myself and Dreph, he kind of came up with the name and played around with it a bit, Skore & Keen have been there since day one, Skore is obviously still there but the original kind of line up that most people know was me, Shok & Skore. Mainly because we did quite a few good things that got recognition, but Keen was there as well cant leave him out!
Whats Keen doing now? He’s again gone off on his own ventures; he’s heavily in with the berlin lot & rockstars over in america. What where your influences for starting? erm, well obviously the usual things, Subway art, wild Style all the normal sort off stuff everyone knows but also another big influence for me was my cousin Zeus who’s an old london writer, he’s still doing art work but he’s moved more into sculpting and landscape paintings using graffiti imagery, he’s relatively unknown in the graffiti world. His day was the early 80’s and he became a father quite early so wasn’t painting as much, he’s definitely a big influence as he opened up a whole different area really, he was doing a lot of commissioned work, he did the vIP lounge in brixton academy in 95’.
Why Kilo? (laughs) to be honest with you the main reason was because I liked the letters, but there was also a little jokey thing, obviously like a lot of people do when they’re teenagers, I did dabble with the old herbals so it kind of associated nicely to that which I enjoyed! but the main reason was definitely the flow of the letters, a lot of people don’t like the I l O but I just liked playing around with them and it also leads into loads of other different names, you can change it, change the spelling or add to it. Have you painted much abroad? not as much as I’d like to, we’ve done a fair few things as the crew Sinstars, France, belgium, Holland & new york, individually I’ve done all of those as well as places like Italy & Portugal, I’ve done as much as I can but I’d still like to do a lot more. this is going to sound big headed but for me because of my years painting it would be nice to be invited to things, rather then having to fund them myself, I’m not going to beat around the bush I haven’t got a penny to my name (laughs). I saw Kak had been travelling quite a bit, I saw some of his stuff with 123 Klan quite a few years back, is he still part of Sin Cru? I wouldn’t say he was part of Sin Cru as such, I always think of him as Sinstar being the graffiti aspect, he’s not part of it anymore because he went for more of the Infamous last words thing and the two things were quite hard to put together He’s what I would call an affiliate, he’s not a core member but we’re cool and obviously through alfresh.co we still work together. Who are you rating know in the Uk scene and throughout the world? there’s lots of different people for different reasons, I mean from a UK point of view although its going to sound biased, Skore is always someone I’m going to rate because of his diversity while still keeping it real, people like alert for his history, if you back catalogue his work you can see his progression and his different styles which he has transformed, euro in brighton is another big writer who I rate a lot. Kak obviously for technical ability, also people like towns & vibes from the rt lot for their solid good walls, Solo1 I like the way he’s progressed & covered all bases, it may not exactly be my flavor what he does but I respect that. even down to people like Zomby & teach who I used to run around with a little bit in the 90’s and again on the steel side you have to give it up them, Fuel’s another person I rate highly & I could even go back to people like Cast & Cazby. the person I have to name check and who I have massive massive respect for is Skam from west london, purely because that dude was one of the first in the country hands down to get into hip-hop and he’s still as into it as he ever was and painting still, he’s such a humble guy he needs to get his props. as for international heads there’s loads like Can2, you can probably tell from my style I like Dare (r.I.P) he’s definitely to this day one of the best european writers hands down.
“Ego within graffiti for mE is thE most ridiculous part of it and its all basEd around Ego, thE onE thing i hatE is pEoplE who gEt too big for thErE boots” Where do see Graffiti going, developing, whats next? It’s difficult with regards to where it can go now because its got so commercial, I mean if you were to tell me I’d be in this position now years ago while I was running around doing what I was doing I’d of been like get the fuck out of here that aint going to happen. a lot of people from the outside in looking at my job for example, working for a paint company we’ve set up, my day involves working with graffiti and paint day in day out, I’ve got such a fortunate position that’s one of the things I’m grateful for with the development of graffiti. you could of never had me in this position years ago, but where it could actually go from here the possibilities are endless. My main thing which is obvious through my work and my rants on social networks is that as culture the history of graffiti is preserved, so no matter where it goes you have to be able to have an element of people that are still keeping it alive, like the foundational aspects of it all, but that’s the same as all elements of hip-hop for me.
Are you still teaching? the teaching thing has slowed down considerably because we have been putting so much time and energy into alFresh.co over the last two years but it was only last night I was on my Facebook pumping up loads of workshop photos because I definitely want to get back into that, especially now there’s opportunities and I’m in a position to do so with more resources and quite frankly if it wasn’t for the teaching aspect I wouldn’t be at alFresh.Co doing what I’m doing which all came around from me working with the bosses son basically. at the moment its quite quiet partly due to the fact there’s a lot of people teaching now, so its gone from me having the monopoly in the local region to some of the people I’ve taught having now gone onto teaching workshops themselves, which is cool but they haven’t got full compliment of knowledge, so they are only able to give one little part of what is a massive culture.
In the time you’ve been writing what’s your most memorable moment good or bad? the obvious one for me was painting new york for the first time even to this day, the thing is it’s massive, new york is the epicenter of graffiti as far as I’m concerned and to of had that opportunity to paint there was massive deal to me. Painting the rooftop at Hunts Point on tatS Cru guest spot was great, second time I did a wall with Method & Upstart from my crew at the time but we painted with Demote in the bronx and that was like a massive deal. the biggest achievement for me was getting put into F.b.a (Fast breaking arts), which came about completely by surprise, I got a message from Spade & alife who’s now deceased r.I.P who had been watching my stuff for a couple of years and that they were thinking about opening up the crew which was a pretty big thing considering there’s certain things in the new york scene where that doesn’t happen. For example tC5, FC & Fba, all these crews kept it to new york strictly but Fba decided they wanted to open it up and they basically put me and DIMe1 whose from up in north wales in the crew which hasn’t exactly sat good with everyone as some people still want to preserve it but for me that is graffiti, everything I like about graffiti that crew uphold the values.
What do you love & hate about the scene? (laughs) the hate aspect is easy, the thing is with me I’m always shouting because I love this shit, if I see any injustices I just cant help myself, I think a lot of people have the wrong idea about me like I’m some sort of graffiti police which is not how it is at all. I appreciate all types of graffiti aside from one aspect which I loath is stencil I just hate that shit, I’ve even done it sometimes I have to and I loathed doing it, the reason being quite simply for me is there’s no skill in it, the skills manufacturing the stencil, I appreciate that but to apply it there’s no skill, your grandmother could do it, banksy could give anyone of our grandparents one of his stencils and it could be done, you ask them to paint a bubble letter free hand that’s not going to happen, it just strips all the control aspect from graffiti. Street art fine that’s where it sits for me but I differentiate, so for me graffiti writing and street art are two separate entities even though a lot of people put them together they’re not, they’re relative that’s the biggest thing I loath about it. I also don’t like people who take a shortcut to success because of the Internet, media and the rest of it, you can bite anyone now and there’s so much more you can take in. I appreciate people more so if they have history, if they’ve gone out done there bombing, running around doing there bits and pieces under the cover of darkness and then they’ve progressed that to me is a big thing. I’m not saying I despise people who have gotten into it via other means because that will be hypocritical, what with me teaching workshops. ego within graffiti for me is the most ridiculous part of it and its all based around ego, the one thing I hate is people who get too big for there boots, I’m not going to name names but there’s a lot of writers out there who are absolute arseholes (laughs), yeah they can paint but you ask them to help out little Freddy on his fill in and do some blending on his piece and they wont because they feel like they’re above that, I hate that attitude and ego, obviously graffiti is all about ego but I feel some people need to remember where they came from. I love being able to transform something from nothing and its been such a massive part of my life, I just cant ever see myself not involved with it, there’s gonna be a time when I’m not physically going to be able to paint but I’m sure ill still be involved in the company aspect of it or maybe one thing I really love is talking about graffiti as you probably realise, something I’d like to get into is lecturing at art collages and places where graffiti has become more accepted and even used in graphic design, I’d love to be able to get into these areas and share my experience and the history. How’s Cambridge with things like that now? Cambridge is funny because you’ve got a group of die hards who want to smash the system still, that’s a part of graffiti you have to except that. It’s very difficult to sit in front of a panel of senior lecturers in a university environment and tell them that you want to come into their world and discuss graffiti when people are bombing, perhaps their properties, Cambridge is one of those strange cities it seems on the one hand they encourage graffiti but they prevent it from happening, a quick example is me going around funded by the council doing workshops, teaching kids how to do graffiti but the council not giving an area for the kids to practice, they are creating an environment of self destruction. I think because of the architectural, historical value of the city its always going to be very difficult to get “urban art” accepted.
“thE othEr big thing for mE is handstylE, gEt a good handstylE bEforE you EvEn start doing lEttErs” Any advice for anyone looking to start? My main advise would be to research your history because like I said earlier its very easy to get acceptance in graffiti now and take the short cut but I think even if you don’t want to do new york style, I think you would need to learn how that evolved and gain a good understanding of its foundations, whenever I do a session I always spend 15-20 minutes at the beginning with an introduction into graffiti and I’ll always have a copy of subway art and talk about things from a UK point view. I’d also say don’t bite other peoples style, obviously be inspired and influenced and perhaps follow someones style and manipulate it into your own, but don’t grab onto the latest MSK piece and bite that, put your own personality into whatever you do, and study. Practice your can control before you actually try a piece because again theres no point going out and doing a mess when you can take your time and get your skill base up, learn the techniques you need to be able to create a piece, work on paper & always develop, those hours sitting and sketching are really important and not a lot people do that! the other big thing for me is handstyle, get a good handstyle before you even start doing letters, so many writers even the big names their handstyles are so whack its unbelievable (laughs) its not hard! I’ll give you an example, someone like Crok tbF, trC his handstyle is so dope and from having him as a friend over the years I know he would just zone out and sit with his pad sketching throwups, tag styles and you have to do that because when you get to a point and your painting a big event and you come to the end of a crazy technical wildstyle piece and you put your little tag that looks like a 5 year old its Game over, doesn’t matter how good the piece is you’ve lost at that point (laughs). the last thing I’d say is don’t hide behind colours, don’t put 1001 colours into your pieces, I look at pieces now & because its gotten so technical with the flaring and intricate shadows, for me I try imagine that piece as grey scale piece or strip it so its monotone and see what your left with, if the letter structure’s not there then you’ve kind of missed the whole point, you’ve got to have flow. Thanks for your time Kilo, want to drop some shout outs? Shout out to my own crew Sinstars past & present, they all know who they are there’s no need to name them all, Sin Cru, alFresh.co, Dave, Jackie, alfie, Kak & everyone involved there, my sponsor & also for giving me the opportunity to continue doing what I love. new york crew Fba, beyond Mankind Crew, bomb, Soul stone brothers. all those writers out there who I deem to be preserving the funk, which is very important to me, Mef & Kem in birmingham, Cruel vapours Crew in wales, rt guys down in london, tizer, Solo1 and not forgetting Gemlo!
Interview by Jack Duffield Photography by Robbie Golec
love record shops. They are the kind of places where you meet people if you stay in them long enough. This is how this whole interview came to be, from an afternoon being spent in Peckings in west London. The shop is always busy and artists regularly pass through, so it was no surprise when the legendary Enos McLeod walked in and we were introduced. We nipped over the road to get a drink each and arranged an interview which, as luck would have it would coincide with the release of his latest LP ‘Reggae Bingy – Book of Jah’ on his own Orbit imprint. It was wicked chilling outside the shop having a beer and talking about music with a true veteran of Jamaican music, his career dating back to the 60’s until the present day. When I started collecting reggae music, Enos McLeod’s hit ‘Jericho’ was a must have that was on a local session CD that did the rounds between a group of us and it became an unofficially competitive race to be the first one to own a copy. That tune, alongside his other memorable track such as ‘Tel Aviv’, ‘World in His Hands’ ‘By the Look’ and his other production work still stand the test of time today. Enos is a true favourite of reggae enthusiasts worldwide. Beginning his career as a cabinetmaker and boxer, (His talents as a boxer would later see him as bouncer for Joe Gibbs Studio.) McLeod soon went into the music business, learning his trade producing under Sid Bucknor at the seminal Studio One. He has since gone on to produce for artists like Gregory Isaacs, Trinity, Clint Eastwood and Tyrone Taylor to name but a few. He also has a pure voice and his hits range from the late 60’s to today. Alongside this, he has been involved with many labels including Soul Beat and Micron, having played a key part in their foundation. Enos now releases music on his Orbit label, and the quality is superb, the line up of musicians on the latest LP reads like a who’s who of reggae music.
a young artist at this time you really had to work, competition was fierce with many battles between artists and producers occurring You had Prince Buster and Delroy Wilson at war, proper, proper war, with Derrick Morgan and that war was going on. I mean WAR! Musical war! From them days the music a go! You have Stranger Cole on the other side a kick dung the place. You have Clancy Eccles, Owen Grey. Jimmy Cliff just come from country at them times.’ We asked Enos if he credits the competitive nature of the Jamaican music industry as being a help to his career
American music because that is how the whole Jamaica music started.’ The birth of Reggae music as we know it is a much disputed thing between Jamaicans who were there to see it. The most popular story is that it was Toots and the Maytals who came up with the name first, due to their song ‘Do the Reggay’ which was released in 1968, in the Rocksteady era. There are other tracks, notably ‘Reggay a Go Go’ by Lloyd Greene on Studio One, from the era which also used the word albeit spelled differently from the modern understanding. Enos has a different story about where it originated
EM- ‘Yes, because that fire inside of you needs to get out! You need to come up with something! At the time I was singing under the name ‘The Ital’ because of the Maytals, just when Toots come from country. Toots come to Trenchtown, I’m a Trenchtown man you know? And I see this man (Toots) play this guitar...the man them had a plan, man. They had the fire they brought from country to town, they had a purpose. But we (Kingstonians) still took it for granted (the music scene). It’s like the youths that live in the UK take it for granted, but people who migrate here come with a plan and they graft!’
EM- ‘I think that it was Bunny Lee who changed it and called it Reggae. We used to see girls them and be like “I don’t rate this girl – she’s a streggay” they called her a streggay. They just rhymed the words and thought, Boy! We’ll just call the thing Reggae! So that’s how the Reggae thing come. Some people say it’s the Maytals, but personally, I think its Bunny Lee who came up with the Reggae thing.’
Enos credits some of his early success to the fact that he grew up around these people.
EM- ‘It’s a thing like, you go into a producer and keep coming back, I can’t take these things! You keep coming back and there might be a hotter singer than you or a younger one whoever is popular. Siddy Bucknor, he liked me and was at Studio One. They are cousins I think. He called me Mackie, because of McLeod, and said stick by me and he show me the ropes. I couldn’t be an engineer, that was boring to me, I started to produce there, Siddy Bucknor was a great man to me.’
EM- ‘I grew up around singers, Theo Beckford, the great Norma Fraser who sing ‘The First Cut’, you have Rita, we went same school, used
Enos McLeod is a notable producer, first learning the producing trade at the legendary Studio One. When asked if it was a natural progression he replied,
“Some people say it’s the Maytals, but personally, I think its Bunny Lee who came up with the Reggae thing.”
The interview is set to take place at the artist’s home; when we get there we are greeted warmly by McLeod and shown through into the main room. We sit down and begin to take some photos, have a chat and drink a little rum before we start the interview. Born in Kingston, Jamaica to musical parents Enos McLeod had music in his blood from a young age, Kingston was a musical hotbed he recalls EM- ‘My mother was a singer, my dad was a singer. He used to say he was better than Bing Crosby! I can remember them singing and it was like a magnet that attract me to that (music) from a baby.’ Despite the musical family, McLeod suggests that it was Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd at Studio One who gave him the biggest push into a musical career EM- ‘One man who really did encourage me was Sir Dodd. He would say to go up by the Heptones and let them rehearse the songs with you. But when I went there, they already had hit songs and girls all round them so they didn’t have time to really rehearse with me. The music scene at this time in the 60’s was thriving, being
to see Marcia. A lot of people influenced me, especially Theo Beckford, he lived near me so we used to go listen to him, we used to call him ‘Snapping’, and he would play the piano.’ The music in Jamaica was influenced by American music heavily; you can find many cover versions of R&B tracks if you look into early Jamaican music, especially Ska and Rocksteady. McLeod used to keep track of the US charts to keep up to date with popularity, which in Jamaica is ever changing. EM- ‘I started to buy the newspaper for a penny ha’penny; I’d save my money to buy the paper to learn the songs’. Labels like Studio One and Treasure Isle began to make their own versions of the American tunes, having also their own respective sound systems, competition ensued and the two would musically battle each other and have a famous rivalry giving rise to dubplate culture and ultimately creating reggae music as we know it. It’s like; if I’m Coxsone and I play this music at Duke Reid tonight then he won’t have it, because Coxsone made it. It’s a special.’ To keep the crowds interested and entertained, new music was the order of the day so special versions of the top US tunes were mixed and pre releases were a must. McLeod’s is a true music veteran.
Even after being around at the foundation of Reggae music, Enos is still a busy artist. He has just released his new LP entitled ‘Reggae Bingy – Book of Jah’ on vinyl and download and a new 12” called ‘Cherish the Love’ both of which are fine examples of the trade that he knows inside out. The LP is comprised of McLeod’s sweet vocals and an all star line up of Jamaican musicians; it is a natural progression in terms of Enos’ roots in the music business and roots music in general. The LP has a dub side too which is rare these days and is available in all good record stores including Peckings, Supertone and Dub Vendor. We asked Enos to shed some light on the LP EM- ‘Well, the ‘Reggae Bingy’ thing is, how I say, premeditated. I sit back, see how the business is going and see that there’s so much white Rasta now and so much Indian Rasta now, there’s Rasta all over the World. It’s like Rasta rule the World! Anywhere you’ll go – America, Europe, Japan, Brazil – everywhere you go it’s Rasta. So I said, I think I can go into this market, because this is THE market! Burning Spear there, Bob Marley there, a lot of artists come that way and they really stand so I said I’m going in that market. I think the album has its own market though, all it needs is the proper people behind it who can get it to people’s ears.’ (Con’t over..)
EM- ‘I’m in the music business from when it was Latin-American music, Calypso, Mento and
(Con’t) The next thing that we spoke about was the quality of the players of instruments, the mastering and the overall production. The LP is a who’s who of Reggae, it’s rare now to see such collaborations due to the dispersal of Reggae around the world and the resulting migration of artists and musicians to various places. Reggae now isn’t like the 70’s when all of the great artists would live in the same tight knit community or very close together. This is why it’s refreshing to have an LP comprised of some of the true heavyweights and legends of the music EM- “As I said, it’s premeditated, I cannot go below a standard where I reach now... I won’t do it. People call me a lot of times asking me to do things, when I listen to it I say ‘I can’t do this’. If you’re gonna go below a certain standard then it‘s not working for me really. So I went for the best musicians and a certain sound as well, you have to know the sound you want to get, you know which musicians to use and which studio to use. So that’s how it goes. I go to mixing Lab, I get Flabba Holt on the bass, I could have used Robbie (Shakespeare) but Flabba have a specific sound, Robbie is obviously great. It’s Sly (Dunbar) Flabba Holt, BoPee, Lloyd ‘Obeah’ Denton and you have Bongo Herman on percussion.’
The list of players reads like a classic line up, the sound that they bring to the work is brilliant and matched to the soulful style of McLeod, is unbelievable. The LP has a dub side too which is rare today, this was a great idea and a brilliant way to showcase the skill of the players and engineer and producer. This is really an LP to get your teeth into and is a well thought out and put together work by obvious professionals, it’s so nice to be able to play a vocal and a dub straight after as a collector. It turns out that me and Enos share the same favourite track from the record, being the first track ‘Reggae Bingy’ – a wonderful roots tune which ticks all the boxes for me. McLeod recorded this track last although it is the first track on the album and says in true Enos style that ‘The last baby is always tender to its mum!’ Enos McLeod is genuinely one of the nicest people I have met, open, warm and with a wicked sense of humour! We could have kept talking for hours (but London is a headache for me when the DLR is down and especially after a couple of dragons) but one thing is plain. Enos is not a money man, he is a real humble music man. EM- ‘The thing about Enos McLeod is that I love the music so much that sometimes it’s not
just the money to me. Really and truly it’s the almighty God that carry me through. I don’t really live off music. People take my things, release my things and steal my things. How they get them, I don’t even know. I love the music, the music is me, it’s the time when I’m happy. If you want to see me happy then you have to see me on the stage or in the studio, apart from that I’m this grumpy old guy you know what I mean?! People don’t really take the time to do good music anymore; they just do the quick thing to make them money. Maybe that’s my mistake, I don’t have nothing, should have a Rolls park up outside or something like that! I’m in this business more than 50 years!’ You can see McLeod singing his classics and new hits from this LP in 2013. keep checking the Wordplay website for details of shows. Enos will be performing at the One Love Peace Festival in the UK this summer with band. Do not miss your chance to witness one of Jamaica’s most prolific artists smash a dance hall! The ‘Reggae Bingy’ LP is available now on vinyl (our favourite) or download. The 12” ‘Cherish the Love’ is also available now – one for the revive heads! As usual I recommend Peckings in Shepherd’s Bush for all your vinyl needs! Support the Roots! (JD)
Lee Fields IntervIew by Matt ward
Lee Fields has never been interested in pushing any envelopes when it comes to making records. And this is a compliment. He makes sweet soul music, no more, no less. The only cliché that comes anywhere close to describing Field’s approach to music is If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – a refreshing attitude in a time that often seems to value so-called innovation in music for its own sake, regardless of the quality of the musicianship on show. He’s also not fussed about recognition, never achieving the titanic fame of a James Brown and Otis Redding despite his numerous great records. Fields’s music, like that of former labelmate and fellow soul ambassador Sharon Jones, is a testament to the idea that music does not have to sound new and unfamiliar to stir and move us. Faithful Man, his latest outing, could’ve been made 40 years ago, when indeed his first album was released at the age of 17 (1968), but it wasn’t. A confident follow-up to 2009’s My World, it was produced last year by Jeff Silverman and Leon Michaels of Truth & Soul Records, the same guys responsible for Aloe Blacc’s single, I Need a Dollar, and albums by the likes of Jay-Z, Ghostface Killah and Adele. Lee kindly agreed to be interviewed over the phone from his hotel in Bilbao two days before his gig in Islington. Here’s what he had to say:
So Lee, you join me from Bilbao – how’re you finding it over there? yeah man, loving it, having a great time. we were in Madrid last week, and now we’re in bilbao. we’re having a ball! You released your first record in 1968, when you were 17 – an early start for anyone in the business. Was music a big thing around you when you were growing up, do you come from a musical family? yes, I do. My mother was a gospel singer, and sang in the church; my dad also played in a band with his brothers when he was younger – he was a piano-player, and my uncle played trumpet. this is what they told me, but I never saw them play. by the time I came on the scene, he’d stopped playing, and was working several other jobs simultaneously. So there was a lot happening around you, musically? definitely. and when I started playing, actually, I was really into the beatles; I remember seeing them on the ed Sullivan Show. then I got on a talent show, and bands started to hire me. this is when I was 14. back in those days, man, I was made! I was making more than my dad was! So since then you’ve seen music progress over some five decades. It seems that people can often be quite nostalgic about certain periods in music – would you yourself say, for instance, the ‘60s and ‘70s, the time of Stax, Atlantic, Motown, was a golden age never to be equalled, or has music kept moving, so to speak? Oh yeah, music kept on moving, and it was always gonna keep on moving, because that’s the nature of music. It changes with the times, because I think it affects what people’re doing, and where their minds are.
Absolutely. So when you hear people say, for instance, ‘Where’re the James Browns and the Otis Reddings of today?’ you disagree with that, you think there’s still plenty of talent out there, and you think things’re still happening? I mean, you have your Ushers; they’d be your James browns of the day. (Of course you still have your Justin biebers...). nothing changes, just the names. but I do soul music; true rhythm n’ blues. the younger generations might gravitate towards what I do, which I appreciate. I mean I got some young producers, Leon Michaels and Jeff Silverman, and it’s great because they don’t want to compromise the music of my era - they want to actually create it again. this is what people seem to say about my music: it sounds fresh, and it’s because of the producers, and then also the writers I associate myself with – some of the best young minds, I think, of this time. all these individuals put together help me to create the music again, in its original form but fresh and new. we wanted young people to take to it! And they do! People say you’re making some of the best music of your career at the moment, with Faithful Man, your latest album, from this year, and My World, from 2009 – would you agree with that? absolutely. the reaction we’re getting from audiences right now is just unbelievable, which alone is so rewarding, and I’m having a grand time! I’m having more fun than I could ever have imagined that I’d be having. You talk quite a bit about your sound: tell us about your recording techniques. I gather Sharon Jones, for instance, a friend, and former labelmate of yours, likes to use more traditional, mono equipment on her albums – do you do something similar to achieve the sound you’re after? that’s right, Sharon and I used to be labelmates, but now she’s with daptone, and I’m with truth and Soul. Over at truth and Soul they like to do things just a little bit differently to how they do it at daptone. So our sounds vary just a bit. and I think the format that Leon and Jeff use works very well for me.
I understand at some point people had a nickname for you: ‘Little JB’. Is it important for you as an individual that you’re recognised as Lee Fields, a distinct and individual soul singer, or one of a line of great singers – Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, and the rest? but you know what? the people – the public – when they come to see me, they say Lee Fields. they don’t mention ‘Little Jb’. the only time I get this is when I’m doing interviews – because it’s been written before. It doesn’t bother me. the public know me; and I’ve had a lot of young people coming out to my shows now that’re probably more familiar with what I do than with what James did. they’re not up with what happened in the ‘60s and ‘70s - all they know is that they like the music. So they come to see me, it’s not like they’ve come to see a replica of James brown. How do you find being on the road? Do you find there’s much of a difference in the atmosphere among the audiences over here in Europe compared to those back in the States? at the beginning there was. I always felt my music was accepted more fully in europe, but now I think the States has caught up a little in that respect. right now, we’ve been on the road since May. In the States we’ve been everywhere: La, Chicago, detroit, new Orleans, denver, Seattle, boston; and it’s been beautiful, you know what I’m trying to say. I’m so happy that the people are accepting the music as they are. and also, you taking time out to interview me – I appreciate that as well, thank you so much.
No worries! You talk quite positively about the music that’s coming out today: is there anyone you’d pick out as someone you yourself might draw on, musically? Oh yeah, well I’m influenced by everybody, man. I listen to just about anything that’s making people move. I think in the music industry one has to remain open, and constantly aware; you have to keep going. when an artist doesn’t pay attention to what’s going on around him – that’s when they’re on their way out. you have to listen to what the world is saying. It’s the song, the rhythm, the voice of the world that we have to hear, and see what people do. that’s what we sing about. And so when you’re travelling around the world, and meeting all these different audiences, and playing different things, that, I imagine, helps to renew your sound, and renew your approach to music? definitely. travelling is of course a plus. as I said before, an artist is what they see, what they hear, what they experience. and I do feel like the more I see, the more creative I become. So you’re in Spain right now, where else is on the current tour schedule, apart from London on Saturday? well we’re reaching the end of our tour now; we’re going to the netherlands, and then Ireland and then we’re going back to the States. but hey man, I can’t even explain in words, I cannot find the words to describe the creative energies that one gets from experiencing all of these cities. we come in the name of love! being kind to one another. Loving each other. the more love we bring to each other the richer our experience of life will be, and the more we appreciate this opportunity we have to live on this earth. So when I come out on stage I want to see happy faces! I want people to be feeling joy. and when they leave the show at the end of the night, I want them to feel something that they’ve never felt before, you know? People are coming up to me and saying ‘Mr. Fields, this has been the best night of my life!’ an artist should give everything. I believe in giving my absolute all in every performance.
Soopa Jay & Leebee IntervIew by Joe Downes PhotograPhy by anIs alI
After bagging some cheap train tickets, I made my way to the wild wild Southwest for an exclusive interview with the Bonnie and Clyde of the UK breakin’ scene, Soopa Jay & Leebee
Please introduce yourselves sJ: soopa Jay from swindon, I represent scarecrows, rolling like Kingz, UK allstars lb: My name is leebee from Cheltenham and I represent the south west and scarecrows How did you start breakin? sJ: I started dancing in the early 80’s when I was about 6, probably saw rocksteady Crew or something like that on tv, breakin’ and hiphop was massive in the 80’s when it first hit the UK. then it just disappeared for me, but I stayed into dancing because before I’d ever seen hiphop I was into Michael Jackson and James brown and stuff. when I was 6 we had a school disco during thursday breaktime, I think it was 10p to get in, I remember having battles back then but most people could just do the caterpillar but I could already do headspin drills, backspins and run arounds, stuff like that. then around 1990 I saw banxy doing windmills down the link Centre in west swindon and I was like wow, I need to do that! lb: I started bboying in 2004 but I’ve always loved dancing, I just never knew how or where I’d end up doing it. What have been some of the highlights since you started? lb: My highlights been a lot of things really, meeting people travelling around, having the highs and lows that come with bboying or shall I say bgirling sJ: Dancing at UK Champs, our crew’s been to battle of the year, I’ve had lots of good opportunities from breakin’, going to different parts of the world, it’s been dope. back when I started you didn’t get into it to make money or get a career from teaching or doing shows etc. What do you think to the current breakin’ scene in the UK? lb: I think the scene in the UK has changed for me because a lot more styles are coming out and it’s a different vibe but I’m a cypher girl, I’d jam all day in the circles because that’s where my heart is at sJ: It’s good, it’s getting up there, there’s good crews, I can’t knock it, there’s more bboys than ever. Competition wise and things it’s weird, you go to a bboy battle and it’s mainly just bboys that turn up, I think promoters need to do a bit more to build up an audience to come and be a part of it. I don’t think you should have to pay to enter a competition, because really the audience should be the ones paying and the bboys compete and entertain.
You went to New York last summer, was that your first visit and how did you find it being in the mecca of hiphop? sJ: It’s a dope place, it wasn’t the first time I’ve been, I’ve been there 4 times now, the first time I went was in ‘99. we got off the plane, got the subway into Manhattan and on the first day we bumped into some bboys doing a street show, I still had all my luggage and everything and I ended up breakin’ after only being there for about an hour. after that we didn’t see any breakin’ all week, then we were walking through times square and through the crowd I could see a wooly hat bobbing about so I went straight over and there was a few guys from new york and gombi from suicidal lifestyle, hungary all cyphering. I’d just bought this Puma jumper from a Foot locker in harlem for like $10, one of the guys was like ‘give me your jumper’ so I told him I’d battle him for it, it was bad, the police came over so we moved to another spot, I battled this guy for what seemed like a really long time, it was bad also seeing the steam come out of the vents on the pavements from the subway, so there was mad atmosphere, I ended up going home with my jumper anyway so I was happy with that, that was the first time I went over. since then, we’ve been to tools of war a few times, Crotona Park, really dope bronx hiphop vibe, proper good jam in the park just dancing on the pavement, out of everything we went to this year, that’s probably the rawest jam. we also went to the rocksteady Crew anniversary which was fresh. rolling like Kingz sponsored their jam this year too. lb: new york was bad, it was the 2nd time I’ve been, I went in 2007 to the rocksteady Crew 30th anniversary and it was sick and then again this year to rocksteady Crew 35th anniversary. was good to go and let loose and check out what it was all about and just to rep uk style out there! was dope jamming down the bronx and harlem. What were your inspirations when you started out and what inspires you now? lb: My inspirations were people in my home town to start with because they helped me in to it, people like bboy smurf and bboy veeza, stan and howie and soopa but bboys and bgirls who really dance always inspires me. sJ: when I first saw breakin’ I just loved it, as soon
as I saw it on the tele I was straight in the kitchen giving it a go. My inspirations were a mixture of everything, the music, the style and way everyone dressed. nowadays my inspirations are the new generation like vijay, sunni, seeing what they were like when they were younger compared to what they’re like now keeps me inspired. I haven’t really got qualifications that give me options to do much else. Who are your favourite funk and hiphop artists? lb: I love funk and my favourite has to be James brown, but I’ve grown up listening to Motown and northern soul so that always gets me dancing. sJ: there’s so much man, I’d recommend all of the classic breaks like James brown, Incredible bongo band. I wouldn’t say I’m into a certain type of music but I’m into good music of every genre. I like listening to mixtapes by people like Cash Money, skeme richards, breaks DJ leacy, aidan orange. Do you listen to much UK Hiphop? lb: I really like skinnyman, rodney P, Mystro, ragga twins. they’re always good to jam to. sJ: yeah man, a lot of the classic uk tunes are heavy for bboyin, Para & baila, PlC, DJ nappa, Mystro, rodney P, skitz, london Posse, Demon boyz, gunshot, blade, hijack , Mud Fam, skinnyman, roots Manuva etc. Have you ever dabbled in Graffiti or MC’ing? sJ: yeah, not so much with MC’ing as I’m shit at even talking, at the end of the day I didn’t think rapping was gonna work but I have tried it. graff I’ve tried, I did get into it a little bit when I was younger, I got arrested one time when I was about 16, that’s a whole other crazy story. I still draw outlines and characters, I customise things as well, but I don’t really paint, I help out some people every now and then, bit of filling and that. but I mostly spray and customise shoes and things like that. I should really do a piece at some point to give it a go. What’s been your most memorable battle to date? lb: My most memorable battle, I dunno, I think the best battles are the ones when you’re in a club or cyphering and someone wants it so u just battle haha. sJ: I had a locking battle once and I ended up
punching the guy in the face, every time I went out the guy kept tapping his ear telling me to listen to the music and I was thinking fuck you, I can hear the beat, I’m not a gymnast or something, so I was getting pissed off, I think he done it twice and the third time I was thinking, if he does it again I’m gonna punch him in the face, and he did, so I punched him and we had a scuffle in the crowd, I’d heard stories and myths of people getting taken to the back of a club by the bouncers an getting a kickin, so I stood there thinking I was either gonna get a kickin or they were gonna phone the police, the bouncer stood with his back to me so I dived under his arm and ran through this club of people pushing people out of the way. I got to the exit and then the bouncer rugby tackled me and I still managed to get away and run out of the club and jump the barrier, I was off man, on my way to trafalgar square, no money or nothing, I’d left all my stuff in the club, videocamera, money everything. I think I was drunk. running for ages then I just started puking, it was fucked up. I had a battle with Maurizio from rocksteady Crew in ‘97, at scratch in london, I saw him in a rocksteady vest and decided I had to battle this guy, I was maybe 20 at the time. this girl was filming our battle and I remember he done a 90 and bashed the camera into her eye and she had a black eye, it was nuts. Maurizio’s a fucking dope dancer, real fresh, nice style, proper bboy. that was pretty mad to just see a member of rocksteady in a club. Any shoutouts? sJ: shoutout www.rollinglikekingz.co.uk check the website for fresh shit, stu Campbell scarecrows r.I.P, tiny garth ‘Funkin Pussy regular london bboy ‘ r.I.P, DJ leacy r.I.P. bigup all the swindon heads, banxy, Cybernetic, stepchild, acme, Dj stika, Dman. all the scarecrows. Dangerus. Para & baila, all the bones to the stones people you know! Dolby D, tuf tim twist, stn, Kilo, slammo, Zorro, vicJ, all the heads on electro rock, wildstyle, style wars, beat street, graffiti rock all on the vhs. wordplay Magazine, Puma, addict and the fam at home and away. all the others I haven’t mentioned not enough time or space on the page, peace lb: shoutout to swindon heads, scarecrows, my homies in Cheltenham, wales and bristol. everyone who knows me and likes to jam in the circles.
- Strange Journey: an interview with independent giant By Luke ‘Messenger Menace’ BaiLey (@Menaceuk) Photos courtesy of estevan orioL ©
“This is my first time using a double-decker tour bus”, reveals Aaron Yates aka Tech N9ne. “Strange, right?”. Stranger however is the fact that fate has transported him in London to set off his ‘Live In Europe’ tour on his 41st birthday. Most men let alone artists in Tech N9ne’s position would want to remain on familiar soil on such a day, but Tech N9ne is not most men and nor is he most artists. “My kids didn’t want me to leave the country for thanksgiving and my birthday but I just had to come here man! It’s been too long in the making to reach this part of the globe. I am finally here!”. In a strange way, tonight marks a special occasion for Tech N9ne and his dedicated Technicians, tonight will become his second home and ultimately give birth to a pledge in which he will make to his dedicated legion of fans here: The greatest show that they will ever bare witness to! Performing over 200 shows a year and treading on such parts of the world as America, France, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and beyond; you’re one the most, if not the most consistent performing artists in Hip Hop today. What’s taken you so long to perform in the UK? i don’t think the promoters realised how much of a following i have here, know what i’m sizzling? i should have been here a long time ago. i’ve always wanted to come to the uk and i’m finally here on my birthday! Happy birthday! I recall us talking on Conspiracy Worldwide Radio’s Friday Night Live Show earlier this year and you sharing your first experience of performing in Amsterdam, likening its energy to your hometown Kansas. Is there ever an element of pressure in the build-up to performing in a country for the first time or is it a case of Tech N9ne being ever-ready? Whenever you go somewhere for the first time there’s always going to be some pressure because you want people to be able to see the best show. there’s always pressure to be the best at it. it’s hard to do what we do up there, man. it’s hard to do [recites first verse off Worldwide choppers]. you got to do that every night perfect, so it is hard. sometimes you may hear me say “flawless victory” at the end of a show, which means that i didn’t mess up one time. it’s almost impossible to do what we do, so there’s always pressure on us to do the best show we can do, man.
To what degree do you set-out with pre-assumptions of a relatively unknown country or cities audience? How do you determine which songs you’re going to perform and which songs you aren’t going to perform? We’re cocky! [Laughs]. songs like einstein and Worldwide choppers are worldwide. Pyshco Bitch is worldwide. the reason i say we’re cocky is because you don’t have to say you know the music to enjoy the show. if somebody not up on my music came out and heard [recites stanima opening lyric] with shot-guns behind it, they would be like “What the f*ck is that?!”, so you don’t actually have to know it to appreciate it. We feel like it’s going to be good no matter where we go, even if they don’t speak our language. We go to places where they don’t even speak our language and they love the music - worldwide! We do the same everywhere we go. if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. as an artist that understands the importance of learning about crowd culture in different countries, have you familiarised yourself with any of the slang or any traditions here in the uk? not that i know of! i don’t really know of any slang over here but i’m sure i’m going to learn it while i’m here. [the crew share words and terms, tech n9ne’s favourite being “safe”, which he refers to as “tight!”.
you paid a visit to Paris earlier this year to see Jim Morrison’s grave. Do you have any plans of visiting as equally iconic musical land marks here such as the blue plaque in 23 Brook street, that marks Jimmi hendrix’s 1960’s residence or abbey road, whilst you’re over here? ohh, dope! that’s dope!! We never really have time, man. if we have days off then for sure but i think we’re leaving immediately after these two back-to-back shows with no days off, which sucks because we don’t get to do a lot. With Paris, we happened to have 4 days off, so we got to do a lot there. of course i’d love to visit in the future though! What you just mentioned is very interesting. Anybody who’s a fan of yours knows your influences don’t just come in the form of Hip-Hop. Do you have any influences over here at all? Portishead is my shit. i’ve been wanting to work with Beth gibbons for years! i’m a big floetry fan. Love Marsha ambrosius. rappers? i don’t really know, man. not too many people inspire me with their lyrics. there’s a select few. Beats and shit? yeah! Beats inspire me. Music inspires me but i don’t really know about rap because i’m in my own little head space. When i listen to something and it sparks me i usually sign them! [laughs]. tricky and goldie are dope ,too!
“PeoPle are always going to have the uPs and downs and i’m going to write ‘em as they come.” goldie has a lot of history beyond his musical contributions in the form of graff respectively. as this interview is for a magazine dedicated to both hip hop and graff, what can you tell the readers about the graff scene in kansas city? yeah - gear & scribe have been doing a lot of shit for years. there’s burners all over kc! scenerio who does my face paint, he’s not here but he does burners. We’re all B-Boys, man. it’s been there since i was a little boy. if i was good at doing burners i’d do that shit too. i did too many drugs. they used to call me young ozzy but i’m good now! [laughs] Switching lanes, after the release of K.O.D. in 2009 you made a decision not to express yourself through darkness, which of course would later change due to the fans. Does it ever frustrate you or anger you when fans almost demand you stay in this dark zone? yes! i mean i did it to myself because i’m the one that let them know. i’m the one purchasing the diamonds and everything. it’s a part of me and everything but i’m three dimensional. i don’t just do that. When you first brought anghellic, hell was first, then purgatory, then heaven. it’s always been there. i’ve always been three dimensional so the people who just came in on k.o.D. thought that’s what i was supposed to do all the time. that was my first totally dark album and if i stayed there i’d probably end up killing myself. i told them that i’d never do another full dark album again but i recently did an eP called Boiling Point. i’m going to always have the darkness. it’s part of my life. People are always going to have the ups and downs and i’m going to write ‘em as they come. i’m not going to create dark stories just to get money because people will know when it’s fake. My shit isn’t fake. i don’t do horrocore music. Pyshco Bitch is a real story. should i kill her is a real story. in the trunk is something that i’d want to do to a bitch-for real! i don’t just create dark shit just to please people. this is the shit that is hard for me to write when i’m ashamed of some of it like should i kill her, that i would even think like that about killing a close friend of mine. i don’t want to have to tell those stories but they come out good [laughs]. the fans love it and that’s cool but they need to know that there are going to be songs like Don’t tweet this. it’s been like this from the beginning. that’s why i get mad when i hear tech n9ne fans say “We don’t like the new tech”. Most people when they first heard let’s see, a lot of people came in during anghellic, so they heard hell first [starts to recite tormented]. i’m talking about pussy on that song right there! so, all that music in hell; suicide Letters, cursed, all that stuff, but then Purgatory had einsten, Planet rock, it’s alive. it was uppity party music! it’s still like that today! the fans just need to know that i’m three dimensional and k.o.D. is only one dimensional. We actually live music. We write our lives. it’s not an act. i might put on face paint but it’s in honour of my homie Brian Dennis, who made me the killer clown back in the day, rest in peace. they’re harder to write. i ran from them on k.o.D. it’s easier for me to write that hard aggressive shit like you’re a Liar. that sad and depressing shit? i can’t do a whole album of that shit.
You did an experiment earlier this year in which you performed two back-to-back shows, one of which was a regular show and the other being a dark show. How did that go? yeah - Lost in the dark tour! We took a chance in Denver and it was tight, man. i did Low, i did Love Me tomorrow. i did a lot of shit. i even did fuck food at the end. the song itself isn’t dark but it has an eerie feeling to it. it was better than i thought it was going to be. the dark show was good but put together with the real one? it would be hard to do but i could do it. Will we have to wait as long as we have for you to come back here to perform? ha, ha! not at all. i will be back, man. i will be back real soon! Final words for the Technicians in the UK? together we are a powerful force as one mind, body and soul. Let no evil enter nor attempt to reduce us because of the beliefs we hold and with this love, combined with our strength, we ward off pain and stress. technician, i am wholeheartedly in life and in death.
Micall Parknsun -
me myself and akaI
INTeRvIeW BY MIKe PATTeMoRe
Armed with his pen, pad, mic and MPC, Micall Parknsun is back with his third LP “Me Myself & Akai”. Fresh from the school run, Wordplay caught up with the Working Class Dad.
What was your first taste of Hip Hop? I used to listen to Hardcore music back in the day, like early ’88 before I discovered Big Daddy Kane and other albums. Through that, it opened up my mind to a whole load of things; graffiti, break dancing and the basis of its culture; that’s what introduced me to Hip Hop. As for me rapping, I used to have fun; freestyling with friends over a couple of beers and chatting breeze but I never really took it seriously. I think I started trying to take it seriously or realised that I wanted to rap when I heard “Illmatic”; that’s when I picked up a pen and thought “Yeah, let me write rhymes!” How did the hook up with YNR come about? I used to be part of a crew called NWC (North West Collaboration) which consisted of me, Ram, Ahmos and Kyza. Kyza used to go to school with Harry Love and when he started making moves, he kept raving about some kid called Jehst I had to hear spit. He took me to Harry’s to check some beats and to hear this person. We all started rapping and Jehst dropped his bars last. No-one rapped after that. No-one wanted to rap after that; he just bodied it! We both lived in Kilburn at the time so he gave me a lift home and we just kept in contact. Fast-forward a couple of years; I was solo and recording with LG, who had just produced for Jehst’s “Falling Down” album. Jehst was frequently passing through so it was kind of like a re-union. I got him on the chorus for my single and then he and Lenny moved into a studio together, where I ended up making “Working Class Dad” and the rest is pretty self-explanatory. What was the inspiration behind “Me Myself & Akai”? I don’t think most people know that I make beats. It’s always something I’ve done. Yet when I’ve come out with material, people have always seen me as a rapper. That was the main reason for doing it. The other reason was to tackle certain demons. You know I’m a dad, you know I smoke weed, you know I love Hip Hop; it was a matter of what more can I give? With this album, content wise, I’ve tried to dig deeper to let the listener know a little more about me than they have done before. The fact that I’ve produced every track almost sums up the fact that it’s all 100% me. I’m not getting any younger and I’ve never really had this opportunity so I had to do it. I’ve been humbled by people’s reaction to it.
Producer-wise, who are your inspirations? everyone one I’ve worked with. I’ve met some of my big inspirations now, which is weird and always hits me like “WoW!” The only person, producer-wise, I’ve not met yet is J Dilla but that’s not going to happen. To me though, there’s one person that’s always been an inspiration in my life and that’s LG. For me, I’ll always say this; he is one of the greatest. even though he doesn’t make that many now, he’s just a ridiculous beat maker! Learning from him, Beat Butcha, Apa-Tight, MPhazes, my peers and then meeting 9th Wonder and Pete Rock; it’s like “Rah!” These are the people I’m a fan of. I’m not trying to copy them but these people are the foundation to me creating my sound.
Having recently judged the Tony D V’s O’Shea battle, are we every likely to see you grace the Don’t Flop Arena? I don’t think I have to. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way but for me to do it, the money would have to be mad! Like the guys that come over from the States; they’re getting paid, flown over, put up in hotels regardless of losing or winning, just to have someone cuss them. I’d do that! I commend all the MCs that get up there and do it; people think it’s all mum jokes but I couldn’t remember half of them amongst all those schemes. I go there for inspiration when I’m writing. I’ve got love for those guys; I’m going to be working with Bamalam and few others. I think it’s a better platform for the younger generation right now. I rate Jammer for bringing back Lord of The Mics but I mean with the Grime scene, I know man that’d kill you! With DF; everyone’s happy, everyone’s making money and no-one’s died! I prefer it to be settled in rap form. Imagine wars that get settled with a whole bunch of Presidents going at it in the ring.
“I don’t thInk most people know that I make beats. It’s always somethIng I’ve done.”
“If you look at the grIme scene, they’ve got a lot more unIty. we’re gettIng better but we stIll need to buIld somethIng stronger.” You kicked off SB.TV’s “Skooled By …” series. How did that surface? I think Genesis elijah had just done a Warm Up Session for Jamal edwards and whilst doing that, he was talking about this new series he was looking to do. He’d been looking to get Rodney P and some other people and my name got thrown into the mix. He got hold of my number from someone, hit me up and asked if I was interested. I told him I was in but wanted it to coincide with “Me, Myself & Akai”. I wanted to do it over one of my beats which I’ve seen loads of other people do and as it’s all in promotion for the new album. I was happy to it and I’ve got a lot of love for Jamal. Plus off the back of it, I’ve had a lot of new people checking out my music. And it’s good for SB.TV to pay more attention to British Hip Hop… It’s not that he hasn’t been paying attention. I got invited to the UK Hip Hop Honours Awards and it had Jonzi D, Rodney P, Ty…all the actual foundations of our scene. Jonzi D said something along the lines of “You can’t get mad at the younger generation of Hip Hop for not showing love because we never did it”. Back then, the industry was very competitive. People weren’t going to let others hear their bars unless they were getting paid for it; that was their bread and butter. The way I look at it; I don’t blame Jamal or all these up-and-coming artists that are getting signed to Roc Nation or doing what they are doing. They know who we are but we never helped them; we never reached out. I was doing a show with Jehst in somewhere like Guernsey and out of nowhere, example came over to us, reciting lyrics and talking about our album launches he’d been to. It really opened my mind that people know who we are; it’s just the matter of how it’s presented and how we present ourselves. If you look at the Grime scene, they’ve got a lot more unity. We’re getting better but we still need to build something stronger. Jamal’s reached out and in order for our scene to prosper; we need to do the same. Like before you, it was Hip Hop Connection and Undercover but they’re all dead. We need to make sure that Wordplay doesn’t die and that things stay here. The only way we can do that is by transcending and passing it on to the younger generations and involving them more.
How difficult is it balancing music with family life? It’s as difficult as life but it’s about how you see it. I used to be a postman, I used to work nights. If you want to do this, you’ll do it. That’s the only advice I’d give to someone that has a family and wants to Rap. Maybe it’s a trait I’ve been born with but I just never give up. I don’t see that because I have a wife and kids, I should give up making Hip Hop. My family are my fuel for this. I’ve got a gig with Jehst soon somewhere near Norwich and the following morning, my son has an athletics meeting in eaton. I’m doing an allnighter so that I get back home; I do that all the time for my kids. I just don’t regard it as hard. You roll with the punches. It’s just life. Going back to the idea of passing on to newer generations, who should we look out for? You need to keep an eye out for K.I.N.e.T.I.K, he’s mad. I’ve did some stuff for his eP (Kinesis Thesis) last year. Theme dropped an eP (Toys Get Smoked); he’s got Genesis elijah and M9 on there and tracks from Beat Butcha. There’s a couple of others; I like onoe Capanoe and from my camp, I want you to watch out for Naughtz. I’m also trying to plot and finish off an album I’ve been doing with Mr Thing. There’s others; Joker Starr, Dubbeledge, Iron Braydz, the new Four owls project, the new Task Force album…it’s going to be a good year for music and I’m just happy that it all kicks off with me.
Any final words? Make sure you check out my website. Any artists looking for beats, I’ve got them on there for reasonable prices. I’m always on the lookout for talent; I’m all for uplifting this Hip Hop movement. “Me Myself & Akai” is out now on YNR Productions. www.micallparknsun.co.uk twitter.com/MicallParknsun www.ynr-productions.co.uk
Public Enemy PhotograPhy by anis ali & Clem samuel interview by mike Pattemore & katrina DurDen
Plain and simple; if you donâ€™t know about Public Enemy, you donâ€™t know about popular music. Fresh from their nomination for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame and amidst a handful of UK dates, Wordplay held court with the one and only Mr Carlton Douglas Ridenhour to reflect on the PE legacy.
How did Hip Hop manifest itself into your life? my first taste of hip hop was before it was records - around 1976-77. i was 16/ 17 and it was this thing tearing through new york. that was a great experience. you couldn’t separate the mC’s from the DJ’s or the dancers; it was a gigantic party type of thing. i liked what some mC’s were doing in the late ‘70s and i just thought i had a voice that could be heard. i would go to parties and witness a wack mC that kinda stopped my dance with some girl because they were so terrible on the mic. i was trying to get my dance on and females would look at me wondering why i didn’t want to dance. i didn’t want that person up there making noise to mess the party up. i picked up the mic basically to sit wack mC’s down. “Yo! Bum Rush The Show” dropped the same year I was born. Did you ever envisage you’d be doing this 25 years later? when i decided to do it, i decided to do it; to be the rolling stones of rap. before we said we would sign and record with Def Jam, i had to sit back and say “well damn, what am i going to do about it?” i decided that back then that it was going to happen. i think it’s because we knew who we were and who we were not. we were very focused on what was actually happening in black music and hip hop and very focused on clearing what was on our chest.
“Hip Hop is my military i’m Here to provide service and clarity”
“you’ve got to respect tHe amount of time tHat people put in to liking tHis sHit; you can’t just bullsHit tHem.” Early on, you became a renowned spokesperson for black communities and a conscious voice. How important is it to you that you come with a message? you’ve got to understand where you come from and i’m from a community where it’s very important to know who you are. that’s our survival so you’ve got to salute that first. then you salute that our past has always been about surviving in a system that always kept us outside so your message to all is this system is an attack on the human race. we were knocking on the doors of everybody being accepted as truly an equal and that’s the bottom line. so the story and songs remain the same; they talk that equality must take place, be it colours; which is a crazy, stupid game played by governments and systems of the fallacy of racism and then, the rich and the poor. surprisingly enough, that’s highlighted by culture; the idea to separate the rich and the poor and to strive to be on the richer side. what kind of shit is that?! You’ve suffered mainstream suppression as well as success, how did these issues affect you? we came as a self-contained unit and we always loved black music and hip hop. the mainstream never really accepted us but they had to take us in. we were powerful as a performing act. although we were totally different, they needed something that we had, something they couldn’t prevent people from wanting at the time. we never really cared about social acceptance. You’ve recently been named amongst renowned humanitarians and social activists in Michelle Bollinger’s book, “101 Gamechangers”. How much to you feel you stand up to that title? i consider myself very early on to be a gamechanger; i saw a game that needed to be changed. whether a gamechanger in the world and life; i don’t know if we deserve such lofty plaudits. i haven’t done anything by myself, i’ve always done it with a team and that’s been very important. so i can speak for hip hop as far as being a gamechanger but in the world, that’s debateable. What do you think of the current state of Hip Hop? i don’t think a lot of artists really say what they truly believe. i think they want to spit whatever keeps them in business. whenever you’re doing something like that, it always has diminishing returns. you should spit what you really believe and just say “well fuck it, i’m doing this”. there are artists out there that are spitting on the way to the bus so they should always have that sort of attitude. when you start doing it as a trade or a craft you should take care of it but not chase it to the point where you’re not yourself. i think the current state of hip hop is corporate based where it doesn’t have accountability and responsibility to where the music comes from. that’s a problem; you’ve got to address that.
You released two full-length albums this in the space of a few months earlier this year. What were the thought patterns behind “Most Of My Heroes Don’t Appear On No Stamp” and “The Evil Empire Of Everything”? there were themes that i’ve seen and wanted to answer directly, which i think i did on “most of my heroes…” then there were things from a more inner perspective that i kind of addressed on “the evil empire of everything”; it was more personal. i think people are deceived by all these things they think they have to have in order to exist in this life. not just the average human being but especially the young. they say the young can’t breathe because they have the world coming at them. i think we only have so much time in order to make our young people socially literate enough to handle all the hype and bullshit when they’re on their own. that’s what it’s about; the albums talk to each other because they speak from the outer and inner perspectives. Imagery in your artwork suggests you feel as people we’ve regressed. How do you feel that affects the progression we are trying to make? we’ve regressed because we are not together. the
whole quest for equality through material means; the ‘american way’. we think that money is the thing that defines it. in the past, we were broke but not broken. now, we’re broke and broken. if you look on the tv, culture makes it seem that we need these things; it’s increased diversity. it’s a lie. the wake-up call has to go through culture because it won’t just go through the medium. once the medium comes in to erase or redefine the culture, you have propaganda all over again… So Hip Hop became your voice for the voiceless? that’s my duty, i’m a service man. hip hop is my military - i’m here to provide service and clarity. “Harder Than You Think” became somewhat the unofficial anthem of this year’s Paralympic games. How aware were you of this at the time? i was in london in July; i knew what was happening. it only happened because the music director for Channel 4 decided to use a song of ours, one that we actually released five years ago. it’s always been one of our favourite records to perform and they decided to put it as the theme for the ‘superhumans’. that’s the only reason; not because radio thought it was hot. we always thought it was
“i picked up tHe mic basically to sit wack mc’s down” a powerful record that ranks alongside our early material but when it re-emerged, the fact that it didn’t go through the normal channels, it had the tv execs like “what the fuck?!” they wanted that record to disappear because they didn’t have a guy promote it to the radio stations, they didn’t have the video on telly; it just came through because it’s on the commercial and they couldn’t stop it. what we’ve always stood for is the independent stature of artists; to be able to say what they believe, do what they believe in and the truth will come. Is that the premise behind your radio show, “AndYouDon’tStop!”? my radio show is very much a prized joy of mine because there is nothing in the us that pays homage to international mCs. there’s so much hip
hop around the world that’s saying so many things and it’s a crime that these artists around the world can’t visit the united states and do their music as far as a continuum. they have to be accepted by the powers that be in order to come into the united states. take Drake; most americans are so stupid that they don’t even realise Canada is an international country! america really is the belly of the beast as far as information needed for people to become worldwide citizens. People say to me “are you an american?” and i’m like “nah, i’m an earthizen”. So you’re talking about playing artists outside of that stereotypical frame? the local artists mean a lot to me. bristol has had mCs since the ‘80s but because they’re seen to be
from somewhere else, they couldn’t get a record deal in london where the record companies are. the labels will lazily just look around london or wait until something hits them and that’s just the wrong way to go about music. you’ve got to recruit. when ahmet ertegün and Jerry wexler were at atlantic, they would go deep into the bowels of louisiana and find a ‘Professor longhair’; they would go out and recruit music from different areas. it started to re-happen around the 90’s but they still didn’t do it hard enough. if it was just la or new york, all of the players from la and new york would get some burn and no-one else counts. the best could come from anywhere and i think that’s the same way that it should have always been in hip hop.
You’ve said you need to experience a PE live performance to really appreciate it. What’s the key to a good stage show? if you’ve paid so much to see people perform, they should give you all that they have. the whole thing now with a lot of artists is it’s just the fact of being there; if they showed up that’s fucking more than half the battle. you can’t copy what other people are doing. that’s what’s hurt hip hop, going back to your earlier question; individualism. the one man producer and the one man artist. if you go to check a crew of 3 or 4 people, you can’t focus on just one person. everybody feels in their mind that they can sing as good as the singer, or rap as good as the rapper on stage so you’ve got to give them something more. when i think back to hip hop in the 80s, i would look at groups like rock steady Crew and think, “how the fuck are they doing that?” i still don’t understand to this day, which is a good thing! you’ve got to leave them thinking “how the fuck did they do that shit?!” i don’t want to be a magician, i just want to be and leave people awe-struck. a lot of the time with hip hop, mCs want to make it dumbed down, young it down so much that they’ve taken the awe out of it and the awe has to come from them just showing up. younger audiences expect less. the support acts were better but the audience are trained not to look at the local acts as important. they’re trained not to look at the effort as anything; they’re only trained to think “oh, i’ve seen him on tv; they had this shit going on so therefore, i’ll take anything”. Having played Freeze last night, do you prefer the arenas or the more intimate venues like tonight? they’re like talkies and silent movies; two different types but you’ve got to learn to enjoy both. a lot of the new mainstream artists play big enough places that they can use tricks like explosions and play to the masses of people there. People get lost in the spectacle but then when you come to a place like this, you’ve got to think “ok, no more games!” you’ve got a lot of people who’ve seen a lot of shit over the past 25 years. you’ve got to respect the craft. you’ve got to respect the audience and the people. you’ve got to respect the amount of time that people put in to liking this shit; you can’t just bullshit them. that’s one thing we always try to get across; don’t bullshit the crowd man, move the crowd.
Scissor: Jeepers creepers. Baxter: What are you doing? Is it going? Scissor: It’s going, like the pissing weather. Baxter: All right then, right … Hi Tom. Scissor: Yo, what’s up. [Laughter] Baxter: Not a lot man, what you been doing? Scissor: Ermm, well, today I’ve been going through a whole heap of old belongings and reminiscing on past days, what have you been doing? Baxter: Ermm [lengthy pause] I brought and ate a salad… Scissor: A good one? Baxter: Yeah it was peng. So you’ve been going through all of your nu-metal shit right? Scissor: Metallica is not nu-metal, Metallica is heavy metal. Baxter: Old metal then. Scissor: Yeah, old metal. Old rusty metal CDs and garms. The best kind. I’ve just been going through loads of old shit that I recently picked up, which I was a bit uncertain of but it was actually quite a cathartic experience, I enjoyed it. Baxter: Hmm… Scissor: Loads of old versus, which I rapped to myself loudly and angrily… Baxter: Yeah I love stumbling across the old bars man. Scissor: Some of them are pretty dope you know. Baxter: The old bars…yeah, I’ve stumbled across bars from when I was sixteen or seventeen and they’re the ones. Sometimes you spot a good bar in amongst the filth. Scissor: I found loads of old flyers and posters as well that was quite cool... Baxter: Cooooooool. Scissor: Stuck them on Instagram, you know… Baxter: So what’s been going on since we last spoke in print form? Scissor: What do you mean? Baxter: You know since we last done the chat, the magazine chat. Scissor: Oh, well you know I’ve just been doing a lot of weights and getting hench basically. I’ve been skipping as regularly as possible to an Aaliyah soundtrack, and you know, releasing albums and shit. Baxter: So just some straight fitness shit? Scissor: Nah not straight fitness. You know we like to get fucked up! [Laughter] Yeah I put a record out, that was cool. It got some love and I’m currently running thirteenth in the best album of 2012 wordplay magazine reader’s poll. Baxter: Yeah, well I think that poll is just going to end up as the winner of who can beg votes on Facebook the best. Scissor: Yeah… Baxter: I mean that’s cool, that’s a skill in itself. Scissor: Yeah it’s a craft… Baxter: Mmm Scissor: A good workman never blames his social networking skills. [Laughter] Baxter: We better talk about that record then. I wanna finish this water so I can drink that wine. Can I pour it in there? Scissor: Like Jesus or something. I wanna finish this water so I can drink this wine. Amen. Baxter: Yeah, that’s some life slogan right there. So this album, yeah it took you like ten years or some shit? Scissor: Yeah ten years of my life baby and I’m only 12 years old so that’s some serious shit. Baxter: So good you had to record it twice. Scissor: Yeah, that’s true it definitely had to happen. To be fair the first set of recordings were fucking shit so I’m happy with the double take. Baxter: I heard them on Sammy’s laptop when we were squatting in an old church in France for a
night, they sounded pretty gang then. Scissor: I wasn’t feeling them, I don’t know what went wrong at the time I think I was trying to achieve something that was ultimately unachievable, so I’m happy that they got deleted by Sammy B-Side. Thanks Sammy B-Side. Baxter: Did you change any of the bars or anything? Scissor: Nah I didn’t change any, well I changed like two or three bars but only because they didn’t fit as good as the new ones did, but nah I think I was going for a different sort of flavour first time
if you’re a reviewer or just a kid on road. I haven’t heard a bad word and I’m waiting for one, where the haters at? Baxter: They’re all over Youtube man. Scissor: Oh yeah there are some actually. Baxter: You can just find some. I have seen them. Scissor: You can’t take Youtube comments to heart, you just can’t listen to them shits. I Mean I know it’s you on some phantom account hating. I sees ya. Baxter: Yeah I mean, you know someone’s gotta get their hate on.
When Baxt round and the second take was just a bit more ‘let’s fucking get this fucking done’, don’t try and pervert the course of justice, just rap the words good. So I did and it came out a lot nicer. Much more wholesome and honest I think. Baxter: So what’s it been like since ‘BETTER. LUCK.NEXT.LIFE’ dropped? Has everything changed? Is the World a different place? Scissor: Everything changes but you. The response has been dope I’m very happy with the way its been received. Lamplighter the music man is happy too. Thank you everyone for your kind words,
Scissor: Yeah the hate one’s are quite fun to read, but with a ludicrously chunky pinch of salt of course. The response has been great from anywhere you would care to listen. It’s been resounding. It’s been great and I’m very happy. Baxter: Heavy… so I guess because it’s New Years Eve, people normally chat about next year and shit. What’s the plan for Scissortongue? Scissor: Next year’s going to be the best year of my entire life. We’re going to spend the best part swimming lengths in the pool, busting lead weights until our arms don’t fucking work. We’re
also gonna go New Bond Street regularly to hunt for shiny suits and we’re gonna record and release a couple banging albums! No question about it… [Laughter] Baxter: Yeah ‘cos you and I are already half way through one right now. Scissor: Yeah I mean our one will drop first. Baxter and Scissor soon come and we’ve been chatting more with film makers and stuff about videos and they’re unwillingness to drop their budget by a couple thousand quid [Baxter burps]. We’re working on the Laminated Cakes ‘future pop’ project
way right now. Shoulder pads and all that. Scissor: Big fan of that Drive soundtrack. You know. [Laughter] Scissor: Yeah got a couple new beats which give it that trombone swerve and erm I dunno man I think when I listen back to the rap bars I have written in my mind they sound like they’re going to make a tidy collection of songs that will follow up ‘BETTER.LUCK.NEXT.LIFE’ nicely. Baxter: Okay, so if ‘BETTER.LUCK.NEXT. LIFE’ was all about life and death, is this next
Scissor: I’m still working on my second six-pack. [Laughter] Baxter: That’s what people should do man, they should just make albums that act as the soundtrack to one particular activity, corner the market. Joggers, weightlifters, archers, swimmers will just have some shit to listen to specifically for their activity when their doing their thing. Scissor: When they’re on the podium, collecting that medal. [Laughter] Baxter: Music to collect medals too. That’s the
ter Met SciSSor
PHOTOgrAPHY BY ANIS ALI WOrDS BY JAMES MONrO
with ghosttown, who if don’t know already is there with the best around. He’s stamping on Timberland’s Timberlands in my humble opinion and bar a couple extra songs and a crew name our record is just about there. I quite like the name ‘Dead Swamp’ but Sammy’s hating. I’m also knee deep, I mean groin deep in my new solo album which is going to be fucking hot! It’s just taken on a slight eighties swerve recently, so watch out for that at some point in the future. Even though it is from the past… Baxter: Yeah the eighties is coming back in a big
shit all about weightlifting and protein shakes? Have you not got the feeling to just make a fitness album? That people can just pump iron too? Scissor: I am in talks with Davina McCall and geri Halliwell about potential DVD yoga collaborations… Baxter: Is that the one with the big inflatable ball? Where you stretch around it and shit? Scissor: Yeah that’s definitely a piece of kit you can use if you’re a faggot. We just lift potent lead. Baxter: Yeah ‘cos I’m still working on my second yoga album. It’s called ‘Bikram - A How To’.
one. Scissor: Might just call it ‘gold’. [Laughter] Baxter: Always believe in your soul. Scissor: Or and do like… Baxter: That’s some 80’s shit. Scissor: That’s what I’m saying... Baxter: Homage to Spandau. Scissor: My first record was received great and I’m very happy about that, as I’ve already said the second one is gonna be worth a listen. Or two. it’s exciting. I think. I think it’s very exciting, no >
[Laughter] I mean shit they do it in the cinema so why can’t we fucking do it in a warehouse in Hackney Wick? Baxter: That means that every time someone just flings it on at a youtube cotch when everyone’s fucked up they’ll have to whack on the 3D specs to appreciate that shit. Scissor: Well you know… Baxter: Do you think you could command that power? From a digital distance? Scissor: Erm, yes, yes I do. [Laughter] features as of yet apart from that beat I sent you the other day which you seemed to be moderately interested in. Baxter: Shit yeah! [Burp] Scissor: So we might get Jam Baxter on the thing and might also get Dirty Dike on the thing if he’s not too busy watching Old Fools And Horses reruns on Dave. And yeah, if we can fit it into the curriculum then Mr. Key and Bosh man will spit a bar. Don’t really know who else can we get on there? Maybe get A$AP rocky on there for a sixteen. Fuck knows. Baxter: That shit sounds gang. Scissor: How’s the red wine? Baxter: Erm…yeah I mean it’s alright, it’s not some two for a fiver shit and it’s not some like super mega Bordeaux, but it’s sippable. Scissor: Super mega Bordeaux, that’s… Baxter: That’s an SMB right there. Scissor: Yeah word up. Baxter: Erm… cool well I’m guessing like your gonna bully me into recording that shit at some point this year. Scissor: What recording? Baxter: Your second solo thing.
Scissor: Might do. That’s just gonna be the dope shit right. I’m sure of that. I’m very sure of it. Because if you don’t believe in what you do then what do you believe in? [Laughter] Baxter: Deep. That’s a deep one. Scissor: If you don’t believe in what you do then what’s the point in doing the thing? Baxter: Talking those truth nuggets right there. Scissor: It’s 2013. Believe. [Laughter] Baxter: So what’s the next level? I mean we’ve already done some good stuff you know? We’ve played to packed out rooms of a moderate size you know, sometimes people come up to us and spud us and shit and then like occasionally you get a nicely worded email telling you that you’ve done some good shit but I mean like what’s the next levs? Scissor: I tell you what the next level is. Action figurines is the next level. I’m in talks with my friend Kushty about mocking up an Edward Scissortongue action figurine with opposable mic hand and weight grip arm. That would be gang and also I was thinking just yesterday over a nice bag of crisps about UK hip hop’s first ever 3D video.
Baxter: You reckon that everyone’s just gonna carry their 3D specs with them at all times, just incase someone sticks on that banging new Ed Scissortongue record with the 3D video? Scissor: Well that’s what the 3D specs are for Jake. Baxter: Yeah… well I guess the critics might love that shit. Mark Kermode will give you a nice little write up maybe. Scissor: It might even make his ‘Top 10 Films of 2013’ even though it’s a UK hip hop rap video. [Laughter] Baxter: Yeah, well you know, he’s a pretentious guy so he might include it just to mix things up. Scissor: He’s my favourite kind of guy - pretentious as fuck but people listen to him. [Laughter] Much like myself. Baxter: Yeah I’ve been looking to get my pretentious game up recently. I haven’t sneered at enough shit. I’ve been a bit too welcoming of late. I think I need to be more mildly dismissive but yeah I think that’s one of my hopes and dreams of 2013, to be a bit more of a pretentious cunt. Scissor: Hating is the future. Baxter: Yeah. If loving is the past then hating is the future. Believe.
Scissor: And… contemplative mediocrity is the present. Baxter: Yeah. Scissor: It is though isn’t it? I mean I feel very like that. [Laughter] Baxter: What Contemplati-ti-ti-tive? Scissor: Contemplative! And mediocre…but that’s another story and another tale for another stupid discussion about stupid shit. Baxter: Shit, it’s getting all emo up in here. Back to the music Tom, back to the music.
Scissor: It’s simple. I want to put out some projects with some great producers and I’d very much like to work with some great producers, but it’s tricky when you’ve already worked with the best producer you know? Baxter: Lamplighter? Scissor: Word. That guy is the torch bearer. I wouldn’t change working with him on ‘BETTER. LUCK.NEXT.LIFE’ for nothing. It’s just, what do I do now? I can’t put him through that all over again. I am a fucking nightmare. The longest nightmare. We will definitely do some more stuff together in the future, but there is no denying that his music deserves to stand alone without my wild ramblings polluting the shiny surface. Baxter: And what about Contact Play? Scissor: I mean shit, I am obviously keen on doing my bit towards smashing out Contact play’s new album. I back that, that’s something we should probably do I think. Baxter: Yeah, I mean we tried to do that but we didn’t really try that hard did we? We went to a place to write some tunes but I mean, I think it’s a case of doing it rather than thinking about it. Scissor: It’s quite tricky writing rap songs when you have the temptation of golden beaches down
the road and hard liquor to drink and street kittens to stroke on the stoop. You know, I think we need to go somewhere which is fucking crap for a couple weeks, we need to go to Hull for two weeks with just refill pads and pencils and then just write that shit. Maybe one laptop which Sammy can press play and then we can write a record. We can call it the grey album. It will be killer. What is stopping us? Baxter: The grey Album? Scissor: You know ‘cos Hull’s quite grey. Baxter: Yeah. Scissor: Not trying to isolate or alienate or piss off anyone out there. Big up Hull, know what I’m saying. Hull’s all right. I’ve been there. In my dreams. [Laughter] Baxter: Sick. So I guess that’s the short term plan and shit, but I mean, do you reckon you’re gonna be doing this shit when you’re sixty years old? What kind of old man are you going to be? Scissor: I mean, as I see it, rap music is just a stepping stone for me. Movies is really where I see myself… [Laughter] Look, I’ll be making rap music until it can’t be made anymore because you know I’ve got
the stuff I’ve written for Laminated cakes as well was a part of that post album wave and then the creative juices just dried up, they literally fucked off. I’m not even joking, I had nothing in the tank to draw for. I felt like a corpse. Baxter: Par. Scissor: But, in contrast, the best thing about the game is when the creative juices start flowing again. Trust me, it definitely happens. They do return. This only happened around three weeks ago, when I was walking through the park talking to you on the phone remember? Baxter: Yeah. demanding kids in the courtyard asking me to take them to Mount Splashmore or something, but yeah I’ll continue to make rap songs, so long as it’s fun to do so. It’s very fun at the minute so we’ll keep doing those live shows ‘cos they cool, and we’ll like keep pushing that High Focus records imprint to the stars. Maybe we’ll record a post rock record at some stage, just me playing a 12-string acoustic guitar with my toes, who knows? It’s definitely gonna be a full-throttle, fulltime, 110%, none of that part time shit that kept me so fucking lackadaisical for the best part of ten years. 2013 is the year for cook books, ballet workshops, work-out DVDs, everything… Baxter: Fully, I’m just looking to do everything, divide some opinion. I’m seriously looking to divide some opinion in 2013. Scissor: Fracture it... Baxter: Into tiny bits. Scissor: rappers are scared of doing cool shit and I’m just a fan of cool shit, I’m a fan of nice jumpers and cool shit. In all honesty it’s incredibly insignificant that today is the last day of 2012 and tomorrow is the first day of 2013, but if your gonna fucking look at it like that it does pose some form of interested formulaic potential. Lets start
this new year on the front foot like Linford Christie and crack on with some cool shit and that gives us twelve months to actually make some ludicrously obscure concept albums. I’m looking to branch out and get at least 45 people interested in each song and each album might be three songs long, so you do the maths. Baxter: Erm 135? Scissor: That’s the takeover right there. Make it rain. Baxter: So like, last time we sat down for Wordplay you asked me what I felt the worst thing about this rap shit was, and I couldn’t come up with anything. So you have a go… Scissor: The worst thing about this shit is when you lose the will to write. There is nothing more frustrating. Baxter: Yeah that’s a good one… Scissor: The very reason it is the worst thing is because there are certain times when it’s incredibly easy to write, when your creative juices are flow ing and what not, so the bars come flying out of your face like puke. Baxter: Yeah. Scissor: Post ‘BETTER.LUCK.NEXT.LIFE’ it got to a point where I had extinguished all my shit, all
Scissor: Because that’s what man does. romantic phone calls in the park and all that. Anyway, the inspiration just came back like god had flicked a switch on his massive switchboard in the sky. It came back and I’ve been writing fresh stuff since. Some shit’s gone down. Baxter: So the worst thing about it is being out of the game and the best thing about it is being in the game? Scissor: Yeah. Baxter: I guess it’s linked into the process ‘cos I remember when you were popping pharmaceuticals and running around town doing all sorts of weird shit, you used to cream off a sixteen bar on the train between Homerton and Highbury and just like smash out a twenty-four on the way to the shops written on the back of a napkin or some shit. But yeah, I always just sit down like in the same spot and write the tunes doing the very same thing. But you were very much like, you could just sit down and do that shit anywhere. Scissor: Each to their own Baxter. This making music thing isn’t as easy as people think it is. It’s definitely not fun and glamorous the whole time. It can be a proper little shit. You know its like you do have to kind of go to hell and back sometimes
Scissor: Cool. Baxter: Fight or flight? Scissor: Flight. Baxter: Nature or nurture? Scissor: Nurture. Baxter: Erm… Killing or maiming? Scissor: Killing. Baxter: Err… Pounding or slicing? Scissor: That’s number wang! Slicing. Baxter: Okay… Knives or guns? Scissor: Knives with silencers on. Baxter: Bitches or money? Scissor: Money. Baxter: Erm… Would you rather lose your hands or your feet? Scissor: Shit, that’s tricky. Without my hands I couldn’t kneed a nice peshwari naan breads into exotic shapes and without my feet I couldn’t rip those left footed curlers into the top corner. Can I have my left foot and my right hand? No, my left hand and left foot. No, that would just be a bit odd. Left foot, right hand is that cool? Baxter: That’s kind of cheating but… Scissor: It’s Christmas… Baxter: I’m just making the rules up. [Laughter]
Baxter: Merry Christmas. Scissor: Ask me another question then we’re done. Baxter: Erm… Erm… Scissor: Drizzy or Lil Wayne? Baxter: Erm… It has to be a question that you can say some shit about. [Laughter] Scissor: Mate that’s a good question, I could say a whole heap of shit about that. Baxter: Erm… There’s pressure now isn’t there? Scissor: Should we just leave it there Jake? Baxter: No. [Laugter] Baxter: Erm… Yeah!... No? Last words and shit… Scissor: Sending my big ups too Dad, Mum, Spastic Max, Lamplighter. All the gang. Yeah watch out. _
EDWARD SCISSORTONGUE’S DeBUt SoLo aLBUM ‘BETTER.LUCK.NEXT.LIFE’ IS OUT NOW ON HIGH FOCUS RECORDS. to write what you really want to write on a fucking piece of paper. It doesn’t just come out like a giggle, and come to think of it, the other worst thing which is actually like my other worst worst thing is trying to say everything I want to say within a space of time and having to delete good stuff, because there’s not enough time to say all of them. Baxter: Yeah that sucks. I hate that. Scissor: Fully. Baxter: Look, let’s wrap this up. I got a coach to catch.
MATIC HORNS Interview by Alex Burnard. Photography by Nick Caro.
ENRY “BUTTONS” TENYUE IS A INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED SESSION MUSICIAN AND SOLO ARTIST WHO HAS BEEN IN THE REGGAE BUSINESS FOR OVER THIRTY YEARS. YOU MAY NOT BE IMMEDIATELY FAMILIAR WITH HIS NAME BUT EVEN IF YOU HAVE HAD ONLY A PASSING INTEREST IN REGGAE YOU WILL HAVE HEARD HIS DISTINCTIVE SOUND ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS WITHOUT REALIZING IT. Recording and performing under the moniker Matic Horns, Buttons is, as the name suggests a brass player. Equally at home on the trumpet, flugel-horn or saxophone, it’s for his virtuoso skill on the trombone for which he is most recognised. Starting out professionally at the age of 18 touring with UK reggae band Matumbi on their European tour supporting Peter Tosh, he has since played for and sessioned with some of reggae’s biggest stars, including Sugar Minott, Johnny Clarke, Alton Ellis, Aswad , Linton Kwesi Johnson, UB40 and Horace Andy to name just a few.
trombone players now to play like ME when doing reggae tunes! YOU MUST UNDERSTAND HOW TO MAKE A CROWD MOVE THROUGH THE POWER OF YOUR MUSIC. HT- Of course! I have had the added advantage of working with many different artists over the years. People like Horace Andy and Johnny Clarke and all of them, my life has been on stage which means I have seen what people’s reactions are to certain sounds. Sometimes now when the artist’s band do a warm up before the artist comes on, the band play one of my tunes to get the crowd moving. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN GOING NOW? HT- About 34 years. Showing my age now, but I look like a youth! (laughs). This is what it is, it’s about enjoyment, if I didn’t enjoy it, I’d go and be an architect or something like that. I was studying engineering and joinery when I was young. I was going to be a draughtsman. DO YOU MAKE THINGS IN YOUR SPARE
WORDPLAY caught up with Buttons before a gig in East London last month, performing alongside Jamaican producer Niney The Observer and the UK’s Mafia & Fluxy. WE OPENED BY ASKING HIM WHERE IT ALL STARTED...
HT- I always love the trombone when I was young because my Father used to go to Jamaica and come back to England with records like the Skatalites and Don Drummond because we were playing brass in the church. I used to love listening to Don Drummond, he was my original inspiration. YOU’VE BEEN COMPARED TO DON DRUMMOND AND OTHER GREAT REGGAE HORNSMEN IN THE PAST, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT COMPARISON? HT- Those are the man that I listened to. Maybe because I wanted to take it a step further, maybe people like the way I solo but when I do my thing I try and be myself, which is a very hard thing to do in any business, to be yourself. Usually if you are yourself you can’t come through, but I am one of the few, one of the lucky ones. I remember when I started out playing people used to say I can I play like Rico Rodriguez or can I play like Vin Gordon. They don’t say that to me no more. They tell all the
THAT’S THE THING ABOUT THE TROMBONE THOUGH ISN’T IT? YOU HAVE TO FEEL THE MUSIC BECAUSE THERE ARE NO VALVES OR FRETS TO GUIDE YOU.. HT- Well that’s it. Of course! And when people see me perform, I don’t stand still when I play. In the beginning I used to do sound system when I was a teenager, and when I play music in that era of time it was about Rub-a-Dub, going to a dance and dancing with a girl in the dark (laughs) and rub it up you understand? When I play music, I play like I’m rubbing up inna dance!(laughs) DANCES HAVE CHANGED NOW HAVEN’T THEY? IT’S THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE TO RUBBING UP.. HT- They don’t do it like that nowadays. Nowadays boys and girls dance apart. It’s not like the old days where everybody used to lock in. So when people talk about Rub –a -Dub, that’s what they’re talking about. When you see the guy doing those movements on a girl inna dance to that bass line, that’s why the bass line got so popular in reggae because you’re dancing with a girl and the bass is just rumbling. SO IF YOU WANTED TO GET A GIRL IN THEM DAYS YOU WOULD GO TO A DANCE?
HENRY- Well my Grandmother was a musician. In Jamaica she used to play what’s like an accordion, they call it a Flutey. I think that’s where I got my musical side from. WHEN DID YOU FIRST PICK UP A TROMBONE?
be listening to other tune and then it comes to me, or when I go to the studio I am pretty quick on finding melodies, especially if I like the rhythm, if the rhythm sound good usually I find a melody quicker. Sometimes it amazes people “How did you know to find that melody?”.
TIME THEN? HT- No no, but I’ve got an allotment and I like fine wines as well, so I do have different hobbies because I find those different hobbies take me away from the music into somewhere different. For example when I’m on the allotment and I meet all these people who have been doing totally different things, some of them haven’t got a clue what I do they just see me as a gardener, you know what I mean, planting vegetables, and we just talk about vegetables. But for me, that is a nice vibe. What I’m actually doing on the allotment is recharging my brain for when I come back to the music. I might be talking to someone on the allotment and they might give me an inspiration about something and I will maybe use it in the music to the feel of what I do. So to me these hobbies add a flavour. Any kind of artists whether you’re a writer, painter or whatever you try and put your life experiences into it, so sometimes I’m Joe Regular and sometimes I’m Joe Dub! (laughs). HOW DO MELODIES COME TO YOU? HT- Melodies come to me anytime, like I can
HT- Anybody wants to get a girl they go to a dance! At a reggae ting it was just more intimate, ya know? You’d leave a dance sweating. It’s like having friendly simulated sex for four minutes and then parting and being like “Thank you!” (laughs) But that’s how it was, when you got a girl you really like to dance with you used to stick with them. AS WELL AS YOUR SESSION WORK YOU’VE ALSO RELEASED SOLO ALBUMS WHICH NOT MANY SESSION MUSICIANS DO. DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF AS A RECORDING ARTIST IN YOUR OWN RIGHT? HT- Quite a few do, but a lot of the albums don’t get noticed because for one thing, a lot of musicians, because they’re musicians and they’ve learnt to play other instruments, this is what I find personally, they’ll make an album but they’re doing most of the stuff on it and so it comes out how they want it, but that usually it means it comes out the same because they have no added input, which is why I like to do things in collaboration. Like for instance I have a CD out with Gussie P, and I’m doing a new album for next year that’s going to be released with Mafia & Fluxy. Mafia & Fluxy have done the riddim, and I’ve just come in (cont’..)
(Cont’ from over..) and put my horns over it. It’s all about collaboration. We’re calling it “Spanish Town Rock”. Although we were born in England we have an affiliation to Spanish Town because that’s where a lot of our family live. YOUR SOLO ALBUM “INCREASE THE PEACE” IS AN INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM OF HORNS CUTS ON MAINLY RIDDIMS PRODUCED BY THE LEGENDARY BUNNY “STRIKER” LEE. HOW DID THAT PROJECT COME ABOUT? HT- My friend Mike Brooks, he had these rhythms but we went to Bunny Lee himself and asked him for permission, even though Mike said to me “yeah you can play on these tunes”. I wanted to go to Bunny Lee personally, Striker, so I did and he said Yes. When I finished the album and gave it to him he liked it so much he actually came with me and we did interviews together on the radio promoting it. He gave it his blessing. Earlier this year I was nominated for an award in America out of the blue at the International Reggae Music Awards, it’s a big award in Chicago that happens every year. They had me in the category of best musician with Sly & Robbie, Dean Fraser, for a musician who is from England, which is unheard of! It was a BIG honour. We have got great musicians here who have had awards, people like Mafia & Fluxy but even them, they’ve never been put in a category with such prestigious musicians.
WHO ARE YOU WORKING WITH AT THE MOMENT? HT- I’m working with a youth in France at the moment. I heard some of his stuff on the internet and I liked his tunes so I said “hey, I wanna blow on them” so I blew on them and sent it back to him and he loves it! So he’s sending tunes to me now. I like his style. He’s like the up and coming of the dub producers and he’s only 18! He goes to college but he does serious dubs and I like the way he’s done it; it’s digital, obviously, because it’s kids innit, but his way of doing it, it sounds a bit more organic than all the other digital dub stuff. And when I put my stuff on it, it gets more organic. ANOTHER ALBUM ON THE CARDS SOON THEN? HT- I’ve been talking with people like Niney the Observer, he’s got a great back catalogue, and there’s a guy called Black Beard in Jamaica who says I can go in and pick any tune I want so there’s a few people.. IS THAT THE WAY FORWARD THEN? APPROACHING PRODUCERS WITH HUGE BACK CATALOGUES THAT YOU GIVE A NEW LEASE OF LIFE? HT- Well, it’s my way forward. People are not really doing things on their own music. You get people like Bitty McLean who done things on
Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle songs and the Studio One stuff yuh know. I’m trying to come a bit further forward now, to the late 70’s and early 80’s stuff. IT’S ALL THERE TO BE USED WITH THE BLESSING OF THE PRODUCER I GUESS.. HT- Well, that’s right. That’s the only way I would do it, I wouldn’t do it any other way. Just like with my new stuff. I’m a busy man! >>MATIC HORNS will be touring Europe in March/April with Horace Andy & Johnny Clarke and The Dub Asante Band. >>Look out for a new MATIC HORNS 10 inch released in January titled “SURVIVORS” produced by french producer IRON DUBZ, and an album release in March called “SPANISH TOWN ROCK” produced by MAFIA & FLUXY. MATIC HORNS albums currently include:“MUSICAL STORM “on Gussie P’s Sip -a -Cup imprint, and “INCREASE THE PEACE” on Coptic Lion label.
Wax On Whack Off
knowledge iS power : reAding in it’S originAl form
words by bozak PhotograPhy by anis ali
the hip hop BoArd Book
this is by far the best item posted to our studio! ok it’s for toddlers but its dope! full of fresh illustrations accompanied by one word per page, City, sUbway, rhyME, danCE. get this for your son, daughter, niece, nephew, actually get it for yourself! Here: www.dokument.org
The other day I was doing my daily bimble around town and I chanced upon a junk shop I had never noticed before, with peeling paint and cracked windows it looked as foreboding as it did enticing. I pushed the door, then kicked the bottom right corner as it was stuck, it flew open, the Victorian brass bell jangling wildly in the darkness. I fumbled for a lightswitch, knocking over a vase in the process, a second later the light flickered on courtesy of a withered old man who was barely containing his rage ‘yes, what do you want?’ he barked in an upperclass voice heavy with malice, ‘err, sorry about your vase mate, just wondered if you have any records?’ I reply. ‘Yes, yes in the backroom, just try not to break anything else, PLEASE’ he said with a scornful glare. I made my way tentatively to the rear of the shop, and there in the semi darkness I saw them, carrycases atop milkcrates betwixt shelves to the ceiling, head high stacks teetering on the verge of collapse. ‘GANG!’ I thought as I surveyed the thousands of albums and 45s before me, I grabbed a handful from the closest shelf, hmmm, Tudor Lodge, Granny, Mellow Candle, Montgomery Express, Billy Wooten- all sealed, all mine. ‘how much are the records mate?’ I inquire, ‘10p each or 15 for a pound’ comes the faint reply from the next room. 5hours and 7,000 records later I think to myself ‘ better call a cab’ , I’ve got a pile of about 1,200, including triples of every Vertigo swirl, Strata East promos, 5 copies of The Beatles infamous ‘butcher’ l.p, Velvet Undergound test presses, 100 deep funk acetates, just silly records basically. As I finish loading up the taxi and pay the old man he says with a smirk ‘next time would you be so kind as to put some clothes on?’, puzzled and not a little alarmed I look down and yes sure enough I’m bollock naked, ‘oh, its just a dream, had to be dint it? Cheers brain, I want words next time I see you, you absolute nause.’ Anyway heres a top ten of my recent finds from various charity shops and pound crates-
Gary WriGht- DreamWeaver; as sampled by 3rd
tavares-lOve stOrm; Fiddy used ‘Out of the
bass on ‘Words of wisdom’
picture’ on ‘Many men’.
AlAn Stivell- A l’olympiA; theres a heavy
uri Geller-s/t; ‘The day’ is the standout on
psychey beat on ‘Tha mi sgith’.
this is a book about graffiti before henry Chalfant had even thought about spraycan art. this covers the rise of the graffiti scene in the 1970’s and focuses in on the pioneers of the scene only. introduced by Phase2 and including many stories from blade, iz the wiz, taki 183 this really is a must have for any writer wanting to do the right thing and learn their history. Here: www.dokument.org
this, fast, dramatic with a strange spoken word narrative about nuclear war.
Waltel BrancO-meu BalancO; Gorgeous latin album, the whole thing is sublime.
canDi statOn-chance; ‘I live’ is a really nice 2step soul wailer.
huGO mOneneGrO-the GODfather; Nice drumbreak on ‘love theme’.
JAco pAStoriuS-S/t; ‘Come on, come over’ was used for ‘Rappers are in danger’ by krs one.
the isley BrOthers-GO fOr yOur Guns; ‘Foot-
steps in the dark’ was sampled by ice cube for ‘it was a good day’.
Guys n DOlls-the GOOD times; ‘Rescue me’ has
a nice bboy break.
Thats yer lot, go digging, NOW!
this book sees the adaptation of graffiti from the streets onto shirts in new york in the mid 1980’s, we’re talking Pink Panther with gold chains, Mickey Mouse in a Fila tracky, Casper with a gold grill and roger rabbit with a flat top! these attracted the biggest names back in the day including dJ red alert, ll Cool J, big daddy kane and Mike tyson and its all documented here with amazing photos. we can’t recommend this book enough! Here: www.dokument.org
Street Manors -
Winter/Spring 2013 PHOTOGRAPHY BY Luke COPPinG & kevin FOsTeR
Remi wears - Antique snapback - WesC red shirt - seventyseven Parka wax jacket
Alex wears - supremebeing sweat
Jake wears - WesC snapback - WesC earphones - Antique black sweat - kR3W jeans - Boots by supra // Alex wears - indcsn 5 panel - Dephect sweat
Alex wears seventyseven beanie - ThinkZebra â€˜stop Being shitâ€™ tee - seventyseven cheque shirt - WesC earphones and supra kicks
Remi wears - known snapback - ThinkZebra sweat - kR3W jeans - supra boots
Remi wears - Wesc fitted cap - WesC comfort denim shirt - WesC orange knitted sweater
Remi wears - Dephect snapback - WesC jacket - known tee - nixon camo watch - kR3W k slim Chinos
Alex wears - supremebeing code beanie - WesC Tracie hooded jacket - ThinkZebra ‘Bitches be crazy’ tee
Catherine wears - supremebeing Flakey Bakey beanie - indcsn ‘On The Loose’ hoodie
Jake wears - supra boots - Always apparel 5panel - WesC hooded jacket - known logo sweat - kR3W jeans
Catherine wears - indcsn 5panel - WesC earphones - WesC denim shirt - supra kicks and lays on WesC hooded Parker
Six Picks ThinkZebra sweaT
We’re not quite out of winter yet, and even when it does start to warm up we live in the UK remember?! Here’s a bunch of garms to keep you warm!
sevenTyseven sweaT - always apparel 5 panel
anTique shirT - sevenTyseven beanie
PhotograPhy by Kevin Foster
ThinkZebra varsiTy jackeT
supremebeing jackeT - known Tee
Fresh Produce -
NECESSary aCCESSoriES BY RIKKI JAMES
Wesc have continuously released a long and steady line of headphones that not only incorporate a crisp & precise sound but have a certain definitive style to them. You really cant beat these guys on a sultry piece of headkit. Most recently they teamed up with the Rza to help him release what can only be described as an audio inducing mini eargasm set of headphones what these babies may lack in slim line appeal make up for in sound quality, Honestly if you donâ€™t own a pair of Wesc headphones we strongly suggest you invest.
Its been a brisk, chilly few months it seem like Jack Frost has been determined to keep his icy grip firmly around shores, lucky for us we have been blessed with an exceedingly dope range of head warming attire to keep our ears a little more cozy. Whether you’re after a fitted style or the full on Hip-Hop beanie look, you’re guaranteed to find something for you amongst this lot.
There’s nothing worse then being caught short in a fucking snow storm if you haven’t got a decent set of kicks on your trotters, Supra have really pulled the stops out with their range of solid, durable yet attractive boots, these bad boys could see you through an apocalypse and still have enough tread to run cross country up mountain. Of course your going to need a change of feet once spring kicks so both Supreme Being & Supra have offered a nice alternative for both Females & Males.
Keeping things fresh we are offered a nice selection of printed T-Shirts from Always Apparel, Supreme & Antique Clothing, thereâ€™s nothing worse than an overstated graphic splayed over your chest, less is more these days and all involved parties have striven to push themselves both visually & in the quality department. Keep your eye out for these fast rising brands.
Nixon have always been at the forefront when it comes to distinguishable time pieces, all you have to do is browse their catalogue and you know this stylish brand have got there fingers on the pulse, then they go and do something incredible like team up with Paris retailers Colette on a unique version of their time teller piece and completely give va-va-voom a whole new meaning. This limited run of a 100 features a simple camouflaged Nato strap with a sexual matt black finish, this is probably the best treatment you could ever give your wrist.
An AssociAted Mind
IntervIew by Luke ‘Messenger Menace’ baILey (@ Menaceuk) PhotograPhy by Mayor @ assocIated MInds
Having recently exclusively heard super producer Metabeats upcoming opus, Caviar Crackle at Associated Minds Barnyard studio, I am hyped to inform you that the Barry mainstay is back on his bullshit! Assisted with an all-star featured cast (Action Bronson, Chuuwee, Quelle Chris, Dubbledge, Oddisee etc), Metabeats’ latest journey into sound is one that I can reveal as a sure-shot soon to be classic! Seemingly most comfortable when demonstrating that love of beauty is taste and the creation of beauty is art, Caviar Crackle’s taste refers to the past, while its imagination looks to the future and like its title and theme, thrives on catering the listener with a balanced diet of both sweet and rich sounds. Simply put; Caviar Crackle is delicious music attached with no expiration date. Focusing on its creation as well as the past, I sat down with the man himself for an insight and exploration into one of Hip Hop’s finest producers today! Eat this one up crew. It’s been 5 years since your debut Metaphysical and 2 years since your collaborative EP Sledgehammer Kisses with Mudmouth, both of which aren’t restricted to one specific ‘sound’ but rather explore your deep sonic range. However; with Caviar Crackle, what we get is 2 disciplines of those many ‘sounds’ fully realised and developed; the consistently smooth, sweet and often rich texture being Caviar and the Crackle serving as the basement and dirty flavour. Was there any conflict in the process of determining the flavour you wanted to present to people, versus your other projects prior to this? no, not at all. since Metaphysical a lot has changed musically myself included. From deejaying and digging you discover so much new material and styles of music, it’s hard for them not to rub off on you. the record is a testament to that and also that I feel like you should be able to make any kind of music you feel like. I prefer to hear something unusual and not so obvious. I’m sure a lot of people won’t expect some of the music that’s on there but that’s cool, I like that element of surprise. Categorising your production style is complicated, for the same reasons your prior releases are so commanding – the many sources of inspiration from which they admirably draw. Comparing Metaphysical to Caviar Crackle what would you say is the biggest change in your artistic evolution and creative approach? having the chance to step away from my more traditional sound when I was just chopping up
records all the time and delving more in to a lot more electronic music, new and old. working on the darkhouse Family stuff, which I still do to this day with don Leisure, which definitely has a touch of hip hop in there but swerves more towards electronic music and experimenting with different sounds. wetting the beak so to speak and where a lot of this music was not vocal based, I didn’t conform to fixed song arrangements and sequences. I could put things in places where you couldn’t necessarily on a rap record. that was something that made me look at things differently. With Metaphysical fans and critics alike were quick to label it as a classic and you putting Barry on the map as a producer. How aware are you of your own influence and did you strive in any way to evoke any influence on ‘the pack’ with Caviar Crackle? I guess so. More so because I think a lot of people in the hip-hop world don’t experiment enough with other sounds. that might sound odd as shit loads of genres are made to use hip-hop, but I find a lot of the end products still sound relatively conventional. I would say taste has a lot to play with it. It’s either for you or it isn’t. So out of the appeal of this album, engaging heads into dialogue or the appeal of influencing producers, what would ultimately mean most to you as both a man and artist? For it to get the recognition it deserves really, I mean a lot of time, consideration and hard work went in to the record and a lot of corners were
turned. as I’m the producer, I would want the music to stand out more than any other record I have done in the past. I’m very confident it will as things have come along in a big way over the last few years, as far as my knowledge, skills, visions are concerned. I think I’m growing up a lot musically and could definitely say I have a style I can call my own now. I guess it’s down to people to hear the record and see for themselves. I’m pretty sure that people will see a notable difference stylistically and sonically. One of the biggest changes in your evolution as a producer since Metaphysical is Caviar Crackle’s evident upgrade in its live instrumentation, particularly present on the Caviar moments on this album, some of which some would argue, are unlike your previous material geared towards women. Did you set out with the conscious decision to make an album that was part fornication and procreation esque? that’s just the older/maturer side coming out I guess. ha! hearing music from all walks of life and amalgamating them in to what I get high off. whether it’s hip-hop/Jazz/Funk/soul/ or house even. I try to take something from everything. there was no pre-conceptual idea of putting tracks about hookers blowing cops off or bitches with baby strollers, they just got brought to the table and gelled with the rest of the material. My main focus was to just to create a solid record with enough variety to showcase my abilities and also my personal taste. once people hear the record there will be a very noticeable change in -
sound and style. this is all down to evolving as an artist and getting to travel around the world and see different spots and people. this automatically rubs off on you and you can’t help but be inspired by it or at least take something from it. whether it’s hearing some new shit or just talking to people or even just seeing something that sparks an idea. I mean a song can come about by just seeing something. you don’t have to necessarily hear someone else’s music to get ideas for your own. Both with and without its vocals the music you make communicates in a way that doesn’t necessarily have to be dependent on vocals in order to expand its mood(s) and language evoked sonically. I tend to ask producers about the level of creativity found in particular areas of sonic exploration and I’m curious to hear your take on this. For yourself is there more effort put into exploring dark (Crackle) colours than light (Caviar) colours? If anything I would say a lot more goes in to the caviar side of the record. Mostly because there are more instruments, more arranging and more treatment to each sound as it is not covered by emcees. and where I have made tracks with emcees for so long I’m a lot more used to making them and the process tends to be a bit quicker to get the end product. also with the caviar stuff you can experiment that bit more than you would on the rap track simply because there is nothing to hold you back. the restrictions are no longer there which immediately open up different doors creatively. something you would not do on a rap record is there for the taking on an instrumental piece of music. don’t get me wrong I love working with artists/rappers/singers but sometimes you have to take yourself into murky waters and test your abilities and thoughts. this was also a big help to my approach when I started making the record too, as my vision had changed for the better and I think it changed my overall approach to music. You’ve said in the past that you make your best music upon having a “shit day” and when your “vibing with your friends” respectively but to what degree does isolation have an affect on the creation of your music? Having originally started as a producer/emcee in Squid Ninjas, how do you compare the experiences of being a producer for a crew, to being a producer on the dole? the difference is huge, mainly because there is no one to answer to or ask for approval to move forward. the vision is yours and you don’t feel in the back of your mind “oh, will they feel this?”. you just make what you want and that’s a big help when you are trying to step out from the norm. I love working with other people, that’s a big part of what I do but at the same time it’s real refreshing to be able to make something all your own from scratch, all your ideas, visions let loose without worrying if the artist will relate to it or just like it even. and yeah some of my best music has been made on a pretty shit day. ha! but then I have made some great music on a glorious day sipping’ slush Puppies and getting tree’d up. It’s “swings and roundabouts” as they say! As your engineer since Metaphysical, how important is P.L.O. in your process? P doesn’t do anything. ha! Jokes!! P has pretty much built this record with me. I would be an asshole to say any different. he has contributed with his engineering expertise throughout the whole project as well as adding a fair bit of instrumentation to it also. whether it was bass/keys/guitar, whatever I asked he was down to do. I think his part in mixing/mastering the record was
imperative to what I was trying to achieve and being he is a fan of hip hop too and also makes the stuff, made it a lot easier to get my point across in the studio and the mixing stages, simply because he knew where the record was going and knew how I wanted it to sound. How do you usually start a beat. Some people start with drums, others with sample etc. What comes first for Metabeats? by smoking a number 99.9% of the time and starting with the bang!! (drums). usually when the drums are rolling nice this opens the door to whatever goes on top. whether it’s a sample based joint or completely original, I can usually feel by the sound and style of the drums what needs to go next and what direction it needs to head in. How much do your live DJ sets influence what you’re putting into a Metabeats project? Quite a lot especially over the past few years where I have been travelling a lot and seeing other walks of life and how they look at things. It helps when you see a response to the music from a room full of people. that definitely played a part in writing new material as you vision what the response would be out in clubs. not all my music is catered for clubs, some is catered for just kicking back, roll one up and just listening. then there’s some that is built for you to wild out or get busy with your girl to. variety is the spice of life! I recently read in an interview that in the case of EyeSeeYou with Dubbledge, this track almost didn’t happen due to you being high and accidentally turning the sampler off. Needless to say you re-recorded it successfully and the song stands as one of 2012’s best. Were there any more similar situations that had or could have potentially affected any other songs on Caviar Crackle? Man, that was so close! I literally had to turn it straight back on and re-make it quick time whilst it was all still in my head. never mind eyeseeyou, you would have seen nothing if I had that “fuck it” head on that day. ha! only other time was before the esy incident, I had dropped my hard drive on the floor at a friends house. his housemate had the cheek to say “you should have had a bag”, which is not the kind of thing you want to hear when you have just dropped your last 2 years of work on the floor. If she wasn’t a girl I probably would have started kicking the shit out of her right there and then. ha! but after almost £500 worth of costs I got it all back thankfully. so, even this record might have sounded a bit different too if I never retrieved all my files of music. Is there a song your most proud of on Caviar Crackle? It’s kind of a split between the first 2 singles actually. one being the hookers track with action bronson as I’m a fan firstly of this guy. I mean, between him and danny brown, I think they are 2 most exciting rappers to come out over the last few years. danny was real close to being on the record too but I think it was down to his demand and label situation that stopped the whole process. the other record would be Passport with vanity Jay. this is the polar opposite to hookers. It’s a straight up 80’s Funk/rnb track. this is one of the first tracks I have worked on with just a vocalist, no rapping whatsoever and I’m real happy with the outcome. also the video is looking crazy. we got the P.L.o. and don Leisure form darkhouse Family making an appearance too with his Jheri curl wig. can’t wait for it to be out! the video is a message to people who take themselves too serious.
At their height, the Hip-Hop skit were obligatory on any Hip-Hop project worth its weight. However they have lost favour in recent years amongst rappers in an MP3 era becoming somewhat of a lost art. Its refreshing to hear so many unique skits on your latest album, are you striving to initiate a skit renaissance with Caviar Crackle? ha! Most definitely!! I love those ones when you hear a dope beat at the end of a song that just creeps in for like 30 secs then poof, it’s gone! you keep rewinding it, skipping it back, it makes you want more of it. I am trying for that similar effect. I mean the beats are strong enough to be full length track but the album was ready. I thought this would be a nice additional touch to the record. and yeah I definitely think people need to bring the “skit beat” back in 2013. I am. How do skits typically come about for you at the studio? a lot of the time from watching funny shit. I will take the part I like then usually lace a beat straight away, just so it keeps its essence and humour. that way you capture the moment some of the skits. I am going to extend for my live shows as they go off when I play them, so I want them hype for more than 30 seconds in the clubs, they can just keep rewinding at home. ha! The now infamous skit Filthy Granny taken from Squid Ninja’s Return Of The Blowfish has become quite the enigma as far as heads questioning its legitimacy and if or not its real. What was the story behind it? I have no idea. you’re gonna have to ask the boy hekla about that one. A huge percentage of your work seems to finds a duality driven around comedy, particularly standup comedy as well as misery. In your process of creating how much does comedy help you to analyse, balance and clarify things in you which irritate you or which you are outgrowing and essentially trying to change? I don’t like everything to be so serious so I like to sprinkle the comedy element into a lot of my music. I think a lot of people take themselves too seriously, which for me is not the way to go about things. If I thought like that I would never let anything go because I would always consider what everyone else thinks and would people dislike it. well, the reality is no not everyone is going to like the music you make, some are going to love it, some are going to think it’s a load of shit but that’s the same in every single field of the game, you just have to be real enough to know that and not be a bitch about it. the comedy element is kind of a middle finger to that population of people who take their craft/life too serious. Lighten up bitches! Is there any reason why your alias Pergyl isn’t rapping on Caviar Crackle and can we expect you to rhyme again in the near future? Probably not. that was a stage of life that has passed I think. I used to enjoy it but I think I’ve grown into more of a producer, so I put all my energy into that now. I leave the rapping to the rappers. What does the future hold for Metabeats? More, More, More!!! I want More!!! I just have my mind set on creating more music that’s all I have in mind. the projects will happen soon enough but the main focus right now is to continue creating the newness in any shape or form.
From LowLiFe to HigH Focus
IntervIew by KatrIna ‘She’ DurDen PhotograPhy by anIS alI
I know its a cliché, but to any UK hip hop head, Verb T needs no introduction. Having worked with pretty much anyone of note, including Jehst, Taskforce, Sway, Harry Love, Kashmere and Braintax (the list goes on) before more recently joining Fliptrix, the Four Owls and the High Focus family, Verbs has helped pioneer what we call underground UK hip hop today. We caught up with Verbs in his native Streatham and talked about his imprint on this diverse and dynamic genre. What was your first taste of hip hop? Slick rick and Doug e Fresh – ladidadi, at years old, closely followed by 3 Feet high and rising by De la Soul, and from then I was hooked. as soon as I heard hip hop, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I was interested in film and stuff, but after hearing those records, music was it for me. Slick rick was thought of as the coolest guy. when you’re a kid and want to be cool, that’s who you want to imitate. not because of the image the way he talked, he didn’t have to shout, he was just smooth. Plus, I don’t think anyone has had the same flow or smoothness. 3 Feet high and rising was totally different to anything I’d heard. the creativity behind it caught you. they had a lot of silly songs on there as well and that’s how I started rapping – writing raps about my teacher being an idiot or whatever. and it was the sound of hip hop in general, it really connected with me. What made you pick up the mic? years later, when I was at school still. really, when I met harry love. I’ve lived in South all my life but my mum moved to ladbroke grove, right across the road from him. I was already listening to hip hop and he got into Djing and we watched Juice as well. Juice and white Men Can’t Jump got replayed a thousand times. we started messing around making songs then with a mic and a tape deck. then people started hearing what we were doing, just by word of mouth.
then, there was a label called apeman records that put our first song out in 1999 with me, harry love and Kid Fury. then it all snowballed really, I just became part of the scene. I was addicted. It was a whole ride, and the process just unfolded what keeps motivating you? For me, it’s all I want to do. right now, I’m finding it hard to write and make beats, but I push myself to write and keep my mind sharp and keep in the practise until I get that inspiration. It can come from anything or from any experience. that way you are in the space to capture that inspiration. People forget it’s not just a lyrical thing. People can be very over analytical of hip hop in ways they aren’t about other genres. Some of my favourite MC’s didn’t hit you with jewels every time, but they knew how to rap and put you into that mood. It’s about the way you convey it. you have to have the right flow and presence. how do you feel hip hop changed and how has your view of it changed? how hip hop’s changed is hard for me to say. there’s the obvious changes in the format. also, I think there’s less focus on albums. It’s the Ipod Shuffle generation, we always say. you don’t always get the whole message an artist is trying to convey, you just get their top tunes. you can see it when you do live shows – theres some tunes that are massive and other tunes from the same album
which are unknown. Singles used to be promos for an album, and you had many more classic albums. I think it’s coming back round a bit in the independent market. but there’s always been a big divide between the charts and the underground, the only exception being Sway; but he’s walking that line, he’s not quite known to the level of example or Dizzee. but the main difference now is the format. where you used to go and buy vinyls and CD’s, everything is downloaded online for free. and they don’t even download whole albums, just odd tracks usually. People putting out free music is good - it does help the up and coming artist, but at the same time, now the market is flooded. I’ve always said I wouldn’t really put a free album out – I’d rather have people at least have the option to buy my music and support me; I don’t have a big label backing me and I put a lot of work and effort into what I do. How has it affected the way you do music? I feel like it hasn’t changed what I do too much. It is easier to do music videos now, it used to be a big deal. now, there are so many more people doing it, and you can get relatively inexpensive equipment and shoot a nice quality video. before, it used to be about trying to get radio play as well. now, I don’t even consider the radio! now, it’s just social media and youtube. the label obviously sends out stickers and magazines and stuff.
“Talking abouT whaT i’m acTually going Through and noT Trying To conform To any sTereoTypes and Trends. i have a formula which works for me.”
Why do you think Showbitchness got you the recognition it did? at that point, it was by far the strongest thing I’d done. It was on lowlife as well, you can’t ignore that that would help. harry love produced it and he was hot at the time. I just think me and harry had that chemistry that when we did tracks, it just works! with Showbitchness, the way it was made as well; he had just the drums and the base line down, and he played it to me and I wrote the first verse to it. then I went back and he started putting some music underneath it, started building the track up, which is why it comes in the way it does. then he just happened to find the perfect sample and crafted the hook – which we thought was a funny take on the whole “there’s no business like show business”. I don’t really make tracks like that, now, it’s just about getting a beat, writing it and recording it. It’s cool but it’s quicker. but there used to be so many stages to it and he crafted the beat around my verse and I built the lyrics around the beat. I think that came across in the tracks we did. Showbitchness had that classical partnership. It’s a shame we didn’t write more stuff together, just the one album.
You’ve been part of three of the biggest movements in UK hip hop: Low Life, YNR and now High Focus. How have they differed? I think that’s reflective of how uK hip hop changed. with low life, that was what a lot of people called the ‘golden era’. you had Jehst, braintax and taskforce coming up; black twang, rodney P, roots Manuva (who’s probably my favourite uK artist). For low life, the timing was perfect. braintax was just a good business man. In my experience, he just actually worked on getting a product and getting it out – there was no bullshit. you had so many people faffing around, making amazing music and never doing anything with it. braintax just found the best artists he could and just put their music out, put money into it and promote it the best he could. also, CD’s were at an all time high around the time when Skinnyman’s album came out, just before downloads took over. So he sold a lot of CD’s and did well. he was lucky to get that album as well – Skinny had the album ready and it sort of just fell into his lap. the lesson people should take is that you should be active with your music. that’s why high Focus, now, is like low life. Fliptrix is primarily an artist, and I met him long before there was a high Focus at a set we both did. Fliptrix had his music and he wanted to put it out, and instead of waiting around, he did it himself. originally, I put out verbs with a vengeance and made a pretty good profit and wanted to start a label and actually sign Fliptrix. I had other responsibilities, and lack of funds, and even stopped being productive musically. Flip had theory of rhyme ready, he wanted to do it, got advice from a few people and it snowballed from there. then he released Jam baxter and Dyke’s music under the label because they were all friends and he was so forward moving. Flip’s got that on his side: friends that work hard and don’t take the piss. the middle ground: ynr were a strong label, but at the time I was working with them it was the ‘ice age’ of uK hip hop. CD’s were out, but downloads hadn’t established themselves. It just wasn’t the best timing in terms of actually selling music. I’ve known Jehst since before low life times, but what made me want to work with them was, at the time, they were working with Kashmere. I’m cool with everyone on the label, but being with high Focus just made a lot more sense. that was my circle.
How does it weigh up: recording vs. live performance? I always used to prefer recording more, just because it was kind of like leisure time. the process was great. Play beats, sit and write, bust jokes. but I’ve been able to do it less and less over the years just because I have more responsibilities kids, bills. I have to be a lot more methodical and business-like with my time which takes a little of the fun out. Saying that, I record with Chemo at Kilamanjaro and our working relationship is on point, it’d be hard for me to work with anyone else. I love performing live now, but you cant play down the actual creation process. How did you find battling and the Don’t Flop experience? the first experience I had with don’t flop was an event in brighton and me and Flip were asked to do a set, we did, and we judged the battles. then I started watching them online. there was a few MC’s I liked, some I didn’t – but I always found it entertaining. It gets a lot of stick from people online, even today. People say it’s distorting young MC’s views of what Mcing is, which I don’t agree with. It’s a seperate thing from making music. theres something you can do battling you can’t do on a tune. It’s done acapella which I think gives it its strength – you can’t hide behind a beat or disguise your words with melodies, it’s spoken word. and there’s so many angles and ways you can perform and connect with the crowd. I flopped my first two and people asked why I kept doing it, but I couldn’t see why people would stop listening to my music because I battled. I really enjoyed it, theres a whole old school vibe going on. How would you describe your imprint on hip hop? I used to try and come with the best lines, but really over the years, I think it’s honest – heart on the sleeve type stuff. talking about what I’m actually going through and not trying to conform to any stereotypes and trends. I have a formula which works for me. be who I am. I think that’s what makes hip hop so interesting, when you make it individual. you can’t fake it and copy someone else, I think I tried to in the beginning but I had to stop that. that’s why I try not to listen to any other rappers when I’m creating. obviously it will to an extent, but I don’t want too much influence to show in what I do. you create and paint pictures in your own way from your point of view. The newest addition to your discography dropped not too long ago, tell me about the project? I spent so long on it, and now it’s out, it’s almost become a memory. when I was making it, I was ultra passionate about it. It’s the first album I’ve made where I feel I’ve said something really important. as a body of work, I was so meticulous on it. now it’s out, I don’t have the same emotional attachment to it. I think that’s why I’ve existed so long, because I get that passionate, then once it’s done I have to move on to the next thing.
“criTicism was The besT Thing ThaT happened To me in The early days because once you’re able To Take iT, decode iT and improve your work.”
So what is next? well, that’s the question! I’ve done a few tracks over my beats which could be the beginnings on a new eP or album. My aim for 2013 is to do an eP then an album, and then theres the Four owls album, which will definitely be the priority. the reaction to our combination has been amazing! I can’t believe how well the album went down. the first album took me from being almost disillusioned, asking myself if I should still do this. but I joined the owls and it re-energized me, restored any faith I had lost so I feel like I owe it to the universe to do this next album.
What would be your advice to the up and coming artist? get ready to take a lot of criticism – try not to take it too much to heart, but do use it to work on the way you connect with people. Criticism was the best thing that happened to me in the early days because once you’re able to take it, decode it and improve your work. generally, you’re not going to come out and be at your best, so you need to be ready to improve. also, don’t try and compete with anyone else or try improve on on anyone else’s thing. If you do what you do, you’ll stand out - no one else can do what you do.
What can we expect? It’s in the super early stages. we have stuff written and bits and pieces recorded, but we don’t even have a full track recorded. but it will happen really quick. that’s the great thing about having four MC’s, once you have the beat it’s not hard to make a track happen, you’ve each got your verse. I think it’s going to be like the first album, but evolved. Similar sounds. I think musically it’s going to be stronger, and definitely something we can perform live, all of us blending together better. we’re going to write together a lot more, we mainly wrote separately for the first one.
Any last words/shout outs? the usual stuff I say to people really, let’s work together, not bring each other down. the underground uK hip hop scene should all be working together. Shout out to everyone!
Lords Of The Underground -
Number oNe chief rockers
IntervIew by Harley PHotograPHy by robbIe golec
North London’s Strictly Business has been bringing us the biggest names in Hip Hop in 2012 and has some bangers on the horizon for 2013. For all those Hip Hop fans that love that golden age Boom Bap flavor these shows are not to be missed! We caught up with L.O.T.U.G. in the basement of Silver bullet Finsbury Park, which in fact was to be the perfect surrounding for an interview with undoubtedly one of the most formidable groups of 90s boom bap. With 21 years under there belts, and from the sound check we had witnessed, still going hard as ever, there was little reason why being in a basement with L.O.T.U.G. wouldn’t be as smart as I imagined it all those years back. L.O.T.U.G how does a group from that era of Hip Hop lasting for this amount of time, manage to have such a clean past? There are either things we don’t know about, or you didn’t get caught. Doitall: we were 19-year-old men and we did young men things, but we did have good men around us too, I gotta say shout out to HaFIZ FarID who was our earlier manager, MUSlIM brotHerS. they taught us discipline, timeliness and respect. we came from the hood but our mamas didn’t play. a black woman of the 70s didn’t play. Do you think Hip Hop now, comes with the same integrity or morality. Lordjazz: For me, back in the nineties we had originality and respect. we like Mr. Funke always said, we didn’t take a rhyme somebody already said. It was against the rules and we would get slaughtered for some shit like that, you know if llcoolJ was mc ll I cant be Dj llcoolJ, and that’s the difference now. everybody sounds the same, you cant tell if somebody’s from the east coast/west coast, the slangs the same. you hear talk of the illuminati; it’s the hip-hop illuminati. Mr. Funke: How can I sit with dreadlocks like Mr. cheeks wearing louis vuitton like Kanye, and people ask me what makes you different from other rappers?
Lordjazz: your swag. Fuck that swag. Mr. Funke: as “older rappers” we don’t look down on them for creating music but when are you gonna break of and create your own music. Are the Lords going to continue with that formula? Lordjazz: Its hard, when your from the 90s and you have that l.o.t.U.g. sound, its 2012 now if we sound like 2 chainz everyone will be like you sold out, if we stay the same people are like they didn’t change, they still doing the old stuff. How much influence does Marley Marl have on that. Doitall: Marley. Marley wants everything to sound like it did before, don’t get me wrong he wants a newer version of what worked before, that’s Marley’s recipe. Its like nas some people didn’t like some of his stuff over the years, some people did but he stayed the same and that’s how it has to be. You met in university, how did you come to work with Marley Marl. Djlordjazz: a good friend of mine, l.a. erick Jackson .I used to bring him to all the parties when I used to Dj. I came to find out he was Marley Marls cousin, but he talked a lot so you didn’t know whether to believe him or not, but when I was back home for summer on vacation from school, I got a call. “ yo jazz its l.a. I’m at Marley’s house of hits when you get back to school send me a demo and I gave it Marley”. So when I got back to school I had a radio show, I was doing a communications major. I had a friend of ours saying that he had a friend that could rhyme, and he introduced me to Dupree (Doitall) and his flow was just crazy. later on somebody told me about Mr. Funke, his voice was crazy, his flow was crazy. So we gotta do this, I sent a demo to Marl. I sent psycho and three others. l.a. phones me saying that Marl loves psycho, he’s been singing it round the house, we like word! Marley’s singing our song. He invited us up to his house, we drove ten hours up there to Marley’s, like wow we going
to Marley’s Doitall: the ill thing about that is, we walked through the house of hits and we thought it was going to be this big old luxurious studio, it was a luxurious studio, but it was inside a house. So when the garage door opens, Marley has something foreign there. a b.M.w red 850 back then, we go through the doors and there’s a guy stood there with a wife beater on and a bell Kangol hat between the speakers. the engineer is tweaking and its llcoolJ recording mama said knock you out. Me and Funke were like, we made it! How is it playing the U.K and venues like this? Doitall: you know, when we fist came to the U.K, london. brixton academy we only had psycho out, and we didn’t think we were known. we just thought we were opening up for this tour, we didn’t know we were popular. So we were walking down the street and a bunch of people were following us, we went into burger king and someone said “man you gotta get me in this show” we were barley in the show, you know what I mean. He got mad at us and said “my cousin Dj S&S from Harlem”, “man i’ll set it off on you”. Its our first time overseas, He goes in his pocket like he’s gotta gun, we didn’t know back in 91 you didn’t have no guns. we start trotting backwards with our food and soda going in our face, he must have moved his hand to fast or something and some pebbles fell out, he had a brick. Funke said, he don’t have no gun, he got a rock! we dropped our food and chased them to the underground with dust and shit coming out there sleeves, there was four of us. Us and our manager, and we beat the shit out of them. Djlordjazz: there was one dude, standing on the corner like he wasn’t with them, after we had stomped his guys, trying not to move holding his breath. I was like Pow, U.Sa! With the Lords well and truly set to be a fixture for the next two decades to come, I can but salute there resounding efforts to keep Hip Hop in check.
UK Reviews -
UK albUms Winter 2012/13
UK albUm OF tHe issUe:
m9 - maGna Carta
review By Delphina Scott
I am so glad that M9’s Magna Carta is here. We need the strength from this album to bring us through 2013. Rather than the murder murder murder kill kill kill route, this fresh from M9 album amps the mind and suggests to the listener they should consider launching a quest for knowledge! Before I even get to the music I have to start with the dope artwork for M9 aka Melanin 9’s brand new album, the magnificent MAGNA CARTA. The album cover depicts the interior view of someone’s mind. Look closely and you will see a figure, surely M9, sitting at a desk laying down his thoughts, indeed his lyrical Magna Carta on a scroll. This should indicate to even the most casual browser that their brain should expect to engage and interact as soon as they press play. The opening instrumental track ‘Gene of Isis’ lays down the vibe and when we hear these words intoned- “In the beginning the heaven...the earth...”. we know for sure this is bigger than Hip Hop. ‘Magna Carta’ is the first track proper and lays down the gauntlet. “The first change that takes place is in your mind. You have to change your mind before you change the way you live and the way you move...”. M9 overstands the role big corporations play and how they colour the system we live under. Lets not forget the original big business’s was the trans Atlantic slave trade and Religion. One justified the others existence and the two systems propped each other up for mutual benefit. These were the thoughts conjured up in my mind when I listened to this song and I think I am correct in saying this is thinking music. This track gives an insight into M9’s mind and his beliefs and views on this really f’ing weird society we live in. This is a meaty track and deserves multiple listens. ‘Landslide’ for me has a Gangstarr vibe and is very pleasing to the ear. The track bounces along and the lyrics set out the lesson plan “Lets formulate the math, expand plans to stack rhymes...”. This is such a dope track and I rewind it a lot! The 7 Blues features fabulous vocals from Madam Pepper, sumptuous piano chords, lovely jangling percussion and a bluesy bassline. A top quality track. Next in line ‘Cosmos’ is a Hip Hop blueprint and I can easily imagine members of Hiero happily spitting on this track. M9 manages to combine highly personal lyrics with worldly matters such as the contentious eugenics debate. He takes full advantage of raps ability to segue from topic to topic within one song and still make sense. Production from Option Command provides an intriguing electronic vibe interlude with the brief track entitled ‘11.08’. I would dearly like to know what these numbers represent, whether it be a time or date...hopefully I will find out! Love Stencil is the second of three tracks featuring Madam Pepper and as the title suggests is dealing with love in a man to woman sense. This track contains no corny, played out lines or over the top slack lyrics.
Instead we have thoughtfulness and understanding. True heads male or female can listen to this and quite likely relate to it’s sentiments. As the Madam sings “I don’t crave perfection, no not me. Well what you gave in my perception is all I need”. M9 of course brings realism to romance:). We swiftly move onto ‘Heartless Island’ produced by Jehst and featuring Triple Darkness and as they say”Track leaves you with scars”. This a monster track! Roc Marciano opens up ‘White Russian’ and he is the second emcee I’ve heard use the word ‘corduroy’ Monch being the other. I’ve added it to my ongoing list I’m compiling of unexpected words spat on rap tracks:). The jazzy vibe continues which contrasts nicely with Roc’s line “I’m too ill for you to kill a virus, look in the killers iris...” . M9 lets us know that “Gold chains choke veins...blows comatose your brain from young...” the production by Anatomy is top notch and brings back memories of smoky clubs when you could still puff inside venues. Ahh those were the days! ‘No Mans Land’ again features ‘Triple Darkness’ and brings forth the hard, forthright sensibility that is their trademark. This has a cinematic eerie vibe and you’ll find yourself following the story being weaved from first to last line. Penultimate track ‘Colour Blind’ is on a spoken word tip and is very clear in its meaning. No airy-fairy unnecessary metaphors, just in plain sight facts. “Every food product has a code which resonate with the body’s frequency which is why they say you are you eat”. I will take this one step further and say you are the music you allow your ears to consume. When you choose to listen to M9’s creation you can be sure that you will be sonically and verbally fulfilled. This is a tune that prompts you gently but insistently to open your mind and to go forth and research what you don’t understand. Final track ‘Marble’ is a favorite of mine for personal reasons. Having had a neurologist utter the unforgettable words to me “Well it’s not a brain tumor”, the opening sampled line of ‘Marble’ “I believe that the growth in my head, this one right here, I think it really isn’t a tumor , it’s in fact a new organ...a new part of the brain”. Yes it sounds ominous but I could relate!:). I’ll leave you with M9’s line “All life binds from carbon”, go and google that and while you are at it order Magna Carta, you owe it to your brain and soul:) If we had a Hip Hop university Magna Carta would be a rap dissertation. This isn’t some words idly laid down simply because they rhyme. There is real intention with all the lyrics in this thought provoking album. M9 pulls no punches, each lyrical blow designed and executed to to wake people up. The Jazz overtone was the right direction as even though it is from another age Jazz is revolutionary, futuristic music that completes the vibe. I highly recommend ‘Magna Carta’. It is quality, undisguised HIP HOP!
Charlie SnaCkS: ‘Mikel Jordin’S SCrap rapS’ Mix Tape
norwich rapper charlie Snacks’ new mix tape deserves mad props and is definitely one too grab as soon as possible. Boasting a ridiculous level of yummy production, and such an entirely summery, positive atmosphere, it is a complete and rounded piece. charlie’s carefree, laid back attitudehis refusal to ‘overcomplicate everything [he] spits”, his simple play with words that seem impossible not to smile at, and his refreshingly relaxed approach to subject matter, are all what makes this mix tape incredibly listenable. highlight has to be ‘Sun’, produced by MF Doom, the final track on the mix tape. with a jazzy horn opening sample it is possibly the most expressive and musical piece offered by charlie. “it’s the head bang boogie”, reflective, introspective and sunshine vibzeyy. after a whole range of less serious themes, it’s here we finally get a little bit more personal- with talk of a childhood on ritalin, with an inhaler and troubles at school, it still manages to remain positive. i properly love the jazzy, kick backed mood- it is definitely the perfect chilled out way to finish the album. Similar in terms of sound is ‘that Feeling’, seventh track and produced this time by apollo Brown. again, it has that real sense of musicality, although this time with slightly more epic proportions; orchestral strings and an ever so slightly more gritty deliverance. charlie somehow manages to adopt a more serious tone, yet his bars still have to make you laugh. contrastingly to the more soulful tunes is a perfect switch up in production lead by Flylo on ‘rooftop richie’. here we are provided with that delicious wholeness and depth of sound, which can only be listened too on a decent soundsystem to be fully appreciated. this is also true of ‘teddy Bear’: there is a clarity and accuracy of sound that comes with good electronic music which, when this track drops is kind of addictive. again here, charlie spits with a desirably relaxed style, not only in tone but in his lyrics. the resulting combination is overly effective. Most impressive therefore is charlie’s clear appreciation of the importance of all aspects of assembling a track. too many fucking emcee’s hit beats up like they are not only the most, but the only, important thing on the track. and that is where they fail. there are tracks on this tape which demonstrate (and i think a lot of this is down to charlie’s deliverance) that it takes an equal balance of noise, instrument and voice, to establish something interesting and full of depth. without wanting to sound too cliché, it’s a nice reminder that is should be about the music as a whole. you can be the sickest rapper on road, but if you got some shitty backing then you might as well quit. look at Devlin. this is a predominantly happy, chilled, funny and bouncy mix tape. it throws summer and sunshine at you, warm pavements, school holidays, nostalgia and sitting in the park. it doesn’t take itself too seriously; tongue in cheek, charlie Snacks has made a refreshingly different and positive piece.
DeD tebiase: OF all tHe loSerS, i’ve loST The mOst
i’m pleased to say there seems to be a load of ridiculously good beats coming out of the western area of the UK right about now, this lays testament to that. coming out of the very scenic city of Bath, we have the debut release from beatsmith Ded tebiase, titled ‘of all the losers, i’ve lost the Most’ written during a 3 month visit to la, of all the losers has very recently dropped in collaboration with Bristol based clothing brand Fruitmachine. Despite sounding rather melancholy going by the title alone, the music is overall, actually very uplifting and powerful. with 9 tracks of instrumental heat, this release takes us on a soulful journey through several atmospheric rhythms and drum kicks. we open with ‘Just you’ starting off with a nice vocal sample leading into a very epic piece of music which will leave you with your head held high, bopping away like
your life depended on it. the 2nd track ‘i Know’ comes in on a more aggressive, hard hitting tip, which then leads into the 3rd track and my favourite of the whole project ‘From now on’ the sample used for this is incredible and i defy anyone with a soul to not dig this tune. another highlight track for me has got to be ‘cincinnati’ with it’s heavy snares and euphoric vocals, making for a very chilled listen. ‘of all the losers’ is a debut to be proud of, Ded tebiase clearly has a great ear for picking out smooth, soulful samples and is mad talented when it comes to making fresh, relaxing beats that will make you sit back and ponder the world.
eDWarD sCissOrtOnGUe: better.lUCK.next.liFe
From the lyrical imagery to the darkened production, this album is the first for a while which works to remind me of the importance of the ‘album’ as an art form and how much we are losing by falling into listening to music one track at a time. we flick through itunes and youtube from artist to artist, slowly but surely, abandoning the concept of an album. this is a record which demonstrates perfectly the strength of image and message that can be created by an entire album. Scissor’s poetry and deliverance shows glimpses of beauty. it evokes feeling on a serious level; it is entirely complete. produced exclusively by Glaswegian producer lamplighter, the album is exceptionally distinctive in terms of its sound. Deploying heavy bass; classical musical instruments and trip-hop style sound effects, it creates a strength of atmosphere which generates a seriously independent identity. think Massive attack in terms of distinguished sound: you know in three seconds if a track is theirs. well Scissor’s work gets somewhere to close that. it is different; beyond angry or moody, despite being both at times. the tone is contemplative and fundamentally, heart-achingly, sad. the opening track is a ridiculously sick start to the album. the purity of sound on Scissor’s voice, the stripped back nature of the backing and the extensively personal confession-like lyrics resonate deeply: there is deliciousness in language here which gives me Goosebumps every fucking time. “thirteen years of this rhyme-pad fraff. and in that time i’ve done zilch on an album or track that was worth one minute of your time, one penny of your cash. But i’m still here meddling with raps. and the words get heavier with that.” ‘please Say Something’, Scissor’s first release follows as a more moody, journeying track. eerie melodic keys are boasted in combination with a mish-mash of imagery: fantasy and reality dropped sentence by sentence. next and just dropped, ‘the Muffler coffin’ takes us spacevoyaging with its electronic vibes. it’s a switch up from the pavement beats before, taking you into a world of experiments and travelling. Standing out as perhaps one of the darkest and harrowing tracks is ‘Spastic Max’. whilst definitely having the rawest, head-nodding beat and piff drop, we also hear Scissor tell the most explicit story of death and destruction. “he’d open paper backs, but only paint the pages black, and use a magnifying glass to spark a map of memories. words would get deleted quicker than a hundred meter dash, another night laden with some fear and loathing imagery.” ‘rosegarden’ is set against the back drop of morose classical music and a lamplighter concrete beat. it’s hook, and more upbeat feel keeps the album moving and is followed later by ‘Gargotte’ which is one of the illest in terms of delivery. there is no rush, each idea is dropped and relished in its own moment; words spat in a crescendo of increasing volume and anger. Scissor’s flow is mad on point and we are carried by his lyrical strength. there is a passion here which surpasses much of the rest of the album and with constant reference to himself you properly receive this as a fully personal self-diatribe. excluding an outro the album wraps up with a feature from all five members of contact play on the track ‘coma’. there is something kind of special about hearing the artists reunited after such extensive solo projects, and it works as both an exemplary demonstration of UK hip hop, and a reminder of their strength as a group.
this is music for you in the singular, it is introspective and personal; it pulled me up into my own thoughts and more importantly into those of ed Scissor’s. Despite the darkness, rawness, anger, defeatism… disappointment that we are offered, what takes this album one step further is the sense of vulnerability Scissor isn’t afraid to reveal. at times, it can perhaps be almost too much in its gritty and abrasive vibe but at the right moment, this is a fucking moving album. pretty epic in its conquests and achievements, it plays with contrasts: with beautiful words and dirty beats; with raw feeling and polished production; with noise and melody; with ideas of life and death. it is, at times, so melancholy it is both almost terrifying and powerfully exciting. Scissor paints ominous, potent pictures with his multi-syllable phonetics that hang around in your head for a good while. Mad respect to ed for a fucking sick album. By Kenza Marland
FlipTrix: The road To tHe interDimensiOnal piFF highway
whenever you clock the capital h and capital F intertwined with one and other, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’re about to sample some of the finest sounds from our shores. when you see these two letters alongside the name Fliptrix, expectations elevate to the upper echelons; where the boundaries of reality and imagination blur beyond the realms of normality. the high Focus supremo’s fourth solo outing is almost an extension of its predecessor; with deep, metaphorical imagery and cerebral stimulating verses once more the driving force. So jump in, belt up and take a journey along “the road to the interdimensional piff highway”. with production the sole responsibility of long-term collaborators Molotov and runone, it’s as much a sonic journey as it is a spiritual one. whether it’s the reggae tinges of “let the world Unite”, the funky soul loops of “the high way”, the sheer cacophony of “Sounds” or the eerie chamber-esque chorals of “hyperborean Dreams”; the duo offer Fliptrix with a vast array of soundscapes for him to weave his rich lyrical tapestry over. recorded entirely in just two studio sittings and with the tracklist lacking any guest features, the spotlight shines solely on Fliptrix and his lyrical dexterity. ever the gifted wordsmith, his quest for discovering the deeper essence of life and enlightenment reverberates throughout his latest venture. tracks like “heart Full of love”, “Something’s Going on” and “let the world Unite” oozes positivity and promotes self-progression. “we got the music that brings the people together/ with the true soul of the boom bap street era”. on the flipside, tracks like the lead single “cycles” and the floating strings, moody synths and haunting female vocals that Fliptrix blesses with an almost hypnotic flow on “Been here Before” offer a much more mellow, reflective atmosphere to the lp. “Star Beings” brings Fliptrix’s narrative prowess to the forefront, portraying the tale of an extra-terrestrial encounter. the way in which he delivers his descriptive dialogue paints such a vivid picture, that it somehow has you questioning the reality of this event genuinely occurring; however sane an individual you may be. Fliptrix’s last two albums have come off the back of a seemingly spiritual re-awakening; delving further into the sub-conscious and drawing from his inner energies. with “ the road to…”, it’s hard to ignore the herbal vapours that emanate from every track; i’m not a smoker but listening to this over the past week has had me feeling the urge to reach for a little something to vibe with. whereas certain artists either use this to dumb down their lyrics or change their alias from canine to feline (big up Snoop!), Fliptrix manages to remain as relevant and intellectually stimulating throughout. his work rate over the past 12 months can’t be discarded and during that period, he’s managed to craft two stellar lps. throw into the mix he’s also overseen releases from verb t, Jam Baxter and ed Scissor and you soon realise that this guy’s a grafter. “the road to the interdimensional piff highway” is yet another heavy release from one of the most consistent performers in the scene right now. For me, it’s a no-brainer; you need this in your life. high Focus bitches. By Mike Pattemore
FranKie steW & harvey gunn: paid To liST£n
So Frankie Stew and harvey Gunn are back at it again with their latest release, paid to list£n. 14 tracks of soft crackling vinyl beats with gentle meandering flows comparable to the smoke off the end of a cigarette. the young duos from Brighton are creating a new unheard style, which has the sophistication of an album that’s been conceived from several successful earlier projects. as artists these two have striven in securing a game changer to keep things fresh, resulting in two chaps from the new school taking it back to the slate with an album demonstrating a complete introduction into their style and sound. after the release of their Gentlemen’s club back in april, the hip-hop community have been eagerly awaiting their next drop. the prolonged wait was made easier with harvey’s beat tape which featured a couple of beats from the paid to list£n album thrown in, serving as teasers while showcasing the development of a style yet to come. Frankie’s relaxed mellow flow slides easily over harvey’s choice of perfectly placed samples, you can hear the hours of crate digging from these seventeen year olds, fingers tapping through the vinyl sleeves echo within the softness of beats found in the production itself. the relaxed honest style that Frankie Stew brings is optimized in “Just another Day”, his family ties found in his lyrics are apparent in his description of life lessons, painting the picture of who this lad is and where he is going. his flow is distinctive and different and for such a young mind surprisingly rounded and grounded in his delivery the teenage vibe that rolls with this is something that takes a backseat when coupled with the maturity of Mr Gunns beats, while still allowing the listener to relate to those old days and emotions we all find ourselves stepping through. not one of these tracks would sound out of place on the soundtrack of a european noir film, helping in adding further audial sounds to the already present visuals; men in suits in a dark snooker hall, beautiful women in the background with bottles of champagne kept in ice-boxes cooler than the mellow sound of Frankie’s adaptable voice something that can be found on the chorus of track “i cant Get none”. if i was to try to describe each tracks effect i wouldn’t be able to. this is certainly an album to play through from start to finish, the clear narrative that is presented throughout each track, even the purely instrumental skits help to shape the entrance into the next one. “1994” i think is one of the most important for Frankie’s description of himself, the sense of identity in this whole project is one of the most striking things i found when listening to it. “Got it on a personal level” is simply an understatement for this album. these boys have smashed it. if honesty is a policy these boys roll with then the road ahead is going to have only good things paved upon it. By Chez Willdo
GeOrGe FielDs: FrOm tHe stiCKs
every once in a while great music seems to spring up out of nowhere, each time dislodging the notion that hip-hop music `belongs’ in the metropolis. Such notions are strange given that hip-hop (although emerging from the urban landscape) always seems to thrive in the peripheral zones of society. on this rock of ours you can’t get much more peripheral than Dorset which is home to the aptly named producer George Fields. his debut release, From the Sticks, stands as testament to the fact that hiphop never `belonged’ in a particular place and the rich textures throughout the release illustrate hip-hops journey from the city to the sticks. ten tracks deep comprised entirely of instrumentals and limited to 300 hand numbered vinyl pressings, From the Sticks has kicked up quite a fuss. after springing up seemingly from nowhere, George managed to shift all 300 pressings within a matter of weeks. So what`s all the fuss
about? the release is riddled with heavy drums and echoing horn stabs which lay foundations very much reminiscent of that golden era sound many of us still love. however, what makes the release stand out and what makes it so fresh, is George`s use of warm textures, deep low-pass bass-lines and obscure synth samples. the overall warmth of the release can in part be attributed to George`s use of vintage equipment (the entire lp was made using an Mpc 60 and ensoniq epS 16+) and the great care taken in mixing and mastering. add to this the skill, time and pure creativity put into the project and the result is undoubtedly a masterpiece. From the Sticks plays best from start to finish but a few tracks really stand out. the opener `autumn in lyme’ beginning with an intro of futuristic synth sounds quickly kicks into action with the arrival of pounding Boom-Bap drums and echoing horn stabs. the track really sets the tone for the rest of the release by building on multiple layers of sound to create a textured and evocative vibe. `Sunsets’ boasts a soaring and dramatic string sample along with solid drums and the ubiquitous horn stabs. Subtle vocal sounds only add to the depth of this track, which is probably the most aggressive of the release. with things poised for a dramatic finish Fields doesn’t disappoint, the penultimate track `late night Drive pt1’ is exactly that….a late night drive of obscure sounds, skull shattering snares and hypnotic energy. all this goes some way to explaining the attention Fields has been getting for From the Sticks. although the release will be most appealing to fans of the east coast sound of the early to mid-90s a distinctively progressive vibe is present throughout. George Fields is certainly one to look out for and From the Sticks is not only an extremely solid debut but a reminder that hip-hop is alive and well, even in the most unexpected places. By Matt Smith
leWis 184: when produCerS attaCK
For many of us the lack of shine given to producers in this game is a perpetual source of puzzlement. these faceless characters who emerge from dust ridden hideaways are the ones who shape the foundational essence of a track, the ones who set the tone and the feeling with which the lyricist paints his (or her) picture. 184`s new release `when producers attack!!!’ shows us just how much influence a producer can have over a track. the release is comprised entirely of remixes of 184`s previous collaborations and offers 8 remixed tracks, most appearing more than once, bringing the total track list to 16. a cast of UK heavyweights as well as a few lesser known producers reinterpret and re-stitch a lyrical patchwork provided by prolific names like Kashmere, Salvo, Jehst, King Kaiow, iris and more. pete cannon breaks the silence in a big way by kicking off the release with his remix of `superman’. insidious pianos emerge between dive bombing drums and a pulsating bass line providing the perfect backdrop for King Kaiow, Sonnyjim and Jehst`s raw lyricism. lewis parker offers signature drums and melancholic soundscapes for `all day and all night’ with the late iris`s introspective rhymes fitting the mood perfectly. the back end of the release show producers inasound, Becky Becky, and Mr J taking a less conventional approach in their production style. while this shows the exiting and arguably progressive ways in which the boundaries between genres can be blurred it has to be noted that these tracks probably won`t appeal to those of us with a more traditionalist disposition. the real standout track is `Merklization’ which shows Kashmere`s unique style being complimented and resituated three times over by Mr J, intro chief, and the purist. all three producers bring the heat on this one, Mr J with an atmospheric vibe, intro chief with a smooth jazzy vibe and the purist (as per usual) with that drama tinged library style rawness! all three of these remixes share the presence of Kashmere`s wacked out lyricism, yet they all instil very different feelings within the listener. this point shows the real value of releases like this that offer a platform for producers to remind us just what it is they do. on top of all this it’s available for a mere £2 on Bandcamp…no excuses with this one! By Matt Smith
Jae Mann: #avaword
it’s a hype tinG! if the grey unyielding season that is winter is getting you down and dull fear not! From the wilds of west london Jae Mann has arrived with his debut fast pasted, hyped up mixtape #ava worD to get you bopping through the blitzing cold and pouring rain. Under the weather is the first and very appropriately named song on the album. you’re thrown straight into the deep end with the immediate launch of his ‘rampant flow of an avalanche’. and that is indeed the most appropriate way to describe Jae Mann’s flow throughout the album, the artist himself said ‘its like i don’t need to breathe’ and you are indeed left wondering when he does. the fast paced almost indistinguishable lyrics are backed by a simple clear beat, another strong characteristic of this entire album. Mic Mann takes a slower pace clearer track that still maintains a slightly antagonistic vibe due to that unrelenting flow. the beat is simply peng with a relaxing instrumental that contrasts nicely with his voice and the lyrics themselves. come again; a favourite of mine is interesting. whilst Jae Mann’s flow ensures an aggressive feel to every song, this tune is more emotional, whilst its far from bringing a tear to your eye the subject of the issues of the times, the anger of his voice combined with a strong piano riff here and there does have a more inspiring air to it. Similarly, tragic also talks about issues that anyone could relate to but delivers this message in a darker more hostile manner, with a deep slower piano and high pitched almost creepy samples really taking you to darker ends. Stepping back into the hype hype hype pharaoh is a true banger for your party playlist. the beat produced by tnGht is complemented nicely by Jae Mann’s flow. this will have everyone up at any shubz. the second half of the album can become slightly relentless as hype-ness can verge into ridiculous for those not really feeling the grimier vibes. Figure it out can sound like an unrelenting antagonising lecture backed by an ever-unrelenting beat. . Jae Mann’s debut #ava worD is an album possessing a few distinctly banging tunes. however, as an entire album from start to finish it can become pretty relentless for those not on the hype. these tracks will be more at home on shuffle, spontaneously appearing so you’re still able to appreciate that incredible flow and the simplicity and quality of the beats. By Jess Johns
MiCall parknSun: Me MySelF & akai
Since dropping his classic debut “the working class Dad” back in 2005, Micall parknsun has earned his status as one of the finest wordsmiths this country has to offer. his “interview Mixtape”, follow up lp “First Second time around” and countless features have further cemented his place in the upper echelons. yet unbeknownst to most, he’s been dabbling behind the boards the whole time and developed into a more than proficient beat maker. with his third full-length effort, “Me Myself & akai”, parky finally sheds light on his production prowess. it’s more or less 100% parknsun; weighing in at 14 tracks, the album is entirely self-produced with a handful of features from the likes of Jehst, Jyager, Joker Starr, Dubbeledge, ramson Badbonez, apollo and lashana lynch sprinkled in for good measure. admittedly, i was one of the many that probably didn’t know of parky’s sideline. therefore, without leaving dues unpaid, the thing that surprised me the most was how high a calibre of production “Me Myself & akai” boasts. parky’s choice of beat selection is near flawless; with the classic Boom Bap rawness of “the Father, the Son & the holy Ghost”, the emphatic horns of “living to Die” or the sheer energy of “Money in the Bag” all adding to the album’s brilliant soundscape. lyrically, parky’s on as fine a form as ever. tracks like the three lead singles “return of the Blaow”, “Me” and “Grade & liquor” all showcase his trademark relentless flows over equally as infectious, head-nodding instrumentation. yet, it seems to be the more mellow, intimate tracks where the listener gains a glimpse of the artist as a person. whether it’s his devotion to his wife on “when i See you” or self-reflection on tracks like “My own worst enemy” or “living to Die”; it adds a certain depth and perspective that hasn’t been addressed so openly on previous material. Ultimately, “Me Myself & akai” showcases Micall parknsun: the complete package. he more than holds his own on the beats front and as we have come to expect from him, he drops lyrical gems from start to finish. with age comes wisdom and his maturity shines throughout, sparking somewhat of an evolution in the sense of content and concept. he touches topics we’ve not seen him reach in such depth before and adds a new chapter to his already impressive portfolio. needless to say; this is a must have addition to any self-respecting hip hop head’s collection. people have been waiting on this for quite some time so if you’re slipping and didn’t cop it the second it dropped, now’s the time to make amends… By Mike Pattemore
MySTro: MySTrogen lp
it’s often unheard for for an artist to be recognised as one of the greatest Mc’s in the country, to have put out and featured on countless tracks and also be an influence to hundreds of rappers before even dropping an lp. this is exactly the case as i sit here writing about long time UK veteran Mystro’s debut lp ‘Mystrogen’. Mystrogen is described as ‘like oxygen but you’ll need it a whole lot more’ which is pretty spot on. the album is 15 tracks deep and features homeboy Sandman and Junior reid as well as a few other heads, with production from Black einstein, Show n prove, Big al, Firstman, Si Spex of the creators, DJ thor and the legendary Mr thing, who also handles the cuts on one of the tracks. this album is a perfect example of Mystros versatility and his multiple talents when it comes to making words rhyme. endless wordplay featured on Mystentatious part 1 and 2 as Mystro tells a story over the 2 tracks and namedrops at least over 100 places in the UK, whilst the track neighbours displays Mystros flawless comedic storytelling about his neighbours from hell. highlight tracks for me would have to firstly be the high adrenaline track ’worry Dem’ featuring Junior reid. if i’m not mistaken, this is a pretty old track which i recall hearing on one of the ‘tip of the Mysberg’ mixtapes that
dropped a few years back. the title track ‘Mystrogen’ is definately another favourite of mine, stressing the importance Mystrogen will have on your life ‘it’s the best high for those that do or don’t take drugs’ the track ’So long’ concludes the album with a nice bouncy beat, accompanied by Mystro dropping some down to earth business on breaking up with the other half, leaving llyod Brown to drop some soulful vocals on the hook. By Joe Downes
oilver Sudden: phenoMenal STeaz
oliver Sudden has caught a lot of people’s attention with his new album phenomenal Steaz. the croydon based Mc and producer has been on the hip hop scene for a few years now, getting involved in a large number of projects like Sensei FM and peoples army. his back catalogue of music also shows the man has been busy; consisting of work with a number of artists such as Mr Blue Movies and Steady rock to name a few. in particular Sudden has worked closely with lazy technician in the past creating the vintage Fly e p’s. yet with phenomenal Steaz, Sudden has taken the opportunity to do something a bit more independently, including producing some of his own beats for the album. that is not to say though that Sudden has worked entirely on his own. the album features a huge number of producers such as Mr Blue Movies, hermit the Slob, 2late, the lazy technician, purpose, Jack Diggs, Jonny Drop and guest features from DJ X-Kutz and chad powerz. the album that was released with Boom Bap professionals, offers a vast selection of diversity in sound. it is described as being a ‘mixed bag of styles’ that ranges from ‘funky sound’ to ‘dark gutter screwface hip hop’. now although i couldn’t go that far in saying it is that ‘dark’, i still feel it holds a huge diverse sound. tracks like ‘not tonight’ feat chad powerz and ‘the Method’ feat DJ XKutz offers a classic hip hop noise that will prick up the ears for any hip-hop fan out there. plus the more ‘darker’ tracks like ‘Six for Fivers’ feat the Strange neighbour and Jack Diggs, and ‘hog roast’ show the more meditative side to the artist. Despite all this though, Sudden still provides us with a slightly more ‘light hearted’ listen with ‘Day to Day’ and’ call My name’, where like many other artists in the scene, has the classic tracks that reveals their hatred for their jobs but love for their music. you would think that the continuity of this album wouldn’t work, but once you listen you find Sudden’s bars and flow wraps perfectly around whatever style of beat is thrown at him. as an album i would argue it is a pretty modest listen and a good one at that. when i say modest i mean it is not trying to be a specific style or represent a certain ‘thing’, but instead it just shows Sudden’s variation of style. he dishes us out an array of beats that offer the listener a chance to witness his strengths in all sounds, showing he is not restrained to one specific boxed genre. Sudden brings a laid back vibe to the table that holds a spark in his music that takes it to the next level. For a free download it would be rude not to have a listen. By Abi Lewis
rag’n’Bone Man: BlueSTown ep
whilst the focus here at wordplay is for us to be your first thought when you need your hip hop fix, we like to pepper that urge with a bit of variety every once and a while. offering a fresh direction to his Stellasipping, sobriety-skipping rum committee cohorts’ repertoire; rag’n’Bone Man’s “Bluestown ep” is a stripped back journey to the bottom of several bottles, dwelling on the evils of money, booze and the ‘fairer’ sex. Simplicity is key from start to finish, with the basic combination of harmonica and acoustic guitar more than enough to bring tracks like “high heeled Sneakers” and “right From wrong” to life. teaming up with fellow Boozetown buddy ceezlin on “Daylight Fading”, rag’s woozy, laid back harmonies and ceez’ storytelling have you feeling like you’re jammin’ on the Brighton seafront (as well as carving a mellow, laid back track to keep the
hip hop extremist content). the highlight for me has to be “tell ‘em like it is”; with the choppy piano, subtle percussion and wailing guitars providing the perfect balance to rag’n’Bone’s husky tones. i’ll be the first to admit that my knowledge of the genre is extremely limited but with the closing track “St. James”, the pain and grit in rag’n’Bone’s voice is unquestionably how vintage Blues should sound. Ultimately, as it has done at wordplay hQ, this is going to divide opinions. i’m feeling it big-time but it’s going to boil down to whether or not it’s your cup of tea. personally, to move forward you’ve got to look back and appreciate where you’ve come from. classic rhythm and Blues are pivotal to the origins of hip hop and for the crate diggers out there, it’s this sort of soul drenched, passionate music that gets sampled the shit out of. rag’n’Bone’s almost tortured vocals resonate throughout and in his “Bluestown ep”, he’s created something that reeks of originality and deserves to be noticed. if your mind is open enough to appreciate good music, you should definitely get your lugholes around this. actually, even if you’re a stubborn, hard-core hip-hop head (big up anis) you should still give it a spin; you might learn something… By Mike Pattemore
sKrabl: SaMe you diFFerenT Me
Despite a large number of releases at the end of 2012 that blew the minds of heads, there were also a few releases that have made me want to take a pin to my eardrums. But, with thanks to ‘think Zebra’, Skrabl has brought an equilibrium to the ever growing scene of UK hip hop with his mad new lp that dropped this January- ‘Same you Different Me’. to listen to from start to finish this 11 track drives you through an eclectic journey of intense beats with thanks to producers oozhe and Growbeats. Skrabl’s cameleonlike flow adapts and gels with every unique track, making each one a banger that resists you from pressing the skip button at any point. there are features to every track on this lp that deserve a shout out. ‘into the introspect’ has an epic flute instrumental produced by Growbeats, that is accompanied by an echoing style similar to Fliptrix, with words of perception on life that makes the back of your neck tingle. yet to juxtapose that, ‘earl of wisdom’, produced by oozhe delivers a blues inspired beat that will keep your head bobbing to its rhythmic flow. having artists like Jam Baxter and triple Dot Beast feature in this album adds that extra bonus to this listen. ‘Firing Forever’ has a Baxter written all over it, and the blend of both artists versus and a soulful vocal sample instantly makes it a banger you will want on repeat. after having a few words with Skrabl to find out a bit more about what influenced him to create his new lp, he stated that his influences are varied. “My peers, both in music and life in general, my past, my present position and future aspirations”. you only need to listen to ‘Same you Different me’ in full once to be able to hear what Skrabl is on about, and only then do you want to listen to it again after. this is just pure heavy weight sounds that holds the classic core foundations that will remind you of what is true hip hop. From Skrabl’s point of view, “its cliché but, i don’t make music for anyone but me. when what i create is well received, it’s a bonus on top of the self accomplishment and pleasure i get from making something i perceive to be better than my last effort”. this is a listen where you can feel that attitude bursting through. you will find it is not coated with any pretentious agenda or fake persona, but instead, is a creation by someone who is truly passionate about what they do. this album has been a top start to the year and has definitely raised a high bar for what we are to expect in 2013. By Abi Lewis
ram ram ssaDHU: inDian inK (nsr reCOrDs)
you’d never think that a northern english accent could vividly depict the pilgrimage of an indian traveller, through the art of rhyme, aided only by hip hop instrumentals, but northern Structure just did it. the northwestern collective are back, after the success of their mix tape “Started off local”, with their new album, suitably entitled, “indian ink.” the fact that “Started off local” was only released three months ago, reflects the sheer work rate of northern Structure, yet the quality of the end product reflects only pure talent. Following the travels of pot bellied holy man ram ram Ssadhu, as he makes his way through india on a pilgrimage to nepal, indian ink is compiled by a selection of solid beats, produced by both rapper and amos, and Statuestance. this stands as a firm release, and further proof that hip-hop is alive and well in the north. throughout the album, Sssadhu is portrayed as a mystical character, thanks to repeated use of airy pipes and sitar samples. this is exceedingly prominent on the second track of the album, “Kerala”. the use of the sitar, combined with knife sharp snares and kicks, work to create a slowly progressive rhythm, which amos taints with lyrics personifying the character of SSadhu. his rough tones glide over the beat, fusing together ancient indian culture, working to create a contemporary hip-hop track, which could be used to conjure cobras from a plant pot. another stand out track on the album is “hampi”. the effort which was put into this album, really shines through here, evident in the production, working to create a grimey styled beat, which could quite easily stand proud without any bars from an mc. the use of Bollywood style vocal samples are complimented by amos’s perfectly executed flows, which effortlessly grace the beat, conveying the level of versatility possessed by this mc, as he switches from hip-hop to grime. another strong track from the album is “Goa”. induced by a long introduction, made up of sitar notes, both low and high in pitch, with the slow emplacement of symbols, until amos steps in the first bars of the album. this really gives you a taste of what is in store for the rest of the release, as his voice emulates attitude, painting this ram ram SSadhu as a sinister character through his intricate wordplay. the fusion of ancient indian tribal esque music, with the northern accent works to create an oppressive, enticing atmosphere. another track that really stands out to me is “agra”. this is quite unlike anything else in the album, where the use of a synthesiser really is evident. these synths allow the listeners to lose themselves in their thoughts, nod their heads and immerse themselves in the tranquillity that this music embodies. yet again, amos paints the beat with a high tier of lyricism, with a tailor made fitting to the production. as “indian ink” follows ram ram Ssadhu on his journey to enlightenment, we feel that we, as the listeners, are undergoing a similar journey. the production from both amos and Statuestance are of a high level from start to finish, portrayed in all tracks, and several of the skits that complete the album. For anyone looking for an intriguing, thought-provoking listen, “indian ink”, is for you. By Max Meres
tHree HeaDeD beast: tHe WOrKinG Class zero
three headed Beast member twizzy has definitely impressed with his latest solo venture ‘working class Zero’. Boasting features from thB partners Jinxsta JX and M.a.B as well as prominent UK emcee ramson Badbonez, the album is a rhythmical head-nod, a cynical but grounded journey into the realities of modern day struggle, and well worth a download. the intro has an almost Jehst-like vibe, successfully playing with the contrasting melody of an jazzy piano sample and gritty lyrics. Setting the two against each other sets the tone for an album which consists of 10 tracks that work to bring some smooth musicality into the scene. “working class Zero. Just a slave to the modern wage.” Story never opened drops scratching and mixing effects over a lively sample, a fresh vibe reminiscent of more old school US hip hop; think Dilated peoples. Jinxsta’s bars are strong from the off; fluid and inviting. “this isn’t poetry in motion. its more navigating rivers to the ocean” the chorus isn’t the strongest, although the following track Dreamer exemplifies charlie Mac’s production talent and is, for me, the most successful in terms of its seriously catchy and almost soulful hook. twizzy’s delivery on Make the world Spin is showcased as controlled and powerful; his impact is impressive and track addresses the listener directly. Switching it up, the central, album-titled track ‘working class Zero’ is far more angry and aggressive. it’s for pavements and grey days, and with an ill verse from Badbonez, is a microcosm of the paramount feelings of struggle and difficulty that define twizzy’s album. common Ground is another highlight, stripped back and personal, twizzy drops an introspective discussion around his own self-examination. its melancholy beat and vulnerable lyrics provide the album with a softer and more moving element. “these days i don’t feel the love” this is rapidly overtaken however by the next track run Us out, which employing one of the best samples, contributes to a sick climatic ending. M.a.B shines here with a live flow and this leads fluently into the ending Goodbye. addressing issues of poverty and a working class life, twizzy conveys powerfully feelings of disappointment, struggle and oppression. what makes this album however, is that these ideas are presented against a mish-mash of funky samples and melodies. i like how musical the piece is, it is a nice fresh reminder that lyricism works best alongside proper music. at times there is a rawness that reminds me of some of lowkey’s earlier stuff; and despite a sense that this isn’t completely polished, twizzy has demonstrated some serious potential. a definite progression from the Baileys Brown Musical volumes, i’m excited to see what he does next. Review By Kenza Marland
trelliOn & sniFF: nOrtH lUna
north luna is the latest release from the Sheffield based duo trellion and Sniff from Bad taste records. trellion being one of the cofounders of Bad taste has seriously done himself proud. at the risk of sounding cheesy, north luna couldn’t have come any sooner. the first, self-titled song eases you into this mix tape with a famous quote from the composer John cage, famous for his non-conformist approach to music. this rings true throughout the mix tape in a way that can only be described as “fuck you pay us”. this track sets the pace, as every first song should, quite rightly tell you that they are “coming in hotter this year”. & Boy do they. with all the beats being mainly self-produced, only outsourcing on 4 songs that are produced by Smoots. Mostly melodic and easy listening with the inevitable few being more gutter than your local working mens club’s cistern. ambient skits and slow raps really put you in the state of mind you can imagine trells and Sniff were in when making this banger of tape. hats low and eyes squinted. track 10 named “yacht Scene” portrays this better than Kanye west portrays a colostomy bag. hopelessly northern, endless amounts of well thought out lyrics that base around making money in a not so legitimate way and smoking copious amounts, make this a must have in any rap fans itunes. track 16 featuring rawkid is a real Sheffield anthem, postcodes and gun references galore, a personal favourite. the underlying mixture of culture and pure dumb rapping is something of a marvel. a must have for any of you out there that want to just press play, kick it and smoke. (this was my listening ritual). By Jake Rudman
Overseas Reviews -
Overseas albums Winter 2012/13
Overseas album OF tHe issue:
a$aP rOCKY: lOnG.live.a$aP
review By Danny Hill
At a time in Hip-Hop where there’s an ubiquitous sentiment surrounding styles derived from eras past, Rakim Mayers (A$AP Rocky) focuses on bringing innovation to his music in the form of vocal vulgarity, good-natured nonchalance and overtly confident content. In ‘LONGLIVE’, he brings this together with a fusion of new and old styles to forge a piece of work to induce him into the big-time and begin his reign in the main. ‘lets take it to the basics, you in the midst of greatness’ – A$AP Rocky - Goldie Rocky first came to everyone’s attention with his acclaimed mix-tape ‘liveloveA$AP’ leaving fans and critics mesmerising by the potent attitude that he exuberated. Incorporating characteristics from disparate areas of the genre and giving rise to a hypnotic and engrossing character in his music, his sound so intimate but original. As an artist it’s an incongruence to take the time to dissect and analyse something that can only truly be appreciated at face value. The beauty of A$AP is that it’s just such an approachable and effortless listen. The sheer arrogance and complementing sound is refreshing. It is what it is. You wouldn’t drink Pepsi and complain it doesn’t taste like Coca Cola. But after only a sip, everything feels noticeably upgraded. Production aside, it’s that type of mentality that insists he improves as an artist, claiming he’s limited and sparsely diverse. As an artist, the album shows a strong versatility. Whilst still embellishing the heralded aspects of his talent that make him so fascinating. ‘I been thinkin’ bout’/all the 0’s in my bank account/next to, all the hoes in my bed/it’s round the same amount’ – A$AP ROCKY – 1train For instance, there’s always an undertone of dark humour. Sometimes it can be repugnant but still feel playful. Much in the way Schoolboy Q describes how he will ‘give her the diggidy D’. But moreover, everything you’d want from Rocky is in this album. Stylish, sinister and sharp. However, it gets self-indulgent at times. To be quite honest, Fuckin’ Problems is just corny chauvinism poorly put together. Fashion Killa is an ode to sugar daddies everywhere, literally naming 27 different designer labels with little development than simply boasting brands. With an appearance from Skrillex being so conspicuous it takes a few hesitant listens to even consider its credibility. But these tracks are a necessary evil, allowing the artist to be more accessible to those unfamiliar with ‘Flacko’. This doesn’t stop it being frustrating. A$AP has built this understated flashy style and to jeopardise this seems short-sighted by those with direction on the project. This offensive over-flamboyance and the sickeningly confused nature of these tracks are an utter travesty to his dope decorum and composed nature. ‘Now the kids all look up to me/them bitches wanna f*ck with me/My idols say what’s up to me/ from ugly to comfortably/Suddenly’ – A$AP ROCKY - Suddenly The production is also a real area of contention. On the one hand, it’s the best sounding hip-hop album for quite some time. It’s incredibly polished, with deeply ominous adagio sounds. With it being so much cleaner, it furthers the ambient trip-hop feel. It’s almost a masterpiece of audible affluence. Incredibly, it still manages to stay true to its southern-style. With chopped and woozy effects, insistent on influences from southern impressionists DJ Screw, Bone Thugs and spaceghostpurpp.
But this improvement is unexpectedly detrimental for the loyal A$AP fans. The beauty of liveloveA$AP was its thunderously raw and infectious sound. It’s uneasy and crackly undertones crafted by Clams and company, managed to sound so crisp across the entire tape. It’s an obvious obstacle dedicated fans will have to overcome. The common conception, is that A$AP Rocky isn’t renown for being the most verbose of lyricists. With this, it implies assumed limitation. But this malleable facet still remains easily negated by his incredible flow. ‘Long.Live’ provides A$AP with the opportunity to demonstrate further his dexterous ability. With Suddenly just beautifully building into a crescendo of a vocal tirade. There’s a peculiar elegance to tracks like PMW (all I need), Jodye and the self-titled track. The success of the heavy-hitting tracks on this album all emanate from his lucid fluidity. Glitz and the glamours/we pose for the cameras/Ghetto n*ggas with me/they pose with the hammers/Ghetto girls with me/pink toes in the sandals/No dirty laundry/ get your nose out my Hamper – A$AP Rocky - Pain But more and more, you begin see moments of brilliance. Little quips of confidence have somehow grown further. This is where fans will be undoubtedly able to immerse themselves in the aspects of Rocky that have made him so popular. However, he’s grown up a lot in a year and it’s evident in his content and growing depth. Now getting all reflective and introspective on top of the world – he toys with notions of suicide in Pheonix and provokes some religious reflection in Angels. The impact of his colossal rise on his impressionable mind-set are evident. Providing you with insight and inadvertently adding strength to this character. With this honestly furthering his individuality. Yet, he’s still that young Harlem kid with a fetish for fashion and craving for cash. The choice of features is great, Schoolboy Q and fellow A$AP Ferg make a triumphant return. Gunplay and Santigold fit right in and there’s a carriage-full of incredible talent with 1train.The only song of A$AP’s thus far with direct influence from the sound of his native area. This 6 minute cypher of sheer delight hopefully setting a precedent for future hip-hop albums. Whilst making the hip-hop sob think twice. ‘It’s a movie n*gga/with a new cast/get the news flash/that the truth back’ – A$AP Rocky – LVL Rocky described himself in a recent interview as ‘an artiste’. Though he’s not quite the Picasso he proclaims, I can’t help but feel he’s not truly had to freedom to work in the same vein as he did with his previous output. A$AP’s charisma is still unrelenting and the dark-humoured machismo of his personality simply radiates throughout. From the beginning ‘I thought I’d probably die in prison, expensive taste in womeeen’ his lines just echo and resonate against the harrowing backdrop of production. His beat-selection was also incredible, hit-boy, clams and the plethora of producers did spectacular work. Best of all, he’s still true to himself. He still professes to be bringing Harlem back with his patented purple swag. And whilst accessible endeavours may entice reluctance, and renounce appeal from A$AP disciplines; he still maintains his enigmatic energy. You can’t help but appreciate the album. He’s refined his sound and experimented with considerable success. The overwhelming style he possesses overcomes any issues and in all, LONGLIVEA$AP is a solid album. Given this is his debut, I’m sure we’re all hoping his reign lives long.
aCtiOn brOnsOn: rare CHandaliers
action Bronson is a man on an incredible rise. This latest record however, somewhat serves as an aperitif for both a fourth-coming album and with this, an imminent break into the commercial cosmos. in and amongst this the ex-professional chef still serves up another slice of the sublime. From the moment he dished up his debut ‘Dr lecter’ last year, Bronson has been able to maintain a level of simple sophistication to satisfy the pallet of both the casual fan and the appetite of the evercritical connoisseur. Though it may be overlooked, the mixtape is still a crucial vestige for the Queen’s native. it marks the first time that Bronson lines up his record against some bigger name features. and what exquisite taste he has. with appearances from several profile names such as Styles P and evidence. not only this, but some tracks see Bronson in unfamiliar territory with darker overtones that his style manages to hold up against with ease. The issue with this dish however, emanates from the source of its main ingredient, production from the highly coveted beat artisan alchemist. The continuation of his unsettling, ominous and almost queasy tones are sometimes at odds with the slick and rhythmic flows of Bronson. Though both are capable of embellishing each other, they appear at times to seem somewhat misjudged amongst a melody that has been carefully cooked up with consideration. However, these clashes are rare and for the most-part Bronson’s successful recipe continues to resonate within a basic formula where less is more. This is no more evident with tracks such as ‘eggs on the third floor’ a slow cautious prelude that springs into a ruckus of a familiar flashy Bronson rant. ‘Sylvester lundgren’ is a real bare-boned hip-hop joint that brings together the elements that have made him so compelling to listen to. This type of flagrant nonchalance echoes throughout Bronson’s performance. not only does this result in an easier listen but facilitates a diversity that he later unveils in line with more raw performers such as Sean Price in ‘Blood of the Goat’ and Styles in ‘Gateway to wizardry’. Here his methodology holds up to truly complement a dish oozing with sinister ruggedness. as if someone served your steak rare enough to be still beating. in parts, it would be easy for those with a less acquired taste to toy with the notion that Bronson becomes stale. Just as this idea ponders, he rebuttals with some gut-busting lines: ‘Kush is by prescription, prolific in the kitchen/People on my dick because i’m vicious with the diction’ His subject matter is still as it always was: constantly heavy, sometimes humorous and often laden with obscure cultural references. The type guaranteed to have you scouring wikipedia. Making his lifestyle feel like a private joke you’d love to be part of. inter twinned with vivid depictions of lavish living are the esoteric hip-hip v food – style quirks that sometimes leave you hungry for more than just his new material. However, there is a nasty aftertaste with some of his lines this time around. The usual playful borderline misogyny and brashness feels much more vicious and it would seem there is little to counteract with his charming self-depreciation to counteract some of this. But luckily he has not deviated too far from his compelling and captivating ways and will continue winning over the inner nerd with samples from Jean Claude van Dam films and utterances of indistinct 80s and 90s sports stars. it’s not surprising that his sound has enticed comparisons to great rappers such as Ghostface. However, when he performs on his own level, they are two vastly different characters. Ultimately, the blaxploitation-styled album art is incredible and the wisecracking action-hero persona resonates throughout: ‘Stick knives where you poop, Backflips off the ledge, hang-glide off the roof’. yet he still maintains a collected and understated style. The alchemist brings his typically consistent beats and anyone who enjoys the feel of this should look at ‘covert coup’ with curren$y, one of the best sounds of last year. altogether with the great guest features, this is a pretty solid release and hopefully Bronson has set a precedent in trying to excel himself and work somewhat out of his comfort zone. rare Chandeliers underlines exactly why he is such a prominent name in contemporary hip-hip and he is a sparking crystal fixture amongst a bunch of dull lampshades. So the verdicts out. This patron’s opinion? Compliments to the chef. By Danny Hill
anGle Haze: ClassiK mixtaPe
This mix tape from Brooklyn rapper angel Haze is ambitious and bold to say the least; mainly due to the use of complete hip hop anthems as its backing: ‘Doo wop’ from lauryn Hill, Jay –Z’s ‘Song Cry’, Missy elliot and of course the tape’s leading and most controversial track spat over eminem’s harrowing ‘Cleaning Out my Closet’. it takes some sense of self-worth to shamelessly put your own mark over such classic hip hop tunes, but as the title suggests, Haze is embracing this without hesitation. it reminds me of the ballsy confidence we saw from artists like J.Cole, on his mixtape ‘The Come Up‘- difference is he was already signed by Jay-Z . But, what could be an epic fail from angel Haze actually turns, predominantly, into something very successful. yet initially, for the first few moments, i wasn’t convinced: was this not just an azealia Banks copy cat? The tone of voice, the attitude seemingly so- except it only took about half way through the first track ‘Bitch Bad’ to realise that angel Haze was a cut above. Her flow, language and damn right confidence were to be admired: Finally! a female emcee that could stand her ground in terms of lyrical delivery against the boys. My most hated trend is this new nikki Minaj type rapping- or speaking more like, and it has become, for some reason semiaccepted as how girls should spit. angel Haze jumps on the mic with actual emotion, passion and lyrical prowess. By the end of the first track she’s already chucking out a few Goosebumps along with a moral lesson and a hook that is surprisingly catchy. “in that moment he understands: woman should never be hurt by words or hands. and just like that, that little boy becomes a man” The tape progresses rapidly with the same aggressive but bouncy tone which makes you feel like some of these tracks are ultimately best listened to through headphones walking down the street. about 2 minutes into ‘Gossip Folks’, Haze drops into a few seconds of almost acappella; again exposing the strength of her flow. ‘Song Cry’ perhaps rides slightly too much on the hook of Jay-Z’s original, although again credit due- it takes a lot to rap over something so well known, especially to cover a voice like Jay Z’s and it not to sound simply wrong. The same for the lauryn Hill version; i can’t help enjoy it, and actually maybe enjoy Haze’s voice most on this track, but is this not simply because i loved the original track? The inclusion of erykah Badu’s ‘love of my life’ with minimal featuring from angel Haze herself i take as an appreciation of the strength of erykah as a female artist in hip hop; and think works as a welcome break from what is otherwise a continuum of quite angry and gritty tracks. Finally, the mix tape concludes with the one piece i was wary writing about. it tells the story of the rapper’s sexually-abused filled childhood, and it tells this vividly and explicitly to the point where it’s almost too sickening to digest. it’s difficult because whilst music, and hip hop should surely be something to be enjoyed, and this definitely can’t be, it has the same pull that the world felt from eminem. and this is where i have to give angel Haze most respect. Because as hard as the lyrics are to listen too, and whether it is a clever use of shock-tactic which is a common tactic these days to gain attention, it undeniably does justice to a track which was originally an incredibly powerful piece of storytelling from an artist who was arguably one of the most important lyricists in hip hop. it is nasty, it’s fucking dark as fuck, but just like eminem, it’s weirdly compelling. it draws you in, and leaves you like…really feeling? a feat that is, as far as i’m concerned, a serious achievement for a mix tape. ‘Classick’ is well worth a listen, and i found myself returning to it again and again this past week; it definitely lacks some fine-tuning and i think angel Haze has a vast amount more to offer. Thing is though, i’m left with a set of lyrics which have very much stayed with me, and the personal, intimate nature of this tape is what sets it apart. if you do nothing else seriously check out the ‘King Krule rework’ of angel Haze track ‘new york’ available on Soundcloud; which fuses Haze’s flow with some smoother production to give us, personally, a glimpse of where i think this artist could go. By Kenza Marland
CaPtain murPHY: dualitY
First and foremost, the production is overwhelming. The mix-tape begins and revisits samples of cult persuasions and alongside these are a plethora of various clips ranging from the haunting to the obscure. The real overarching achievement however, is the success of the stylistic measures that he imparts throughout. Sections are just phenomenal and it’s this quality that makes it a real must-listen for any hip-hop fan. The feel of the project is at times lurid and depraved but at others, curiously wonderful. Though praise isn’t surprising given Flying lotus’ credible work to date. However, some of the tracks are the best produced tracks i’ve heard in months (although many aren’t long enough to be deemed a track). it’s the changing tempos that really keep things constantly nervous, uneasy and at times terrifying. From the sharp, luring guitar at the start ‘the ritual’ fading into a mellow orchestral feel. Samples from raymond Scott’s Manhattan research (some of the first electronic music ever produced). Then the eerie drums on ‘The Gloe’ that tick like a grandfather clock. whilst later, there’s ‘immaculation’ using alchemist’s sample from Mobb Deep’s ‘the realest’ which really demonstrates despite his experimental efforts he’s still mindful of his audience. at times, his careful labour produces an astonishing result. There’s so much to take in, all of which demonstrates that the Captain can certainly steer the ship in the right direction. But as the saying goes worse things can happen at sea and there are some reservations to be had for Flying lotus’ first endeavour into the rap game. Further into the mix-tape, it becomes increasingly apparent that ‘Captain Murphy’ as a concept hasn’t quite been developed enough or even fully unearthed. There’s a constant struggle surrounding who the listener is actually dealing with. Be it, as leader of the masses, a playful nemesis or the archetypal unsung-hero. as such notions are toyed with in ‘the killing joke’. This is where the Captain falters somewhat. at times what will begin to seem rich and meaningful suddenly ascends into chaotic and almost comical gibberish. it’s this temperamental bi-polar personality that is really fascinating but severely debilitating. There is no linear story that emerges for this persona that has gained so much notoriety; it is simply a series of abstract and disjointed notions. This i do find utterly disappointing. So much effort was put into building this enigmatic persona by hiding his actual identity. it would only seem logical to embellish this by slowly constructing something within the songs. instead we are greeted or more- confronted with these sometimes base and superficial alter-ego’s which may enthuse the cult follower but sadly will not resonate with the masses. with this, the lyrics tend to lack the depth or ambiguity to really support the production and it’s almost an insult to tarnish such melodies with the generic ‘swag’ and musings of ‘n*gger dicks’. Obviously for the most part the overbearing theme is one of dark depraved distress but unfortunately the verbiage doesn’t quite convey this in a similar fashion. it leans more towards the recent macabre culture that has found a home in the world of hiphop. which, when it’s done properly can be a welcome neighbour. earl and Tyler (who both make a welcome appearance) are testament to this. with ‘between friends’ a particular highlight. However, whether this abrasive goofiness fits alongside the intricate beauty of the instrumentals remains to be seen. which you can’t help but feel does a disservice to ‘Flylo’s’ efforts. notwithstanding this, the constant uncertainty about the true nature of the character does further the uncomfortable feel this project has. Thankfully some of these quirks are counteracted by moments of the marvellous. Ultimately it is one of the most eclectic sounds that has been produced for years and i always like to quote and reference songs when i discuss releases but ultimately, i think the best way to appreciate this is in its entirety. Pretentious i know, but this has clearly been made as one big rubix cube of collective oddity. although its premise may not seem original to the avid fan and the concepts can seem somewhat confounded, its sound and development are truly unique. regardless, Captain Murphy has grabbed hold of something on the verge of absolute genius and it’s enticing to see what he has in store next By Danny Hill
HOmebOY sandman: First OF a livinG breed lP
The latest offering from quite possibly the tallest MC i’ve ever seen, Queens resident, Homeboy Sandman. Homeboys 14 track long Player ‘First of a living Breed’ is out now on the legendary Stones Throw record label. Featuring no guest verses, Homeboy holds it down on his own, with production from Oh no, Oddisee and J57, to name but a few. Those of you that are familiar with Homeboy Sandman will already know him for his quirkyness, his clever, unique lyrical ability and versatility to put out tracks on a number of different vibes and still always come correct. This versatility is displayed in the uber upbeat track ‘whatchu want From Me’ which sees Homeboy drop flows over a fast paced, piano led beat, going to the complete other end of the spectrum with a very slow, dark, synthy vibe on ‘illuminati’ Some personal favourites on this one would have to be ‘not really’ which is on a nice laidback vibe, with HS modestly detailing the differences between back before he was well known to now ‘when people ask me if my life changed, here’s what i might say, not really’ ‘i’m still Black Thoughts biggest fan, just now i can call and tell him so’ The track ‘For The Kids’ is dope, highlighting the problems with the youth of today, accompanied by bouncy synths and a creepy loop of a baby laughing. lyrically, illuminati is my favourite of the album, jam packed with thought provoking lyrics of the modern world, moulded together with great flow and wordplay ‘we used to beat on Bush but now he’s not around so people found a different bush to beat around’ By Joe Downes
KendriCK lamar: GOOd Kid m.a.a.d CitY
a Polaroid serves as the first point of contact with Good kid M.a.a.D city, a baby Kendrick sat on the knee of his uncle in what looks like a direct slice of intimacy from the very roots of Dre’s protégé childhood, having such a vivid & personal image grace the front cover of an album that effortlessly converts his adolescent years into such a mesmerizing story is one that i cant help but feel was premeditated, Kendrick is working with such vast levels of diversity & precision in not only his lyrics but the concepts & structures he chooses to channel these into, which has done nothing but help project the Compton natives debut firmly amongst some of the greatest bodies of work in recent hip-hop history. The first crackle of audible information comes in the form of a recorded prayer, which soon fades into a 17 year Kendrick’s memoirs of chasing the skirt of his love interest Sherane, a eager young K scurries himself closer to his ultimate goal in his mothers “borrowed” car, tagging us along with him in a frantic hurry with hopes of him finding love, only to bring us crashing back to the reality of living in Compton when he realizes Sherane had set him up with two Gang bangers, just like that he manages to weave two completely different worlds into one concept. The counter played concepts of this album really kick in on “Backseat Freestyles” in which we find a chest puffed Kendrick kicking an exuberant hook about money, fame & power over a thumping Hit-Boy production piece, switching between several different flows you begin to see a picture unfold before your eyes of an immature kid spewing unrealistic verses to his boys on a cruise, keeping in mind we’re being taking on the journey of a 17 year old Kendrick being purveyed with multi layered lyricism. “The art of Peer Pressure” flirts with the ideals of how we all act differently in front our homies, Kendrick’s moral ties are at its strongest here, he almost sounds like he’s doubting how much he actually belongs amongst his Gang Banger friends as he cruises through rival gang postcodes, smoking cocaine laced spliffs and harassing girls, police sirens help tie in Compton’s association with the Bloods & the Crips and conflicts within himself can
be heard “M.a.a.D city” continues along these lines, Compton thug-life has obviously had a direct influence in his music but not in a manor that becomes him fully, its almost as if he has stood at a distance and taken in everything around him without letting it fully engulf his character as tempting as it may have been for him, having the mighty MC eiht crop up as guest verse for me echoes as a bow to the one of Compton’s original gangsta rappers as he bellows “wake yo ass up” almost like a wake up call to a deluded 17 year Kendrick thinking he’s a big time gangster while helping bridge the gap between old school and new school. after being confronted with violence Kendrick leads us near the end of his “short film” on “Sing about Me, i’m Dying of thirst” a double barreled 12 minute song dealing with a empathetic approach to the many individuals gunned down within the ghetto so freely “idolized” yet abandoned throughout this album. Kendrick displays such emotion within his deliverance and style in this track, cutting of a verse with gunshots mimicking fallen souls taken away before they had chances to finish, or slowly fading away on his verse while still rapping with such intensity all add to the beauty on the first half of this track before we are confronted with the Kendrick lamar we met on previous releases like Section.80 who has a full understanding and disregard for the life he seemed so eager to achieve as a teen. Dying of thirst is explained by a fragile sounding lady as the lack of belief Kendrick found himself shrouded in after the loss of his brother, ultimately ending the touching skit in the form of another voicemail from his parents This albums concept blew my mind having the backbone to stand on both sides of such a perilous lifestyle and be able to convert such home truths with such vivid lyricism and story telling abilities is an astounding feat, every track, skit and interlude all served as a multiple benefactors in creating one of the most captivating listens i have ever experienced. From The opening prayer on “sherane a.k.a Master Splinters Daughter” to the west Coast ode “Compton” this album displayed characteristics that will not easily be forgotten, i can guarantee you this has already carved Mr lamar a pathway between some of the greatest rappers and albums to of graced this planet. i take my hat off to you Kendrick and thank you for such an amazing album. By Rikki James
PrO era: tHe PrOPCalYPse
‘The golden era’ of HipHop, is a go-to phrase that gets banded around as soon as someone hears anything with a semblance of rhyme scheme and some jazz drums. So, as soon as that term is used – you can’t help but feel it’s a bit cliché. This ‘golden era’, has been synonymous with these guys and subsequently, there’s a dissonance barrier. However, the PrOpcalypse feels like it’s done in such a respectful manner, you can’t help but fully appreciate it. with the cover of this tape echoing Tribe’s midnight marauders you’d be misconceived to think that this is a standard ‘old-school’ revival. The beats are still jazz-laden, with samples from a plethora of classics. The drums from nas’ One love (last cypher), Method Man’s lines from How High (F a Critic), Common’s resurrection (like water), Biggie’s Juicy (Florists) and Jay’s iZZO (The renaissance). all of which are particular highlights. But the true difference comes in its approach. it’s a real polished feel, without trying too hard. There are few enough of these throwback bites to keep you from feeling like someone hasn’t lazily re-mastered their cassette tapes. yet whilst paying homage to the past, they lay down a standard in production that future artists should hope to attain. The input of Statik Selectah and Thelonius Martin really comes through. Bringing together a seldom-seen authentic east coast experience. i’d like to think somewhere forefather large Professor has a tear in his eye. ‘got smart off my verses and palindromes, the closest thing you caught in my lines was a sickly syndrome’ – Dessy Hinds ‘vinyls’ The best thing about this group that really resonates on this PrOject is that there are very few weak links. One verse can be a bit sloppy or slightly off the mark, another member picks up and just flips the whole momentum. with this depth of squad, someone can just hop off the
bench and turn it into a whole other ball-game. The content itself is to be admired. Subjects ranging from juvenile high-school reminiscing to flourishes of introspective rambling. This oozes maturity from a group whose members aren’t old enough to justify being so reflective, given that they’ve only a few years to look back on. But, this variety provides even more value to the tracks. with so many concepts and thought streams it’s a dynamic that can make songs fascinating. However, reservations are to be had here – occasionally these verses can be slightly abstruse. Sometimes when you think you’re about to listen to some really profound stuff – the lyrics get a little bit self-indulgent and can seem undeveloped. again, the switching-style group dynamic and the production mean these slight blemishes are negligible. with this, the strong ambiguity of some of the words, (particularly from Steez)mean that a lot of lines do take some time to grow on you. Overall, ‘PeeP the aPrOpocalypse‘ is easily one of the best mix-tapes of the year. with 17 tracks, it’s got a lot of replay value. Up there with Bronson’s Blue Chips and Joey’s own 1999. This tape is really a move further in the right direction for Pro era. you can’t help but feel overwhelmed with excitement given that less than a year ago these guys where relatively unheard of. The fact is, they have plenty of time and talent to mould their styles further and build on what has been an incredible showing thus far. it’s hard to say anything without sounding disrespectful and to omit it is equally unfair. we can take solace in the fact that his work will undoubtedly leave him immortalised amongst hip-hop fans. i’m sure he’s left an indelible mark on the pro era group and we offer our condolences to those he was dear to, i hope he’s in a better place – riP Jamal Dewar. By Danny Hill
tHe Purist: tr-ill eP.
Our very own ‘The Purist’ excels again with the Tr-ill e.P. Pusha T recently described the plethora of current american beat-makers as ‘laptop warm’ which you don’t really have to breakdown to realise is an obvious shot at the lack of real stayingpower with a lot of producers. which makes it great to hear such talent from our end. again, he confirms this consistency and similar to his Double feature last year, he’s really teasing us with such potential. Getting the big names gives him another chance to showcase his talent. His style of electronic-fused hip-hop feel almost intergalactic. But there’s a strange ambience and composure about the sound. He stays very true his craft. Putting things together using only original work composed on an MPC. with samples found via meticulous crate-digging. it’s a respectable approach given the style of his contemporaries. For those tracks the UK and the US fuse together, Danny Brown’s eccentricity flatters the production but don’t go expecting the verbal extremes we’re used to hearing. However, it’s a good thing, as it really provides an opportunity for the whole sound to come through. Bronson turns up – no surprise. Favourites Price and Havoc turn up with some heavy hitting verses for the thunderous style of the track. whilst CaS accounts himself very well, which is admirable given who he’s bumping shoulders with. i particularly like how the Purist puts out his projects. The exclusives that you can get with the special edition. i’m not a vinyl buff at all. But with the free movie-styled posters and the hand-numbering, it even makes me a little vi-curious. i think it’s definitely a prelude as to the next chapter of the Purist. i can’t wait to hear him again and with any luck, this project marks the beginning of something really big. By Danny Hill
Best of 2012 -
The besT UK hip hop from lasT year
To say putting this together has been a task would easily win understatement of the year, we’ve thought, argued and literally thrown coffee, pens and monitors at each other trying to work out who deserves top place in each category. There is no right or wrong answer, only a group of heads agreeing and disagreeing (mostly). Hopefully we have come up with something that represents a buzzing scene in the UK right now and all the hard work that many have put into crafting their art. So to show our thought process we have our title for each category and a list below of the artists we argued about.
melanin9 - magna carTa
DaTKiD - home by eighT
The moUse oUTfiT
M9 dropped an album late last year and was a main reason why we didn’t run our ‘Best of’ in Dec, we knew this was worth waiting for and he didn’t disappoint. This is an instant classic, an album you can truly listen to from start to finish and start all over again.
This is probably the hardest category to pick just one, album’s hold the possibilty of at least a few weaker points swaying opinion’s, but this category represents as an opener to THE album. Eventually we agreed on Datkids Home By Eight purely for its rawness. Baileys Browns production only added to this hard hitting title track, which summed up exactly what Datkids album offered and precisely what Uk hip hop should be!
The 9 piece band from Manchester have risen amongst the ranks with their unique approach to the Hip-Hop sound, heavy doses of magical link ups with the likes of UK legend Dr Syntax and homeland affiliates Dubbul O and Sparkz have only fuelled an amazing year for them. This band are without doubt one to look out for. Having dropped nothing but quality since we first clocked them on ‘Never Get Enough’ way back in april, they have repeatedly astounded us with solid hit after solid hit, causing many a heated debate for single of the year nominations with joints like ‘Shak Out’ and ‘Who Gwarn Test’ We eagerly anticipate an Ep or Album in 2013.
Causing arguments in the Wordplay Studio: Caxton Press - Shame The Devil Jam Baxter - Gruesome Features Fliptrix - Third Eye of the Storm & The Road To The Interdimensional Piff Highway Kingdom Of Fear
Causing arguments in the Wordplay Studio: Die & Break feat MC Fats and Buggsy - Peace & Dub Fliptrix - Wylin Out Ed Scissor & Baxter - Pipe Smoke Mouse Outfit feat Sparkz & Dubbl O - Shak Out Stig Of The Dump - One
Causing arguments in the Wordplay Studio: Frankie Stew & Harvey Gunn Edward Scissortongue Jman Twizzy
Best Solo Male
Jam baxTer - brains
There was always going to be one winner for this category, a video directed by Harry Wheeler focusing around a dishevelled door-to-door brain salesman ‘Tarquin Shitcrim’ shotting lumps of membrane to fellow High focus counterparts dressed in a gaggle of hilarious costumes, if you haven’t seen it already you’ve missed out if you have then you know exactly where we stand. This video not only took the praise due to its concept but for the thought, time & dedication put into it by all involved. A little bit of inside information too, Dirty Dike is the guy wearing the mouses head, no one else could fit it on their head!
This Bristol collective kept us constantly on our toe’s all throughout 2012, a remix album, a solo from Datkid which caused our readers voting poll to crash in its opening days, Upfront’s solo album, a consistent stream of epically dope videos being released seemingly weekly & various collaborations with heads nationwide all added to our choice in the category. This is one extremely tight crew who have not shown any interest in slowing down their efforts in stamping their presence within the Hip-Hop culture, energetic performances & individual characteristic’s resonate wherever these chaps spring up. We know they have a bagful of new material waiting to drop this year, most notably Res & Datkids ‘Drugs, Booze & Dental issues’ and a project with Two Tungs, watch this space!
With High Focus dominating the scene in the UK right now we saw very little reason as to why the brains behind the label shouldn’t walk away with this one. One fourth of The Four Owls in a year that saw not one but two albums, sell out gigs both in the UK and abroad all coupled with a work rate like we’ve never seen. High Focus are being hailed by many as the main reason why UK hip hop had re-flourished. We tip our hat to you Flippa!
Video Credits: Produced by Jam Baxter Directed by Harry Wheeler Edited by Andrew Hugh Craig Costume by Jenna at Prangsta Causing arguments in the Wordplay Studio: SeFire’ - In Every Fliptrix - Wylin Out Contact Play - Coma Rewd Adams - Everythings ok
Causing arguments in the Wordplay Studio: Caxton Press Contact Play LDZ (London Zoo) Northern Structure
Causing arguments in the Wordplay Studio: Phoenix Da Icefire Verb T Jehst Skuff
Best Solo Female
Best Live Act
JehsT & live banD
This was a tough category, there aren’t many female ‘hip hop’ artists in the UK at the minute, plenty involved overseas or in genres close to the scene like Grime, but a female artist that was truly hiphop was a rare thing for us to sniff out in the UK. This being said I don’t want to take anything away from Amy True, her talents shine high and she has so much more to come (believe us). We don’t like comparisons when it comes to artists or even humans as we are all individual, but Amy can spit bars with the best this country has to offer and then step back and sing with the same conviction of lauryn hill. Amy True, Caxton Press, keep a beady eye on this crew.
So good to see an mc backed by a full band on stage, and if you were lucky enough to catch Jehst this year you will know why we have put him here. The chemistry between him and Micall Parknsun on stage is second to none. Jehst sold out gigs right across the country, smashed the stage at Outlook festival the year before and closed BoomBap festival leaving every festival goer buzzing with anticipation at the direction hip-hop has taken and all wanting more! Watching videos of him rehearsing with the band you truly learn how involved he is, this isn’t a guy standing in front of a talented group, he is involved as a unit.
We always have a whole flock of American producers washing musical ventures upon our shore & while in small cases this isn’t a bad thing it somewhat dilutes the real dope material we have to offer, take the purist for example who has not only provided dope joints for act’s like Jehst, he’s recruited heavyweight US attention from cats like Action Bronson, Roc Marciano & Danny Brown. All that aside if you take a second to listen to the talent put into his tracks, you’ll understand why he just pipped the rest across the line.
Causing arguments in the Wordplay Studio: Jaz Kahina Kate Tempest Speech Debelle Leddie
Causing arguments in the Wordplay Studio: Stig Of The Dump Contact Play LDZ (London Zoo) Cappo
Causing arguments in the Wordplay Studio: Mr Boss Chemo 184 Leafdog
Best Cover artwork
eD scissorTongUe: beTTer.lUcK.nexT.life The standard of artwork last year was high, and we thought it needed a mention. It’s only when we started putting these pages together we realised just how many dope covers are coming out of the UK. An artists cover artwork is a very important tool, even in this digital age, and with hip hop artists pressing their work onto vinyl it helps keep it even more special! Usually the most successful covers are those that can capture the buyer and the artists mood within the music; step up Will Barras, the artist of Edward Scissortongue’s ‘Better.Luck.Next. Life.’ We asked Scissor a couple of questions about how the collaboration came to be and he told us that Will simply sat down, listened to his album and portrayed the mood and tone into the artwork. Plus his studio buddy was making catapults to shoot rabbits at the time. Perfect. You can see more artwork from Will Barras here: http://www.willbarras.com
Readers Choice UK Hip Hop Album Of The Year
caxTon press - shame The Devil
2012 as we all know was eventful in so many ways. For a start the World didn’t end (although we’d hope you are all vibrating on the positives energies) but more importantly it was an astounding year for UK Hip-Hop. We’ve teamed up with our sponsor WeSC and put together our readers choice 2012 award. We even went as far as making a prestigious award to hand out to the artist(s) who you the reader thought deserved recognition in their musical efforts of 2012. As you can imagine the votes went through the roof, we received over 7000 votes crashing our systems several times and caused a lot of head scratching and brain racking, voting closed January 10th 2013 and a close battle came to an end with Caxton Press topping the vote!
So Caxton Press, with ‘Shame The Devil’ you have our Album of the year award as voted by Wordplay magazine readers. Congratulations! Here’s your top five albums of 2012: Caxton Press - Shame The Devil Phoenix Da Icefire - The Quantum Leap Skuff - Destroy Everything Jam Baxter - The Gruesome Features Datkid - Home By Eight
Beat Butcha Let our resident Agony Uncle answer all your questions and lead you on the correct path. Send your emails to Butcha@wordplaymagazine.com The best letter wins a special prize I have an issue; I got mad bitches, a wifey, a girlfriend and a mistress. Which one should I choose? Ken From Rochester Good on ya my wigga, I’m surprised you got time to do anything, bet you ain’t got a job though. I’mma give an adult answer, because contrary to popular belief, I’m an adult!! Don’t play games yo, if you wanna just fuck bitches, be honest with them. If you trying to get loved up and have a chick hold you down, stay with wifey.
“Well, my instinct is to tell you to throw yourself out the window.”
Valentines day is coming up and I want to make my girl the ultimate love hip hop ballad on my MPC, but can’t think of what to sample. Any suggestions? Damon From Kidderminster Good question Damon, that is a question I get asked a lot. It depends on the vibe your going for. If your going for the romantic vibe you could always make a sexy r’n’b riddim, sampling some smooth classics from BROS or Right Said Fred and top it off with auto-tuned semi-sung rap vocals using the lyrics from ‘Sweat from my balls’ off of the CB4 soundtrack. Maybe go David Guetta for the Hook, the snowbunnies love that shit. Alternatively if your going for the erotic vibe, you could put one of them underwater filters on a chop & screwed loop sampled from Wet Wet Wet ‘Love Is All Around You’. Meanwhile you could get your Drake on and spit about how in touch with your emotions you are, maybe break it down on the hook & bridge with a little bit of Meatloaf crooning or some mongolian throat singing in a rub-a-dub stylee. Your shout homes.
I’m a struggling rapper who wants to get some remixes done by some high profile producers but they keep ignoring me. How can I get them to do what I want? Jamie From Hull This is gonna be an unpopular answer but I gotta be real, the bottom line is compensation. First of all talk money, you gotta understand that for a lot of established producers remixing a song for you is more hassle than just selling you & sequencing a beat they already made. Most the known bredders that remix records, will remix something that’s already infamous or will remix a well known artist, so they can put their own spin on it, most of that stuff is commissioned work. I’m assuming you ain’t really popping that much, since you said they are ignoring you, so really you’ll need to commission the remix. Established producers are busy people who pay their bills through beats, in other words time is money. The best thing is to ask what they would charge to do it up front.
I make killer beats but my mates always ruin them when they rap on them. The trouble is I am too much of a yes man to tell them where to go. What should I do? Lee From Enfield Simple, make them pay you for beats, that way you wont feel so bad when they spatter rapper diarrhoea all over your babies. In all honesty, if they’re that awful, tell them they need to work on their shit or get some better rapper mates. If you got the patience, you could record/produce them and help them get better, by giving them your feedback as you go along, help them re-write shit & help them with their recording technique. If you don’t have the patience, don’t bother giving them anymore beats and find some better rappers to work with. I personally ain’t got the patience to teach a ‘rapper’ how to rap.
Personally, I’m very brand orientated these days, I’m much more interested in working with mainstream names. Mainly because the audience you reach and the opportunities that will come to me from working with those people is way bigger than working with the most lyrical MC nobody knows. I’m not knocking working with up and coming talent, I been there and done that but I’m 30 years old with a mortgage, I need to make every piece of music I make pay. If I don’t do that, then I gotta get a 9-5 and I wouldn’t have time to create anything. See me though, I hate doing REMIXES, I’d probably end up charging more for a remix than for just a regular beat. Like I said a lot of people will read this and be like ‘oh boy, butcha’s on his industry Hollywood bullshit’ but this shit is a business, I’m not a young dude, I gotta get paid in order to keep doing what I love. And beyond anything, my discography & work is worth what I’m charging.
I make beats but my drums sound like snapping Ryvita crackers in half and my high hats sound like a twig being crushed by a small boys wellington boot. What can I do to beef up my beats? Sonny From South Well the quickest/easiest way is to cop some decent kits, drums are some of the most important aspects to hip hop production, if your sounds and programming ain’t right, shit will sound softer than baby shit. I have three custom drumkits, which are available for sale from the DRUMBROKER (www.hiphopdrumsamples.com); they feature 400 sounds in each and they’re all the go to sounds that I’ve used in my productions for the likes of G-Unit, Mobb Deep, Curren$y, Mac Miller, Jehst, Klashnekoff, Triple Darkness and many more. They come pre-organised into folders, in .wav format, which is compatible with any DAW including Akai’s MPC series & Native Instruments’ Maschine. Alternatively if you’ve got the patience you could start collecting drum breaks and loose drum sounds from records, chop em, layer em, EQ, add fx and compress them, which you will have to use your ears to get right. I am a rapper but get really nervous and hot and my face goes red when people ask me to spit a bar. Any advice on calming my nerves? Jonty From Stevenage Well, my instinct is to tell you to throw yourself out the window. If you get nervous when u spit a bar you obviously ain’t about that life my wigga. Nah but seriously, you ain’t gonna get far if you don’t get some confidence. Performing is a large part of being a frontman/rapper. If you don’t like the limelight maybe you could become the world’s first rap mime artist. I love Fruityloops because it’s easy but my mates tell me the beats I produce are shit. Which programmes should I be using and how can I learn them easily? Randy From Scunthorpe The best equipment to use is a cardboard box. Simply beat the top of it with twigs of asparagus with your hands whilst your feet stamp on a rabid cat’s tail. For chopping samples I’d recommend a sharp spoon. It ain’t about what you use, I know a couple really dope producers that use Fruityloops, you just need a shit load of practise and some talent. Start with getting some good sounds, like I said before, dope drums are some of the most important elements to a dope hip hop beat. So first and foremost get some banging drum sounds, like the joints I released through DRUMBROKER. You can try and analyse your favourite records and try and put some of the ideas you hear into use. Then practice, practice, PRACTICE!! I want to spice up my live show. Which instruments/stage garments would you recommend to do this? Bobby From Bedford It depends on what market you’re going for. Personally I’d advise you to get some peruvian backing singers with the sombreros, moustaches, pan pipes, acoustic guitars and that, maybe cop some cowboy boots and a keytar. Run over a fox and wear it’s corpse with the guts hanging out as a hat, maybe get some stage props like a giant robotic dog turd that shoots lazers out its eyes. This is a frequently used stage prop secret that all the biggest hit makers use. You could make your DJ use a set of tape decks instead of turntables and he could press play and rewind at the same time to give that scratching type feel.
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