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UKHH Mammoth Textsplurt

Posted by Chris on May 14, 2007 at 2:18 pm  

some non-exhaustive notes on UK hip hop – potential for many more posts on this. the focus here is MCs (and London) but more may will follow later.

Beginnings… & London Posse

when did UK hip hop start? as far as this question means anything at all, one could say it started when UK MCs started rapping with their own accents rather than in new york/mid atlantic verbal limbo. One of the first krus to take this on was London Posse, who spent time in New York rapping in generic accents before realising the NY heads they were trying to impress were actually more into hearing London speak than hearing people try and rap like them. The London Posse MCs Rodney P & Bionic had a huge influence on those who would come later, carving out a vocal style that was rooted in their Jamaican background & London sound system culture. This track was released in 1988 through Justice records, an imprint operated by Tim Westwood – the bishop’s son and faintly ridiculous gatekeeper of hip hop in the UK (but not always UK hip hop) who currently presents UK pimp my ride.

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London Posse – Money Mad 192k 8.5mb

…inbetween

London Posse’s LP dropped in 1990. As the decade continued the UK produced the odd 12″ gem (and a lot of oddities – see Marxman – the trotskyite rapper signed to Gilles Peterson’s Talking Loud label and A&M in the states!) but more often than not MCs found themselves as occasional guests on other peoples releases (like Dobie’s remix of Bjork’s ‘I Miss You’ with Rodney P). However a handful of MCs emerged via London’s stages and soundsystems, building up a strong underground reputation. One of the strongest of these is Blak Twang whose 1998 LP ’19 Long Time’ is a classic. One of the 12s that also appeared on the LP was debt anthem ‘Red Letters’.

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Blak Twang – Red Letters 320k 10.5mb

From time to time you’d also find UK MCs versioning big US tracks via the UK branch of Rawkus…. like this version of ‘Simon Says’ – the extra production is from Skitz (see below).

Pharoahe Monch – Simon Says (Skitz remix feat Rodney P & Roots Manuva) 160k 4.3mb

Big Dada

For some time UK Hip Hop had no particular centre, or channel of distribution. Releases more often than not came through one off 12s or big label deals that failed to bear commercial fruit (see Lewis Parker’s deal with Massive Attack’s Virgin-subprint Melankolic). In 1997 Coldcut’s Ninja Tune label sprouted Big Dada to concentrate on hip hop releases. In the past few years Big Dada have released records by Diplo, TTC and cLOUDDEAD, but their early releases were very UK-centric. Two krus who held a strong presence were New Flesh and Gamma. Their members hailed from a number of places (i.e. not just London) with half of Gamma coming from Birmingham and New Flesh’s Part2 and Toastie Taylor from York. The two krus also shared a member in the excellent Juice Aleem. The first of these three tracks is from Gamma’s Permanament LP and features Infinite Livez, performance artist and all round joker hailing from Bethnal Green. The second is from the ‘Extra Yard’ compilation which featured Roots Manuva, Wildflower, New Flesh, Gamma, Ty and just about anyone else with a connection to the label. The third is ‘Skiver’s Guide’, produced by Blak Twang and featuring Roots Manuva, Blak Twang, Seanie T & Gamma. Big Dada continue to be a successful hub for UK releases (they’re about to release the new Wiley LP) not least because they tapped into Ninja Tune’s domestic student/guardian-reader market (hazily-remembered sample press release: “like bounty killer crossed with William Burroughs”.)

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Gamma f/Infinite Livez – Don’t Send a Bwoy 320k 6.5mb

New Flesh – Lie Low 320k 8mb

Roots Manuva, Blak Twang & Gamma – Skiver’s Guide 320k 10.6mb

Skitz

Speak to a lot of heads and they will tell you that Skitz‘s ‘Countryman‘ LP is the very best UK hip hop release. The LP dropped in 2001 and featured bass heavy production alongside vocals from… Rodney P (who currently co-presents this 1xtra show with Skitz), Riddla, Wildflower, Phi-Life Cipher, Taskforce, Skinnyman, Dynamite MC and more. Much of the record had been previously issued on scarce 12s including this track which first appeared in 1998. It features 4 beats and 4 MCs: Roots Manuva, Si-Phillie & L.I.F.E. (from phi-life cipher), skeleton (who name checks Neighbours) and Mr Vegas from the Scratch Perverts on cuts.

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Skitz f/ Roots Manuva, Phi-Life Cipher & Skeleton – Figerprints of the Gods 160k 6.8mb

Crossing Genres

It’s quite blatant from most of these tracks that reggae holds a very strong influence in UK hip hop. However, not least because of the comparitively small audience that UK hip hop commands, MCs would often find themselves appearing on other (break)beats. So you’d be just as likely to see Riddla MCing at a Drum and Bass rave as you would on a hip hop stage or Fallacy rapping over Garage.
Dynamite rose to fame as the MC in Roni Size’s Reprazent outfit, where unlike double-time Drum and Bass MCs like Shabba and Skibadee, he’d usually rap in half time. In 2004 he dropped his underrated LP ‘World of Dynamite’ where he rapped over Hip Hop, Drum and Bass, Garage and Bashment. This bashy one features Elephant Man – snap your neck.

Dynamite MC & Elephant Man – Bubble 320k 11.4mb

Recency, Low Life & Endings

To conclude, some tracks that didn’t fit into any of my flimsy sub-categories:

Lyrically one of the tightest UK tracks I know, Jehst, Taskforce & Braintax via Low Life records – another key label.

jehst.jpgJehst

Taskforce, Braintax & Jehst – Cosmic Gypsies 128k 5.3mb

Low Life are also distributing the new Klashnekoff mixtape (produced by Joe Buddha). Klashnekoff is UK Hip Hop’s leading avatar of benevolent patriarchy, one of the country’s best MCs and a member of the Terra Firma kru (see this previous post). Showboating here: “blud yr whole flex is Timotei”.

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Klashnekoff – Can’t You See 256k 6.4mb

Labels aside, underground self-releases continue to pop-up like this great 2005 track from SE London’s IRS. Rapping Sarko’s dream. Watch suspect packages for buyability.

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IRS – Work 320k 9.4mb

—–

PS/ while I’m geeking out – forgive me for sending out a request or two – does anyone have (or have means to get) Charleston riddim (the UK riddim, not the Willy Bounce riddim) especially the Lady Stush cut called ‘badman’. Also if anyone has Chukki Star’s ‘sweet meditations’ please leave a comment – these are longtime wishlist things. thanks!

13 Comments »

  • Comment by jim on June 3, 2007 at 3:26 pm

think i may have sweet meditations amongst my unordered 7″ s, i’ll see if i can find and digitise for you.
nice post

jim

  • Comment by kekw on June 10, 2007 at 1:35 pm

Someone worth checking out was Silver Bullet, a very fast-chattin’ white UK rapper from late 80s: he rapped at high velocity over quite high-bmp beats, well, it was the era of House/Acid/Hip-House, but he was resolutely Hip-Hop…

some info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_Bullet_(rapper)

But yeah, London Posse were the main cats back then…

  • Comment by kekw on June 10, 2007 at 1:36 pm

Oh, and let’s not forget UK rapper Derek B

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_B

even tho he was a bit crap!

  • Comment by Chris on June 11, 2007 at 2:09 pm

Just tracking some Silver Bullet down now – sounds good – strong breaks. Also silver bullet is a good name for a rapper who self-references their whiteness, better than Snow or YT anyway.

  • Comment by hudgshooab on July 3, 2007 at 5:40 pm

Hello! Good Site! Thanks you! wfpxkeckiokpg

[...] global currents and intersections. In “local” matters, for instance, take his recent mammoth textsplurt (a major blog genre for us here at w&w) on UK hip-hop, wherein, it should be noted, JA and the [...]

what the F*ck are these people doin talking about silver bullet like hes some white dude or something when the bredder is blatantly black!man i thought this was a site for people that knew uk rap?????

overnight imposters to rasskleet….the bredder bullet is kold, out there on his own ting dont try it…

  • Comment by Chris on November 29, 2007 at 11:24 am

easy there. thanks for the link.

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Thanks for sharing check this one out you will like it!

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