How to get your hands on his material, how the Indigenous crew got together, the Liverpool scene, working 9 to 5's, positive vibes and lots more, in a discussion with Matt Grant.
I got in touch with these guys after seeing them post about their album on a UK hiphop forum. Its funny because if you visit UK hiphop message boards on a regular basis you get to hear about all sorts of artists making tracks and putting out albums. There is a great passion in Britain when it comes to hiphop and furthermore, there is a great DIY ethic. Indigenous currently reside in Liverpool, England but draw influences from as far as Belgium. There current album 'Homedbaked' truly is a nice listen, the kind of soul driven hiphop that you should be playing on your stereo whilst sat in the summer sun… step up DJ Glue of the Indigenous crew (see, I can rhyme just like KRS when inspired)...
First off, got to say that your record Homebaked was some of the freshest and funkiest hiphop I've heard in recent time. And that's from the heart, I am not trying to soften up you with some bullshit… your record is dope! How has it been received in general?
Thanks! You did manage to soften me up now, haha! It's been received quite well actually, radio back in Belgium has got on to it, and the vid is getting some play as well, you can always wish for more, but for a first single, I'm happy with any exposure…
Is this the debut record for the group or do you have some previous releases for us to go listen to?
Not really, I've done a few mixtapes and we did 2 demo's to get to this album and there's roughly 5 tracks of those demo's that made it to the LP. That's about all we've done up till now, we didn't really test the waters with some 12?s, got to make the album straightaway.
How can heads get their hands on your material?
At the moment, through the online shop of our label, on www.kinkystar.com. Or record shops in Belgium J . Or me… (email@example.com) It's just been sent to Disorda as well so hopefully Suspect Packages will carry it and push it all over the UK .
So who are Indigenous? How did you meet? Introduce yourself and your crew for those who don't know…
Static and Spok, the two mc's have been rapping since the age of 15 or so, but even though we're from the same town ( Bruges ), we didn't really know each other. Until Spok ended up at mine some night while I was at uni in Antwerp and started rapping over some beat I'd done and I loved it. He brought his mate Static over one night and that's how it all kicked off, we did a 6 track demo, just the three of us, and we called ourselves Ndgnous (some bastardization of indigenous 'lol' people couldn't pronounce it, let alone understand it). Later, the girls got involved, that happened about two years ago, and they started singing bits to the songs we'd already done. It sounded fresh and different and that's how the full Indigenous came about…
Who came up with the grocers theme for the album? Is there any deep meaning behind this?
A mate of mine, T'Oro did the graphics together with my younger brother CkwenZ (producer of Belgian hiphop group Inserted…) and they came up with the pancakes idea, since the album was called Homebaked. The idea was to create a quality product entirely done by ourselves, from sound to visuals, to prove that it can be done on a very small budget and a lot of goodwill and work. Quality home produce, like granny's marmalade, that's what we're about, oldskool grocer style!
Right, I read on your site you're ' Belgium hiphop' but you are located in Liverpool ? What's the deal with that? Where you reppin?
Haha, well they don't call me the Belgian scouser for nothing J … nah, we're all from Bruges , Belgium , so we all 100% chocolate lovin' Belgians. I moved over to Liverpool nearly two years ago in pursuit of a job as an audio engineer and got offered to teach at the then brand new SAE college in Liverpool , I could use a change so I moved to the UK . My girlfriend still holds that against me J but I'm going back soon, can't beat the homeland man…
What do you think of the Liverpool scene? Which hiphop nights have you been to or played at?
I expected the hiphop scene to be a lot bigger over here, coming from where I'm from, but I found that's not really the case. There's only a handful turntablists in the 'pool, well, that I know of anyway… It's good though, seen a lot of good acts over here, Jeru, Ugly Duckling, People Under the Stairs, Yoda, Format,… I always try to go to No Fakin' and the Magnet funk/hiphop nights (Dusty, Fnuk, Sunday service,…) if I can get off my ass that is, usually a bigger problem on Sundays …. I dj'd a couple of times, Cali, Magnet, … not much, but the first year over here, I didn't know that many people as I was living on the Wirral and that was well boring… As far as Liverpool hiphop goes, I've seen the Shakti live and that was good, and I recently heard some of the Antiheroes stuff and I like that too, good mc's, should hook them up with some beats!
And what about the continental background for the group, do you think provides an input that other UK acts perhaps don't have?
Maybe, the continent is a bit different than the UK but the mentality in the hiphop scene seems to be similar, mostly just people that want to become better at what they do and want to hook up with likeminded people, go to gigs, smoke spliffs, have a laugh… I think the environment in which you grew up in must have something to do with the music you make in some sort, don't ask me why or how though… on the other hand they make the scouse house as corny in the UK as they do on the continent so there goes my theory.
Are the emcees on Westvlamme from Belgium or elsewhere? Are they established within their own scene?
The guys from 't Hof van Commerce are definitely (the last 2 mc's on that track), they did 3 full LP's already on the same label as us and have sold big amounts for Belgian standards and get loads of airplay, let's say they're Belgian celebs haha, Statik got to tour with them as a bit of a hypeman and did a collabo on they're last album so we all got to know them quite well, and they're also from West-Flanders, the county we're repping in that track. The first mc, Riemeloare, is part of a crew called De Nihilisten, repping Ostend , the crown of the Belgian coastline lol, they won a contest and a record deal and their full lp is finished and drops after the summer. MCL, or Olaf, is part of the Massiv Sound crew, a ragga soundsystem from the southern parts of West-Flanders and he goes out on stage with us sometimes and blesses the mic with his raw voice!
All of the Indigenous crew have other jobs or course commitments, how hard has it been balancing the music with the daily 9 to 5?
Just packed me nine to five in actually, because I want to spend more time producing and signing on in Belgium is not too bad moneywise lol. The hardest is getting everyone together, definitely, 3 of us are working, the other 2 at uni and I'm abroad most of the time. Recording and creating the lp was mad, I have a laptop I do most of my stuff on so I took that and a mic to Belgium to record every time I was there, and they came over for a week or so to do some tracks, but it was all done in separate sessions, and I mixed and produced the whole thing at home to try and make a solid album out of it. Fuck nine to fives anyway…
The female singers add another dimension to the sound and is something I feel some UK acts tend to avoid because of the whole RnB stigma? Would you agree?
You might be right but there's something about singing, it has a totally different impact than if you'd be rapping those words… it's definitely something that sets us aside from a lot of hiphop out there but it's something that just felt good to do. In Belgium, the scene (including me) tends to have the same negative attitude towards commercial rap and rnb so it's a thin line to walk if you start adding female vocals. I don't care, I think it rather expands our sound, not narrows it, and it allows for me to come up with more melodic parts to. Variation is key laa J
The whole album seems to have a flavour that reminds me of the old cinematic Harlem funk and soul from the 70s, who are the main influences on the band?
Anything man, 60's soul, 70's funk, reggae, early eighties, nineties hiphop, … it's hard to speak for everyone but we're generally on the same level when it comes to good tunes.
I also felt that the CD had an extremely positive vibe about it, was this intended?
Not really intentional I think, it's just how we are I guess, we don't feel the need to go out and prove how hard we are, it's not all braggin' and boastin' , it's about entertaining and giving people a good time, something to bump in their cars or walkmans… If you give out a message, I feel it's got to be mainly positive, there's too many negative messages around us anyway, music should make u forget about them for a moment… drugs can do that to of course haha!
Blade lays down a sick verse on the 'No rescue' track, how did you manage to hook up with him? Whats the story behind that?
I was at Grazzhoppa's place laying down the cuts for the last track on the album. He comes from the same town as us and used to be Blade's dj as we all know J So I played him some tracks one of which was 'no rescue' and for a laugh I said ' u know, Blade should add a verse to that'. He said, dead serious, 'yeah, why not?' me: 'Why not, cause it's Blade, he doesn't know me, that could never happen! We're small time rappers compared to him…' so Grazz said: 'I can always ask him', so he emailed him, and Blade wanted to hear the track and passed me his number and I sent him the track and he was up for it! I couldn't sleep for days haha…
One of my silly claims to fame is meeting Blade at a gig in Liverpool – I tire people endlessly with that story whenever he gets mentioned – what was it like working with him?
Haha, when was that, Blade in Liverpool? He should do another gig here, that'd be class! It was class working with him, he wrote out his rhyme and rapped it over the phone to see if I liked it. I was like, man, it's sick, it sounded soooo good over that beat, all I could do was smile. So I went down to his house with my laptop and hooked it up in his studio. He laid it down in no time so we spent hours just chatting about his new album and stuff. He's really safe. He even accompanied me all the way to the train station platform and put me on the train haha! I definitely want to work with him again.
Who else has helped you along your way?
Everyone who supported us, came to our shows, booked us for shows, interviewed us (including you J)… People like the Goldenlifestyle crew that keep putting on class shows and parties, Kinky Star our label, t'oro & ckwenz for the graphics, Kinky Engineering who did the vid, … and everyone that took part in the making of this album!
Will you be touring the UK to promote the new album?
Hopefully, man, hopefully, there's no plans yet, we're doin' some shows in Belgium first, there's one alongside Blade and one with Blackalicious and a few others, but when the album becomes a bit more widely available, I definitely want to do shows abroad, UK, Holland, France… we'll see what happens.
What do you think of the UK hiphop scene in 2004?
I think it's good, better than Belgium at the mo haha… nah, it's bigger of course… it's also different in different areas of the country. There's loads of talented emcees and producers but only a few reach the surface, you know, I like those who can maintain an original UK flavour as well. UK emcees should be talking bout UK issues, I hate to hear 'americanized' UK hiphop. Hiphop for me has never been about material things, for some people it is, I don't care, that's their style… but I like artists like Roots Manuva, Blade, Lewis Parker, New Flesh, Infinite Livez… just because they do what they do best and stay fresh.
Have you experienced other hiphop scenes and how do they compare to the UK?
I've lived in Amsterdam for a year, that was just crazy as every hiphop act in the world at some stage comes through A'dam, you could go to a dope show 3 times a week, I saw loads of artists: MOP, Non Phixion, Tha Liks, Roots Manuva, X-cutioners… The scene in Holland is big on Dutch hiphop: acts like Opgezwolle, Extince, VSOP, … all Dutch spoken but that makes them original, no one outside Holland or Belgium would probably get into it because they don't understand a word, but it's fresh, they've got their own style.
So what artists and groups are you feeling at the minute on a more global level?
Apart from the UK artists I named before, on a global level ehm… J5, Quannum, Cunninlynguists, Outkast (one of my favourite groups since day one…), MF Doom, RJD2, Prefuse, Edan, Quantic, Herbaliser, Jaydee, Pete Rock, Dilated,… loads. Anyone who keeps the funk and the boom bap alive!
Would you allow anyone to remix your record?
Of course, anyone who wants to have a crack at it, gimme a shout!
And what are the plans for the future, will you continue to act as a collective or are solo efforts in the pipeline?
This is album is just the start, we can look ahead now and think about the next album. Also, I've got stuff for a solo album or beats LP and I wanna start doing' beats and engineering for other people as well. There's an album I want to make with Leen, one of the singers, more songs meet breaks style. And there's some people in Belgium I'd like to work with, Afterhours, Jerboa … and stay in touch with the UK heads of course and get them on some banging Belgian productions and spread the vibe!
Finally, what's the single most important piece of advice for other artists looking to put out a record?
Be honest, and it'll be fressssshhhhhh!