UK Hip-Hop

March 19th, 2004

It may come as a surprise to you, but baggy jeans which make those wearing them look as though they’ve had an accident in their pants, thick gold chains which look less authentic than the crap on the local market, slurred speech which an alien has more chance of understanding and piles of American blinging rap albums aren’t entirely representative of hip-hop in the UK. There’s a huge wealth of quality hip-hop music and culture made, loved and lived by British folk which holds a lot more credibility and artistry than the majority of the imported tripe which plague our airwaves and streets, in this opinion.

Dizzee Raskal, Ms Dynamite and The Streets do their thing, but the influence of the music genre which developed out of Brooklyn, New York goes a lot further than the snobby elitist music media’s favourites. In England, and particularly in London, there’s a solid and continuously growing scene of quality singles and album releases, awesome gigs and club nights, outstanding radio broadcasts and magazine publications, not to mention the decent attitude of the boys and girls who are a part of it. And the best thing about it, it’s on our doorsteps. I’d place a monetary bet on the suggestion that everyone in London is within a bus or tube journeys reach of what could possibly be one of the greatest experiences of hip-hop music they’ve ever had. To boot, its 50 Cent, pistol whipping, whoring, pimping and gangster free!

DJ Vadim spared a few minutes to give his own view of the UK hip-hop scene: ‘There is a lot going on and some really great stuff. Very creative like Task Force, Roots Manuva, Jehst, Lewis Parker, TY, New Flesh, Kyza…. It’s just unfortunate that its not followed up with the sales success of perhaps indie music is in the UK etc.’

So where to start? Well firstly, whilst you’re gelling your hair and fixing yourself up for the night ahead, tune into a remarkable digital radio station by the name of 1XTRA or XFM’s ‘All City Rap Show’ and get into the groove with carefully considered play lists which provide the best pure hip-hop sounds from both sides of the Atlantic, and even the odd French jam. Note; Avoid Radio One’s Tim Westwood.

Then there’s the decision as to where to go. In or near Camden? A must is the monthly club night ‘Kung Fu’ at The Underworld, directly opposite the tube station. Here you’ll see 8 Mile style ‘open mic’ sessions, live performances, fine ladies, a cool bar, art (graffiti!) displays and some of the UK’s best rappers chilling out over a pint. If that’s not to your taste, you can always nip across the road to the Jazz Café that more and more frequently plays host to top notch DJ and MC sets. More south bound? Then keep your eye on Hackney Ocean nightclubs calendar that always includes great artists and events. Note: Avoid the Trent Park hip-hop night (Content- acceptable, Crowd numbers- pitiful).

Tommy Evans was recently asked about his preferred London spots and said ‘I’d say pay Kung Fu a visit at Camden Underworld (once a month on Tuesday) or go to Resonance at The Oh Bar! on Fridays If you want to dance and meet some foxy femmes! Alternatively Hampstead heath can provide some quality chilled out nature vibes!’

By this point you’ll likely to be hooked. You’ve loved what you’ve heard and can’t wait until next weekend to hear it all again. Well you don’t have to! Mr Bongo’s on Portland Street, off Oxford Street and Deal Real Records off of Carnaby Street have a fantastic and broad range of fantastic vinyl and CD. Hard to know what to choose? Check out and and check in with the popular consensus.

Favourites of the minute include the remarkable Jehst, who at the end of last year released the already classic album ‘Falling Down’. Fancy a more story telling orientated trip? His mate Tommy Evans has just dropped ‘The Turbulent Times Of…’. All a bit too arty and tidy? Newcomer Klashnekoff’s track ‘Murda’ might just be down your alley. Don’t miss out on acts in between albums such as Roots Manuva, famous for the deep ‘Dreamy Days’, Braintax who always writes with ‘Birofunk’ and Blak Twang who’s always ready to ‘Kik Off’. Hear shout outs to Mr Bagels in Wood Green (Evans) and tales from the streets of Finsbury Park (Skinnyman) instead of trash you know you can’t relate to at all.

Scotland’s Finest rapper Eastborn shared with us some of the artists he’s feeling most on the scene right now: ‘Blade, TaskForce, Skinnyman, Jehst, Braintax, Rodney P, Riccochet Klashnekoff, Two Tone Committee, Scotland Yard plus a lot of people that your average UK head aint heard.’

There are simply too many names of venues, artists, radio shows and publications which are worthy of attention, to mention in a short generalised article about hip-hop in London. My advice for those wishing to delve deep into this scene would be to follow the steps above, which will get you further than half way. It’s time for British hip-hop acts to be given a share of the attention too many people spend on artists from the other side of the world which just aren’t as good!