This year marks the first time I’ve not really kept up on new releases from the UK, despite living in one of the most active hip hop cities in England – Bristol. To give a little background, I’m originally from Kent, a county (or state) near London that had next to no hip hop community or concerts. I would travel an hour on the train to London for my fix of live hip hop, whether it was waiting in line for a picture with KRS at the Forum, standing in the rain outside Koko to see GZA or apologizing for obstructing somebody in Fabric, only to find it was DJ Premier and Biggest Gord trying to get to the stage. London has always had the pick of American artists, usually receiving some strong support from British emcees. Us Brits have always been in the shadow of you Yanks, which is inevitable given you birthed this juggernaut called hip hop.
Since moving to Bristol three years ago, I’ve had the pleasure of attending concerts without a lengthy train journey, although if you’ve ever driven in Bristol, you’re probably better off on the train. There’s also no need to walk around London at 5am waiting for the first train, all the while worrying about being knifed by a local gang member. It’s now common knowledge amongst fans that famous rappers from 10-20 years ago are still attracting sold-out concerts across Europe, and yet Bristol is getting a whole bunch of artists coming to the city despite not even possessing a music arena. The big pop (and hip hop) stars bypass Bristol and go to Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena or Birmingham’s NEC, or better yet, head down the road to the annual Glastonbury festival.
What we have here is a whole bunch of music venues that accommodate a few hundred people – intimate concerts that leave those in attendance with special memories. I’ve been able to witness Xzibit talk about sampling the local cider, Immortal Technique mispronounce Glasgow as his next stop (to a chorus of laughter) and in a few weeks will be witnessing two veterans; Pharoahe Monch and R.A. The Rugged Man (supported by Blak Twang no less) for the measly sum of £10 ($15). The past month alone has seen Slum Village, Capone-N-Noreaga, Common, Mos Def, Joey Bada$$, Hopsin, Sage Francis, Public Enemy and more. What has happened recently though, is UK artists are no longer just the support act for the American guys: we now have guys like Triple Darkness headlining a show themselves – in fact they are coming FROM London to Bristol. Then there is BVA, Split Prophets, Lee Scott, Scorzayzee, Chester P, Phi-Life Cypher’s Life MC and Rag N Bone Man. Sure, these aren’t popular artists that draw big audiences, but it’s great to see so many of these emcees stepping out of the American shadow. Even Daniel Radcliffe is getting in on the act!
For the international observer, British hip hop has often looked like London artists were running things, but it’s no longer the case. Perhaps we should have expected the home-town of Banksy to become a go-to scene for music that represents the streets, despite the locals speaking like rural farmers. The city is riding the crest of a renewed interest in both American and UK hip hop, one that I hope long continues. If you’re ever in the UK, or travelling to London, take up L.L. Cool J’s advice and stay at the Bristol Hotel instead. You may well bump in to one of your favourite artists.
UK month this year has been a healthy reminder to catch up on what’s occurred over the past ten months. Given that UK hip hop gets next to no exposure from the media, and the closure of Hip Hop Connection magazine in 2009 effectively pushed all coverage on to the Internet, it’s left to websites like us to spread the word. The UK is and has always been a creative melting pot for all genres of music, so it’s only right we dedicate November to the artists making hip hop. I invite you to join me, and my fellow writers here at RapReviews as we look through some of the key releases this year, as well as casting a critical ear over some older records. We hope you enjoy it!
Week of November 4th:
Week of November 11th:
Week of November 18th:
Donnie Propa & Scor-Zay-Zee: Best of Scorzayzee Volume 1
Kingpin: The Initiative
Ruane Maurice: Ruane Maurice
Micall Parknsun: I Should’ve Done This Time Ago
Skrein: The Eat Up
Verb T: Verbs With a Vengeance
Week of November 25th:
Blak Twang: Dettwork SouthEast
Professor Green: Growing up in Public
Tinie Tempah: Demonstration
Jister & The Lion Ranger: Absurdism
Too Many T’s: Running Wild