The idea of origin and authenticity has always been a ubiquitous theme in popular music for as long as it’s been around. People regularly chuck out phrases like “That’s not real metal” or “One Direction don’t even write their own music” and subconsciously or not, it’s considered a central ingredient for commendable music.
Art as a creative conduit continually questions originality, which then spurs on the long-winding debate of ‘music from a vacuum’ on the other spectrum. The most targeted genre of this scheme is UK hip hop. Back in the early 2000s when grime came into the mainstream with definitive records such as Dizzee Rascal’s Boy in Da Corner and Kano’s Home Sweet Home, the sonic mixture of drum & bass, hip hop and garage took over the mass media and overshadowed UK hip hop.
Distinctive ragga and electronic infused acts such as Blak Twang, 57th Dynasty and Roots Manuva were pushed aside and labelled ‘too American’ compared to the ambiguous, pioneering sound of grime that seemed to be dropped onto the timeline without any traces of a past or future.
Misconceptions of grime being a sub-genre of UK hip hop leave grime enthusiasts cringing but is gathering inspiration from the things you revere such a bad thing? Even Roots Manuva in a 1999 Flipside interview admits “every art-form starts out as imitation… but the thing is, hip hop doesn’t belong to one nation – it’s something which comes from the birth of man.”
The same thing can be said about the new wave of hip hop, or ‘chill hop’, as the internet calls it, coming out of London right now. This foggy movement whirls in the past thirty years of hip hop culture; the turntablism of old-school boom-bap, the subversiveness of graffiti ethos, the worldly conscience of Zulu Nation, the introverted mutters of today’s angsty rhymers, and the prideful vivacity of British urbanites.
Integrating sounds of 90s New York jazz-rap, Lil B style cloudrap and the atmospheric electro-buzz of Bonobo and XXYYXX, five young artists are ending this stagnant scene with rhyme flows that can finally stand face-to-face with not only grime but US hip hop as well.
Outrageous statements will always attract some level of attention and Rejjie Snow knows this well. From the KKK illustration on his only EP, Rejovich, to claiming he’s FlyLo’s rapping alter ego, Captain Murphy, the 21-year-old Irish MC isn’t afraid to challenge the social spectrum. With a rich baritone and a sharp wit, it’s only natural for him to have a cult following after only nine songs. He’s opened for Kendrick Lamar, DOOM, and Joey Bada$$ and despite his stateside education, he holds in a fierce Dublin spirit eager enough to put Ireland on everyone’s radar.
“Everybody says I’m f*****g sad, of course I’m f*****g sad I miss my f*****g dad” are the lines to opening song ‘BFG’ on his debut EP A Little Late. The reason why this 20-year-old Londoner stands out amongst the scene isn’t only because of his openness to vulnerability, but also because of the way he engraves his own stylized form of rapping using heavy staccato accents and romanticised poetry, absent from any hip hop directory. That doesn’t stop him from spitting an emotionally raw and chills-down-spine verse on ‘Cantona’ or maintaining a light-hearted vibe on ‘The Money’.
Sub Luna City
The first thing you notice about City Rivims MK 1 is Archy Marshall, aka King Krule, aka Zoo Kid, aka DJ JD Sports, but in this case, Edgar the Beatmaker and his broad range of musical expertise as he dips into rapping and beat juggling, a complete 180 from his most known darkwave, kid genius persona. But as Edgar’s voice fades, and Jadasea’s vocals kick in, it becomes apparent that he isn’t the only genius here. Jadasea’s clever perceptions, Rago Foot’s clear-cut flows aligned with Black Mack’s jazzy backdrops creates the perfect audible imagery of murky, inner-city adolescents venturing through Southeast London and immersing themselves into the mundane, yet thrillseeking street life.
This neo-soul trio is the modern day equivalent to The Fugees or Digable Planets but with a dab of Brit charm and an experimental edge. The group already have a strong back catalogue with one mixtape, A Little More Elbow Room and a studio album, A Handshake to the Brain, that includes production from the rising Australian beatsmith Ta-ku. Their songs contain adept wordplay like “If you ain’t giving food for thought, you’re just supporting famine” and worldly insights enough to give listeners a sudden panic attack about stuff like existentialism. They’ve recently played at Reading & Leeds and opened for Queens’ big up, Action Bronson, which is only the beginning for these innovative hip-hoppers.
Jesse James Solomon
Amidst all the stereotypical braggadocio found in rap music, Jesse James Solomon is a refreshing member of this revivalist movement. His songs are sincere and introspective; in ‘JFSE’ he raps, “I find it hard to feel at home but home is where the heart is/ I guess it all depends/ home is anywhere I can zone out and reflect/ home is in my head so when I’m rolling through the ends/shit just don’t make any sense.” His runs are smooth and steady, almost like a calm mutter, and his music appears like a genuine snapshot of his thoughts as they are processing. The dark and minimalistic beats sound more of an accompaniment to an introverted youth’s life and although he only has four songs so far, they’re enough to claim him as a promising contender for UK hip hop.
This feature is taken from the December 2014 issue of Audio Addict. View it on Issuu here, or pick it up along the South Coast.