An anti-elitist guide to respecting North East Hip Hop
Recently, one of Hip Hop’s most credible, internationally renowned blogsites, DJ Booth are taking a stance against Hip Hop elitism. With articles fighting, not against Nas’ Illmatic being heralded as the greatest rap album of all time, but against those who will not provide explanation as to why, or accept arguments against it. While the site’s contributors, Yoh and Nathan, implore readers to respect Gucci Mane and love Ghostface Killah (who is coming to Newcastle this summer with the rest of Wu-Tang), I was emailing Nathan, who asked, “what can you write that no one else can?”
So here is my anti-elitist guide to North East (UK) Hip Hop.
There are thousands of journalist in the region, many of them focusing on music, some might even be writing about Hip Hop, but there are only a handful who are covering the rap music being crafted in the North East, it’s not something that is all too surprising. Newcastle and it’s surrounding cities are known for passionate football fans, the friendly accent and not wearing coats on nights out. When it comes to music, it’s predominantly indie-rock, if we’re to exclude televised talent show winners. Most Hip Hop heads probably couldn’t name UK cities other than London, and even those that have heard of Newcastle, almost certainly aren’t aware of the wealth of talent residing in the region.
It’s the marketing strategies that tend to let local MCs down. Looking around, if you haven’t friended Hash-Rotten Hippo on Facebook, subscribed to AddsLadTV or reading Northern Lights, the likelihood of you stumbling across music from the area is somewhat mythical. There are examples of artists who can promote themselves well. I remember getting a handful of press releases from Grant Brydon who is now Hip Hop editor of CLASH Magazine and online music editor of RWD.com regarding the release of Leddie & Smoggy’s Sorry We’re Late album and it’s preceding singles, while Jister must be doing something right considering his co-sign from Scroobius Pip and being invited to join the Speech Development Records tour around the time of the release of his Absurdism EP with The Lion Ranger.
Looking beyond the promotion however, there’s the music, and that’s what should really matter, right? We can forgive the poor promotion that predominantly centres around tagging Facebook friends and mentioning random celebrities on Twitter in the hope of a retweet, when for the most part, North East Hip Hop artists are piecing together music that matches peers in the ever-dominant capital city, and the growing western scene being fronted by Shotty Horroh, Blizzard and Lunar C.
Not everybody is going to love the regions rap circuit, but nobody should completely disregard it either. This article is primarily targeting Hip Hop fans, but a quick nod to those of you, who are still stuck believing Hip Hop is nothing more than talking fast; Hip Hop is not necessarily what you hear on the radio. Beyond the bragging of money, cars and strippers (and even that has its place), there is a whole world of diversity to delve into. Whether it’s artistic musicians like Kanye West, Nas and Lupe Fiasco, the political activists of Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and N.W.A or those who articulate personal stories to provide emotional resonance to listeners such as Joe Budden, Drake and Schama Noel. Hip Hop is more than what can be seen on the surface, and it’s that broad range of style, theme and purpose that is exemplified in the North East.
Artists such as Just B and TM bring the exciting energy of the Grime sub-genre to the scene, Ken Master’s recent Wonerbar showcases the desire to push stylistic boundaries and the impending HekTik Records collaboration from Trav and Caff exemplifies the pathos packed anthems that provide reliability to listeners. There are more talented MCs from the North East than I can afford to namedrop without pushing the word count into TLDR territory, but even for those listeners more in tune to mainstream musings, there are the recently split Big Beat Bronson and Kema Kay to look towards, for battle fans we have Suus / Max Gavins of Brainfeeders and Stig Of The Dump. There are no contenders for G.O.A.T’s here, but there are up-and-coming talents that could go toe-to-toe with American counterparts that you might find on the upcoming XXL Freshman cover.
You don’t have to love Hip Hop, or the North East’s incarnations of it, but given the tantalising talent rising in the area and the multi-faceted layers the genre of music showcases, you can’t not respect it.