Dreamland: How Mic Righteous Epitomises the D.I.Y Spirit of North East Hip-Hop
Prior to the release of ‘Survivor’, I wouldn’t have necessarily considered myself a fan of Mic Righteous. He’s always been an artist on my radar, but only on the very edge of it. His ‘Fire In The Booth’ and various other freestyles were enough to cement my respect, but never left me wanting for more. Then, the lead single from ‘Dreamland’ dropped. Everything changed.
Tone’s infectious vocals and Mic’s vivd storytelling schemes paired up to perfection. I yearned for more – but I’d have to wait for follow up singles. Instead, I went through the past work of the Margate rapper with ‘Open Mic’ proving to be particularly impressive. ‘Pen’ may be the best use of personification in rap history.
As Righteous readied the release of ‘Dreamland’, different singles started to seep into my playlist. As a genuine independent rap artist from the UK, Mic repeatedly reminded his social media followers of their importance to his release. Emphasising his gratitude for their support, Mic offered placements to have fans’ names written on the sleeve of the hard-copy album.
Three such names include local rappers Jamie Lister, John Sutherland and North East super-fan/Rick-Fury-lookalike Danny Riley.
Last week on TheRootMusic Rap Show, I dedicated the show to celebrating the release of Joe Budden’s ‘Rage & The Machine’ album. The next day, I was inundated with demands to do the same for ‘Dreamland.’ Jamie ‘Listaa’ Lister lead the charge. In a conversation with him about Mic Righteous and the importance of this album, Listaa pointed out something that changed my perception of the project.
“Everything he’s doing now I see on a littler scale in our own scene,” Listaa said on the importance of Mic Righteous. “He’s taking everything on board himself, an independent artist.”
Throughout ‘Dreamland’, Mic raps about his humble beginnings. The struggle of recording in a studio based in a squat isn’t far from the bedroom set-ups most in the North East use. His early school dropout, former drug dependency and lines like “they always told me I’d do nothing right, everything you touch you fuck up” from ‘2005’ epitomises the majority of the North East Hip-Hop scene.
It’s no wonder rappers like Listaa, Blitz and Just B have been excited about this album. Lately, UK Rap has largely been oversaturated with songs that are more fitting to Chicago’s “Drillinois” sound. ‘Dreamland’ is much more reflective of life in the North East’s working class.
Whilst I heard their EP’s prior to ‘Dreamland’, the influence Mic has on Listaa, Blitz and Just B is evident in ‘Sense of Direction’, ‘Both Sides of the Coin Vol. 2′ and ‘Lyrics From The Villas Vol. 1’ respectively.
Sutherland is a North East artist who is yet to release a project but his single releases have indicated influence from Mic Righteous.
“All of us in the North East scene relate to him in the sense that he isn’t from the London scene, and basically had to use that to his advantage,” Sutherland says. “If you want true passion, and versatility he’s your guy. He’s a perfect example that anyone can make something of themselves in this game.”
“He, like all us, came from nothing,” Sutherland added on Righteous’ parallels to the North East. “I can’t necessarily relate specifically to the squat thing, but lord knows I’ve had to do ridiculous things that are similar just to make music to get it out there. Travelling for two hours on the bus to get to Newcastle. Having to, not lie, but big myself up to get in some situations like when he was outside that studio trying to convince the guys he was allowed there.”
Mic’s determination and persistence to make something of himself rings true with the North East’s rap scene. His do it yourself – and whatever it takes – mantra is reflective of what many of the artists within Newcastle and surrounding areas do. From the makeshift “studio” Leddie & Smoggy recorded ‘Sorry We’re Late’ in, to Mr. Static putting on his own gigs in Newcastle.
Not forgetting the hundreds of MCs who have taught themselves to become a walking conglomerate of what major labels have teams of people doing – producing, writing, recording, engineering, packaging, marketing and everything in between. The passion and work ethic on display in the North East Hip-Hop scene is undeniable.
While Mic Righteous may have come from humble beginnings and isn’t favourite to top the Forbes rich list anytime soon, he has made something of himself. A legend within UK Hip-Hop and an inspiration to thousands of people, Mic Righteous is a symbol of hope to the North East.
Listaa, Sutherland, Blitz and Just B might not be receiving the credit they deserve for their music right now but Mic Righteous’ story of his beginnings in ‘Dreamland’ is similar to their current situation, hopefully within a few years time, they will be where he is now. Telling their own story of unlikely success, on an album topping the UK iTunes Hip-Hop Chart.