By Sumit Sharma
The future is bright, the future is UK Rap.
For years there has been talk about the UK Rap scene, whether we would break America, whether we are keeping it real and whether we have anyone good enough to chart.
But you know what I have realised now? We must take a look at ourselves, champion those who are representing the culture and be thankful that we have so many talented rappers.
I used to talk about the UK Rap scene as being underground following the success of the Cookie Crew, Hijack, Derek B, Caveman, MC Mell’O, Wee Papa Girls and London Posse.
Granted, the scene today is not like it was in the late 80’s but we do have a lot to shout about.
2011 I think we surprised ourselves with the type of music that our rappers brought to the table. We didn’t shout enough about it, Is it possible that we were a little spoiled?
I reflect on music from the likes Mystro, Stylah, Bigz, S.A.S, Iron Braydz, Logic, Genesis Elijah and many others who made quality Rap.
For example, take Skillz’ 2011 Rap Up and compare it to Mystro’s. The latter’s is more complex and was able to fit in more events and still be concise. You know how hard that is for a mutha luva?
Stylah continued to show why he should not be underestimated. Bigz had one of the biggest posse cuts last year with “I Just Want The Paper”. S.A.S. showed their musically maturity. Iron Braydz got some international love, Genesis Elijah was consistent with quality, while Logic crafted a nice album with Last Resort.
I’m just talking about 7 acts here, I’m not even talking about slept on rappers like Kyza, Jamieson, M9, Kinetik, Ransom Badbonez and countless others. The fact that there are many more just epitomises the progress we have made.
Staying with 2011, let’s take a look at what Lowkey achieved. An independent artist with an army of fans who made history. Lowkey showed the industry what time it was when he released “The Soundtrack To The Struggle”. This album was significant because it showed that a true Hip-Hop emcee could enter the UK charts without a label machine. After many years we have genuine emcee’s charting.
The positive is that he isn’t the only one.
Artists like Giggs continue to chart and even artists that are considered Grime are actually Hip Hop and they continue to hit the charts.
Let’s study Devlin for a moment. 9 times out of 10, people will say he is a Grime artist (he would probably agree), but check his influences and you’ll see him quote Big L and Big Pun.
Wretch 32 who is now a household name IS a rapper. His flow, cadence and his metaphors all reflect that.
Tinie Tempah is on cloud 9 but before he got there, he was not really embraced by Grime or Hip-Hop but again, check his flow, use of metaphors and similes and tell me he doesn’t sound like a Rap artist?
An artist that gets a lot flack is Professor Green. They say he’s too mainstream and Pop but he’s still rapping isn’t he?
I’ll take this moment to highlight producers like DJ Snips, Alex Da Kid, Nutty P, Beat Butcha and Show N Prove, who are just a few of many who are consistently putting that work in at a high standard.
The strides UK Rap is making has even inspired Asian rapper Shizzio to create an all encompassing scene called “Burban” (Brown Urban).
This year though, my hopes are with Smiler (above). Without doubt he has the potential to represent Hip Hop, be true to himself and be a house hold name. His new track with Wretch 32 says it all.
Looking away from the artists, let us concentrate on the industry itself. We have more than enough blogs or should I say websites (for those who are too scared to call themselves blogs), that cover the scene. It seems like there is a new blog every month and while it will get saturated very soon, we do have genuine tastemakers who can articulate their views. The fact that Charlie Sloth is on Radio 1 symbolises the progress we continue to make.
But what is great is that we have the experience and knowledge from the likes of Shortee Blitz, Semtex, DJ MK, Harry Love, Big Ted, 279, the DMC crew and Sarah Love.
This is an important point because it’s this balance of fresh talent and experienced tastemakers that has enabled the culture to grow.
What is also growing are regular Hip-Hop events. Nights like Livin Proof, Speakers Corner, Doctor’s Orders and Spreadlove concerts continue to showcase that UK Rap is very much alive and give our fans and artists an outlet to enjoy the scene. The battle scene is still going strong with Don’t Flop and I hear Jumpoff is back so that’s a plus too.
Sometimes I feel that the fast paced world we live in, we don’t have much time to reflect. UK Rap has made some tremendous strides in the last few years. If you don’t agree, I’d say rewind 5 years and ask yourself, did you ever see artists like Giggs, Lowkey, Tinie Tempah, Wretch 32, Professor Green charting, let alone getting number 1’s? We didn’t and that is a testament to how far we have come. I am very excited to see what our rappers have in store for us this year.
We Progress Together.