Jasmine’s Juice – UK RAPPER WRETCH32 – GROWING OVER LIFE.

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UK rapper Wretch32’s new album, Growing Over Life, was long awaited by his fans and took a whole new serious route than his usual offerings. The BET Award winner’s 12 new tracks juxtapose social commentary, thoughtful bars and powerful insights throughout and gained a top five UK chart position. Not that Wretch cares about awards and chart numbers ‘’ I never feel pressure for chart success. I feel more pressure to do a good Fire In The Booth’. Wretch’s latest album tackles subjects relevant to youth globally, like challenging relationships, parenthood, police brutality and celebration of life.

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I sat down for an exclusive chat with one of the most important voices from the UK hip hop scene today.

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JASMINE WITH WRETCH32.

1

Growing Over Life clearly shows you’ve had a serious, mature, tough journey through these last few years with adult responsibilities being a priority. I myself watched you and your loved ones bury a close friend earlier this year. How tough have the demons and life been this time around and how have you dealt with them?

The affect that my good friend music industry figure Richard Antwi’s death had on me….it was big… I always sent records to Richard for feedback. When I sent him a track called “intro” he loved it. Told me I was a beast and I should attempt America. The conversation carried on. Then that phone chat ended. Less than a week afterwards he passed away. That was the last thing he said to me. He was like my older brother. Without him I don’t know if this could’ve ever been possible. He taught us so much. That’s why I named my intro track “Antwi” in honour of him.

WRETCH32 VIDEO ”ANTWI”

I’m one of those peeps that take things in my stride and have learnt to be thick skinned and expect nothing from anyone. It’s easier if you don’t have expectations and then you can’t be disappointed. I learnt that I’m more comfortable being emotional this album. I used to think it wasn’t manly to cry but now I don’t care. When I recorded “6 words” I cried. No one spoke in the studio. Boys being boys. It’s sick when it’s like that.

I also learnt that a lot of what sells the record is excitement about it and driving promo. This time around I had a mix tape with (fellow rapper) Avelino and peeps have really been open to the lyricism in that. In the past I’ve put out the best song. Now it’s about the track where I’m rapping most. I also did a Fire In The Booth (BBC brand where rappers spit whole verses for radio), session then a song then a mix tape. Full on!

Also with my music, I’ve taken responsibly back with things like directing my videos and plotting campaigns because I’ve learnt more and understand my audience a lot more now. I now know I have to be consistent with my videos. I used director Matt Walker for my video ‘’Antwi’’ and a few others. He’s cool and gets it. They (directors) come to my house about ideas. They tell me what’s realistic because in my head it’s got to look like a Spielberg production. Its like when people ask if there will be a tour to accompany this album; It’s got to make financial sense. We have to have a good return. Often we can lose more than we can make. It’s usually my fault cos I’m a prick cos I want to add more stuff to my staging cos I like a big spectacle on stage. I want it to be memorable but in order to do that I lose money.

So with videos and tours ‎I used to believe that the director is best to do job, and the team know what’s best with tour’s, but I now know its also important to trust in my own ideas. I’m a writing specialist but as I learn I sit down and talk and be a lot more realistic.

2

You’re very known as a deep wordsmith – Growing Over Life is full of social commentary and slick wordplay, but so much new rap content these days is very weak on lyrics and new artists don’t seem to care about spending hours on clear lyrical content anymore. Do you as a current leader think that this matters for the culture? Can you talk about that?

Different people have different roles to play and different people think differently. If you were born in 1990, your favourite rapper may be Gucci Mane or Young Thug or Future, not Jay Z, so I think It’s dependent on what you’ve grown up with and been influenced by. Biggie, Nas, Jay were all rappers that used similes and metaphors that caught my ear and so that’s what I was influenced by so I guess it’s just about perspective. Both styles have a purpose. No one wants to hear serious songs like my ‘Antwi’ in a club or live lounge but there’s a place for it and vica versa.

3

Growing Over Life also touches on police brutality, which is both a huge issue in the U.S as well as in the UK. Recently the #blacklivesmovement seems to have been hijacked in the UK by middle-classed white protesters managing to shut down City Airport, with the environment and pollution as justification. In fact there was not one black face amongst the protesters, did this make any sense to you and does it worry you that by speaking up about political issues that it may impact your own music career?

What I do like is sometimes you need to create noise and become annoying to get your point across. The good child that’s quiet might not get all the opportunities. Sometimes our natural thought is to go to police station when e’re unhappy, but when these people go to disrupt the airport it’s annoying but then people want to listen and understand why they’ve been disrupted, so in turn they may wanna help sort it out. Its ironic, they don’t mind the ghetto being a mess but when its the M25 and airport its all up in the news. I do like that element.
Realistically for example, the government doesn’t care if 2000 people demonstrate in Tottenham but once it’s a national problem that’s disrupting everyone they pay attention.

‎Having said that, I do hope it’s coming from a sincere place with those white demonstrators. I didn’t have an issue with them not being black at all. I may go on a march about blocking sex offenders without having personally been affected by a sex offence, because as a parent I feel connected to the cause. So I guess they as humanity feel connected to our cause too. It’s the human empathetic connection. If they’re coming from a sincere place then I’m ok with it.

4

In last couple of years you’ve been more politically conscious. You even titled the second part of your record “Mark Duggan” after the young black man killed from your area. I know your gran and dad were really connected to the community and your uncle is an activist always fighting for justice. (Stafford Scott, who has written for The Guardian and co-founded the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign in 1985). You’ve mentioned in the past that in your house there’s a poster of Winston Silcott. (One of the “Tottenham Three”, black men who were convicted in March 1987 for the murder of Polce Constable Blakelock on the night of 6 October 1985 during the Broadwater Farm Riot, in north London, despite not having been near the scene. All three convictions were quashed on 25 November 1991 after scientific tests suggested the men’s confessions had been fabricated) .So you’ve grown up around a family that’s really into politics.

With Mark Duggan, I wanted to speak for the people who lived here in my community. To me he’s not a news statistic or video clip. He’s someone I went to school with.
“Open conversation” is a track about me opening a page in my diary. These are my thoughts as a child. I mentioned Mark’s children at the end of the record.

I never worry about my political lyrics and I think it’s my duty to speak from the heart. When I do that it’s never wrong. We are all in a senior place now and more serious and so it’s important to speak on stuff. I’m looking at secondary schools for my son. Being a parent is a responsibility! I’m looking at routes to school. It all plays on in your head. Which schools are producing good consistent results….
I went through it all myself 16 years ago and here I am 16 years later thinking about it all again!

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5

Maintaining a relationship whilst making music is a topic you cover on the latest album, and it’s a topic that a few other UK artists have made songs about this year. You’ve said that you haven’t been in a serious relationship in years and if you’re making a song about relationships you pick and choose several real life experiences to mix up on a track. Would it be fair to say that you have had to sacrifice love to focus on a successful career. What is the one thing you need a potential wifey to understand/do/get down with?

‎I do think I’ve sacrificed love for my career. I’m not selfish. A relationship is 50/50 with the time that you both commit. And when it comes to love I just don’t think I’m at that stage where I’m ready to give 100 percent. Its affected my relationships yes. I look for understanding in a woman. For example I can start a music session at noon and end at 6am. Who would understand that regularly? Taxi drivers have the same problem I imagine.

6

My era had a lot more R&B and soul to keep us all quite romantically minded. I get the impression youth nowadays are less romantic and more sexualized. How do you feel?

‎I think the energy of what’s around you growing up will affect your thought process and so music does affect ideas about life. If all the kids today are listening to tracks like ‘’These hoes ain’t loyal’ (Chris Brown) ’ instead of like back in the day we had ‘’ Let’s get married’’ (Jagged Edge), then one-night stands could be seen as priority to them instead of a long-lasting relationship.

7
Even though you’ve used female features on the album from names like Emeli Sandé, Laura Mvula and more, the grime and hip hop scene in the UK is very male dominated, where are the ladies and why are they not as prominent as the guys?

If I’m honest I think some of us are slightly biased. I’ll tell you why. Lady Leshurr and Lil Simz are sick. But as an MC you may have a concept about a certain song that you’re making and then a male MC comes to mind for a collaboration and maybe a female name only comes to mind on relationship themed tracks. Also, with us guys we are often circulating and sharing fans when we collaborate.
As well as that, with us guys I think we all support each other cos we’re fans of what we all do. My worst enemy could have a good song and I’ll tell them. We care about the scene and ourselves. There can’t only be one star – there has to be room for all of us. You know when Skepta’s doing a tour, we’ll all just jump in a van and go out and join him onstage and that way we’re sharing fans and that keeps it exciting cos we bump into each other at live shows all the time.

8

Is it this ‘sharing and circulating of fans’’ that’s been the top winning element of the UK grime scene making it without major record deal signings?

Record deals. It’s about building super deals. Signing to a mainstream label ‎helps financially cos you receive an advance and then you can just focus on the music. Now it’s about super teams and I understand radio, TV pluggers and press teams managers and A&R. Nowadays finances can come from anywhere but I know it’s a major factor to have a team on board that you’ve handpicked.
‎I’ve been fortunate cos with the label deal I’m in, I was able to bring my team to my label, but I had to go through both situations to understand them, so now when I speak to Stormzy I tell him ‘I found hurdles here and here’ and I talk about options that he can think about, so my experiences can be useful to others.

‎Nowadays we all collaborate with each other all the time like never before. It’s interesting, the other day I was talking to (singer) Shola Ama and I told her that I couldn’t believe that back in her era that she and Craig David didn’t have a song together?! I was a fan of both so we would’ve lapped that up. I couldn’t understand why was there no duet?

9

Hilary or Trump to lead the world next- One is hated, the other is more hated. Discuss?

Hhhmmm Hilary or Trump. I’m still following only God. However, If I had to pick from cancer and leukemia I’d pick Hilary.

10

This year’s MOBO Award’s is coming up – I know there was a disappointing year when people believed that you were snubbed when you’d had a big year – but awards shows and voting is always a minefield in itself. How do you look back on it now …with some perspective?

With the MOBO’S I learnt a valuable lesson. I have no feelings towards it any more. It put me off awards ceremonies for good as well as attending them. As artists we’re all naturally competitive. But in that scenario all you’re thinking is ‘’Did you really lose though?’’ After all It was just a moment. But you bought a suit and sat with your family and yes, I felt like I’d lost. So I’ve stopped attending so much stuff like that now, I don’t go the MOBO Awards.
I don’t know if I’d attend The Brits if I was nominated. I really didn’t like that feeling of all of us being pitted against each other. The bottom line is we are all winning now without mainstream stuff like that. We’re winning man!!!!

11

Your song All a Dream is one of my fave tracks on the album. What’s your biggest dream to achieve in your career, could American chart success be for you in the future?

‎My biggest dream to help people who are talented. I hear talent and I want that to be magnified. Whether my future involves me building a label? Being a mentor? Even watching my peer – fellow singer Shakka – at his live gig at Koko this past month, I felt teary and emotional. I recall calling him early on and keeping him motivated. His gig was sick! Being able to do my song Blackout with him and taking him to festivals has opened him up to so much more. So I’d love to get involved with mentoring talent like that more.

I wanna do it America, but at this stage in my life my son’s ten, my daughter’s five. They’re going through lots of change. Can I just leave for six months? I wouldn’t wanna waste their time and my time. The biggest problem with America is the audience out there understanding our style and lyrics and language. But having said that, when I was younger listening to Jay Z I decoded his words so really American peeps should now do that with us. Yeah, American recognition or from anywhere in the world is important. I’m never in the studio making music for just a few people!

The Rated Awards 2016- The Legends, The Winners, The New Era!

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So- everyone who was anyone in the grime music/ UK urban music industry was at Camden’s Roundhouse last night for the second annual Rated Awards.

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Big moments of the night included Tim Westwood picking up the GRM Legacy Award, Kano took home Best Album for ‘Made in the Manor’, Giggs bagged Artist Of The Year Award, Skepta won Best Video for his smash ‘Man (Gang)’​, Manny Norte noting that A.Dot ”gets crisser gal than the man dem’,and Big Narstie actually used the ”C” word onstage!

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JASMINE WITH NAUGHTY BOY , MANNY NORTE AND YASMIN EVANS, CHAMS (NFTR) AND SHOLA AMA, GIGGS, OMAR AND CRAIG DAVID.

Last night history was made, with the second KA & GRM Daily Rated Awards, celebrating the very best of British urban music. The 1,700-person capacity venue, packed to the brim full of artists, industry players and fans alike.

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Craig David, Krept & Konan, Skepta, DJ and producer Naughty Boy and Professor Green were all in attendance, bringing the grime scene into the spotlight in a welcome togetherness and celebration of how far British urban music has come.

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The KA & GRM Daily Rated Awards is one of the only award ceremonies that lets the fans decide the winners. By giving the power back to the people it allows the real purveyors of the British urban music scene to be recognised. The awards, which launched last year, were founded by KA Drinks and GRM Daily.

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English MC AJ Tracey picked up the Best Breakthrough award, with other early winners including Skepta winning Best Video for his smash ‘Man (Gang)’, Charlie Sloth announced as Best DJ for a second year, and Rude Kid collecting Producer Of The Year.

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Mercury Prize shortlisted artist Kano took home Best Album for his monumental album ‘Made In The Manor’, whilst Giggs took home Best Artist. Abra Cadabra was also full of emotion as he swooped upBest Track for “Robbery Remix” featuring Krept & Konan.

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Last night saw some high-energy performances with WSTRN making a return to the KA & GRM Daily Rated Awards stage, tearing it up with Youngs Teflon for ‘Best Friend’. We also saw Craig David & Big Narstie perform their hit single ‘When The Bassline Drops’ as well as performances from MoStack, MIst, Fredo, Abra Cadabra, Ray BLK, Donae’o, Big Tobz and Ghetts x Rude Kid.

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BBC Radio 1Xtra presenter and A&R Director at Atlantic Records Twin B paid tribute to best friend, business partner, and UK music industry icon Richard Antwi, who sadly passed away earlier this year. Richard was responsible for helping establish the musical career of a number of British artists including Lethal Bizzle, Wretch 32 and Tinie Tempah.

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Closing the night off was Artist Of The Year winner Giggs, who ran through a crazy set of old and new tracks. As he performed his latest single ‘Whippin Excursion’, the stage was invaded by fellow artists, including Kano, Skepta, Ghetts and GRM Daily’s Posty.

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GRM Daily founder and CEO, Posty presented the final award of the night – arguably the biggest one – the GRM Legacy award, which highlights the achievements and influence within the British urban scene. The prestigious award went to DJ & presenter Tim Westwood, who throughout his career has championed the British urban music scene. Westwood is one of the most recognised urban UK DJ’s of the decade. He is regarded as the most influential figure in hip hop in Europe and as a pioneer of the UK scene.

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Over the last three years KA Drinks has been helping to empower and elevate grime culture in the UK. From working with artists such as Ghetts, Lady Leshurr and Paigey Cakey in 2012, to supporting up-and-coming artists in their yearly ‘Get Rated’ competition. As co-founder of the Rated Awards KA has helped create a platform to celebrate the best of urban music, and is building a brand that will help to inspire the next generation of grime talent.

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2016 has been another groundbreaking year for the British urban music scene and The KA & GRM Daily Rated Awards are here to highlight and commend this year’s high achievers. This year’s awards were broadcast exclusively on GRM Daily and ratedawards.com and hosted by Capital XTRA presenter Manny Norte and 1Xtra presenter Yasmin Evans. This year marked the second Rated Awards and the first year at the iconic Roundhouse.
The 2016 KA & GRM Daily Rated Award Winners

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WINNERS

Best Breakthrough, In Association with Vevo AJ Tracey

Best Video Skepta – Man (Gang)

Best DJ Charlie Sloth

Producer Of The Year Rude Kid

Personality Of The Year Poet & Vuj

Best Mixtape 67- In Skengs We Trust

Best Track, In Association with BBC 1Xtra Abra Cadabra featuring Krept & Konan – Robbery Remix

Best Album Kano – Made In The Manor

Artist Of The Year Giggs

Get Rated Figure Flows

GRM Legacy Tim Westwood

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Performances

Mikil Pane – Dear Diary

Donae’o – My Circle

Big Tobz – Uno My Style

Mo Stack – Liar

Mist – Karlas Black

Fredo – They Aint 100

Abra Cadabra – Robbery

Ray BLK – My Hood

WSTRN – Best Friend

Craig David – Mashup

Craig David & Big Narstie – When The Bassline Drops

Big Narstie – BDL Skank

Ghetts/Rude Kid – Mashup

Giggs – Mashup / Whippin Excursion

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JASMINE’S JUICE – A GIGGS SPECIAL – THE LANDLORD.

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JASMINE (PLAYING NICELY) WITH GIGGS.

Giggs – LANDLORD

Giggs latest album ‘The Landlord’ shows that in less than a decade, he has grown into an artist that’s much more at home with his celebrity than he was in 2008 at his musical debut. A man much more comfortable with the pressures of leadership and knowing his place in the music scene (rap really needs this album!) also as a leader, musician, comedian, father, friend, family-man, lover and more.

He reveals he’s leant lessons about keeping his friendship circle small, (Whippin Excursion), keeping his personal life private, and like any true king emcee – warning off the pretenders, haters and wannabees.

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Yet whilst life has changed for the better, Giggs’ past experiences and memories still haunt his newer suburban dream-home lifestyle, as he highlights in the single The Blow Back; ‘’mans living that life, popped to the shop in pajamas…‘’just jumped outta bed, heard a knock from the gardeners, said no not today, what’s good, but you alarmed us’’.

On The Landlord Giggs lyrical flow can’t be pinned down. One minute he’s laidback, 2-step rhyming, spitting humour, the next he’s intense with high-pitched strained questions, then next dark ominous, eerie, foreboding stories as well as opening up – literally – about sex, love and relationships. This body of work has it all and really shows Giggs is learning, developing and growing as a street poet with authority faster than most. He’s certainly more fully rounded with extra poise in his many roles.

The intro is reminiscent of the classic Jay Z intro for Izzo (H.O.V.A) ‘’ Thanks for coming out tonight. You could’ve been anywhere in the world, but you’re here with me. I appreciate that’’. It also politely reminds us to ‘’stop assuming’’ we know about his life, his past and his mindset.

On The Landlord it feels like Giggs is having fun experimenting with his style and content without pressure of a record label breathing down his neck. A ‘’nothing too deep just let’s have some fun in the studio’’ vibe.

After a tumultuous start to our early music industry relationship a few years back, after which a chat over lunch and apologies were swapped, this past week Giggs and I shared an hour’s conversation, which I wish had been recorded for a podcast instead, as he was so entertaining and deep. Juggling his kids, new born baby sleeping patterns, literally holding the baby and cooing whilst chatting, he proved he was the perfect conversationalist, daddy and multi-tasker.

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ALBUM
Congrats on the Landlords nNo.2 album chart position…. Has it exceeded all your expectations?

Every time I’ve made an album I’ve thought its sick. If I’m really honest, it’s my fourth album and I think all the past should’ve done that well too. What’s really making me happy is people rolling in their cars to the music, it’s sick! The buzz out there, ‘its the hardest, its sick!’….-that means more than anything to hear all that and those comments have me buzzing, its mental!. This is why you do what you do. When you first write lyrics at home and you think you could do this, the first thing that you want is for people to say this is sick! You don’t think about riches and chart positions. So I’m happy.

My favourite tracks so far on the album are Lock Doh (featuring Donaeo) and The Best. However in JUST SWERVIN you sound emotional, which is nice because we see a different side to you. You sound vulnerable and reveal what it feels like to be low, lonely and losing friends. It’s important to highlight this realness in an age where young men under pressure are really suffering with mental health issues. Tell us about that, letting your harder persona take a back seat and being okay to open up about being just human?

I’ve always have vulnerable, emotional real shit. Its about balance. I like to always have two or three deep songs…I never write at all…. I just smoke, have a drink…the beat talks to me… there’s different ways of being lonely…when I had beef and madness years ago I felt alone. When people are trying to kill you, but at heart you’re a good person its lonely. I never asked to be a gang banger…I was actually a good kid…I used to work with disabled people a carer/support worker role…I looked after a brother for about a year….I was a Peckham boy from when I was 14. I didn’t get into that life to be a G, it was a necessity. We didn’t have money in the house. I didn’t want to bother my mum for money, like an impressionable kid thinks I thought ‘’if I steal my own shit I will make it easier on my mum…ut then other things came with that lifestyle, not just stealing clothes. I then got caught up in fighting other gangs, and then that becomes a part of your life. Then I tried to work, that’s how I became a carer cos my mum worked there. I was paying off my Punto car. Man would hate on me cos I had a car!?. People were tryna to kill me?, I don’t think I’m a superhero but I don’t fear anyone. I was going back n forth, then people were looking at me like a boss. I was like (the character) Knockout Ned in (the film) City of Gods.

I came out of jail in 2004 and saw Adulthood and the character in Adulthood was very similar to me, when he got out of jail and trying not to get into any trouble. the streets were worse than ever since I had been away and also I’m the oldest sibling, watching my brothers go through stuff too so its always been a lonely journey.

I’ve walked away from the streets now. I’m on another planet now. Now I see things completely differently. I just know you don’t have to go through certain things….I understand though that when you’re down there and younger, its different. If peeps can see Giggs from Peckham can make it then it’s closer to them to see there is another life choice out there too for them. It’s not like as being so far detached to success like someone like Jay Z.
The way I see things now is completely different, some of the people I used to be around still see things like that, so I’ve always been a loner.

Your song THE PROCESS narrates the story about many typical relationships: the meeting, the dating, the loving, the first arguments over jealously and ultimately the split or not to split annoyances. You’ve become quite the sex symbol lol.

(laughs) If you listen to The Process it starts with me seeing a girl, with good posture, I chat to her, I get a drink, that’s my girl, she passes the test, she’s cooking brekky, then my phone rings and someone calls and she’s like suspicious and questions ‘’who’s that?’. Then it’s your first argument, you might break up with her. It’s like a vicious circle, the same process each time. It’s the relationship processes from my perspective. A female should make a process reply / response….lol!

On your track THE BEST you feature Liverpool’s Aystar – how do you connect with up n coming new talent?

My son is like the A&R in my house, he’s like me.He’s 14, and he listens to whoevers got talent. I’m older, he is younger than me, I can’t keep up with what’s out there all the time, and my son keeps me up to date. I was listening to this Liverpool stuff thinking this accent is hot, then someone on twitter put me onto Aystar, and then I got him on the album. I shouted at him via twitter. I try and make everyone eat.

Your debut album –Walk in da Park- was 8 years ago- what have you learnt since then?

Mainly I learnt that business is business. I treat the music game the same as I treated the drug game years ago. I’m on point now. The music game is 60% easier than the drug game and I’m not ducking the police daily. I used to rise at 7am, bag up, take my son to school, and you’re paranoid the whole time. You find a trap house, bag up, come out, you’ve got all your food on you, and you got to meet people on time without being bait. In this here music game you’re using way less brainpower cos you’re not ducking the police all the time.

Having said that, although I’m a music star now, they still make me feel like a criminal. When I was first on Westwood’s show years ago, I took another young guy with music potential with me and the police ended up kicking off his mums door at home! I made him a part of SN1 to help start his music career. Then the next thing his mum was asking ‘’who’s this Giggs person!?’’. All I’ve done is try and do something positive to try and take him off the streets, but the way it looks is that when he was gang banging his door wasn’t coming off. Now he’s trying to do music his doors off. He then ended up in CAT D prison, he made a song whilst there, so I put him on the new SN1 mix tape. On his day visits outside prison he didn’t even come out and see family cos he was so dedicated to making his music tracks as it’s a new, different lifeline for him. But as he ‘’associated’’ with us, on his return they sent him back to a CAT C prison! They accused him of still being ‘gang affiliated’. They kicked him out of a CAT D into CAT C prison for associated with a music company?

It’s a struggle, so much misconception surrounds rap music. Your music has always portrayed the pain and grind stories of working class inner city youth, but now you’ve moved to the suburbs what’s inspiring your music?

The first song on the album with Stormzy (The Blow Back), the beat is as greasy as ever, but its not that dark n grimy, but I guess the delivery makes it sounds sinister…(recites and raps the track)…- I’m talking about what’s happening now…with my new life, my gardener…yes! I really have a gardener now! I couldn’t go to the shops in PJ’s before, in Peckham I had to be ready for war at all times. Now I’m peaceful. I’m happy to roll to my local shops in pj’s. I happy to rap about the good life and the struggle.

Do you tend to work with the same producers and mixers that you started out with…who’s Giggs dream studio team?

Dirty Saj, Dennis the engineer, Dukus the mixer, I’ve had the same team from early days, my Unit 10 man dem.

Speaking of your team, your manager Buck gets lots of name checks on the album and has been riding with you from day one. What do you think he saw in you that was a sure fire winner? And what’s the one moment that stands out for you working alongside each other?

With Buck its always a moment. The way he handles shit is great. I wonder if he’s done this in another life, cos he doesn’t just randomly jump at stuff. He’s careful and not driven just by money. When we had a PR he would say ‘I don’t want Giggs in the paper for no reason’. I know that he gets lot of his knowledge from Jay Z albums. Backin the days when it was D Block VS Rocafella , Buck used to Rocafella and I used to be D Block. Buck would say to me ‘you gotta listen to Jay Z more cos you two are THE SAME minded!’.

How much input do you have with your videos? Do you insist on a dark, grimy vibe?

When I make a song, I see the video in your head before the video treatments even come in.
I direct the whole thing. When I was at XL (record label), I would clash with them cos I would want one thing, they would want another. My peeps would approach me and say ‘your videos are shit man’. Take ‘’Look what the cat dragged in’’….it was a straight forward video. It’s meant to be funny. XL were saying it can’t be funny…you’re meant to be gangsta. So it came out shit. It was crap.

Wow, stereotypes that the rest of the world wants stars to live up to are ridiculous. Shortly after The Landlord was released you tweeted that you cant sleep cos you need to put on a London show and celebrate with your fans and you can’t – explain?

It’s the usual live shows problem for me in London. The police. What they think I’m about. Etc etc nothing’s changed there really.

The Landlord also includes stories about navigating the music industry. You have lived life as a music star both with and without a label. How much pressure is it being on a label and is it harder actually getting things done? Does your music then end up taking second place?

Yes, being at a label was pressure, as in; I didn’t wanna let people down and flop. It didn’t affect the music as such, but it affected the energy and energy is important. You need positive energy around you to make music. I mean, I brought a house from that deal so I was positive but stressed too. I’m a leader. I like things done the way I like it, so I realised that I cant be with a label. No disrespect to XL, I love them like family, but I learnt that you can’t mix business with pleasure. Since I’ve been doing my own thing I’ve been moving mad. The whole campaign around this album is just me, Buck, Trent and Raye. ….(Trenton and Raye between them have looked after a multitude of music legends from Goldie to Amy Winehouse)

What is it about your musical generation that has made things happen without record labels and big budgets?

We’ve been building the foundation for years. We built the house, we learnt, grew and watched and now its time to take it and live in it. A lot of man sold out, lets be honest (LAUGHS), but it helped the rest of us.

Some of your tracks have a slight west coast sound …how much do American sounds influence your music?

American sounds influence me but only in a sense that them man are going hard! Which means I gotta go hard. I think I’m the hardest! When I go in and hear American rap, I say Drake made a hard album so I gotta make a harder one. I always inspired by great music. In fact, I wish Skeptas ‘’It aint safe’’ track was mine! Skepta had 3 bangers all at the same time and I told him I’m coming!

Your songs use a lot of very UK Street slanguage. Should we have a Giggs Urban Dictionary so that international fans can understand everything you say?

The beauty of it is some of it is that you’re not meant to understand it all. It’s called a code for a reason; it’s your job as a listener or fan to decode it. That’s the fun part of it.

Your musical career has now seen you fly around the globe to perform live, what’s been your best, most breath-taking memory?

There are so many different memories from all over the world. I loved Nigeria, it wasn’t a show, it was a mansion party-like an old skool house party, runnin riddems, smoking, drinking, it was sick.

SOCIAL BUTTERFLY

You’re known by all the other UK hip-hop and grime acts as the one that brings them together for socials. Have u always been the social organiser and party planner?

I’ve always been like that – we get the whole hood together and have BBQ’s etc. I like to say ‘lets all be one & celebrate life!’ Also I know a lot of man are going through what I’m going through, so its like a boys / mans club for the artists. Everyone has a big house but no-ones coming round. I’ll go to (Tinchy) Stryders house or Chips house. It’s fun.

Kano revealed that you all teased him about his Radio 1 Fire in the Booth (Charlie Sloth) so much that you all strong armed him into doing one…

LOLOL It was my dinner, he thought I set him up, but its all jokes…. But when he did it, its f***ing nine minutes long!…LOL us lot are always beefing….see Wretch, Kane , Ghetts , Skepta, they all think they’re the hardest, so its always jokes with us all throwing digs at each other. I was wearing a Christmas jumper for our get together last year!

You love to mingle, hang out, debate and are clearly very sociable, so then why is it, that you say that you are so miserable, and why do u like being known as the miserable one?

I’m always moaning. People say that about me, that’s why Kano and me get on so well, he’s a moany brother too!

As well as your other musical peers, DJ’s are the ones that are often the cornerstone of musical hip hop culture. Who are the DJ’s that you love and have championed you most? Do you have a favourite?

It’s not really a competition, Westwood has done what he’s done and Charlie and Semtex continue to do stuff. I was grateful when I was banned from the radio and Westwood did Cribs Sessions to accommodate me but Charlie’s Fire in the Booth is huge too….

QUICK FIRE QS
What’s your earliest London memory?

As a kid, I knew it for window-shopping; Trocerdero in Piccadilly was the spot for getting girls phone numbers. That was my first memory of London.

What is The Landlord’s fave London spot to eat?

Can’t say or I wont be able to go there anymore.

1st London spot you visit when flying home off tour that you cant do without?

Ditto as per above.

Landlord’s run homes, but what if your reach was broader, what would you do if you were Mayor of London for the day?

I would put money put into youth clubs and into every hood area adventure playgrounds, where kids can go. I would also put lots of cameras and regular police patrols so that there’s no problems. I would pay for fun stuff for the kids to get involved with like games and studios. No one cares about the youth now.

Who do you call when you want to have fun?

My bredrin or my brothers.

If you were the landlord of south London, what would you promote about Peckham?

Even though it’s gentrified today its still sticky, it’s like spilling pineapple juice on the floor and then just wiping a tissue over it. It looks clean, but its not. Underneath the gentrification it’s still a jungle, I love Peckham and the people and I want more for them.

If there was one person you could say thank you to whom would it be and why?

God. He guides me all the time.

If there was one-person you could say sorry to whom would it be and why?

Loads of people. I’ve said sorry to you. LOL

The ladies love them some Giggs, but what’s the most romantic thing someone’s ever done for you?

Can’t say cos I don’t wanna start any trouble. I guess though in all seriousness, the most romantic thing is for someone to just be there.

Finally, Who’s your hero?

I don’t really look at life like that. (BUT WHEN PUSHED HE SAYS…)…. But Wiley can be a hero, cos when I was on the street and stuff, he would be on me to pursue this music career. I would be ‘’who’s this weirdo who keeps ringing me?”, in my world back then, people didn’t do that, he just wanted to help me and that’s I why I try and help a lot of youths’’

What Giggs manager Buck says about his relationship with Giggs.

Giggs and I went school together, he was in my older brothers year, so it’s a family thing…. what I saw in him was his obsession for hard work, he loves music, he moved prisons just so he could send me music.

I think the thing he’s learnt most over the past few years is to be comfortable with who he was naturally, initially he was reluctant to be himself, he’s always been a joker, a giggler, family man, cracking jokes, he’s actually a really nice guy and means no one harm.
That’s why I was able to reach out to you in your MTV days when you both had that misunderstanding cos I could see your and his point of view, it was all just miscommunication!

In his XL- record label era, Giggs felt under pressure, to not let people down who had pumped money into him…
Towards end of the label deal, we were always independent, but there were more & more people to get stuff ticked off with and run past. There were numerous opinions and they were all confusing, that way it becomes more about radio plugging, dj’s etc
This time we returned to what we started off with- Walk in the park style – it’s just about his music! Now what he’s doing is the same thing as when he first started.

This time around cos there was no pressure, we didn’t even think about chart numbers as long as the people enjoy it, we were happy.

I’m not even surprised by any of this success. He speaks to the youth and older audience with his soulful hooks, so there are no types of fan that surprises me now, I’ve seen people from every single walk of life recite his lyrics and get excited by seeing him.

He’s done so many live shows around the world, I think maybe he enjoyed the Nigeria live gig most, I feel like he felt like he was at home away from home, they were very welcoming, there was no bullshit, he felt it culturally and it was endearing for him.

Giggs likes to congregate and laugh with people, I’d hate to always stop off at his south London home, cos you’d be there for another 4 hours, talking, laughing, debating, he loves bringing people together and seeing people win, that’s why he does songs with the youngsters of today.

When it comes to future Non-musical projects, I reckon he could go down the comic books n marvel superhero’s path somehow…

The beautiful thing about working with him is that you can see progression in him, and the people that he’s around.

I just want him to achieve everything he wants to achieve, I’m just happy to see him win.

British Hip Hop Royalty Speak About Why Hip Hop History Matters. #TheGetDown.

So everyone who loves hip hop culture was aware that last week Netflix released The Get Down, an slightly fictionalised, entertaining, informative look at the early years around the birth of hip hop. A look at how the first seeds were planted in the multi billion-dollar industry we know it to be today, nearly four decades later.

(L-R) COOKIE, RODNEY P, ARTFUL DODGER JONZI D (FRONT/CENTRE)

(L-R) COOKIE, RODNEY P, ARTFUL DODGER
JONZI D (FRONT/CENTRE)

Hip hop grew out of a the crumbling ghettos of a then bankrupt New York, at a time when the American economy was taking a battering due to shock oil prices, at a time also when the disco and funk music era was starting to feel stale. Young black and Latino men were looking for something fresh, and they found it.

On the eve of the Get Down’s release, we spoke to some UK hip hop royalty that were around in those early days, living and breathing the London scene, to ask what hip hop culture means to them.

BILLY B

DJ Billy Biznizz began by defining ‘the get down’ for the young ones. ‘‘The get down is the part of the record that is the most funkiest, and as a DJ you try to keep the get down continuous so it sounds like a loop. You play it from one turntable to the next turntable and the b-boys just all get down!’’

cookie

Cookie – a female rapper from the eighties hip hop collective Cookie Crew (now a Senior Manager at globally renowned The Orchard music company), stated ‘’hip hop is our religion, its an energy, its our movement, and its something that just keeps me going! For most of us from that era, its something we lived and breathed, to this day we live and breath it cos its been a foundation for the careers we have all gone on to have now. ’’

Billy ‘’a lot of people forget that we were so young in those days, most of us only 14, 15, 16, and hip hop culture taught us how to live our lives in a good and respectful manner, things like the b boy battles were so you didn’t have to go out and fight someone, you can just have a dance-off and the winner is the winner and still be cool afterwards. You didn’t have to be violent towards others, it taught us how to be respectful towards others and learning about your culture, your heritage and where you came from. Those things were really important and as youngsters hip hop culture taught us all those things’’.

MC Rodney P , who started out in the eighties as a member of the renowned London Posse, and still continues a successful career as a solo star today, explained how the British youth first became aware of the culture ‘’it was when Malcolm McLaren’s video ‘buffalo girls’ came out. Once we saw that we had more of an understanding of what it looked like, what graffiti looked like, how the people dressed, how they danced, and that’s when it really grabbed a hold here’’

Rodney continued ‘’there were places like Covent Garden where we all used to be where the real energy for London’s scene was. Covent Garden was almost like Switzerland, like neutral territory and our mecca, everyone gathered there from all over London to celebrate this new culture’’.

Most hip hop heads from those days also cite recalling the moment, when a young Jeffrey Daniels from the band Shalimar, performed by himself as his fellow band mates didn’t turn up to be, on British music show Top of the Pops(name checked years later by Jay Z ‘’ Came from the bottom the bottom, to the “Top of the Pops“). That inspired many young British kids, as well as, it seems, young Americans back then like Michael Jackson.

However Rodney wasn’t happy about the path the culture took in future years. ‘‘Obviously today a lot of hip hop culture has been dragged apart, so the culture’s not represented in the same way as ‘rap music’. You know rap music is known as hip hop, but hip hop is a culture’’.

Billy feels positive about the reforming of the cornerstones of hip hop though. ‘’I think people are trying to bring the elements back as they’ve seen that the fragmentation, doesn’t allow hip hop to live the way its supposed to be so they’re trying to de-fragment it and bring everything back together’’.

Rodney P broke it down ‘’I think what happened with hip hop is that, as the audience changed, the music changed, so when hip hop was still young and it was mostly young, black and Hispanic inner city kids listening to the music, the artists were making music geared towards that audience, and it was much more positive and much more uplifting. But as the audiences changed and it became more about young white kids from the suburbs, who became the dominant buying audience for hip hop music, suddenly the artists are making music geared towards them, so its less positive and more about the ‘so called negative aspects of black culture’. Black culture is 360 degrees, not just one thing, and that’s the problem I have with hip hop. We see such a narrow view of the black experience and it IS the black experience even though everyone is involved in hip hop- it still represents a black experience. So with the changing audience it all changed, as the audience became more cooperate, the corporations were prepared to sell change and that for me is a problem cos it disrespects the culture’’.

Of course, aside from rapping and DJ’ing, which are much more prominent globally, other elements of the culture include break dancing and graffiti, foundation basics which UK graffiti legend Artful Dodger and one time break-dancer (now Artistic Director of Breakin Convention), Jonzi D feel that new younger artists have left behind.

ARTFUL DODGER AND JONZI D

ARTFUL DODGER AND JONZI D

Artful Dodger spells it out ‘’the main separation came when rap music- as it became known to a lot of people- started to make money, that’s when the real separation came. B boying got relegated, as you can’t easily package that. With rap, you can make a record and promote the artist, so you have a commodity. You have a piece of merchandise, which can sell. So when the big money came into it, that’s when the change happened. And one thing I’ve always said when it comes to different aspects of hip hop is its not so much where its going, but who’s going to take it there. And if the younger generation are going to be the next generation to be the guardians and overseers of it then they have to be informed’’.

Jonzi D remembers how he fell in love with break dancing. ‘‘It was on a show on BBC2 called Arena in the eighties. All I saw was people moving rapidly on the floor and at school the next day, that’s all anyone could talk about as we tried to do it and the great thing is its now bigger than its ever been, people are literally breaking boundaries with their bodies!’’

With all the Get Down promo, one of its exec producers, the legend that is Grandmaster Flash, complained that the younger generation are happy to eat from the hip hop cake, but aren’t aware of the ingredients that it took to make it. Rodney P agreed saying ‘’I don’t think the younger generation will get it the same as us, we lived it!’’

AGE OF L.UNA WITH JASMINE DOTIWALA.

AGE OF L.U.N.A WITH JASMINE DOTIWALA.

We put this to young UK hip hop outfit The Age of L.U.N.A who last year supported Public Enemy live on tour in the UK , and told us ‘’its true that everyone now is eating from the hip hop cake cos it changed culture as we know it now, but I don’t think that people entirely care, but its important to research and see where what you are doing came from. I think our generation are picking up the nostalgic feeling of all four elements again. Dancing and graffiti too. Kool Herc was the guy that took the bridge section from James Brown, and played it on two turntables. Then one day he thought of spitting lyrics over the break beat ‘’come on everyone lets get down’ type of stuff, and then the rapping part was created too’’.

Whilst L.U.N.A seem to know more about the history than expected, and live for acts like Outkast, Lauryn Hill and Jay Z, they agree that hip hop culture can still be seen by many as a negative thing. ‘‘People may see it as a negative art form, but it’s a misconception because rap music has always been a representation of what was going on in life and society, and there’s harsh things that go on in the world but rap was one of the first types of music that was talking about these harsh times . But its important that we hear these words from people that we can relate to. I can relate to Biggie, I can relate to TuPac cos they came from a place that we can understand, a place of struggle, but with our music, we just wanna make people dance again’’.

The Get Down has faced some controversy though. Some are questioning whether director Baz Luhrmann has sufficient hip hop credentials but the UK key influencers seemed to love it citing things like ‘’ He has clearly done his research; it looked on point to me. There are some really nice small authentic hip hop references from the early days there. The acting, scenes and narrative looked great’’.

Jonzi D informed us ‘’I know a guy called Willie from the Bronx who worked on this with Baz, and he revealed that Baz let everyone else tell and write their own authentic story. Baz just simply put his style of directing to it’’.

Artful Dodger closed with ‘’Basically if something needs to spread, germinate and grow, then you’ve got to appreciate the facilities that are getting it out there. As long as it’s done with creativity, passion and integrity, as I have heard this has been done, then I’m all for it!’’
AD

The Get Down: the view from Britain’s Hip Hop scene – 11 minute extended version. Channel 4 News.

The Get Down: the view from Britain’s Hip Hop scene – 11 minute extended version.
Channel 4 News
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Watch British hip hop royalty Rodney P, Jonzi D, Artful Dodger, Cookie and Billy Biznizz as well as new young hip hop band Age of L.U.N.A, talk about what hip hop culture means to them, in my Channel 4 News feature around the Netflix new TV mini-series #TheGetDown.

Jasmine’s Juice – The Story Of The Birth Of Hip-Hop Documented Perfectly In ‘ The Get Down ‘.

#THEGETDOWN

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The Get Down is Netflix new TV series that is an educational, informative and entertaining look at hip hop history. A glorious championing and romantic look at life and pop culture that shaped the hip-hop genre, with young love, ambition and fashion at it’s heart.

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JASMINE WITH WRITER NELSON GEORGE, MUSICIAN MICHAEL KIWANUKA, AND DIRECTOR BAZ LURHMAAN.
PHOTO CREDIT – PAUL H.

At the start of my interview with pre-eminent hip-hop historian Nelson George who wrote The Get Down, and actor Jaden Smith who plays a character in the new Netflix series, I get an annoying interruption with the hotel room door banging just as I ask my first question. The clock is ticking away on my short junket time with the two men and yet here’s an interruption eating into my precious time!. Luckily, for me, its Jaden’s dad, a one mister Will Smith, apologising for barging in on us but, as he humbly explained, he’s just off a plane in London and wanted to hug his son. An interruption I didn’t mind. At all.

Will bantered with son Jaden for a minute, so as any journo would do, I took the opportunity to slip him a quick informal question too and we were off, with Jaden ribbing daddy for rocking a crop top many moons ago as the Fresh Prince, but in equal measures was clearly as proud as punch of his pops, and spoke about dealing with public life as Will’s son, with grace.

Jaden ‘’he had a crop top in the fresh prince…lol!’’

Will ‘’yeah ok! We had a lil bit of the conservation, about a half crop top….

Jaden ‘’my dad released his first record 30 years ago!’’

Will ‘’we lived it. Jaden was calling me from the set. Kurtis (Blow) is here!!!’’

(Will leaves. Jaden explains the way he deals with internet trolls)

Jaden – I really DON’T think about the public and media pressure, as you just saw I have a normal dad that just walked in here. No one’s perfect, I don’t think I’m living up to that much. I just do what I like to do. It’s things like this that make me proud of the things that I am doing, as this is going to affect culture for years and years to come. So the things that people say, it’s like ‘I’m so glad you took time to write a lil message about me on the Internet! I feel like anyone that takes time out of their life to talk about me is part of the Jaden Smith brand already, people who already say things about me are already my biggest supporters!’’

Boom! Great training from his pops who was once upon a time the biggest actor on the planet in the eighties.

will smith
Will in that cropped top.

Have you noticed that everything eighties has been back for a minute and not letting up? Hi top hairstyles, rah rah skirts, leggings, vinyl records, cassette players, adidas gazelles.
There’s not just a nostalgia for past fashion but also eighties hip-hop stars and their stories. NWA, hip-hop reunion tours by Bad Boy and every R&B act from Boyz II Men to Backstreet.

Stories and films around the black communities historical experience have been numerous this past decade with biopic stories for Mandela, Selma, NWA, 12 Years a Slave, Roots and many more. However annoyingly for many, these stories were often about specific people and focused on their stories of overcoming oppression. No wonder Snoop threw his toys out of the pram at yet another huge Hollywood remake of Roots.

But this week a new kids in town and it goes by the name The Get Down and its one story Snoop’s sure to love. The series is a mythic saga of how New York at the brink of bankruptcy gave birth to hip-hop, punk and disco taking in the Bronx tenements, the SoHo art scene, CBGB, Studio 54 and the just-built World Trade Centre.

It’s an exciting, panoramic look at the scene around the south Bronx and the birth of hip-hop and its early characters, some real, some fictional. It’s a lightly fictionalised story of the time just before hip-hop that led to its birth. A time when disco was the thing and how it segued into this thing we now know as rap.

Rap historian Nelson George told me parts of the storyline like a crew name and a much-coveted record had to be invented. For example ‘’Shaolin and the Pucusa record doesn’t exist, so we used these fictional things that were actually based on real conversations. We sat with Kurtis Blow, Kool Moe Dee, Herc, Flash and a lot of breakers, graf artists and out of their life experiences we created this’’.

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THE MOVES

The show is named after an old funk term for the section of a record that makes people dance. “You don’t know what the fucking get down is?”. So naturally, there is a lot of dancing, and it’s infectious!

That dance that the kids do nowadays at all the parties is to the candy song aka a basic electric slide style dance performed to the song Candy by the soul funk band Cameo. You know the one. Its roots are entrenched in disco, a million other versions of the electric slide and two-step dances from back then, and the eighties resurgence movement doesn’t just stop there. The second cornerstone pillar of the hip-hop genre- graffiti- is hot again too.

In the same way we eighties kids were brought up on Breakdance and Beatstreet films, (I wonder if todays millennial generation have even heard of these classics) I know The Get Down will resonate with youth today.

Remember the scenes in Beatsteet where the graffiti artists will stay up all night spraying the trains, only to wait up all day the next day just for a glimpse of one passing by on a bridge with their name tag on it for their moment of euphoria? And the train would be cleaned and the artwork gone within hours. All that passion and work by the graf sprayers knowing the train will be washed off with no longevity? Imagine today’s kids bothering with that? Put up and gone in a second. Was graf the eighties version of Snapchat?

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The Get Down Director Baz Lurhmaan brings the hot, acrid, hostile, broken down and beaten up, violent, cash strapped, dying. mind blowing scenes of the time to life with eye popped colours, swooping crane shots and stunts akin to kung fu movies. It’s like watching a music video on steroids. Not totally surprising when you consider that like many directors before him, Australian Luhrmann came to movies via pop videos. Remember his classic Wear Sunscreen’’?

https://youtu.be/sTJ7AzBIJoI

Baz brought huge, mesmerising spectacle when he directed Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby and Romeo & Juliet and The Get Down also has all his traditional hallmarks. Apparently Luhrmann first had the idea for the show 10 years ago so a decade of love, research and passion has gone into this. The series is based around the summer of 1979 when “Rapper’s Delight” appeared, and by the start of 1980, three hip-hop records had reached the top 50. The rest of the story is told through the lives and music of the South Bronx kids who changed their city, and the world…forever.

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THE STYLE

The Get Down has scenes that include high-paced action, rip -oaring comedy; matrix style martial arts juxtaposed with massive music tracks and high school love story vibes. The episodes encompass every genre that you love to love. Fight action, parkour action, comedy, stunts, SFX and a booming panoramic soundtrack.

Like many kids in the seventies and eighties who came up on hip-hop culture it wasn’t the rappers that drew us in first. Yes, we learnt line for line lyrics from Rappers Delight, electro classics and more but it was the breakdancing and DJ’s that initially caught our hearts. We learnt to body pop and breakdance and everyone knew someone who was a DJ, break-dancer or spray painter.

Everyone in the eighties was a kung fu and superhero fan and no one more so than hip hop music lovers. Kung-Fu films introduced a racially charged America to see beyond black and white. Rap stars and fans picked names that reflected this. Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc, DJ Red Alert, Furious Five, Wu Tang Clan. As for B-boys and B-girls, so much of their quest for mastery, dedication to the battle, and strategy in combat was rooted in the martial arts. The windmill, the Wu tang, the swipe, the battle uprock, freezes, air flares and more.

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The Get Down characters are immediately engaging and accessible, all wearing the bright, lurid colours that were the fashion back then. The outfits are in your face spangle, lycra sequins, platforms, feather coats, pimptastic, disco fab works of art. Converse and Puma kicks with knee high socks, basic tee shirts and afros. In fact, the props master must’ve had a nigh impossible yet fun task of sourcing outfits.

The Get Down brings back all the nostalgia for hip-hop lovers in the early days. Remember before cheap flights and the world being connected via the Internet? If anyone you knew was flying out of London to New York they would be laden down with trainer and music orders from all their friends?

Remember when our parents kept the plastic protective layer on our sofas for years? Well we hip-hop lovers did that with our sneakers. Whitener and shoe cleaning brushes were as important to us as toothpaste and toothbrushes. Much to the anger of our mums who would periodically yell ‘’get those trainers out of my sink!’’ Even in 2016 you’ll be hard pressed to find a hip-hop-head in a festival ruining his sneakers with mud without the aid of a grocery store bag. It’s the total polar opposite of Indie kids love their kicks so battered that their soles are flapping off. Hip-hop kids want our sneakers box fresh.

For The Get Down series, name brands like Puma, Converse, and Pro-Keds, agreed to remanufacture the seventies styles especially for the show, some of the sneakers that costume designer Catherine Martin calls “the foundation of the era’s style.” And the franchise is already making commercial gains as I’m told the vintage-model sneakers will be rereleased onto the general market later this year.

Remember when everyone wore a branded tracksuit like Sergio Tacchini or Kappa and had their ‘’street names’’ printed on the back?
Remember when we accessorised our own designer tracksuits and denim jackets with our ‘’street tags’’ on the rear? I had Minnie Minx after The Beano character for years on my back. Back then you would pay Graf artists to paint designs on denim jackets. We wanted our name in graf, our area in graf, some of us even had our bedroom walls graffed up. Amazingly, In The Get Down, one of the most famous graffiti writers of the era, New York’s Lady Pink, personalised clothing for the characters.

THE CREW/CAST

Luhrmann says he wanted to approach the early days of hip-hop through a group of characters, rather than following the biography of a single real-life participant. Most of the cast are unknown rising talent, plucked out of obscurity, which is beautiful as nothing distracts from the narrative of the series, the story of hip-hop or the rag tag group of teenagers running wild in the streets of the Bronx in the late 70’s.

Several founding fathers of hip-hop are mentioned and played in the show by younger actors. In fact, at the screening Grandmaster Flash played a set for us before we watched the first episode and told us that he and some of his early peers had served as advisors for the time, and their stories make it as authentic as you can get. He had us laughing as he recalled that they even had to school the actors on how they used and held the microphone back then, totally unlike the nineties rappers.

Jaden Smith co-signed this point by telling me

‘‘ I learnt so much more about hip-hop during this experience. I learned about how people rapped back then, its one thing to think you know how to rap or spray, but then you rap and spray with Herc or Lady Pink so it’s a whole new experience. Working with Rahiem and Flash, learning about Kool Herc, …with all these things you always hear just about New York, New York, but not specifically about the Bronx, and even then the south Bronx. I have a newfound respect for it, and awareness and an understanding. I don’t think todays trap kids don’t not respect the movement, but they just don’t understand it’’.

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JADEN SMITH, (RIGHT), PLAYING DIZZEE IN THE GET DOWN.

Jaden has been doing press rounds for the series. His part is by no means one of the main characters, but he jumped at the chance to be involved.

Jaden- ”what attracted me was the ensemble cast and the diversity that the show had and I knew it would impact culture in a crazy crazy way because of how visionary Baz is and with what he was trying to tackle was very important to me as well, I wanted to be a part of it, it just sounded great, music, dance, art, the origins of hip hop, the death of disco. It sounded epic!’’

Asked if he had to audition for the part Jaden stutters ‘

’I pretty much did audition for it, but it was over the phone and just a conversation with Baz to see how involved with it I could be and how passionate I was about it. It was like a passion audition’’

. (lol. Parental privilege!)

Grandmaster Flash is an associate producer, and if you’ve been in the industry long enough to hear the stories of how difficult he can be to work with, then you know he was only going to take part if his star and reputation as a founder in the genre was to be honoured correctly. At the London screening he told us ‘’so many people only want to know about the cake, but no one wants to know about the ingredients’’. That quote there says it all. He speaks for most of his peers from the era I imagine. The founders who laid the path but got no financial compensate for it, only for future generations to live the high-roller life whilst many of the forefathers today live meagrely.

I cannot imagine the heat and diplomacy the writer and friend of the forefather’s of hip hop, Nelson George, must’ve had to deal with when it came to the old skool legendary names. Who’s story would be told? Who would get a name check? That’s a whole United Nations level of diplomacy and potential for hip-hop beef if ever there were one.

Nelson revealed

’ when we first met with Baz, the main characters that came were Shaolin and Mylene, but as we met more people it developed, Dizzee’s character wasn’t in it at the start. Rah Rah and Boo-Boo was created to service the storyline of graffiti…. almost all of the old skool artists thought that their story should be the story, but the wisest decision Baz made, was to NOT make it about one character’s story because then you felt locked into their story, but its about scope, there was a lot going on”.

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THE MUSIC

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The sound track for The Get Down is a mix of period hits and new tracks: Luhrmann enlisted artists such as Nas to write in the style of the time, and even many of the series’ disco “hits” are new. Nas. Always respected and underrated. This is his Empire / Timberland moment. Nelson is clear that hip-hop cultures impact on the planet has been vast.

Nelson –

”the most important thing is that when you look at hip hop has given to the world , rhyming, dj’ing, graff, breaking…you go anywhere in the world where u go where there are people that are young, angry and disenfranchised, that could be in Prague, Brazil, Columbia, Tokyo, Korea. This form has been embraced by people all over the globe as a way to say the things that can’t get said otherwise, and so no mater what happens in The States as a commercial thing, as a folk expression, nothing’s like this, cos any kid can get on the mic and rhyme, breakdance or graf , I’ve seen amazing pieces in Zurich Rio, …’’

It can’t be denied that hip-hop has shown the world much. Exposed stories, built empires, some say it even helped elect a black president. So then it brings about the question; with the reemergence of the #blacklivesmatter movement and the globalisation of hip-hop culture – a genre – arguably founded upon the experiences of young, disenfranchised black men, why are black male lives still seemingly worthless?

Nelson –

‘hip hop was created by more than just the African American as well as Latinos and more, and that cannot be underestimated and that’s very important to say. There’s a part of hip-hop, an ultra masculine, hyper bombastic depiction of life, that’s sometimes has got out of control, and then affects how people react to us. So there is an element of that in it. But what other vehicle has ever been there for a mass audience to hear the unbridled thoughts of these men and women?
We have great literature like Toni Morrison, we have great filmmakers, but boom, here we have boom, a guy can go into a room and express himself, boom! it goes across the globe, that’s never been done and black people have never had that kind of access. I think there’s negativity in individual things about it, but I think overall its impact on the globe has been positive’’.

With Netflix slowly taking over the world in more than 140 countries, this story is going to feed the current and past hip hop generations and fill our appetite. We have eaten, and continue to eat from the hip-hop cake and now we will know exactly what it took to make it.

The Get Down premiers August 12th on Netflix

Jasmine’s Juice – Noel Clarke’s Brotherhood – #TheEnd.

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Noel Clarke, the British mutlihyphenate (actor, producer, director, writer), has singlehandedly done more for the British working class youth to get into acting and film careers than anyone I can think of.

With his hood trilogy films Kidulthood (2006), Adulthood (2008) and Brotherhood (2016), he has given a platform to new British names and faces that simply wouldn’t have had a big break in TV or film without these platforms.

His ‘’Hood franchise’’ kicked off multiple copycat style films, but none that matched the quality and commercial success of his original blueprints. (Adulthood grossed £1,203,319 at the UK Box Office during its opening weekend, ranking above The Incredible Hulk, Indiana Jones and The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull and Sex and the City!).

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In the same way that John Singleton’s directorial debut Boyz In The Hood and Poetic Justice juxtaposed early stars from American music and acting like Ice Cube, Nia Long, Angela Basset, and Janet Jackson, Tupac and Q Tip, Noel Clarke has authentically amalgamated British musicians with drama to document inner city life in London over a decade.

The final of the hood films – Brotherhood – written and directed by Noel is released on August 29th across the UK and includes a supporting cast of Steven Cree, Olivia Chenery, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Nick Nevern, Adjoa Andoh, Arnold Oceng, Fredi ‘Kruga’ Nwaka and Ashley Thomas.

Brotherhood Unit Stills
Clarke has been championing up n coming music acts on his film soundtracks for years. In fact the film soundtrack is as much a buzz and highlight as the film itself. The soundtracks perfectly encapsulate the era each of his films was made. In fact, simply examining each films narrative and soundtrack trajectory over the years, is a microcosm of inner-city life in many of the UK’s hoods of its time.

In 2006 and 2008 Kidulthood and Adulthood showcased early work from names like Femi Oyeniran and Jamie Winstone as well as Aml Ameen and Arnold Oceng, the latter two who now both enjoy successful American TV and Hollywood film work. (The Good Lie, The Butler, Beyond The Lights, Harrys Law).

Both early films also gave a platform to music acts like Bashy, Ghetts, J2K, Plan B, Sway, Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Stryder, Chipmunk, Lethal B, Kate Nash, Wiley and more.

The timing for the upcoming Brotherhood couldn’t be more perfect, after a year in which grime and UK hip hop have been at their all time high across the globe. This film showcases grime music and UK hip-hop acts like Stormzy, Krept and Konan, Giggs, Jamie Joseph, Genisis Elijah, J Hus, Nines, Shystie, Asher D, WSTRN and Chip amongst others as well as older more established names like singer Laura Mvula and rapper Ty.
Release date for the album will be 26th August.

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This new movie see’s, a now highly anticipated, cameo by grime music’s current prince Stormzy who gets a double whammy by not only acting but also being on the soundtrack.

As if all that isn’t enough screen shine on non screen faces, Noel also brings normal kids that don’t have a stage school background or an important mummy and daddy who work in film onto his sets, as he did with my intern Harry who was a runner on the new movie.

His narratives always provide an authentic London landscape that used to be (and often still is) denied by middle class folk living in policed postcodes like Hampstead and Knightsbridge.

His adidas clad characters come from all walks of life with unique struggles and experiences.

Noel’s character Sam Peel is now all grown up, no longer the protagonist and simply trying to stay on the good,clean, family-man path, but like so many others, he is dragged back into an unwanted situation. What is it this time that will make Sam Peel put on again, the iconic hoodie? What happens that makes Sam, who wants a peaceful legal way of life, get yanked back into an environment that just wont let him out of its clutches?

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As you’d expect from the themes and motifs that the hood films have already set in stone, there is violence and sex and vulgar slanguage. But look beyond these for the powerful stories and reasons before quickly judging. (Frankly there’s more violence in every cowboy western we see but that’s a whole nother matter). These scenes aren’t heightened or glamorised for a film audience; they aren’t just about inner city life on West London streets, they are a reality happening in every town amongst our young people; grown ups simply don’t want to believe it.

However, ensuring the naked scenes aren’t just the female actresses titillating the audience, there are naked men too and as ever,Noel, who always makes a point to show off his bottom, does so, with aplomb.
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Noel is a master at writing and eight years later, Brotherhood shows just how far he has come in developing and hooking an audience into full, meaty narratives. His characters are tragic hero’s and heroines, capable of being frighteningly violent whilst frightened, and throw out hilarious comedic one liners in the midst of tragic scenes.

Produced via his Unstoppable Entertainment and Maggie Monteith’s Carpalla Films, In Brotherhood Noel has also managed to highlight and comment on social and political areas that affect youth and society without being clichéd. A powerful monologue mid film says all that many would want to voice and applaud its raw honesty. Comments on social discord, young people and the police, class differences, racism, and loyalty amongst friends. Even though it’s been eight years since the last instalment of this story, its narrative and commentary is now more relevant than ever.

Of all the hood films this one takes you on a huge roller-coaster of an emotional journey, empathising with every character and holding your hand to your mouth in shock as much as you will clutch your belly laughing.

Most impressively, the film’s beautiful yet gritty scenes were all shot in just 24 days!

I predict it will go down in UK cinema as a classic, award winning piece of cinematography.

August 29TH
#TheEnd
@TheHoodMovies

NC JD

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Jasmine’s Juice- M.O – The UK TLC Meets Destiny’s Child?

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Molded in the form of TLC meets Destiny’s Child is a relatively new, all-female R&B band from the UK, called M.O.

The three ladies Annie, Frankee and Nadine have been going around four years so far, and as well as being nominated for a MOBO award, they are also tipped for the top by Ed Sheeran!

Their latest song “Who Do You Think Of?” is doing serious numbers on Spotify, and burning up London’s radio playlists and dance floors.

Watch M.O’s video “Who Do You Think Of?”

With an all-female team behind them, this is a girl group walking a true feminist walk, pushing things forward for women in the music industry. Their Great Escape Festival lineup on the FACT stage alongside Stormzy and WSTRN proved them to be very able performers with a huge fan-base, and this year looks set to be the one where the ladies make their mark.

Having spent most of last year sharing the stage with the likes of UK rap acts Little Simz, Krept & Konan and Stormzy – Annie, Frankee and Nadine sat down this week to talk to me.


Where did you grow up and how did that area shape you?

Nadine, I grew up in Aylesbury Buckinghamshire- it’s a small town, not a lot rally happens there, but it’s not where you come from it’s the dream you have. I’m glad I came from there because this may not be where I would be now.

How did you all meet and form a band?
We were all members of different groups and used to meet from being at the same events, studios etc, then we formed a good friendship & when our other bands ended we decided to get together & write the music we truly loved.

It’s hard getting a musical career off the ground. What has been your biggest career setback and how did you tackle it?
We haven’t had set backs as such, girl groups generally have a harder time we think, we dunno why, but one day we will get to the bottom of it ha-ha, so in that sense it’s tough, but we are three strong girls & we love what we do.

How did the Name- M.O (Modus Operandi) come about? Has it confused fans?
We actually heard it in a Drake song “The Motto”, and we thought it sounded interesting & loved the meaning of it (it means a particular way of doing something to achieve your goal)

Who does what in the band?
We get on so well & compliment each other in different ways; Nadine loves the Studio, Annie loves to be out & about on tour & Frankee loves photo-shoots & styling!

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Earliest musical influences?
We grew up listening to a lot of 90’s R&B , Aaliyah , TLC, Lauryn Hill just to name a few.

First big break?
We had the chance to go on tour with another UK girl band called Little Mix, it was an arena tour, and it was a great experience for us!

Best and worst things about being in a female trio?
Best!! Only the best, having each other’s backs & support!

Who are the best female musical female trio (British/ American), and why?
Eternal, as their style was to die for, also Mis-Teeq had a great sound and Destiny’s Child had the killer vocals!

Tell us about your image and style?
We feel our style is just as important as our music. We just like to be comfortable, again very 90s influenced, we even wear a lot of boys clothes.

You’ve been touring and working with a lot of the grime acts, you’re very pop, how does that synergy work?
Yes pop but not bubblegum pop, we feel we can go on tour with a grime act & be ok; we always wanted to make sure that was the case.

You have a soulful pop sound. Why do you think has soul music in the UK not been as prominent in the past few years?
It’s all about timing, things come & go, and hopefully we can bring a bit of soul back to the UK.

Check out M.O’s song DANCE ON MY OWN

Listen to M.O duetting with UK rapper Lady Leshurr on their version of Brandy & Monica’s ‘’the boy is mine’’- The Boy Is Tied.

Jasmine’s Juice – Kano in conversation with Hip Hop Podcaster Combat Jack .

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Photo Credit: Do It Cos You Love It Photography

Back in the day when American and British music acts collaborated, we the music fans didn’t always believe these miraculous musical marriages .
On the one hand, we loved that our acts were being recognized by their American peers, but the cynics in us knew that somewhere down the line there was money passing hands and possible payola deals to feature on each others records, which back then was the norm.

Most industry folks would assume it was a behind the scenes, record label staff concocted deal, to enable both acts to make an impact in each others territories. This would result in awkward, hastily thrown together songs and remixes featuring each other. I mean do we think that the following couplings of artists who collaborated were or are good pals that met randomly? P Diddy and Skepta, Low Key and Immortal Technique, Shystie and Azealia Banks, Lupe Fiasco and Sway, J Spades and Wacka Flocka, Dizzee Rascal and Bun B, D Double E and Snoop Dogg. Exactly.

However this past week a different anglo-American relationship began in London. Reggie Ossé, also known as Combat Jack (CJ), who is a former hip hop music attorney and executive, and also a former editor of The Source, came to London to record one of his podcasts for his well received The Combat Jack Show.

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In the past CJ’s line up of conversationalists has included Big Daddy Kane, Marley Mal, Chuck D, LL Cool J, and Spike Lee amongst many others. The show also highlights cultural icons, and behind the scenes movers and shakers like Kevin Lilles, Dame Dash, and Russell Simmons.

He’s just one of a few hip hop historians who have come to the forefront in recent years, with his knowledge from the early days of hip-hop culture, to modern day 2016. His enthusiasm to give a platform to the current day names as well as old skool legends is refreshing for his mixed Internet audience.

This week CJ flew into Brooklyn Bowl in London’s O2 dome, where he and British grime MC and actor Kano sat down for a chat in front of a London audience, who were all clearly big Kano and Combat Jack fans and the two-hour conversation revolved around Kano’s life behind the music as well as his latest, fifth studio album Made in the Manor released earlier this year.

MADE IN THE MANOR ALABUM COVER.
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In the UK Kano is a BIG deal.

1. He’s hip hop establishment. He started out on pirate radio in his youth alongside his peers like Jammer, Ghetts, Wiley, Dizzee Rascal and more.

2. His debut solo single ‘P’S &Q’s’ was a massive underground hit and is still a classic in grime and beyond.

3. He is a Brit Awards nominee and a MOBO Award winner.

4. He is such a champion of London that in 2005, Kano was announced as one of “London’s Heroes of 2005” by Mayor of London Ken Livingstone.

Kano is well known for tracks that showcase his endz. His city. His environment. ‘Made in the Manor’ adds a lot of retrospection and nods to the East End state of mind. About his tracks that showcase his part of London, during his convo wit CJ, he referenced singles like “Ghetto kid” from his 2005 debut solo album ‘’Home Sweet Home. ‘’I always want to put London into my music and so we’ve been been known to record the actual traffic in the city and lay it down under my vocals. I gravitate towards these kinds of songs’’.
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‎Kano was on top form as CJ questioned him about his Jamaican roots which he noted had led to him loving rappers like Biggie, Jay , Busta and Nas for ‘’their JA swag’’.

K ”My mum and bro came over on a boat from JA. It took six weeks. They docked at Southampton and went to Canning Town. You can imagine the cultural shock from Jamaica to Canning Town! The day they got here it was snowing. They thought it was sugar!
They came to east London. They were first black family in these parts. They had a hard time. They had to fight just to walk to school. My uncles were into music and played reggae all day. They – Eric and Everton (the wrong un). One was a dj, the other an mc and I took a lot of it on. You hear it in my roots Jamaica and East London.
My mum took me to Jamaica every year of my life. I saw acts like (dancehall musician) Tiger and was inspired by acts like him so that style of music was in me. But it wasn’t until I was older and I heard Heartless Crew that I got into it’’.

Much to the audience’s amusement Kano also revealed that he had never had a real job.
‘’I once convinced my local barbers that I could cut hair. He let me work there for a day. I ended up there for half a day!’’. Quick as a flash CJ retorted ‘’that was your grand opening grand closing!’’

Kano added that he felt the pressure in his early days of writing well and competitively ‘’I had to write well as I had to turn up on a Monday and meet my other MC mates and compete lyrically. I used to write in science classes. Sharky Major and I would just spend hours writing lyrics and making tapes and go to shows. I used to make tapes at a mate -Gingers – house. D Double E once left his notebook there one day. I looked after it for him. Lol. (I may have peeked) he really does write boo roo boop boop”. Writing well was important. I couldn’t sleep if I thought I’d half stepped it. I recall going to raves and feeling didn’t have enough lyrics that were simple enough for the crowd to sing along to. I didn’t think I was great. Lethal was the best. And Wiley. So I went back to the drawing board. I feel I never really had a club tune till this album till Garage Skank and Three Wheel Ups!”

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Kano admitted that when he did (garage/grime music events) Sidewinder and Eskimo Dance, those raves were key to him and his peers breaking through as artists, but that when the defining term ‘’grime’ was coined ‘’At first we didn’t like it’’.

Garage and grime era’s are very different and Kano described the difference between the two genres like this; ‘’you’d get dressed to go to a garage rave and drink champers. Grime was a tracksuit hoody trainers thing. Like jungle was an off-key Moschino thing. The kids were on OUR thing’’.

Kano alluded to the fact that he has that certain magic touch if you wanna be a Grammy winner ‘’people keep working with me and winning Grammys after me”.

In hip hop culture; it always causes a debate when people list their top MC’s, so of course CJ went there. Kanos? ‘’Mike Skinner’s (The Streets) probably the most influential artist on my career. Going on his tour and watching showed me a whole new way of being a music act. It was the way he commanded the stage. It also helps when most of audience knows your songs. He was always in control and composed. The music was elevated to another level at his show and made me want to have a live band. And the level of professionalism was top. There was only laughter AFTER the show. He’s just a whole diff machine and I wanted to do it on that scale. The guy’s a poet with classic albums. He’s a super-supe!’’

Under pressure Kano cited his top 5 UK MC’s as D Double E, Wiley, Ghetts, Lethal B and Dizzee.“Not in that order, that’s just my top 5! – and that’s me not putting Giggs or Wretch32 in grime”
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Kano dropped classic stories of how the rest of his grime peer star’s strong armed him into recording his solo Fire In The Booth (a brand led by Charli Sloth- the UK’S biggest grime/hip hop name who has his own show on BBC Radio 1).

‘Let me tell you about our grime Christmas with Giggs… we were all out one night. Me, Giggs, Wretch, Bashy. Tinchy. Ghetts. Sneakbo and more. It was like grime Christmas. Ghetts ,who is my mate, says “aint it funny how one person here ain’t done a Fire in The Booth?!” Giggs says “yeayyy …man must be scared!”. I said “do u lot think I can’t spit on a beat?!”
‎Wretch came to my defense. But Giggs didn’t believe I hadn’t done one so he googled it! (Kano does a BRILLIANT Giggs impression). Then after I left it kept repeating in my mind until I eventually called Giggs and said “OK I will do one when the next albums coming” and I’m not one to give myself titles but that (Fire in The Booth) verse was alright though wasn’t it!’’ K
ano adds modestly to the audience’s delight.

About his LATEST BORN IN THE MANOR ALBUM kano revealed;

‎K I feel I’m being extremely true and honest to myself with this record. With Fraser (from his music team), and I making this album we got into the studio and we didn’t even make any music at first. We just talked for ages. Fraser said “you’ve travelled so much and your world has grown so much since your start so now we need to reflect that in your music. Also, the piano’s really important to the consistency of this record.

CJ questioned that fact that one of his new songs – T shirt Weather in The Manor– was an awkward, real revelation, about one of his broken friendships with one of his close old homeboys, who called him after hearing the song;

K He rang me when the album came out. We spoke for 93 minutes. We hadn’t spoken in years. I had to get out the story of our friendship going sour. Apparently his mum text him and said “you need to call your friend”. He sent me a pic of the Gold “Home Sweet Home” plaque on his mums wall. (To show he still valued our past friendship), so we put it aside and it was all love.

SCREEN WORK

Kano’s recent Garage Skank video had a lot of excitement as fans from all over the world, sent in clips to his personal e mail, which were then turned into the final video ….

K ‘’I’ve been doing a lot of work both in front and behind the camera, Garage Skank looked like a lot of hard work but we did it in my kitchen. It took me about 5 hours to write everyone’s e-mails in the box and it wouldn’t go so I sent every e-mail one by one! I got school classes; Polish people, a man and his dog, EVERYONE was sending in video slips of them lip-syncing to my song! Initially I thought it would just be a lil slideshow. But I got thousands of e-mails! I got to connect with my fans in a real way. It felt good”.

TOP BOY is a British TV series on Channel 4, that has enraptured the younger generation as well as American stars like Drake, who has been championing for a new series to be made.

‎K ’’ With TOP BOY it came after my forth album. I wasn’t doing anything. My manager told me they wanted me to read for the part. I never read it. I had insecurities. I wasn’t a trained actor etc…. I didn’t trust that it wouldn’t be bad. I’m protective of my brand. You have to prove to me that you’re in it for the right reasons. No gimmicks. It’s gotta be quality. In the second audition I was told in confidence that it was nearly my part and that they knew I was capable of being calm but could I also really lose it? A crew member whispered to me that “Everything in that room can be replaced”. So I went in there and did it. Smashing stuff up. Afterwards I wondered “did I just go too far?”

K Acting is about telling the truth of your character and I took that ethos to my latest album. I told the truth of who I really am. In hindsight Top Boy was good thing for me to do, and a highlight of my career. I hated the experience of acting though. Hated it. The eraly mornings, late nights, really, really hard work. But as Robert Di Niro once said, and I’m sorry to sound like a cheesy actor, he said “if it feels like fun, it probably no good”. (I sound like a real actor now right? Lol!)

About UK MC’s that used to rap with American accents;

K ”yeah, there was a time in UK hip-hop where we rapped in American accents. People loved it so much that they emulated it to fit in. but I don’t think an American wants to hear an English person trying to be American. I think you wanna hear about our authentic street stories. I think though that we got over that and are now proud of the music that WE make just being ourselves!”


And Kano is right. Now seems to be the most commercially successful time for grime acts that are headlining music festivals all over the world and cashing in on their own terms.

Regards the ‘’Combat Jack meets Kano’’ evening it was a fun and interesting moment, and obviously great for fans to hear their fave star speak in person in a relaxed surrounding, however I did feel there was some slight disconnect.

It’s a nice idea, but the first rule of media is to know your audience, and it’s always a teeny bit awkward for a media creator to be making content for two different audiences. This recording was for Combat Jacks global podcast audience, so he was naturally starting with the basic get to know your beginnings questions about growing up, environment, favourite early rappers and so on. Much of which, the live audience already knew all the answers to.

Similarly Kano had to break down the definitions and early history of garage, grime and hip-hop in the UK for CJ, and on a few occasions the audience had in a good-natured way, pick up CJ on pronunciations or facts. Overall however it’s a brand that can be tweaked and as a starter it ticked all the main boxes and that’s all that matters. Anyone shining a light on hip hop culture across the globe is a hero to me.

Jasmine’s Juice – London’s solo hip hop artists Shay D and Kingpin. Hip Hop Lovers. Literally.

Hip hop has not only impacted the world but has also brought people together globally. The visual of an MC with a mic in hand and that swagtastic fashion flair unites hip hop lovers worldwide. It also unites hip hop lovers. Literally.

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Photo credit – The Cypher Lounge.

British rappers Shay D and her partner Kingpin are both rappers with their own fan bases. They are also a couple, united by their love of the culture. In a time when the focus on hip hop culture couldn’t be bigger with tv series, films, fashion, slanguage and more embodies popular culture, we caught up with a couple who are solo identities joined by the love of the culture that speaks for them.

SHAY D
Raised on a diet of Garage, Grime and Hip Hop, North London Hip Hop artist Shay D carries a fiery young woman’s persona. Influences of Persian poetry through to 90s rap can be heard in her content and delivery and she’s an authentically underground artist who tells it like it is. Her journey of gritty music and philanthropy can be heard in her music with social commentaries of growing up in the city and a passion for encouraging a positive mentality in her message to her listeners.

Shay – Get Money

Shay D lives Hip Hop, basing its ethos in all her work from workshops for young people she mentors across the UK to co running a successful Hip Hop and Poetry event Lyrically Challenged, promoting Women In Hip Hop to the fullest. In 2012, Shay D won the peoples vote for Best Female Rapper at the UK Unsigned Hype Awards and was recently featured as Top 5 UK Female Rapper by certified blog, Hip Hop Connection. Shay D featured in BBC 1Xtra’s Radio Live lounge for Spoken Word Vs Grime Programme this summer and features in a Channel 4 documentary about females in rap ready to air next year. Shay D released her debut album, “A Figure of Speech” in March 2016 and is currently touring the album and taking bookings!

KINGPIN

London born and raised Hip Hop Artist Kingpin, made his mark on the underground music scene with his thought provoking social content, explosive rhythmical delivery and high-energy stage presence. Born in the inner city environment of London, amongst a backdrop of council estates, deprived communities, drug abuse and gang culture, an environment that has provided endless inspiration for his lyrical content. At a young age he discovered a passion for music and literature, which progressed into a talent for writing and performing.

Kingpin – Capital Punishment

Kingpin started his career as a Hip Hop artist by performing on the London underground Hip Hop scene. He then founded a creative company called Underworld Konnect, through which he masterminded the independent releases of his own debut album ‘The Initiative’ and an award winning collaborative project under the guise of Caxton Press entitled ‘Shame the Devil’. Both of the these projects were critically acclaimed following their publication, receiving praise from Hip Hop legends such as De La Soul and Chuck D (Public Enemy).

With written coverage from N.M.E, Metro Paper, and SBTV, radio support from Capital Xtra, Kiss, Reprezent, FM and Itch FM amongst others, Kingpin finds himself working among Hip Hop’s elite which has presented him with the opportunity to perform in the USA and across numerous countries and cities in Europe where he has established a large and continually growing fan-base.

Eagerly anticipated by his audience, “Art of Survival” is Kingpin’s latest album, loyal to the boom bap sound, catchy hooks, and immaculate lyrical finesse yet touching the ever-important mindfulness of social observations, which he cares so deeply about. This rapper certainly does not shy away from being proud of caring about his community, recently on Channel 4 News encouraging young people to grow their own food and look after their health and screening his debut short anti gun film at the Camden Roundhouse, which resulted in a Sky News, live interview.

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A conversation with a couple who live, breathe, love hip hop.

Did you meet each other through Hip Hop?

Yeah, as you would expect for any true Hip Hop couple, we met through Hip Hop. Before we were introduced we had a lot of mutual friends and we shared the same DJ (DJ Shorty) so it was inevitable that our paths would cross eventually. The moment that we actually linked up and were first introduced to each other was at Secret Garden Festival, where DJ Shorty who knew and worked with us both individually, seized the opportunity to get us in a photo together while we were chilling backstage, and then introduced us to each other.

We really began to form a relationship about a year later, on a summers afternoon, when we were coincidentally lounging in the same park. We were both checking each other out from a distance trying to establish where we recognised each other from and then soon realised that we knew each other through music. We reintroduced ourselves and then we discovered that we lived in the same area and after a bit of chit chat we arranged to link up to collaborate on a song. About a week later we linked up in the same park and we sat in the car listening to instrumental and talking about which beats we should collaborate on. This conversation lasted so long that we actually fully drained the battery out of the car and ended up waiting for breakdown service to come and get the car up and running. While waiting for breakdown service we decided to go somewhere to eat and ended up having quite a romantic dinner at a greek restaurant.

KP & SHAY 2
Photo credit – Vaya Media Photography.

How has being a couple in the Hip Hop scene had an effect on your music careers?

Initially we didn’t like the idea of being in a relationship with someone who is involved in the rap game as we were aware of the fact that it might be hard to escape the world of hip hop and we would always be in a working mindset. Relationships are a great way to escape the day to day grind and having a partner to share down time with is so important, but our fear was that if we were both involved in the same industry we wouldn’t be able to ‘switch off’ from the work we do and just relax.

However, the reality of being in a relationship with another artists is actually so much better than we anticipated. There’s a mutual understanding of both the highs and lows of having a career in music, we can motivate each other creatively. We give each other feedback on what we are doing and we enjoy networking and going to events, as it’s mutually beneficial. It could be difficult to be in a relationship where our partners might find it hard to understand why we dedicate so much time to Hip Hop, why we’re always out at events, why we’re always in the studio or writing bars, but we don’t have to explain ourselves to each other, we just understand and really put the wind in each others sails to help us along the journey. We encourage each other to work hard on our music because we understand the importance of nourishing our creative sides, and know how soul destroying it is to neglect our music careers.

It’s also really benefited us in a practical sense as we have merged our fan base and so our material is reaching further with more people are engaging with our work. A lot of our fans who knew our work as individuals have now discovered the work of our partner. We receive really positive messages from people who like how we operate in music as a couple and support each other and we definitely feel like it has made our network stronger. We have been able to join forces and put both of our releases out under our independent label, Underworld Konnect, and we have developed a street team that circulate our Hip Hop Promo Packs (a pack full of event flyers, postcards, stickers clothing brands and hip hop related literature) which we distribute all over London. We collaboratively organised both of our album launches as live events through the brand. It’s a real example of power in numbers and we both share the same goal, so merging our individual networks to work toward the same thing is key and has proved a successful strategy so far.

What music do you listen to together?

Although we both love Hip Hop, it is such a diverse genre with so many variations that we often notice our differences in taste before we recognise our similarities. As a result the car journeys are a constant battle over who controls the radio, or who’s iPod playlist gets airtime, which CD shall we listen to, these are the ongoing conflicts of two artists on a long car journey.

We find a lot of common ground in listening to some chilled out Jazz and so a lot of the time ,to avoid any crazy arguments, we leave the radio on Jazz FM. Anytime we do listen to Hip Hop we inevitably get into some debate about the state of the music industry, the effect of media on youth culture, the mainstream media and the hip hop they choose to play, the lack of music with a conscious message, the use of the ’N’ word in music, are women in Hip Hop being disrespected and the list goes on.

To generalise, Shay D is more down with the contemporary stuff and likes the club bangers, plus she is a fan of London’s very own ‘Grime’ scene and very supportive of female rappers that carry themselves in a positive way. I am more down with the 90’s boom bap sound and music with a chilled and jazzy influence.

How do you separate your working life and your personal relationship?

Sometimes we find it really difficult to have a boundary between normality and working as independent artists. I think a lot of fellow musicians will know that being an artist doesn’t stop, the self-promotion, looking after your own bookings, managing your diary, answering emails, making sales as well as creating the music and producing music videos. It’s all very time consuming and can take over your entire life! KRS did say ‘Hip Hop is something you live’ and it really is, but when it becomes your sole method of making a living, it is hard. Sometimes we find all our discussions throughout the day have been about music, how we can progress or new business ideas and it gets too much so we have to remind each other to take a chill out moment and spend some quality time together.

How has being raised in London influenced your music?

We have our own relationship with the city and so it has influenced us in different ways.

Kingpin: I’m a Londoner, my Dad travelled here from Gambia, West Africa as an illegal immigrant in the late 70s and my my mum was born and raised in London. They both separated early into my childhood and so my single mother raised me in a council estate. My music is always a reflection of my experiences and my environment so I think London lifestyle has an integral influence on the music I make. I discuss a lot of Socioeconomic issues in my songs, and this is all based on my experiences as a Londoner. One song that typifies how London influences my music is called ‘Capital Punishment’ and its about the pitfalls involved with living in England’s Capital, London, hence the title ‘Capital Punishment’ which is a play on the word Capital as a financial term and a geographical term. I have always lived in London and so this reflects in my cultural practices, Its in the slang and language I use and its in my physical demeanor. Also, London is such a multi-cultural environment and so we are exposed to so many different influences, which manifest themselves in ways that it’s hard to quantify or explain.

Shay D: I was born and raised in London with fully Iranian parents. My dad left when I was six years old so my grandparents and single mum raised me. I am very close to my Persian roots. I identify with my mothers culture, speak the language, eat the food, and brought up on a diet of Rumi and Hafiz so poetry has always had a heavy influence in my life. Being an only child to my mother I was alone a lot to keep myself busy and really identified with Hip Hop and its dialogue. Growing up, I had to defend my mother in a country where racism is passively quite rife and English was her second language, and seeing the struggle of poorer families in communities really pushed my passion for justice and I hated seeing people suffer. My mother and I were victims of gentrification, being evicted from our property that led us going through the homelessness system (covered in my song ‘Not The Chicken Shop Man’) Gentrification is at a peak right now in the capital and causing a lot of communities coming together to fight the system. I developed a very opinionated view of social flaws as well as a love of the multi-cultural aspect of the capital, which embraces races and religions highly compared to the rural regions of the UK. I do love London and it’s art scene, the city doesn’t sleep and is constantly reinventing itself, which I appreciate. This contrast is clear through my music where I highlight my environment from youth violence, poverty, class issues but also a love of where we are from and how it has shaped us to who we are today. I also have uplifting angles on personal stories and tackle things on single parents, misogyny and female empowerment through my music.

What’s the key to being a successful Hip Hop artist in the UK?

We feel like there’s more to being a successful artist then putting out music. People want to know more about the personality of artist and social networks have offered an opportunity for artists to share more of their personality, whether its through video blogs on YouTube, or sharing moments via Snapchat, and twitter is a great tool to engage with fans and other artist as well as promoting videos and releases, and both of us frequently use Facebook as a way of engaging with fans as well as sharing our opinions on the industry, and we often get booking requests and messages of support through these mediums.

Also with streaming music now becoming so common among fans, its hard to rely entirely on sales so you have to be ingenious about how you generate income. Getting bookings is a great way of making extra dough, but we both do a lot of rap workshops with young people in schools and have found hip hop as a powerful tool to engage and educate young people and we have made money through and gained a lot of new fans through workshops. Both of us have put on Hip Hop events where we give artists a platform to perform and audiences an opportunity to come and party and discover music they have never heard before. Throughout experience as promoters we also developed a business where we have a street team that promote events so if promoters need support in getting the word on the street about their concert or party, we have the people in place to make it happen.

Also, music videos have been a great way of promoting our music to an international audience and we generate so many sales and new fans though the music videos that we upload to YouTube. Audiences seem to find visuals more engaging than just audio files so we put a lot of emphasis into getting as many videos from our albums as possible.

The imbalance of content on mainstream channels is vast, with gatekeepers constantly pushing drugs, alcoholism, sex, misogyny and violence on our screens and radios even during the school run time! Our aim is to bring the balance back, bring some mindfulness and chant some real talk into the ether to remind people to strive to be successful and become change makers and not victims of capitalism. It’s all about balance.

What is your future looking like?

We both have more work in the pipeline and are always thinking about the next creative project. Our latest projects `Shay D – Figure of Speech’ and ‘Kingpin – Art of Survival’ have barely been out for a year so we haven’t neglected our fan base for too long, and over the forthcoming months we will be releasing more music videos from those projects. We have been fortunate enough to travel around Europe performing shows together and will no doubt be doing more of this in the future. At the time of writing this we are about to travel to perform some shows in Norway and we are also looking into promoting and staging our own events in London through our brand Underworld Konnect. Shay D and DJ Shorty have their weekly underground Hip Hop radio show on ITCH.FM which continues to grow, gaining new audiences week by week. We are producing more Hip Hop Ed projects for young people, through workshops and mentoring. Everything we do is Hip Hop!

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Shay D released her Figure Of Speech album in 2016 and headlined the Southbank Festival featured in BBC3 Fresh and a Channel 4 documentary on the event she co-runs all within a year. The recognition for her work with words landed her a BBC 1xtra Radio Live Lounge this year with Hip Hop blogs naming her one to watch.

Shay – Figure of Speech – Album

Itunes
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/a-figure-of-speech/id1067448900
Kingpin released his Art Of Survival album last year.

Kingpin – Art of Survival – Album

Itunes
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/art-of-survival/id979268025

MUSIC VIDEOS

Shay – Who What Why

Kingpin – Practice What I Preach

Hear Kingpin talk about the history of UK hip hop and MC’s here; ‘from jungle, to garage, to grime’’