I’ve always made it a point to avoid football matches and highly-strung men with testosterone and alcohol fuelled mouths at male dominated sporting events so this fortnight was certainly an eye opener.
My old mate boxer Audley Harrison made his come back fight appearance at Alexandra Palace and of course I was there to support him.
Even though he’d left VIP tickets and a VIP car park pass for me at the box office I was so embarrassed about the courtesy car that my garage had lent me whilst they fixed my ride, that I parked at the bottom of the hill and made my mate walk up with me. He wasn’t best pleased but understood my fear of shame at being seen by all and sundry stepping out of a gold, orange, brown matchbox shape mini Daewoo wearing all my glad rags!
Once we finally made it into the venue I was surprised at the fun fair like ambience which saw bars, food stalls including a pattie stall (do they have those at all fights or just ones with black fighters?), and many many young ladies wearing barely any clothes running around with vulgar expletives exiting their mouths. Girls, be sexy on the inside. You will last longer that way. Strippers and models have an expiry date.
‘’Wow’’ I thought ‘’this is gonna be a night to remember’’. And it was. Sitting in Block A in front of some rude boys who gave us hilarious comedy all night with their wise cracks and cusses, to the chants of the crowd that were both funny and vicious , ‘’we’ll never see you again…..AGAIN!’’ and so on. If I’m totally honest I have the utmost respect for Audleys focus cos some of the things that were being yelled out to him were hurtful-I guess that’s a boxing thing. There were a furiously aggressive few rounds where Audleys opponent Michael Sprott seemed to be getting some shots in, and Audley fought with one arm cos he dislocated his shoulder in the 2nd round. It was clear by round three that he wasn’t using his right arm and continued to fight one handed! In the 12th and final round when we thought it was a wrap, Audley drew on some superhero strength and knocked Sprott out with a big lick from nowhere! As someone said ‘’to all the Harrison haters ‘’SHAME ON YOU ALL it was a different story when he was winning us a gold medal at the Olympics. It shows that a lot of you fools only follow a winning fighter .I suppose you all support Man United, Chelsea or Arsenal. You’re all a load of glory hunters, Audley will prove you wrong’’. Oh how we roared, laughed and cussed back his detractors. Believe in West London! We fight to win!
Another champ- albeit a lyrical one is uk hip-hop forefather and my old friend rapper Ty.
With all the UK black music acts that are in the charts now that hailed from the grime scene its easy to forget that there’s still a very vibrant UK hip-hop scene attracting thousands of young fans nationally and internationally and this scene will also blow up given time and care. You only have to look at this years re-emergence of UK hip hop seeing album releases from Roots Manuva, Klashnekoff; Rodney P; Charlie Sloth; Jhest, Skits and its appreciative audiences that recently attended the Jay Z, Talib Kwali and Jay Electronica concerts to know there’s still a piece of our culture that’s realer than real.
Ty’s new album ‘’Special Kind of Fool’’ was released last Monday April 19th and has been bumping in my ride ever since. He represents what real hip-hop has been for over 2 decades with his international sell out gigs alongside hip hops greatest. I was really impressed listening to the new material, as it really is Ty’s story. The tale of an artist who after ten years, three critically acclaimed albums (Awkward 2001, Upwards 2003, Closer 2006), collaborations with the likes of Tony Allen, De La Soul, Damon Albarn and Estelle, a Mercury nomination amongst other accolades, and a worldwide army of fans, has always followed his heart. From the days when we all used to break-dance, body pop and rap down in Covent Garden with Jonzi D, DJ Pogo and Billy Bizness and rock a backpack ,Ty was there doing his thing on the mic from day one.
We sat down over an eggs Benedict breakfast recently to reminisce about the days when the American musicians ran our music scene and agreed that the change had come because many of us had put in the work. Acts like Wiley and Dizzee quite clearly know Ty and his music and the feeling of mutual respect co exists comfortably.
Acknowledging the recent successes of the UK urban scene Ty said ‘’the Sudden turn around of the UK music scene this past 2 years
is very impressive, its cool that doors are opening. However there’s no balance. All the kids think that the formula is the same- Can you not see the effect that this music’s having on kids now.
So now i can look back at So Solid and appreciate the success they had without compromising themselves.
I can see there’s no balance presently so I’m makin a record for myself first. Its not easy but
I rap on dance records to keep my finances secure’’.
It took Ty 2 and a half years on his own in his home studio to make his latest material. Unlike previous content which his musical partner Drew produced mostly-this time around it was all Ty- leading to a producer string to his already thick bow.
I wondered whether he felt any pressure having to try and keep up with the kids so to speak. Ty gave me that ‘don’t be ridiculous ‘ look that he has and explained ‘’ Jas I’m not concerning myself with fitting into what young people are into’’. To be fair, ty’s been here for the long stretch, Will the current crop of chart hitters still be here in 2 decades? Ty’s longevity clearly speaks for itself.
He hasn’t compromised and still they flock. Channel U have been known to rinse Ty’s video 24-7!
Ty has overcome adversity with a near death experience in 2006 when he had been training hard but not eating healthily before being diagnosed with diabetes. So he took a break and naturally came back with a different perspective on music making. He explained its like’’ Like when you have a child. You realise what’s important?. What’s your purpose?. Let’s get to the point quickly’’.
The thing most Ty’s fans love about him is that his whole career has been based around not being the stereotype MC from the street. He likes to show that people can come from poor areas and still be articulate. Ty is the alternative to being brash, he has an alternative swagger. He doesn’t say ‘’innit fam’’ or ‘’blood’’ within his songs. Some people would say it will be easier for Ty now that Kanye has opened that door- UK heads would argue Ty opened the door first.
The new album has big production, panoramic qualities musically and every now and again you may recognise a classic old skool line dotted through album
. Ty smiles ‘’A lot of people under estimate young people but they do research music and will get it’’. There are a few collaborations on the album with Ty’s friends such as Anthony Mills, Vula Malinga , Shaun Esscoffery, Erik Rico and even the Queen of lovers rock herself-Carol Thompson!.
The new single will be a double-a side called “Heart is breaking” featuring Sway
and “Me” . With ‘’Heart is breaking’’ Ty explains he wanted to create a broad cross reference of people struggling. ‘’i took snap shots of different modern day UK scenarios. I live in a multi cultural community and wanted to reference that.
I’m a ground breaker.
Its up to me to be broadminded and introduce new things’’.
He explains that his friendship with Sway goes way back to when sway was in a crew. Originally Bashy was supposed to feature but it didn’t work out but now I cant imagine it without Sway’’.
Ty and laughed and shook our heads at just how much the UK street music scene has developed. We recalled when rappers used to get booed onstage for having UK accents. Ty suggests ‘’There was an identity issue cos we weren’t proud of being Brits.
The youth have now decided we like our sound. The work that was put in the 80 and 90’s has helped.
A lot of kids blame oldies for not opening doors.
I’m cool with fact that we opened doors for Dizzee etc. What I’m not cool with is their attitude when they state “I’m not part of rap scene’’. if you’re not singing and you’re spitting over beats you ARE hip-hop so to dissociate yourself from hip-hop is disrespectful.
They don’t mind being called hip-hop when it suits them!’’.
Ty did bring up something I thought was interesting. Whilst young, new American lyricists frequently shout out their elders and fore fathers the UK acts don’t? But Ty has no hang ups. The only regret I spot is when he confesses ‘’
In my career I’ve sacrificed love. I’m a travelling man. I’m hard to lockdown-love has suffered’’.
I recalled that back in 1991 UK hip hoppers used to constantly talk about ‘’not selling out’’. Ty sighs ‘’No selling out then was about being young and wanting to be credible. The kids now have no problem with being pop.
The genre of lyrics was much stronger then so acts reflected that.
Hip hop is as weak as its ever been right now. Rebel MC,Goldie , Cookie Crew had a commercial element but were still real.
So Solid were an extension.
When people disassociate themselves with hip-hop now it annoys me. If Jay Z is your role model you are hip hop. Without hip-hop none of them would be dressing the way they dress and talking the way they talk. They need to understand that the music industry is allowing them to exist. They also need to know that Its cool to be a little bit humble. On your way down you meet people you met on your way up’’.
Ty continued ‘’there’s a common concept in grime that you do pop to make it. Wiley, Kano, Tinchy ,Lethal B etc were all in crews before majors plucked them to become solo and make solo acts. When you’re plucked away from your core its easier to manipulate you.
Try and do something to further your culture. Everyone’s too out for themselves. When the culture disappears they’ll be stuck!’’..
One thing that Ty and I agreed upon was that the new generation is very entrepreneurial whether its with online TV spots, video directing, forming companies and much much more. Surely we have to acknowledge the Bad Boy, Roc A Fella and Phat Farm empires for inspiring young homeboys globally.
Ty is funny, unique and different. When he’s not dropping hip hop knowledge he’s keeping people doubled up in laughter with his silly antics. And he’s utterly fearless and unafraid of being stupid onstage. His live shows are legendary .He has fun, his audience have more. ‘’I don’t come with airs and graces. I crowd surf.
The maddest festivals I did were Montréal jazz festival in 2005 with Dilla and Roots Manuva. It was crazy. My special moment there with Dilla was when he took me aside and congratulated me. He gave me his number and kept in contact.
Carling Festival in Reading was a memorable year where 50 got bottled by audience. I was in small tent with 2000 fans. I started by asking my crowd if they were gonna bottle me lol, then I climbed a turret mid performance and climbed so high I got stuck and security had to climb up and rescue me!’’.
Yes he’s a real feisty, mad, opinionated character.
If you’re not lucky enough to catch Ty at his May 31st gig at London’s Jazz Café where he’ll be with a full band you can keep up with him on twitter where his crazy side can often be seen saying things like ‘’I do declare from this day forward as far as the funhouse is concerned I will only be referred to as lord cumbassa the third and 3 quarters, busting dance routines and wearing George Clinton outfits!’’.