Colin Steven steps out to UK hip hop
and Juan gets a lungful of students atBreathless (below).
LISTINGS: GLASGOW AND EDINBURGH DIARY 72
The Duke and (Buzz) B
In the wake ofthe headline- grabbing house parties. Colin Steven takes a fresh look at UK hip hop, still less popular than its American cousin.
With all the house raves in the South of England stealing the headlines in the club scene this year. the other pioneering dance form of the 80s. hip hop has been overshadowed to a certain extent. It
certainly hasn‘t faded out altogether though. with
some classic tracks released in 1989 by NWA, Digital Underground and De La Soul. Even the ill fated biggest rave of them all. Biology. proposed to have Public Enemy. EPMD and Big Daddy Kane playing live. Spot the common factor yet folks? Yes. all are American. Whereas UK house has exploded this year producing tracks equal to and. more often than not. better than their Atnerican counterparts. UK hip hop still can‘t seem to get its feet offthe ground.
Why is this'.’ It certainly isn't because the talent is missing. The UK scene is a veritable cornucopia of undiscovered rappers and DJs. who are not being given a chance. 'I’wo rappers who have managed to struggle their way to the front ofthe queue are .‘vf(.‘ Duke and .‘VK‘ Buzz B who have differing (but equally valid) answers to this question. ‘liverybody has been brought up really on American hip hop. IIK hip hop is relatively new. and it‘s still in its early stages.‘ says Duke. but Buzz B replies. ‘I louse music is more the thing these days and is managing to grab a wider audience with its beat. Hip hop is just not as popular because of the lack of chances to be played in the clubs.‘ If you can‘t make it in Britain. what chance have you got in the States'.’
They might be together at the forefront of the UK scene. but the contrast between them in background. style. personality and sound is
immense. MC Duke hails from London. the established base of UK hip hop. and has been around right from the very beginnings of the British scene. Signed to the independent dance label Music of Life. in 1987. he has released a few singles and has just released a debut album ‘Organised Rhyme‘. “is sound is loud and uncompromising. arrogant and (with every reason) angry. He spits hardcore rhymes in your face about black rights and freedoms. making you sit up and take notice. while still retaining his commercial and club appeal with funky beats and basslines and the well chosen sample -
Self-belief has never been one of his problems and often comes across as extreme arrogance as a quote frotn .\'.III:' when he was starting out in Autumn 1987 proves.‘We‘re going to slap America in the face. I really rate LL Cool]. but I'd say I'll be better than him in less than a year‘.
So. I wonder. two years on does he now think he‘s better than LL'.’ Duke shows how much he has mellowed by diplomatically not committing himself.
‘I don‘t think LL Cool J is better than me. but at
the same time in the public eye he is. He‘s bigger than me. he‘s more well known than me.‘
What about ‘slapping America in the face‘. do you think we ever will?
‘We already have. You’ve got to understand
that records made by people such as Soul II Soul are basically hip hop. I was just over in New York and at the moment Jazzy B is virtually a superstar. and the beat that he used to get ‘Back to Life‘ into the charts was taken from a record called ‘Pickin’ Boogahs‘ by Biz Markie. He makes his records like I do. he just uses a bit of soul to make them appeal to everybody.‘
On the other hand. MC Buzz B is from the young pretender to the throne of British dance music. Manchester. where he records for another independent label Play Hard. His third single for them is out at the moment simply entitled ‘The Sequel’. His approach is more subtle; the drumbeats are low key and the synthesised melody (reminiscent ofMantronix) is the hook. His smooth, mellow voice draws you into his world and makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and your feet itch to dance.
He is still a relative newcomer to the business and arrogance is one thing you definitely can‘t accuse him of. being amazingly modest for a rapper. Questioned about his ambitions he thinks deeply. ‘I don’t know. er - to write a really good rap track I suppose and just hope people listen. Maybe if I'm successful I can help somebody as well.‘ Buzz B really is quite unique in the hip hop world. never mind Britain - a sensitive soul and
genuinely trying to talk to you and affect your life
i instead ofpreaching at you. ‘In each rap I just try
I to be as personal as possible. I try to talk to the listener as an individual and share my views. and
I if I can help. influence orjust sort of point out
' things that will make them have a happier
existence then that‘s great‘.
They do have some things in common though; young. black. articulate. oozing with talent and two of the best live performers in the country. If you have the time and the money try make a note in the diary for.
MC Buzz 8 support Happy Mondays at Glasgow Barro wlancl on Sun I 0. MC Duke appears at The Choice, Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow the same evening.
Breathless I Club ;
Two of the main people behind Breathless are brothers, both are in their second year of a Maths and Physics course at Edinburgh University, they wear exactly the same clothes and, as you have probably
I guessed by now. are known as The
i I caught up with Jim Cooke (aka one l halfof the twins) at the Potterrow Bar, the venue for Breathless, and asked 1 him was it notthe case that students ' were being catered for quite
adequately by their own Unions?
‘All you had to do was look around the Edinburgh club scene and see that the Unions had fallen way behind the times. We saw that the Union were not catering for the dance orientated
student and that the music being played in Student clubs, was music that students were into five years ago.‘
Breaking away from the usual Indie/Rock orientated bands, that are the staple diet for the average student venues. Jim Cooke and his friends were responsible for bringing The James Taylor Quartet to Edinburgh Uni and far more recently the Bhundu Boys, who attracted a large audience to
‘Potterrow is not a very large venue.
for the Edinburgh clubbers in general. not just for students. If we want to move forward, we have to be prepared to bring in bands that wouldn‘t normally play student venues.’
Jim Cooke and friends see that if their strategy doesn't succeed. they will follow in the footsteps of other student orientated clubs. and move into the Edinburgh club scene.
‘There is definitely room in Edinburgh for another club, not all students want to listen or dance to ABBA.‘
The List 8— 2| December 1%“) 71