The first cut isthe smartest

Money’s for nothing and the kids get fleeced. That’s the record industry for you. But not with London rapper Blade, the one-man record company who’s ahead of the pack and out on the street. Craig McLean talks to the lyrical maniac.

Beneficial Living Always Develops Through Experience . . . Survival Of The Hardest Working . . . Lyrical Maniac . . . The Lion Goes From Strength To Strength . . . When it comes to square-on chest- pufiing. Blade can sloganeer with the best of them. By best of them we mean the strident street-wise rap kings. American mostly. those who enunciate the edgy vitality of the genre without recourse to the sugar bullet of pop accessibility. Blade. more than any other British rap outfit, has this brass-tacks tack off pat. His is as close to the visceral pulse of ‘ghetto‘ rap as a British act can get. but without the loose~cannon belligerence that too often clouds the message and dulls the intended effect.

Blade sounds ‘of the street‘ because he lives. works and sells on the street. For Blade. being street-smart doesn’t just mean knowing what‘s going down. it means getting out there. marketing and distributing and flogging his own handiwork. Do or DIY. Rap around the block.

And rap around the clock. ‘I‘m not bored!’ Blade smothers a yawn. He was up until 9.30 this morning. recording. ‘I spend night-times recording and I spend the day-time mailing out the stuff. But because the album was supposed to be out for April, and that was like a promise. I‘ve put aside the mailing so I can get the album finished. It's a problem but at the same time 1 think whoever has sent off for it appreciates

that I'm doing stuff on my own.

‘I only get about two hours sleep a day. if I’m lucky.‘

Such is the lot of the one-man record company/artist that is this five foot seven, Armenian-born South Londoner. Over his thirteen-odd years as a rapper he has resolutely shunned the machinations and supposed norms of the music industry. This in the face of more concerted overtures of late in the wake of Blade's promotion from the underground to the overground with the success of last summer‘s mini- album. Survival Of The Hardest Working.

‘I was looking for deals, and we were shown interest but it was only in their own terms. And I didn't want to sign my life away and not be happy. The decision was already made and then I started seeing people getting dropped off their labels . . .’

This way. what you want to be done will be done. ‘Yeah. and if it messes up it‘s my fault, no one else’s.‘

The free-market creed is that money begets independence and offers the opportunity for freer- expression. Last week this space probed the mind of newly-affluent young funk sensation Jamiroquai there, a whopping eight-album deal with Sony was seen to confer 22-carat credibility on this rising talent. The Blade ethos adheres to the maxim that lack of money engenders innovation and integrity and a hunger for success on his own terms. Since that last interview Jamiroquai have been in Arizona shooting a video. Blade. meanwhile. is still in the

teeth of poverty. although at least now he doesn’t i have to wort)l about where tomorrow‘s dinner‘s coming from. ‘At the end ofthe day I’m a man of i principles and morals. they keep me strong.‘ { From a hunger in his lifestyle to a hunger in his i music. it is this that takes Blade‘s music close to the 1 bone and close to the audience. Over the course of i his three singles (‘Lyrical Maniac‘ (Nov 89). ‘Mind 3 Of An Ordinary Citizen' (Oct 90). ‘Rough It Up‘ : (Oct 91)) and the mini-album. one-on-one mail-order ' sales have risen to the 25000 mark. Blade does the mailing himself. keeping total control of every process. from writing to sellng. For his first full- ; length album. The Lion Goes From Strength To Strength. the concept of total self-sufficiency goes 3 further: the audience buy into the venture upfront by 5 subscribing cash in return Blade subscribes } goodwill and the promise of a cracking album of punchy hip-hop that is truer and smarter than any 9 other British contender. ‘Now I have direct contact with the customer.’ he says. stifling another yawn. ‘And I don‘t treat them as 1 fans. l treat them as acquaintances or friends. And I i think that‘s what most of the people appreciate they ;can phone me up. say ‘How‘s the new track going‘. .and I can say ‘Hold on. you wanna hear it'?‘. and I gplay it to them over the phone.‘ LBIade plays Subway. Edinburgh on Fri I 9 and The School Of A rt. Glasgow on Sat 20.

:— The men in


Electronic mood music. Intelligent techno. Ambient house. There is no tag that readily sticks to London’s media-shy recording outfit, Black Dog Productions. As befits three

experimental musicians, computer

i artists and Global Computer Network Loommunicants who cite ‘all noise,

sound and sensory output as infiuences’, their records are impalpable dream-weave colleges of sounds as sensations. The pulsing, minimalistic back-beats provide a contemporary dance-floor setting for innovative Ms but that’s as far as you’ll get in pinning them down.

‘The motive behind each composition is as different and as amorphous as our band name,’ they explain. ‘Vle’ve no real ultimate goal for our music, apart from a general unwillingness to retread ground already trodden by ourselves and others.’

insisting that their apparent

anonymity and mystique are simply ‘to allow Black Dog to represent anything anyone else could possibly think about us’, they’ve released a myriad of deep, mood soundscape gems in the past two years. The aliases vary, as do the labels. Thankfully, Sheffield’s sonically adventurous Warp Records have finally bound them over for the length of ‘Bytes’, a double-album instalment in Warp’s Artificial intelligence series. This month, they’re also bringing to Scotland their live multi-medla package that’s only been unveiled on a single previous occasion.

‘The subtlety of our non-4M grooves and our sometimes less than polished sound aren’t compatible with the less adventurous Ns,’ continues the tax ‘but we will not be compromising our sound for the dancefloor. Hopefully people will accommodate the sound of ‘the dog’ and dance to it as it is.’ (Calvin Bush)

Black Dog play Club industrla, Glasgow, on Thurs 18 and Pure, Edinburgh, on Fri 19. Bytes is released by Warp on 22 March. Communicate with Black Dog by Modem on 081 983 3472.

55 The List 12—25 February l993