It was great to see the UK Hip-Hop movement continuing to stir with such ebullience in the last few months. Pushing aside the laudable amount of creative output, there has also been a commendable amount of good vibes between artists, with real heads endorsing one another on various platforms. There was also some new sounds from UKHH legend Skinnyman following his release from prison earlier this year, as well as lively rustlings from A Yellow Man which I guess will have to hold us out until the new year. Furthermore, SBTV’s Jamal Edwards was hard at work launching the #SkooledBy series, a sub-channel showing respect to the ‘foundations and architects of the UK urban movement‘.
Other than all that, it was nice to see rappers approaching their art from all angles. With such a precarious genre as UK Hip-Hop, creative spirit and individuality is key to catching the ears of those less exposed to the genre. In the past, artists have married their homegrown craft with more contemporary sounds in order to gain greater exposure. Masters of the art Foreign Beggars eventually merged their organic Hip-Hop style with the monstrously popular wave of Dubstep, bringing them an undoubtedly larger audience worldwide. Speech Debelle won what is arguably the most prestigious UK music award by adding a soulful twist to her Hip-Hop style, akin to her American counterpart Lauryn Hill. It’s also interesting to note that six years earlier the same prize was awarded to Dizzee Rascal for his debut album Boy in da Corner, a remarkably uncompromising and determined time-piece in UK urban history. What’s clear is the stiff-necked ascent into uncharted musical territory that forms the lowest common denominator of all these successes. And whilst it is great to see so many young and fresh faces not only contributing but dominating the UK Hip-Hop scene, it is imperative that they look to the past before moving towards the future.
For whatever sociocultural reasons, the last decade has shown that the UK does not host a credible market for organic homegrown UK Hip-Hop. Back in the 90s, when Kiss FM was enjoying its ‘hey day‘ in pirate radio, veterans like Skinnyman, Chester P, Mungo, Farma G, Roots Manuva, Rodney P, Lewis Parker and Jehst were able to get airplay on Max and Dave’s acclaimed show and reach a wider audience. Sadly that’s the closest the movement has ever come to reaching an audience worth its merits, and in 2012 it remains deep in the underground.
Looking forward to 2013, the path that UK Hip-Hop will take next is in the hands of those fresh talents that vastly re-engergised the movement this year. What we can learn from the past is that the same Hip-Hop formula is not going to work, unless these super-talented artists don’t mind lurking in shadows for the next 10 years. If (which I can assume) they don’t, then 2013 should bring radically more innovative ideas, sounds and cinematography. A perfect example would be Grime MC Trim’s collaboration with contemporary Electronic producer James Blake to create a track that champions both genres, without compromising either.
The uncharted territory of UK Hip-Hop pushed dramatically further left-field is an exciting concept for 2013, and could even be the next major UK urban movement to supersede Grime. If that is the case (and it is very much a possibility), it is likely to be spearheaded by the artists in our top 5 (+3) list below.
8. Lunar C – Jesus Swag
More often than not I’m very likely to recoil whenever the word ‘swag’ is uttered. That aside, Jesus Swag does well to match up Lunar’s unique rap style with some nice visuals, and in a far less irritating way than his contemporary Dvnny Seth.
7. Chima Anya – Astro Thoughts
For those that are new to Chima Anya, you are in for a host of surprises. Not only is he a trained doctor (graduated from medical school in Birmingham at the tender age of 23), he has already shared the stage with Jay Electronica, KRS-One and Brother Ali. Astro Thoughts is off his aptly named album The Doctor’s Note, which you can purchase here.
6. Buggsy – Trapped
The lyrical mobility of this Rastafarian rapper never fails to impress me. Trapped is off his most recent release A Bit of Bugz 2012, mixing his multi-syllabic flow over Grime, Hip-Hop and Dubstep riddims.
5. Fliptrix – Sounds
The output of this guy is ridiculous. Not only is he C.E.O. of UK Hip-Hop label High Focus Records, but this track is off his fourth solo album The Road To The Interdimensional Piff Highway. Good sounds, nice visuals.
4. Jungle VIP – One
Bringing back the classic boom-bap sound of Hip-Hop is North London’s finest Jungle VIP. This wonderkid really is one of the most consistent UK rappers we’ve heard in a long time. The track One is off his debut mixtape Rumble in the Jungle, and is definitely worth checking out.
3. Barney Artist – C.o.G (The Monologue)
2. Frankie Stew & Harvery Gunn – Want To Be
There’s something really harmonious about Harvey’s beat, Frankie’s words and the accompanying visuals that makes Want To Be their best work yet. Not only that, it’s one of their longest tracks which allows Frankie to dig deeper into his unique narratives. These Brighton kids are untouchable.
1. Cutta Chase & Astro Blacksmith – Let Go
Intergalactic brothers Cutta and Astro leading the movement out of this world and towards the stars. Soulful beats, real words. Check out the rest of Cutta’s music on his Youtube account, every single track is on point.