Before the likes of Dizzy and Wiley, there was another homegrown scene of doubletimed raps, 100bpm tracks and tales of urban decay. It was referred to as Britcore, and it was excellent.
“Take this down, circa 1992” (Gunshot, mind of a razor) artists like DJ Krash Slaughta, Depth Charge, Gunshot, Killa Instinct, Hijack, First Down, Hard Noise, Kobalt 60 and First Frontal Assault were truly doing it for the UK.
Here was a generation of hip hop fanatics making music representative of their own lives. Nobody expected to become famous, nobody expected to get rich or attempted to make a watered down version of what the Americans do so well. They just loved hip hop and wanted to make the music, in their own way. As regionalism was irrelevant in a scene that spanned the whole country, the result was a fusion of all elements of hip hop; the vocals, the artwork, the dancing, the production and most noticeably the scratching not only represented but flipped on its head.
The most prevalent themes of this movement were cult movie and heavy metal imagery (from gunshot parodying John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 on the sleeve of their seminal Patriot Games album to samples of Robocop, Aliens, The Warriors and Let Him Have It throughout the genre and ultimately Gunshot featuring Napalm Death’s Shane on guitar duties), envelope pushing scratch routines that the rest of the world just wasn’t doing, lyrical depth made all the better for its natural dialect and cadence (Hijack and Kobalt excused) and a whole heap of sirens and guns.
Sadly, this scene was largely ignored in the UK but props from Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Japan and Korea gave these artists an opportunity to make a humble living and fly the flag for the British hip hop. It’s a damn shame that in this age of UK raps biggest successes, it is also arguably in its sorriest state.
On reflection the production is slightly muddy, it all sounds alike and often it can be difficult to hear what the rappers are saying due to budget recording techniques, but that’s the the beauty of it, it was meant to be raw, it worked best played on a tape, dubbed from the vinyl in a shitty old Vauxhall Nova or through headphones on a crusty walkman whilst riding the number 21 from Shirley to town.
During this period, there were countless debates as to why this music wasn’t blowing up, and when would British rap ever be big? Well now it is, and it’s shit!
But it’s nice to remember those bitter times when all we had was hope that the mainstream would actually understand us.
By far the best ever British hip hop group, Gunshot:
Killa Instinct, Bandog is the best rapper ever to come out of , er, Reading: (Anyone mentioning Tinchy Stryder is reading the wrong blog)
Let’s not forget Hardnoise:
And although Kamanchi Sly is a bit of a tool and these guys went on to make the worst record of all time (Pied Piper, Do Ya Really Like It? No I hate it!) Hijack deserve a mention for the awesome power of DJ Supreme and Undercover. Here it is right from the horses mouth, Hijack influenced the Invizibl Skratch Piklz:
Although modern UK rap is a bit of a joke (aside from the awesome, long awaited Richie Sodapop album) there was a time when we made hip hop you could be proud of.