I’m generally a well-rounded music junkie, I could literally binge on anything with decent chord progressions and dope drums. I was just bumping some Anita Baker and Roberta Flack before typing this out, gosh I love those women so much. I was then in the mood for some Jazz, and that happens a lot more often than with any other genres. In fact, out of all the big boys on the full melodic menu, I always have extremely consistent cravings for Hip Hop and Jazz. And on this particular day I had some Yussef Kamaal on the spoon (apologies for the drug references, my music intake has been that intense). For those who have the “WTF” look after reading Yussef Kamaal, don’t be too ashamed, many others are sleeping on UK Jazz and Hip Hop, well, the UK music scene in general. I mean, if we are looking at this through commercial lenses, many casual listeners will immediately point out Adele, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and perhaps surprise us with a Natasha Bedingfield, Simply Red, Jamiroquai, Corinne Bailey-Rae or Portishead throw back. And of course the beloved Amy Winehouse, oh how we miss her 😔 Lets not take anything away from the mentioned artists though, they are brilliant (Amy in particular) but they only represent the microcosm of the macrocosm (sorry, there’s no dictionary/thesaurus plugin, do your googles).

My first real encounter with British Hip Hop was probably in high school with the enigmatic, metaphor bending ensemble called Rhyme Asylum. And by real encounter I mean like full on absorption, not the random mp3 download here and there. By the way, what’s with that filthy habit? You know exactly what I mean! Those comedians listening to random joints and claiming to be true fans? I mean, when it comes to music I believe in infatuation at first listen, but not without complete emotional investment. Like, are you really just going to give them some of your attention, while they spend fortunes on studio time hoping to get all of your respect? No, I’m not creating new rules on music consumption, and of course party bangers may be the exception but, ah never mind! Ok, rant over.

 

So yeah, it was around, let me see, perhaps the mid-2000s when I gave Roots Manuva’s debut album Brand New Second Hand a sporadic listen (a classic by the way, sadly, I only appreciated that album alot more later in life). And bumping Roots led me to random encounters with Dizzee Rascal, Stig of the Dump, Dr Syntax and vague exploits with Blak Twang and Foreign Beggars. Honestly, my palate was extremely immature in the early to mid-2000s, it mainly consisted of deeply rooted allegiances to American commercial darlings like G-Unit, Dipset, T.I. and Ludacris. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with those dudes, but, the UK indie scene, like it’s American counterpart, can really open you up to a helluva lot of dope music you’ve been missing out on. When Roots Manuvaentered my world I got carried deeper into the UK indie cave, which eventually led me to RA, who were the first UK group of which I was a real poster on the wall, star struck type of fan. The first time I heard their debut album was…ok wait, I lie, I actually heard their sophomore album Solitary Confinement before back tracking to feast on State of Lunacy. But my immediate response to popping my RA cherry was, “WHO THE HELL ARE THESE DUDES?!” and “WHAT IS THIS?!”. I’ve heard exaggerated metaphors in bars before, I mean, Eminem made that style commercial with the Slim Shady LP, but not like this! Not in this form, because these dudes were saying things in ways that we would think were not possible for human beings. From RA I was later led to the revolutionary work of High Focus Records, and with their roster, which includes the likes of heavyweights The Four OwlsOcean Wisdom and Dirty Dike, I was basically spoiled for choice with the cream of the crop of UK Hip Hop. And as my journey continued, musically drug induced exploits then took me further down the UK indie rabbit hole.

Jazz has always been in my family, I was raised in a family of musicians and vocalists, so Jazz, Fusion, Funk, Soul, Gospel always dominated the airwaves growing up. So when destiny allows me to bump into artists (and it happens alot) that are loaded with originality yet have been under the radar for way too long, I go hard in the paint to give the artist my full attention and endorsement. Especially when I encountered a sort of musical parallel universe in the UK where Jazz and Hip Hop make lots of babies and live in harmony. You know, like the old Guru Jazmatazz, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Soulquarian days (real heads know). Here you will either find classic Jazz in all it’s glory, Hip Hop like it was in the golden era, or in lots of cases, a beautiful marriage of the two. It was here where I discovered ridiculously talented acts like Children of ZeusAlfa MistKaya Thomas-DykeCarmodyNubya GarciaJorja SmithEzra CollectiveHawk HouseKamaal WilliamsJordan Rakei (who is actually Australian, but has been based in London for most of his career), Yussef Kamaal (a dynamic collab between super dope drummer YussefDayes and keyboard phenom Kamaal Williams), LoyleCarnerTom MischMoses BoydSoweto Kinch, just to name a few. The amount and quality of talent these artists possess, and their devout adherence to the foundations of Jazz and Hip Hop is awe-inspiring. If you really know your ish, you would remember that groups like Brand New Heavies and Jamiroquaipioneered the funk, soul, hip hop and disco concocted Acid Jazz scene, and many elements of this UK born invention ooze through this current wave of wordsmiths, vocalists and musicians. The influence isn’t just local to the UK though. Chance the Rapper admitted on many occasions to being a huge fan of Jamiroquai and acid jazz, which is quite evident in his second commercial release Acid Rap. As the movement continues to grow, I will no doubt follow the growth very closely. There has always been something about British music though, I’ve always been drawn to it, and not just specific genres. I remember my family being big Level 42 fans growing up, especially their bassist Mark King. Then you get the trio Imagination, who were huge post-disco/funk pioneers in the 80s. Their music was sampled heavy in Hip Hop and R&B over the years. The smash hit Music and Lights perhaps being their most iconic, which provided the melodic foundation for Chubb Rock’s “Life” and HHP’s “Music & Lights”. The influence of UK music can be commercially vague at times, but it can undeniably be found almost everywhere if proper crate digging is done. Every time there’s a new drop in the UK parallel universe, I always question whether their diet is different because there is something in their music that no other culture has. Whether it’s a soulful bar driven Children of Zeus tune, disciplined yet suave Kamaal Williams melodies, or a J Dilla drum laced Alfa Mist cut, the recipe the British have is impeccable. I still think the water needs to be checked though.

 

These are some of my favorites, peep and purchase these projects if you want to understand my obsession:

 

Children of Zeus – Travel Light

(First Word Records, 2018)

These are some of my favorites, peep and purchase these projects if you want to understand my obsession:

Alfa Mist – Nocturne EP

(Self Released, 2015)

 

Rhyme Asylum – Solitary Confinement

(Rhyme Asylum Records, 2010)

 

Kamaal Williams – The Return

(Black Focus Records, 2018)

 

Yussef Kamaal – Black Focus

(Brownswood Recordings, 2016)

 

Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone

(AMF Records, 2017)

 

Hawk House – A Handshake To The Brain

(Virgin EMI, 2014)

 

The Four Owls – Nature’s Greatest Mystery

(High Focus Records, 2011)

 

Jorja Smith – Lost & Found

(FAMM, 2018)

 

Tom Misch – Geography

(Beyond The Groove, 2018)

 

Ezra Collective – You Can’t Steal My Joy

(Enter The Jungle Records, 2019)

 

Nubya Garcia – Nubya’s 5ive

(Jazz Re:freshed, 2017)

 

Moses Boyd – Absolute Zero

(Exodus, 2017)

 

Ocean Wisdom – Chaos 93′

(High Focus Records, 2016)

 

 

Hip Hop 411

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