Hip-Hop in Britain has long been in the shadows of the region’s transatlantic neighbors (North America), remaining firmly within the underground without achieving the universal stardom it often arguably deserves. A strong Hip-Hop contingent has consistently blossomed since the late 80s in many UK cities—from London to Manchester, Bristol to Nottingham—to form a movement brewing with poetic flow and entrancing beats.
It’s safe to say 2015 has been the year of Grime, a movement slowly cultivated since the early 2000s to reach a pinnacle of dominating alternative British society. Grime has obvious prevalent roots in Hip-Hop, from the aspect of rebellion and glorification of the street and with artists like Skepta and JME achieving recognition in the US over the past few months, could this be the time that urban Britain conquers globally?
This has resulted in more exposure and focus on British Hip-Hop as a whole, with market and interest growing at a rapid pace. The often-overlooked hotbed of MCs and beat-makers are now slowly coming to the forefront and getting the critical acclaim and respect of mainstream society.
For those still not in the know, below are the major names you need to check out.
Generally considered the godfather of UK Hip-Hop, Roots Manuva has been making socially conscious music for nigh on two decades, with many labeling his debut album Brand New Second Hand as the singularly most important Hip-Hop album outside of the States. It combines elements of archetypal Cockney culture combined with Jamaican Patois-inspired lyrical complexity, creating politically charged music jam packed full of reggae-infused beats. His ninth album, Bleeds, has just been released with glowing reviews across the board, further solidifying his status as a true pioneer.
Winning the DMC DJ of the year award back in 2001, Yoda has continually carried the torch for Hip-Hop in mainstream media over the years. His seminal How to Cut and Paste Mixtape Series showcases the maestro at his best, scratching his way through an array of pure Hip-Hop gold like a madman possessed. Hip-Hop Connection claimed he was one of the top three DJ’s to see before you die (alongside DJ Premier) and he still sells out venues like no other, regularly performing all across the world. The force is strong in this one.
Starting out with Nottingham supergroup Outdaville and quickly gaining the attention of the head honcho of UK Hip-Hop, Tim Westwood, Scorzayzee quickly established himself as naturally one of the most gifted lyricists Britain has and ever will see. He made huge headlines with his 2003 hit “Great Britain,” a scathing attack on the political and social hierarchy of the governing state, yet sadly his battle with schizophrenia (induced by smoking a hell of a lot of cannabis) saw him never reach his potential. Fortunately, he returned to the limelight in 2015 in good health with his crowd-funded debut album, Aeon Piece To The Puzzle, being heralded by critics and fans alike.
Starting out in the London Posse in the late 80s, one of the first influential homegrown Hip-Hop acts in Britain, ‘Da Riddim Killa’ has possibly the most illustrious of careers in UK Hip-Hop. A true stalwart in the game, Rodney P has collaborated with some true legends in all aspects of music from Common to Bjork, NWA to Big Audio Dynamite.
Hailing from West Indian immigrants, his unique recipe of dub saturated beats and street poetry has seen him grow to be one of the most respected UK emcees, founding the influential Riddim Killa label in conjunction with Low Life Records and unearthing a whole generation of rappers and artists that cultivated the Hip-Hop movement.
Simply put, without Rodney P there would be no Hip-Hop within England as we’ve come to know it. He’s a boundary breaker in every sense of the phrase.
Rising to prominence during the early 2000s, Wiley almost individually brought Grime music to the forefront of British culture to create a legacy only really paying dividends today.
His work with the Roll Deep crew and his highly influential Eskibeat instrumentals (a combined mixture of Garage, Drum & Bass and Dancehall) established him as The Godfather of Grime, a label he wears with panache and raw swagger.
He’s helped to develop the careers of many now-huge names within the Grime circuit including Stormzy, Dizzee Rascal, Skepta and JME, where his influence is highly evident. His sonic use of comic expressionism and inner city slang helped set the foundations of a movement that is truly ruling urban Britain during this day and age.
A complete emblematic symbol of his own artistry, Wiley formed a collective that just won’t stop snowballing and its safe to say you haven’t seen the last of this man just yet.