Often dismissed as the sole preserve of teenage conspiracy theorists and stoner manchildren, hip hop in the UK appears to be having a moment. With trap saturating this summer’s festival line-ups, and Britain’s only hip hop weekender BoomBap welcoming a record number of heads through its gates this year, there’s never been a better time to dust off your hi-tops and head out to catch some city-grown spitters. Here are five that deserve your full attention.
While the majority of British MCs walk the line between bleak realism and straight-up misanthropy, newcomers Hawk House are fronting like a modern day Tribe Called Quest. The trio’s mixtape ‘A Handshake to the Brain’ is so laid back it’s practically horizontal and, with reflections of Erykah Badu, is the perfect soundtrack to see out the dying days of summer. Catch them soon whilst they’re still playing reasonably small venues – they won’t be for long.
Everyone knows there are few scenarios that cannot be improved with the addition of a live brass section. As much as the DJ/MC combo has come to be the staple live set-up of the UK hip hop scene, it’s no match for hearing those classic soul samples so intrinsic to the genre played by a tight-as-hell seven-piece band. Enter Granville Sessions, who’ve been smashing up this year’s festival circuit, to blow your limited edition Stussy socks off.
Head, shoulders, knees and toes above most of his contemporaries, Jam Baxter is basically the André Breton of UK hip hop. With a penchant for the abject, and an oceanic vocabulary, he paints psychedelic landscapes with a distinct Orwellian flavour, putting a much-needed surrealist spin on those well-worn rap topics of poverty, political unrest, and the Friday night rinse-out. His most recent offering – the aptly titled ‘Fresh Flesh’ – is a hypnotic collaboration with Astral Black head honcho Jon Phonics, and drops today on the mighty High Focus records.
One look at Kate Tempest’s CV would be enough to make most people want to give it all up and go live in a shed. An award-winning poet, MC and published playwright, she’s just released her solo album ‘Everybody Down on Big Dada’ throughout which she radiates both a sage-like wisdom and the relatable charm of someone you’d meet down your local pub. Check out the video for lead single ‘The Beigness’ which features the effervescent ‘Four Lions’ star Adeel Akhtar in full drag.
Masterful in her ability to assimilate every conceivable rap genre, the frighteningly talented Little Simz is finally garnering some well-deserved recognition riding the recent wave of trap music. If 808s and Odd Future-esque nihilism are your thing, head down to XOYO this Wednesday (Aug 20) to get a face-full of avante garde rap, as Simz plays alongside Rejjie Snow, the McCabre Brothers and Onoe Caponoe.
Whatever your genre, keep up to date with the freshest cuts the capital has to offer here.
By Kitty Richardson