To me the last year of success amongst UK Hip hop and UK Grime (or UK ‘Rap’) has been something I’ve anticipated for the last 10 years. UK ‘Rap’ on a commercial/chart level consisted of the likes of Big Brovaz sampling classic english musicals or Blazin Squad butchering US hip hop classics, not to mention the ‘ferocity’ of Mis-teeq showing the world how us British folk rap.
This was despite the fact I was ‘enlightened’ and sourced tunes from the likes of Itch FM; looking up to underground acts like Skinnyman and Taskforce. Despite it’s massive underground following, ‘British made’ Hip Hop was never able to hold a strong reputation (especially outside of major cities) which led to labels playing safe and going with ‘plastic’ (or put simply, marketable) acts.
Around 2003 I went to see Pro Green (a friend of a friend who’d recently changed his name from ‘Oh-Z’) battle at the Jumpoff which was then at the Scala, Kings Cross. He was featured in this 2004 BBC entertainment news report, which has plenty of predictable 8 mile comparisons but makes for nostalgic reading 6 years later. It also adds context to his recent no. 3 chart success and despite having a commercial sound, ‘I need you tonight’ is a good track so you cant hate but congratulate the guy.
Hitting no. 4 in the charts and #1 in the album charts is Plan B with a heavily contrasted sound to his pre-debut album sound which initially sounded like an acoustic Hackney fusion of Eminem and NYC horror core legend Necro. It seems the tables have now turned as he’s (under major label influence, I suspect) hit the top spot with a sound more akin to Amy Winehouse as part of a concept album about ‘Stickland Banks‘ being sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. To be fair, singing isn’t new to Plan B but I do have reservations with the BBC labelling him a rapper.
Even if Prof Green needs to rap over a 1987 sample of INXS, and singing is in fact the plan b for Plan B, it does shed some more light to the platform of this underground, especially when it exceeds 1st week sales of Kelis who entered the chart the same week, with the David Guetta hit Acapella, which which I reckon will become one of the biggest R&B tracks of 2010.