Around the time that 80 was discovering the Cincinnati hip hop scene in the early 2000s, across the pond I was starting to explore a local scene of my own.
As a teenager growing up in northern England, various strains of guitar and pop music were the usual listening material. Despite the influence of my friends, I didn’t fully identify with these scenes, and instead, had a penchant for more rhythm-led sounds such as drum and bass and other electronic music, plus the attitude, flow and funk of US hip hop.
Fortunately a new type of music was being brought to my attention. I came to know it as UK hip hop – featuring rappers using local references, accents and slang, combined with strong influences from American hip hop, the UK’s Jamaican community, and the various flavours of home-grown dance and underground beats. This was an exciting time.
I initally discovered this loosely defined UK Hip Hop scene through Tim Westwood‘s rap show on BBC Radio 1. The show usually focused on US rap, but if we were lucky, he’d dedicate 10-15 minutes at the end of the show to UK rappers. If you’d stayed up late enough, you might catch a few verses, followed by some guys from London shouting out their ‘mans dem on road’. Some sounded very very good, some were more questionable. But none-the-less, it was intriguing, so I started staying up late.
Around this time, I heard that a guy called Roots Manuva was playing a short DJ set on another Radio 1 evening show. His name sounded familiar, and I may have heard one of his songs, but didn’t know much about his musical taste. So I pressed record on my tape deck anyway.
This was a good move. For the next several months I replayed that tape constantly. I dusted off the original cassette last week, and amateur detective work leads me to believe it was Roots Manuva’s Hardcore Half Hour mix from 2002.
Much like (I understand) the hacking scene was at the time, UK hip hop was largely underground and small-scale, occasionally teetering on the edges of the mainsteam. Bigger songs like Roots Manuva’s Witness (1 Hope), and Don’t See The Signs by Mark B and Blade would occupy the lower reaches of the top 40 charts, meaning that not many people in the UK knew about it through standard mainstream media. Internet usage was still relatively low, however…my parents had a dial up connection to explore.
I ran a telephone line extension up to my bedroom, and got to work. Peer-to-peer software was an eye-opener – I’d found a niche community of like-minded individuals, who enjoy home-grown hip hop and spend extraordinary amounts of time sitting at their computers. There were others out there! Shouts to Soulseek, Limewire and Morpheus. Also, malware authors, whose creations I tried to avoid in my quest for downloadable music.
These initial discoveries lead me to delve further into the genre, through niche music forums, which in turn lead to numerous album purchases, gig tickets, and real life connections.
Looking back, much of the this musical self-discovery was a result of long hours alone in my bedroom, scouring radio frequencies and figuring out this new-fangled internet thing. It would eventually lead to making a connection with a talented man known as int eighty, forming our own music group, and sharing our music with people all over the world.
In retrospect, I believe that isolation and alone time was a key factor in shaping my musical taste, as well as learning to transfer these influences into my own creations. I guess this also applies to life in general. Isolation allows time for the mind to wander, time for exploration and creativity, and time to develop skills and absorb inspiration that can stick with you for a lifetime. As a child, maybe through activities such drawing and writing. As a teenager; coding, designing, learning software, and general experimentation. Cooking or science. Or making average hip hop beats.
On that note, a genuine thank you goes out to everyone who has supported Dual Core in any way whatsoever. Your appreciation motivates us to keep creating, and exploring these strange workings of our minds. And in turn, we hope that our music brings some genuine pleasure to yours.
Anyway, for the TL;DR crowd. We’ve compiled a YouTube playlist of said early 2000s UK hip hop for your earholes. Excuse the blatant brain-dump. Grab a cup of tea end enjoy 🙂