By Pete Cashmore
Here are 10 classic UK hip hop tracks you may not have heard. Actually, you probably have, in which case, I apologise for being rubbish and out of touch, but then I’m 38, what do you expect?
1. BLAK TWANG – Real Estate
I chose this first and wrote it last because it’s so hard to nail what makes it so brilliant, but brilliant it is. It is just the most exact evocation of what breadline life in South London is like, sonically and lyrically. For me, British rap’s greatest moment. Yeah, seriously.
2. SINDECUT – Sindecut’s Kickin’ Yeah
I own this on vinyl, which makes me awesome. Basically, it’s Sly And The Family Stone’s You Can Make It If You Try fed into the turntable threshing machine that is DJ Fingers and it’s one of the best British rap tracks ever too.
3. FRESHSKI AND MO ROCK – Pick Up On This
Showing my age with this one. Came out at the end of 1987 on Tuff Groove, whoever they were, and the good news is you can find it on Youtube. Check those drum rolls! That brass! Ooh, I’ve just come over all funny.
4. OVERLORD X – Rough In Hackney
It is, of course, perfectly pleasant in Hackney nowadays, but this makes it sound otherwise. This was when most UK hip-hop tried to sound all fin de siécle and mental by throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the mix, to good effect.
5. DICK LIMERICK ACADEMY – The Wedding Wrist
Given that this is a song about Rikky Wiley being caught wanking in his hotel room during a wedding reception, it’s surprisingly funky.
6. DROP – The Beat Bites
Not going to lie to you: you will never ever hear this song, I’m only including it to show what an exciting obscurant I am. It was a white label (actually, it was blue) scratch mix of stuff from about 1987 and the rumour was that it was The Stereo MCs under another name. And that’s all I know.
7. KRISPY 3 – On Tempo
Absolutely brilliant in its ’94 Re-Lick version, this could have provided Kold Sweat with a bona fide chart hit if only they had the budget to promote it. Irresistible double bass bassline, exuberant lyrics, it’s a rap celebration on record.
8. RUM COMMITTEE – Citizen Pinball
I’m biased because I wrote their press biography, but this is the best track on an already superb album. Bukioe’s opening line – “This town be my pitfall” – is a classic example of less saying more, one of my favourite rap lines ever. And what a title! As a way to describe the ebb and flow of nightlife in a city, it’s unmatchable.
9. JEFFERSON PRICE – What You Sayin’ Though
Right up to date now, Jefferson has absolutely smashed the ball out of the park with this one – it wouldn’t sound out of place on Styles Of Beyond’s first album in terms of intensity and lyrical complexity. He comes from Scarborough, for fuck’s sake.
10. PROFESSOR GREEN – Upper Clapton Dance
You’ve definitely heard this one, but I’m throwing this one in in case the casual reader only associates him with dodgy cover versions and Lily Allen hook-ups. This one is fucking BOSS and the video’s good too. He still had bad teeth when it was made.
Pete Cashmore is a journalist and editor-at-large for Nuts Magazine. In recent months he has been a fixture at most Don’t Flop rap battle events and is about to make his bow in the battling arena this April against Don’t Flop blogger Bentlegs (both of whom have never rapped, let alone battled before). Pete is battling in aid of Depression Alliance, a cause close to his heart having suffered from depression himself (something he discusses openly in an excellent piece for the official Don’t Flop Blog).