Image: Loki, by Vito Andreoni
Recently, the journalist Harris Brine has been very kindly letting me contribute to his Scottish Music columns for pro-Independence tyoes National Collective.
I’m not a member of NC, but I am pro-independence, although that doesn’t really come into what I’ve written for them that much. I’ve been writing about some of my favourite artists in the Scottish hip-hop scene, and hope to continue to contribute.
Here’s a precis of the first two pieces, the originals can be found here and here. I also have a longer piece, with interviews with folks like Gasp, Mark McG and Loki, in the NC zine, which I believe is out there somewhere, lurking in the literary corners of Edinburgh and Glasgow…
A PROPOSITION: THE SCOTTISH HIP-HOP RENAISSANCE
Stanley Odd’s SAY Award nomination in 2013, the meteoric rise of Hector Bizerk, and the signing of Young Fathers to Anticon heralded a new acceptance of Scottish hip-hop as a form ready to compete in a global market.
2013 saw the return of Glasgow’s Loki. On Edging God Out, he deals unflinchingly with his battle against alcoholism. He takes on corporate greed on ‘Altar of the Swoosh’, his own ego on ‘Washed Up’, and hands out lyrical beatdowns in hyper violent, imagistic cuts like ‘Michael Keaton’ and ‘Omnilash’. It is an album of real scope and ambition, his finest to date. The follow up, Government Issue Music Protest (GIMP), promises to be even more multi-layered, tackling the independence question, Scottish identity, and political apathy.
Hip-hop’s direct mode of address, its fusion of the personal and political, make it an ideal vehicle for both protest and social realism, and Loki is Scotland’s greatest craftsman in this regard – an utterly compelling, deeply principled spokesman for the culture, as evidenced by his appearances as a commentator on TV news debates as it is in his highly technical, densely literate lyrics - and more recently, his insightful, button-pushing, intellectually rigorous blog posts.
I believe the homegrown take on this international genre is going through something of a renaissance.
One of the things that demonstrates this is the increased amount of collaboration happening, and no one who serves as a better example of this than Jordan ‘Konchis’ Carey, an extremely talented young rapper and beatmaker from Glasgow (originally Paisley), who has been instrumental in some key releases. His touch was evident on Loki‘s Edging God Out, producing two of the standout tracks.
Konchis also handled production for the whole of Gasp‘s excellent A Series of Fortunate Misunderstandings, an absolutely astonishing album from the Badmouth Battles founder, who has done so much to increase the popularity of Scottish hip-hop through promoting events, supporting high-profile touring artists, and arranging verbal clashes.
On Misunderstandings…, Gasp approaches the mic with a new-found maturity and unflinching honesty, rhyming candidly about alcohol, drugs and violence without once glamourising the subjects. On tracks like ‘Rain Town’ – an acknowledged anthem in the Glasgow hip-hop catalogue – and ‘Haunted’, Konchis matches Gasp’s lyrics with dark-edged, complex beats. He is now working on material for Gasp’s follow up, Fear and Self Loathing in Glasvegas.
As a rapper, Konchis made his presence known last year with his writing partner Physiks – the duo delivered their ambitious album The Lying, The Rich and The War Globe, showcasing a dazzlingly high-speed set of complex, engaging, often deeply political lyrics with multiple parallel rhymes and chopped, sample-driven beats.
It is work that equals the quality of similarly ambitious new tracks that rapper DePTHS has been delivering lately, with producers like Jaisu and Inkke. Konchis’ instrumental beat work, sometimes with partner Jetsam, marks him out as easily the equal of either producer.
Finally, the fact Konchis is a member of Glasgow hip-hop supergroup Toy Control – made up of a core of emcees; Loki, Hector Bizerk’s Louie, Gasp, and II Tone Committee veteran Mistah Bohze – also speaks to his significance. Like another collective featuring some of the same members, The Being, Toy Control represent the cutting edge of Scotland’s hip-hop movement.
Their approach increasingly eschews underground attitudes for mainstream appeal, without sacrificing quality or changing aesthetic. As Scotland’s rappers begin to feel their influence extend beyond the confines of a vibrant and dynamic local scene, Konchis is one to keep a close eye on.
For those of you who will, I hope, find this an interesting introduction to the latest Scottish hip-hop has to offer, please explore and support these artists and their work. There are lots more talented emcees and producers I want to tell you about, so stick around. Peace.