Words from: Fred Garratt-Stanley
The dingy cobbled streets of the Small Heath from the 1920s have turned into imposing skyscrapers of 21st century Birmingham, but the rudeness captured by Peaky Blinders remains central to much of the music made in England’s second largest city. Known as the spiritual home of metal, but now known as the birthplace of some of the nation’s most exciting rappers, here are some of the artists who pioneered a resurrecting brum sound.
As the video for ‘Moscow’ shows by putting on tweed suits and peaked caps reminiscent of John Shelby’s landscape clothing, Jaykae’s sense of connection to the history of his city is clear. His sound is raw, energetic and emotionally hard and embodies the struggles inherent in the social environment that built him up. 2017 EP ‘Where have you been?’ shows the emotional depth of his lyrics on tracks like “Headache”, and Murkage Dave’s soothing tones formed “Every Country” to a subtle allusion to the garage pioneer Mike Skinner from Birmingham. A few successful Jaykae features have followed on tracks by Aitch, Slowthai and Tom Zanetti, and a full project is certainly in preparation.
After being catapulted to fame by the fourth edition of her freestyle series ‘Queen’s Speech’ in 2015, Lady Leshurr has established herself as one of the UK’s best-known rappers. Her unapologetic use of the Brummie accent against beats that combine pop, dancehall and hip hop has created an environment in which city MCs can pursue an honest vocal expression. What is most appealing is her refusal to take herself too seriously. From the wordy Queen’s Speech Freestyles to the album title ‘Mona Leshurr’, the comically self-dubbed Queen Of UK Rap has an unbridled ability to put energy and fun into everything she does.
A recently released set with novelist and DJ Oblig at Rinse FM highlighted the ability of Brum Grime MC C4 to transform his classic text “Everyone knows my bars at the rave” in such a way that it can be applied to any location (a highlight: “Everyone knows my bars in the church”). The influence of the older brother, producer Preditah, penetrates the June EP ‘C4ramel’, a collection of melodic garage tracks. C4 jumped into the studio with Conducta and Sheffield MC Coco for the latest release, Crowd Reaction, a track designed to take advantage of the commercial success of the garage manufacturer’s recent collaboration with AJ Tracey on Ladbroke Grove.
Mist’s rise was the strongest of all who pioneered a new wave of brum music, and his use of British-Asian slang and Punjabi has spoken to a community that is at times marginalized in British rap culture felt. His influence on the rap scene grows daily and has helped him build a strong fan base outside his city as he is driven to national fame by the single “Game Changer” and tracks on tracks like Chipmunk and Fredo.
No-Nonsense-Grime MC Sox is one of the most famous underground voices in Birmingham after having shot both solo and crew invasion alert sets and freestyles for a decade, maintaining unswerving loyalty to Birmingham’s grime sound. His rapid multi-syllable plans and skippy flows have made him one of the city’s most respected characters, and the latest single “Bikes and Planes” makes fun of his refusal to meet commercial expectations or leave the city: “My mother said John, you need to fix yourself. You live in Spain, but that was in the past. Stop cycling and chilling in the apartments.”. As long as he produces tracks at the same level, Sox fans are more than happy that he will be cycling through his housing estate for the foreseeable future.
Blue Room Mafia
The collective’s most recent publications come mainly from Ninioh, the cheeky, dynamic MC who can be described as the front man of the group. Producer Lauren Ralph drives the crew’s sound, which combines relaxed, catchy rap / hip-hop beats with bass trap influences. The ingenuity of his production can be seen in his choice of music Zelda‘s lost forests on Samwise’s single’ Nemo ‘. Blue Room Mafia recently teamed up with Brooklyn musician Erick The Architect to produce Senorita, a funky, playful track with a rhythmic Latin American beat that you can hardly hang your head on.