We’ve got a lot of back catalogue to work through and we’ll be bringing that into the new site over the coming months. To start with we bring you (again) ukhh.com’s first ever interview by Flat 4 and BSE from April 1999 lovingly reproduced for your attention…
It’s 1996, The Brotherhood have just released an incredible album on Virgin Records and they’re British rap’s latest great hopes for commercial success. Optimism is rife, but the tale takes the usual sorry turn, with the record company wanting the group to compromise their ideals. Ultimately this leads to ‘low key’ promotion and The Brotherhood leaving the label to do their own thing. This has happened before, and no doubt it will happen again. The difference with The Brotherhood is that they’ve been together for long enough to have the strong ties that hold them together as a unit, and they were with the major label for long enough to get good experience of the business.
After a long time out of the public eye and with many people not thinking we’d see any more vinyl from them, they appeared on the posse cut on the wicked Mad Doctor X EP (on Son Records, with Blak Twang, Quakes and Voyager), and now their own excellent EP has come out on Blue Print records (an imprint of Monroe Production Co.), that could never be mistaken for anything but straight outta London Tahn.
So when a UK rap group has been through as much as this lot, some explanation and clarification is in order. Shylock, Spyce and Dexter (a rarity – a talkative DJ!), broke it down for us on major labels, UK MCs, what technology has in store for us all and more, as outspoken as ever.
It was one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve done and I know BSE had a good time (Don’t speak for me bitch – B) – so without further ado, the introductions…
Shylock – I’m the good-looking one, I like to fish and I also have an extensive collection of bottle tops. Shylock.
Spyce – Mr Spyce, smoking out right now, chillin – thass me – chillin – y’get me.
Dexter – Dexter, production, DJ, generally nice bloke, the brotherhood.
On your latest 12″ you ask how many real British hip-hoppers are in the house right now – what’s your opinion on that?
D: I don’t really think that’s any of your business is it really? [laughs]
Shy: It’s just like taking the idea that KRS did on that album ‘how many real hip-hoppers are in the house right now’. Basically that quite a lot of the British people that are doing and listening to rap aren’t either 100% into being British/listening to British rap or they’re still thinking that rapping American and about American things is the key, and that just pisses us off. I mean this is something we’ve been going on about for a long time now and we’ll keep on about it. I mean how many of them are there? Not that many at the moment.
So who are you feeling at the moment?
Shy: Well I’ve got two birds on the go at the moment.
Sp: I’m feeling myself – I feel gorgeous.
Shy: I think the only person who’s impressed me recently is Roots Manuva.
D: Yeah he’s always impressed me y’know.
Shy: I can’t really talk about anyone else ’cause no one else talks about us.
D: I tell you what about him right – he’s always been there right, in the background, but he’s always done his own thing. He’s a nice geezer, his lyrics are good, his flow’s nice. That’s it really.
You’ve done the record business both ways now – through a major label with all that comes with that, and on a lower budget with an independent label…
Shy: When did your career actually go downhill? [wails!]
… nah nah – what are the good/bad points of each?
Sp: Like the label loot – could do with that, but there’s the freedom – being with a major label they put so many restrictions on your arse, want you to do flower lyrics and all that shit and you’re not really into that bollocks. I mean if you want a muppet band go and create one. Y’know, we were doing our own thing before, and we’re going to keep on doing our own thing, so it was like ‘later man’ ’cause we aint into this puppet control shit.
Shy: I mean I think that’s the crux of the matter – we can do everything now musically that we could do then, but the reason it all went pear-shaped when we were with them was they wanted us to do stuff we didn’t want to do. So we didn’t do it. That’s why we left. Of course we’d like to be getting a wage out of it, but we’re not. We’re just doing what we’ve got to do to make the ends meet until… until whenever.
Do you reckon even if a major label like Virgin or whatever created a muppet UK hip-hop band, would it sell anyway?
Sp: There’s no market for that y’get me. ‘Cause there’s really hungry MCs & DJs out there that would just shun that. The only people that’s done that is that fucking ‘Five’ bollocks – they’re making a mint. That’s it.
D: That aint even rap though y’know what I mean – that’s silly music – that ain’t real. The thing is with England, you couldn’t do it on a massive scale like America ’cause it’s such a bigger country and people are really into it.
Shy: We just haven’t got the social outlet or the demographics in this country to make it work. The majority of the people in this country just want to listen to pop music and get pissed on a Friday night. They don’t want to listen to rap music.
What do you think about people going to go out and buy Warren G or Busta or whatever when people like you are much more relevant to them?
Sp: It’s an ignorance thing – if we go up there and do a 2 minute set we’re going to get buckle
D: if a yank comes over and does a 2 minute set they want to y’know suck his dick and say ‘yeah wicked show’, even though it’s only 2 minutes – ‘yeah he was here, I saw him in the flesh’.
D: It’s a ‘who carries prestige already’ type thing. These people have already sold big in the states, so the press goes wild about them here, MTV goes wild about them here, they’re superstars in America, so they get all the focus, all the prestige, ’cause they’re already superstars somewhere else. We’re not superstars, we ain’t even fuckin Super Tennents – it just don’t happen.
Shy: I mean there could be a UK artist who could be exactly the same as Busta, who could have done what Busta done before he did it.
D: Can you imagine him walking down Deptford High Street? ‘Oh My God yes Oh my god’ – fucking loony – lock him up. Imagine a UK rapper all dressed up like that.
Sp: Fur coats n’ everything – lock the brother up – lock him up!
D: Like ‘what a wanker – look at that cunt trying to be something he aint’.
Sp: It’s a backwards situation y’know, we going backwards instead of going forwards.
Shy: Well we aint going backwards.
Sp: But over here I mean, other man.
Can you see a way forward though – is it ever going to change?
Sp: Yeah – hopefully…
Shy: Personally I can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel but I’m just carrying on doing it ’cause I just love this shit. I believe, as far as major labels are concerned, the whole thing about having some sort of longevity is that every 4 years or so major labels start signing British acts, they just do. Over the last 12 years you’ve had people like Caveman, Cash Crew, London Posse, Wee Papa Girl Rappers even. It happens every now and then. When we got signed Silent Eclipse got signed, Kaliphz got signed…
D: It always happens. Every now and then record companies think ‘ooh – what’s happening on the black scene’, but because of drum n bass that’s like making so much money they don’t even need to do that, but look at Photek, I mean they’re fucked now. Major labels don’t know what the fucks going on, but they do know how to sell music to people without any brains. But people with brains who’re making music, they don’t know how to handle them. But the Internet will change all that anyway.
Shy: That’s why all these major labels get busy with licensing and distributing other people’s shit. They know they can’t handle these other areas, so they just leave it to people that have an understanding of it, and just exploit them, But someone’s getting paid somewhere down the line. I mean who’re Skint with – is it Virgin? Anyway someone’s licensed them, and the 2 people who run Skint, they got paid, but you can be sure the artists didn’t. What it’s done for the sales who knows, but it’s done the major label no end of good as far as prestige in the industry. They can go to the next A&R man & say ‘Oh, I’ve got Skint now, that’s mine.’ ‘Oh damn – I wanted Skint. I’m going to have someone else. I’m going to have Ninja Tune’.
D: And all your ideas of ‘major labels suck’ – I mean if someone offers you £2m for a label you set up for a grand, different thing you know – you’re thinking ‘all my artists are going to get looked after, the distribution’ll be sorted’.
Sp: But some man don’t even think that though, they just think ‘yeah, wicked, bank’. Like Russell Simmons – selling Def Jam
D:Yeah I mean all those smaller labels except Master P, they’ve all got like Columbia or someone in their corner y’know.
What about breaking yourselves in the states? Can you see that?
Sp: Well like I said, when you got to compete with that kind of shit y’know what I mean… D: The only way like I can see it working in the states is coming through from the underground, which would be good, and I think it’d have to come from California. I’ve been to both coasts and I think that Californians are more open to music. Yeah in New York all they want to hear is New York
D: Yeah, very much like London really in a lot of ways But California, I went over there to a conference, and they knew who the Brotherhood were. I mean when I came out of this room, with these young Thai boys, I was holding the album in my hand and this kid says ‘I’ve got that album man’ and when I told him I was something to do with the Brotherhood he was asking me all sorts y’know what we’re doing n’ all that. And they knew loads about it, they liked the samples, the different sound. But if you played it in New York they’d be like ‘Yo but what’s he saying? Where they from? Oh – you got rap there?’.