When it comes to Hip Hop, Manchester’s finest is without doubt Broke ‘n’ £nglish – Strategy, DRS and Konny Kon for those who don’t know. It is just over a year since UKHH last spoke to ’em and in that time, they’ve recorded and mixed an album and released ‘Terms and Conditions’, a mixtape showcasing their distinctive gritty Mancunian flavour and furthering their formidable reputation as razor sharp lyricists and dope soundsmiths, a heavy slice of underground Manchester Hip Hop that’s all too easy to rinse out on the repeat and shuffle. A tasty appetizer for the album waiting in the wings, Terms and Conditions comes highly recommended. Check out the inside info on the mixtape and Estate Recordings, plus their take on Hip Hop, Channel U, one of the eternals -Emcee’s Verses Rapper MC’s and next generation of hot kids comin’ up in Manchester.
UKHH: First up, give us a breakdown of Microdisiacs, Broke ‘n’ £nglish and the Estate Recordings family.
Strategy: There’s a lot of members – Strategy, DRS, Konny Kon, that’s the main crew, but the rest is, obviously, family.
UKHH: Is that Microdisiacs or Broke ‘n’ £nglish?
Strategy: Well Microdisiacs – Broke’n’£nglish is DRS, Strategy and Konny Kon, Microdisiacs was Konny Kon, Real Deal (at the time), TBC –
Konny: You’re makin it hard –
Strategy: Go on then!
Konny Kon: Right let me break this down. Microdisiacs was Strategy – then known as Real Deal, Konny Kon – then known as Konfuzed, then there was another three MCs, two dropped out but the third was TBC, and DJ Didjit. Microdisiacs split up, Strategy went on to do Broke ‘n’ £nglish, I went to do my solo thing, now I DJ for them and do a few verses on certain tracks (for Broke ‘n’ £nglish). That’s where it’s at right now, that’s the way I see it, I think he would say that I’m Broke ‘n’ £nglish and I’d be proud to say that you get me? But I don’t know if I’m there yet, you’d have to ask him.
Strategy: There’s a lot of mates in one crew so there’s a lot to describe, there’s a lot of history between each friend. It’s a long story. It’s a long story, but at the end of the day, the main factor is that we’re all mates, so from there we make music and it’s simple as that.
“…I think the weather has a direct affect on every bit of music from Manchester…”
UKHH: Have you got any plans then for a family album? Like some Wu Tang business?
Strategy: That’s what it – well, it’s not like ‘some Wu Tang business’ now, but that’s what it is, basically, there’s so many of us contributing towards the cause that no one’s got a specific role, it’s just a collective thing that we do. So – the set up is big, and hard to explain, but it’s there, everyone knows what they have to do toward the shit and they do it so that’s it.
UKHH: Who else is on the Terms and Conditions Mixtape?
Strategy: Goodz is on there, Johnny Chimpo is on there, with beats and lyrics, there’s a beat by Blame, Fallacy’s on there…
Konny Kon: Mikey Don’s on there as well.
Strategy: Yeah Mikey Don’s on everything, no matter what we do, even if he doesn’t say nuttin’ Mikey Don’s on everything – whether in heart, physical, spiritual or whatever!
UKHH: The label, Estate Recordings (http://www.estaterecordings.com), how’s that going?
Strategy: It’s a lot of work but it’s going well, can’t complain with it. It’s a full time thing now so all of our wages go into it, from our work, daytime jobs and all that. So it’s going well but it’s a struggle, it’s constant work but because I love what I’m doing and stuff, just continue with it so – enjoyin’ it man, as usual.
UKHH: Are you getting wise to the whole business side, the distribution and all that?
Strategy: Yeah man, definitely. You learn. You learn a lot as you go along. Like in the last few weeks, I’ve realised it’s not about being an emcee, it’s about being behind the scenes. Mans on it, doing my thing musical wise, but – you have to learn about a lot other than music. Five percent of the time you spend in the studio, and the rest of the time is just spent – sending letters, speaking to people, just hangin’ around.
“…I’m hearing it played back on the radio and that’s mans’ dream! There’s nothing better than that, fuck everything else!…”
UKHH: Does that suit you?
Strategy: Yeah, I’m a loafer! I enjoy hangin’ round! For some people it’s work to come to every night and show their faces and be about on the scene but for me, that’s what I’ve done anyway so I’m kinda out there already so – it’s second nature, really. If you enjoy what you do, it’s not work innit?
UKHH: [To Konny Kon] Do you get involved in the business side of it or would you rather just do the emcee-ing?
Konny Kon: I send promos to DJs, and contact people and tell ’em things are coming out, but I don’t really like doin’ it, I prefer just makin’ music to be honest with ya, so anyone who is doin’ that I give props to them, because to focus on your music and put stuff out as well is twice as much – headache, really. I do what’s gotta be done, but I don’t really like doin’ it to be honest.
UKHH: You’d rather hire someone in at some point to do it for you?
Konny Kon: I wouldn’t hire someone, I’d prefer someone that I knew, who I could trust to do it. And there’s people doin’ that – Strategy’s doin’ that, my man Didjit’s doin’ that so it’s all good.
UKHH: Yeah, you’ve been doin’ tracks with Dj Didjit as well?
Konny Kon: Yeah, big up Didjit, man, and Skullsnap records been doin’ stuff with Cappo, P Brothers – Krispy’s got a new 12” out on Skullsnap records [www.skullsnap.com], so, look out for that.
“…The standards have dropped for me, there’s a lot of shit people. To be honest, at the moment, I’m not really feelin’ Hip Hop, Hip Hop is wack!…”
UKHH: Some of the best music that’s come out of Manchester tends to be quite miserable, would you agree?
Strategy: I think personally – a lot of people complain about the rain but I enjoy it, I think it brings a sense of…
UKHH: Rain can’t kill ya!
Strategy: That’s what I been trying to say for years, people don’t understand! I’ve got it in a lyric, I can’t remember the actual verse, but people don’t understand the Mancunian mentality like, stayin’ in, ‘wet play’. Just wet play in itself affects you as a youth to when you get as an adult, so I think that the weather has a direct effect on every bit of music from Manchester, no matter what and everyone always says ‘oh, I love the sunshine’, and ‘I wish it wouldn’t rain so much’ and that but I love that cos I think that’s what fuckin’ – makes us stand out . London don’t have rain, don’t have sun, it’s just in between.
UKHH: So no plans to move to London then?
Konny: NO! No plans to move to London! It’s all good up here. We ain’t got no competition, we’re shining, we don’t have a thousand other people doin’ it, people want to book shows, we’re the ones they come to.
UKHH: Is there enough to keep you on your toes?
Konny Kon: Yeah, yeah.
Strategy: It depends how high you aim.
Konny Kon: Yeah, I think there is, personally. If we was in London, we could be getting booked at a few different places but there’s a thousand other people lookin’ at getting booked at those other places too. When the big acts come over here to Manchester, we’re the ones supporting ’em, because there’s no one else to do it.
“…all the kids have grown up with, is with Channel U and 1Xtra, so with that in mind you have to be very careful. The 1Xtra people and Channel U have a great responsibility…”
Strategy: I just think – this is not a diss to London but I think on the grand scale of things, UK music is just a splash in the ocean, so us as Mancunians look at London like it’s big, and London’s – they are doin’ their thing, I’m not disrespecting it, but – they’re not as big as we think , we’re just looking up to the next thing so you just gotta build with what you’ve got. I think if we had done exactly what we’ve done here, in London, we’d be bigger on the whole grand scale of things, but that’s not where the challenge is for me, it’s what I can do from my bedroom. Everything – Estate Recordings is done from my house, my front room, where I sleep, where I live, where I cook, it come from there, and that’s the thing for me. That’s what music is, spreading, you get me?
UKHH: Yeah, coming out of your environment.
Strategy: Yeah man, definitely. When I hear our music on the radio I know whoever’s playing it, that CD I’ve touched it because I burnt it, and that beat, I made the hi hats for it, and made the beat, the lyrics – I got man down to the house to spit on it so everything’s come from my living room, and then I’m hearing it, played back on radio, from elsewhere and that’s man’s dream! There’s nothing better than that, fuck everything else – fuck that. So that’s me; and the only reason I’m in my room, is because of the rain outside, anyway! Because if it weren’t raining, I’d be out somewhere!
UKHH: Have things like 1Xtra and Channel U made a difference do you think? To yourselves – your profile, what you do?
Konny Kon: I think 1Xtra – and Channel U – is a good thing and a bad thing at the same time. It’s definitely given us a platform to get our music on another level – we used to do pirate radio, and everyone in Manchester knew about the pirate radio but now we’ve got it not just on a UK thing but on a worldwide scale. 1xtra goes worldwide so everyone can hear our stuff, you can go anywhere and people go ‘yeah I’ve heard your track, I’m feelin’ it’ whatever but at the same time it’s brought out of the woodwork a thousand times more wack emcees and wack producers, like on Channel U for instance, there’s people on there with videos who ain’t even got a record out.
“…With the good comes the bad, and the goodness at the moment is really getting swallowed up…”
They go, ‘oh let’s make a video’ and they’re not even selling nothing! What’s the point of that? It gives people a chance to see what we’re doing, but it gives a lot of people who are wack – the standards have dropped for me, there’s a lot of shit people. To be honest, at the moment, I’m not really feelin’ Hip Hop, Hip Hop is wack! Not even just UK, I’m not really feelin’ Hip Hop!!! And I ain’t, like, an old school guy; I’ve been listening to Hip Hop for quite a few years, say – fifteen years. And right now in this country it’s pretty wack, really.
UKHH: So what about what you’re making, how is that different?
Konny Kon: For instance, the Broke ‘n’ £nglish Mix CD, although I’m on a few tracks, when I stand back and listen to it, listen to the tracks I’m not on, I can imagine myself buying that. Like me, I am critical, If you ask anyone who knows me I’ll say I don’t like this don’t like that, but that Broke ‘n’ £nglish CD, I can honestly say, I like it. There’s two tracks I don’t like. And that is props! Trust me, that is PROPS! I’m not sayin which two but for me to say that on a CD, there is only two tracks I don’t like, that is the biggest compliment.
Strategy: I’ve never heard him say that.
Konny Kon: Honestly! I’ll say ‘yeah I like one track on your album’, and that’s it. I don’t buy records no more, I’m sick of it, I think it’s all shit.
UKHH: How long ago were the tracks on the ‘Terms and Conditions’ mixtape made?
Strategy: Not the beats or the lyrics, but everything was recorded in 2005. The actual idea for ‘Terms and Conditions’ came about July, and then it was out end of September – let me start from the start. We made an album as Broke ‘n ‘£nglish, and recorded it, mixed it down in a proper studio and we were gonna put it out ourselves using our own money, but we didn’t think we had the money or the resources to really put it out like we wanted, so we had the idea to make the mixtape, put it out cheaply, get a bit of heat on the streets and then work the album from there, so within about 3 or 4 months we made the whole mixtape using different beats, different lyrics that weren’t on the album – I pressed it from my house, cheaply, recorded it all there. It’s done really well, got onto 1xtra, spread around the country and now hopefully, off the back of the mixtape we’re gonna put out the album whether we get finances or not.
“…If you ask the kids about UK HipHop, it don’t exist to them, it’s just this ‘urban’ thing…”
UKHH: So you have recorded the whole album already?
Strategy: We made it about six months ago and this is the thing – everyone’s buzzing off the mixtape, so I’m really glad because that’s old verses and old beats so by the time the album comes out we’re gonna have switched it up a little bit, it is our newer stuff and our better stuff that will be on the album.
UKHH: What are your favourite tracks on the mixtape?
Strategy: There’s a few tracks on the mixtape that I love. One of my favourite tracks that’s on there, I’m not on it, I didn’t produce it, I didn’t rap on it, and I didn’t sing on it. Chimpo made the beat, Johnny Chimpo, who used to be in Northern Monkeys made the beat, DRS – unbelievably – sung the lyrics for it and Konny Kon rapped on it, and the track’s called ‘Tryin’. A lot of people have rung me up saying ‘what’s that sample?’ and I’m like ‘what sample?’ That’s DRS singing on there! I know he’d never do it live – never do it in a show or on a video, but that guy’s got talent, he sang it in his garage, Konny Kon spat the lyrics and it’s killin’ it. It’s a bad boy track and I’m really feelin’ it. It’s a soul kinda track – it’s not even Hip Hop.
UKHH: Is there more singing on the album?
Strategy: You know what, there’s not, and that’s the funny thing – he sang the lyrics after we made the album, it was just a one off thing that he did.
Konny Kon: He got other tracks where he sings on it, but, I don’t think he wants anyone to know that he’s doing these tracks – he doesn’t really want to come out as a singer, he just wants to be an emcee.
Strategy: Any emcee’s that are out there will understand – as a rapper, he’s a bit shy about singing because no rapper sings! But the guy can sing let me tell you now, when you listen to the track yeah, listen, cos everyone’s been ringing up and saying what’s that sample and this and that and who’s that singer – it’s DRS, you get me and he would never even say that – maybe I’m blowing him up or something, but…
“…all these Grime guys sayin’ ‘oh but we’re MCs’, we don’t rap… it’s like saying ‘yeah we know we’re not as good as you, but that’s our excuse…”
UKHH: ‘Watch Your Back’ is one of my favourites on there…
Konny Kon: Yeah – that’s Strategy’s beat, that’s one of the first beats that he made. He made it ages ago, and I always wanted it and he never wanted to give it to me, and I came back and was like ‘Yo remember that beat?’ and he was like ‘which beat?’ and I told him and we just recorded sutt’n over it.
UKHH: ‘Take It Low’ as well – that’s a pretty different track. Who produced that?
Konny Kon: Yeah yeah I like that one. That’s DRS’s beat, doing a bit of a broken beat thing, so – it’s heavy. Yeah that’s good as well, I like all of it except for two tracks, seriously, it’s all good.
UKHH: Northern MC’s, even from Manchester have been clocked at Battle Scars in London rhymin’ in London accents. Did you see any of that?
Strategy: To me that’s just like the old America accent – when I first started rapping, I mean like the first day or two, I was rapping in an American accent because that’s all I’d ever heard so it’s the same for these kids, all’s they’ve ever heard is London rappers, so – I will allow them the first couple of weeks rapping like that, but if they develop themselves enough and work on it, by the time they get on stage they should be rapping Mancunian. But a lot of ‘em ain’t! Because they’ve not really worked their way up to the stage, they’ve come out to the club, and then the next week they’re onstage, that’s the mad thing, so…to the people out there doing that I would just say…it’s all about being a bedroom MC, and working your way from there.
UKHH: You’ve gotta work on your own voice innit?
Strategy: Exactly! – if you love music, you will be stood in your room rapping in front of the mirror like you’re someone else, so I’d been onstage a hundred times before I even left my room. It sounds corny, but it’s just getting it out as best you can, without sounding like someone else, being original, and that’s it.
“…I didn’t limit myself to anything, like some people get stuck in a box yeah and they can’t get out…”
UKHH: Does it ever bother you that you might reach a peak and never get any better than that?
Strategy: Not really. Who am I proving myself to at the end of the day? Myself. That’s all I want to do, every time I sit down to write lyrics, I’m not thinking about other people, I just want to get myself out, cos that’s what it’s all about.
UKHH: Are you getting yourself out as much as you’d like to? Would you like more exposure, more fame, or are you happy with it how it’s going at the moment?
Konny Kon: Definitely would like to get bigger and definitely would like more people to hear it…I’d like to make a living out of it if I could but it’s not about that. I’d love more people to hear my music. But if I’m honest, I’m not 100% on it, right now my heads not really in it because as I’ve been saying, I don’t really feel what’s going on so I’m not inspired, I’m not motivated to do music, sometimes I think it’s all pointless, and the next day I’ll come and write something and think ‘yeah this is what it’s all about’ but…
UKHH: So what do you think it is that Hip Hop’s lost?
Konny Kon: I don’t think it’s that, I think it’s moving somewhere. There’s a whole generation of new people doin’ it who weren’t listening to what I was listening to. They’re making their interpretation of it, which is all good because I’m making my interpretation of when I started listening to Hip Hop, which is different to mans who were listening to it in – ’81, so I think everyone’s just makin’ what they know, and what they know now is MTV and Channel U.
UKHH: So you think that’s coming back through?
Konny Kon: I think yeah. I think it’s good – I like what people are doing energy wise, but lyrics wise and beats wise, its suttin’ different to what I know and I don’t like it.
Strategy: I’m 26 now, Konny’s a bit younger than me, we’re not old guys but we seen a big change, through things like 1xtra and Channel U and it’s been nothing but a good thing but at the same time, you gotta remember music is about the kids, because they’re the ones that are buying it. And right now they’re not even buying it, they’re just swappin’ it amongst each others mobiles and off computers which for me as a Manchester artist is nothing but a good thing because whether I sell it or not, the music’s getting passed round without me doin’ no work. You’ve gotta remember it’s about the kids and all the kids have grown up with is with Channel U and 1xtra, so with that in mind you have to be very careful. The 1xtra people and Channel U have got a great responsibility. And I think you only have to look at what’s gettin’ put out at the moment to see that they’re not really taking that into consideration.
“…getting out as best you can’ without sounding like someone else, being original and that’s it…”
And I think there’s a lot of great artists out there doing good things, but at the same time it’s always a balance thing, with the good comes the bad, and the goodness at the moment is really getting swallowed up. Anyone can get out there, it’s so easy to make a beat. When we first came up you had to have an MPC, a flippin’ SP this that an the other – now, all you have to buy is a £100 computer, and you can do it, which is a good thing; but at the same time, there’s no quality control, so…that’s the only thing I would say about that but the whole thing at the moment is making me feel like an old school veteran because everything’s new. Certain things go over my head, I’m just a Hip Hop artist and it’s not Hip Hop no more, it’s urban, everything’s got swallowed up into the same thing…a lot of people when I was young that were big on the UK Hip Hop scene, got swallowed up by urban, you don’t really hear them no more, but – that’s just how it goes.
UKHH: From my perspective on it, I see UK Hip Hop as getting stronger; the rhymes have got stronger, the beats have got stronger, the production, the identity, you know from looking back a little bit further, to people like MC Duke, Derek B, Hijack and that all that kind of stuff, it got lost a little bit, and it’s only just recently in the last five or so years it’s got stronger.
Konny Kon: Do you want me to say what I think? We’re talking about actual, proper, traditional UK Hip Hop yeah? It was about to blow – last couple of years it was about to blow, and Grime has come through, and Grime has taken over UK Hip Hop. So really to me, a lot of people who was about to blow are not gonna blow now.
Strategy: That’s exactly what I’m sayin. Basically, if you ask the kids about UK Hip Hop, it don’t exist to them, it’s just this ‘urban’ thing, no one’s rappin’, everyone’s spittin’, you know what I’m saying by that kind of thing?
Konny Kon: Let me tell you something: I am an EMCEE. Don’t call me a rapper. I can rap, but I’m an Emcee, so all these Grime guys sayin ‘oh but we’re emcees, we don’t rap’…it’s like they’re saying ‘yeah we know we’re not as good as you, but this is our excuse, we don’t rap.’ That’s like me saying ‘yeah this is a shit rhyme, but…’
“…Metrodome…as far as Manchester talent goes I’m working with them all, and that kid is SICK!…killer…That’s the future…Big time…”
UKHH: So you think they’re significantly shitter than the Hip Hop emcee’s?
Konny Kon: Not everybody. You know what? I like the energy, the whole Grime thing is where UK Hip Hop should be right now. UK Hip Hop to me is a bit dry, and it should be like how Grime is, it’s just that musically or lyrically it ain’t really…there ain’t really a lot of people who are talented, and that’s me being honest. It’s like, if someone was to say to me, ‘Right I want you to get on a track, you’ve got four bars to do something’ – I would not say the same line four times. I wouldn’t. If I had four bars, I’d try and use those four bars to say something.
Strategy: Exactly, but it’s cos those kids ain’t really got nothing to fall back on. As Hip Hop kids, we could listen back to ’79, and then also the Hip Hop took us back to funk, soul and right back, but these Grime kids, they can listen to Garage, which is still a new thing to this day you get me, but they can’t really fall back on nutt’n, everything’s new. So they think they’re killin’ it, yeah, with eight bars, that are repeating something, and then they’ll diss Hip Hop but when a Hip Hop guy steps up and freestyles for eight bars and blows ‘em away, like – not on a clashing type thing, cos everything to them is clashing; they say ‘yeah, I’ll fuck your mum/I’ll do your bro/I’ll do your Dad’ and all that – and then a man’ll say ‘yeah but wait a minute…’, and just break him down lyrically then they’re like ‘woah…’ that shows ’em something they ain’t never seen before because they don’t know about freestyling and all that kind of thing.
UKHH: What about Virus Syndicate?
Strategy: Virus is bad! Virus! Are! Bad!
Konny Kon: I say Virus are one of the best doin it, definitely.
Strategy: One of the best.
Konny Kon: And not even because I know them, if I was to stand back and listen to it, they are one of the best. Them guys, they can actually rap, they can actually EMCEE. A lot of people can’t emcee.
Strategy: You know what it is? They’ve got concepts, Goldfinga; obviously he’s had a past in music, he has worked the drum’n’bass circuit and he has worked the garage scene, he’s done the whole thing; JSD, he’s done the Hip Hop thing, he knows what it is to stand up on stage and in front of a microphone and that shows; and Mark One, I don’t even really know the guy too well, but I know he churns out beats, and the same with Nika D, he’ll just spit it out. It’s a natural thing for them, and I’m glad that they are doin’ that kind of thing for Manchester because they’re doin’ it the right way.
“…UKHH, it’s a powerful tool so be careful what you do with it…a lot of UK artists check the UKHH forums..”
UKHH: Can you tell us about any up ‘n’ coming talent that’s breaking through?
Konny Kon: I can’t say I have heard any good up and coming talent recently. Check for Goodz, he’s down with Broke ‘n’ £nglish, he’s a heavy rapper, that’s about it really… he’s from Whalley Range as well, so it’s all good.
UKHH: I’ve heard you’re gonna be working with DJ Metrodome [http://www.myspace.com/metrodomestics] on your next mixtape?
Strategy: As far as Manchester talent goes I’m working with all of them, and that kid is SICK. I don’t know what to say man, Metrodome – I been in touch with him – killer. That’s the future. And I wish – I was his age doing the same thing he’s doing. When I look at him I just think raas.. yeah man. What we do ain’t nutt’n worldwide or massive but I hope that if he does anything on our mixtape then he does progress. I rate him – first of all, he knows about ‘myspace’ and all that kind of shit because he’s typing up shit on ours and I can’t even figure it out! So from the way he’s got his head round all that and a mixing desk and all that…the future, you get me? Big Time; Heavy.
UKHH: Anyone else you’ve come across lately?
Strategy: A group called ‘Bodyrock’, I don’t know if you’ve come across them before, watch out for them, obviously Raw T (www.Raw-T.com), doin’ their thing, the ‘City Is Ours’ Mixtape crew, watch out for their mixtape because they are definitely representing the youth of Manchester, I don’t know if you’ve watched the mixtape before but…yeah man, gotta give it to them. I do workshops all over, that’s my main daytime job, and I see a lot of flippin’ talent out there, so everyone of ’em that are doin’ it, just enjoy it, and big up.
Konny Kon: Big up Kaveh a.k.a. Krak – FYM. I wanna say big up UKHH as well. And all the people who check UKHH, it’s a powerful tool so be careful what you do with it, what you write on the forums. A lot of artists check it, a lot of UK artists check the UKHH forums so…that’s all I’ve got to say.
Thanks to Konny Kon and Startegy for speaking to UKHH.com, you can get your copy of ‘Terms and Conditions’ from www.fatcity.co.uk.
– Kate Novo & Tony Camara