meIf someone comes to visit London, only a few minutes before they mention the price of two things: home and alcoholic drinks. Even if they are a successful rapper with a sold out tour and Top 20 hits under their belt, they will still be horrified. "Look at house prices – they are a lot cheaper in Cov," noted Jay1 of Coventry. "London is expensive, man." He points to his passion fruit daiquiri. "Maybe it costs £ 10 for this!" Yes, not far away.
The price of oppressive cocktails is one of the many reasons why the British rap scene is currently developing outside London. Core forces such as dust and drill emerged from the capital, as did most of the most significant British rapper in the last 20 years: Dizzee Rascal, J Hus, Wiley, and Kano from the east; AJ Tracey and Fredo from the west; Skepta, JME and Wretch 32 from the north; Stormzy, Dave and Giggs from the south. Mike Skinner from The Streets might have retained his Brummie accent, but he had already left Birmingham by the time his debut was over.
But some of the most successful British rap songs now come from artists all over the UK. This summer in Birmingham Fog scored his first 10 songs with So High, following the Top 5 album last year; Rapper Northampton Slowthai was nominated for this year's Mercury prize and is rated as one of the most exciting live shows in the UK; Nottingham T & Bugsey young unavoidable when the fall season begins with Strike a Pose, who spent six weeks in the Top 10. "Rap music in the UK is at the absolute top of the game," explained Tiffany Calver, host of the 1Xtra Rap Show. "People want to hear people who sound like them. But we live in a world where songs are posted every second, so having someone who has something different about them, whether that's how they sound or their rhythmic patterns, you will certainly be really interested too, "
A guest on Strike a Pose is 19-year-old Mancunian Aitch, which has become the biggest success story of all, reaching No. 2 in September with her lustrous taste (Make It Shake), and printing another Top 10 single, Buss Down, a month later. Ed Sheeran quickly learned about the trend – he hired rapper Aitch and Birmingham Jaykae for a regionally recognized remix of Sheeran and Stormzy's topping ode to the capital, Take Me Back to London. Aitch snickered at the city that once ruled British rap. "Everyone from London just supports everyone from London," he said. "You think they are not touched, but they are not touched."
He, rapper Jay1 and Leicester Trillary Banks have come to London for expensive drinks and ruminations about why, in 2019, regional accents are as important as rap accessories like designer wallets. The first thing to note is that this is not a sudden and random event: Jaykae and Mist's first official release came in 2016, and before that, Birmingham sustained a grim scene after easing in London, as did Leicester. "Leicester always suffers from a sick MC," Aitch said. "That freak always used to go:‘ Yo, Leicester! ’" Trillary Banks are one of them. "In 2009, 2010, I used to spit out 'Leicester City!' Before the track started," he said.
Aitch said the rap scene came together in Manchester – but trembled. "Shifty did freestyle Tim Westwood in 2009 which got more than 600,000 views on YouTube, which was a pain for the moment. A situation happened with him, something I can't talk about "- Shifty was seriously injured in a car accident -" and he stopped playing music. After that there was a big gap – nobody knew what was happening. Everyone tried their best to explode, but nothing blew. "
The only success is Bugzy Malone, a depressing ambassador for sadness with four Top 10 albums since 2015. Aitch also chose IAMDDB. "He got a wave of Manchester" – or energy. "If you listen to other Manchester music, you will get it. Just the fact that it is a music city, with Oasis, Stone Roses and that, and home. What is the name of the club, Haçienda?"
Another regional rapper became popular among genre fans and began to cross to the main stream: Liverpool Aystar, Splinta in Nottingham and, of course, Lady Leshurr in Birmingham and her freestyle Queen's very funny Speech. As Aitch acknowledges, it is often the exoticism of their accents that helps them penetrate. "I don't think people from outside London realize how strange our voices are in the ears of Londoners," he said. "I don't think I have a funny accent, but everyone knows. It just attracts attention. Many things in London are repetitive – people are looking for something else. "
However, no other regional artist has achieved the success of the latest crop chart. Aitch won't tell me his secret sauce – "If I say it now, Jay1 might steal it," he's dead – but it's safe to say it's a combination of factors: streaming network effects and YouTube, increasing dominance in rap pop culture more generally, desires from national radio to represent the whole of Britain – and, of course, raw talent and charisma. Aitch deftly relaxed like a man whose shameless lines can't grin. Does the fact that he is white also make a difference? "You hear, people say that I only blow because I'm white. It's only air. There are a lot of white MCs, but they are not as big as mine. So if I only blow because I'm white, where are the others? I'm standing here alone. "
As the regional rap scene matured, Coventry remained a wilderness. "What can you honestly say about Cov?" Jay1 asks the others. "Jay1," answered Aitch. "Jay1 officially put Cov on the map: a crazy official."
"Yes, literally," Trillary said. "There was a crew named COV, some time ago, but they are older, they may be in their mid-30s now. I never really knew much about Coventry – even the carnival, I went there and was like, where was everyone? "
Jay1 has released two of the best British rap songs this year: Mocking It, an excellent showcase with the right lyrical skills, and a loud mock affair from Madam – an expression only spoken from the Midlands to the north. "Your miss!" Trillary applauded happily. "‘ I went to the city with Miss. ’In London, it will be:‘ I went out with my shit. ’"
"That's something I took from living there," said Jay1, who moved to Coventry from north London with his parents seven years ago – thank you, he said, for the price of the cheap house. "When I started doing music, I thought: there's no point in trying to refit London again. I'm just here now, so I might as well multiply Cov. It's a leap of faith: I repeat this goal with my chest, and I no shame at all. "
Without a record label network and rap video platforms such as GRM Daily and LinkUpTV in London, he was forced to do it himself, and released his first freestyle on his YouTube channel. Word of mouth in Coventry is brittle, fast and reads, it's 50k [views] in a month. That's all the locals, frustrate it. There are so many [Coventry] Shout out there who also wants to start doing it now. In Leicester, too, there must be a naked female artist who thinks: "Yes, I saw Trillary do it, so I'll start."
Trillary is a versatile rapper whose eastern Midlands accent is slightly spiced with Caribbean patois, and the 2019 debut album Vote 4 Trillary is stretched elastic from trap to dancehall and R&B. He puts some extent into Leicester's multiculturalism – "we used to study Gujarati even as black children" – and said he was proud of where he came from, even if he had to visit London to access decent studios and videographers. "I always want to use my city," he said. "I feel you have to help – when I see something hard, I support it. I used to do a showcase called Leicester's Got Raw Talent. I ran it for years, and then I had to stop trying to put other people in and do my own thing. People like: "Yo, the game needs you, believe me Trill, you're crazy!" I'm like: "OK, let me see how it goes."
He has not yet broken into the Top 40, but has gathered millions of streams and related fans from China and Puerto Rico – accessibility simply means these rappers have come out of their home regions and their teenage demographics to a broad global audience in an unlikely way of 10 years then. Aitch was asked by a 53-year-old man to take a picture on the subway and had a Taste remix with an Australian MC, while Jay1 was recently stopped from taking pictures in Belgium. "What's going on? I'm in Belgium right now. Very angry, in a surprising way – I was always demeaned by that. "
The fame of his hometown, meanwhile, is at another level. "Aitch can't walk in Manchester," Trillary laughed, but she disagreed. "I was at the Trafford Center, and I really did very well," he said. "I just put a veil, keep my head down and walk around, it's a blessing. But if someone says: 'See Aitch in Arndale, seeing Aitch in Foot Locker on Market Street', it only makes you local, so you are always in people's heads. That's why I have a naked follower on Instagram "- 1.3 million -" because I'm always accessible. "
However, he remained excited when the conversation turned to what Jay1 called "people who didn't talk to you" – another local rapper who asked for help like sharing videos on social media. "I'm not a promo page," Aitch said firmly. "People dropped the video at 7, and then sent me a message at seven past seven saying, 'Yo, can you share this?' I like sharing people's things and I like enlarging Manchester, but that just amazed me a little. Anyone from Manchester knew I would share their music – give me time. "
The danger is that the greatest people in the local scene can quickly become targets of shooting and jealousy. "A lot of people like to get Bugzy Malone back," Aitch said about his colleague Mancunian, "because it doesn't bring anyone through. But only because your first song is buss [became successful], who hasn't put your mother at home. So why do you need to care for people you have known for a year? You must look after yourself before others. "
He will not leave though – "If I come here I will not get the Manchester vibe, I will lose what makes me me" – and there is true friendship between artists, united outside the capital. There is one line from Jay's Your Mrs. about a Mancunian girl named Becky, and she slipped the Manc accent when delivering it: "Bad B from Manny took Beckeh / spent a week at 0161 …" Trillary finished the sentence: "Now I am calling Cov sex girls! "" I say Beckeh, not Beckee, because of Aitch, "Jay said. "You gave the stolen item to the name!" Aitch said he would in turn be influenced by the Midlands accent. "I went to check Jaykae, I came back and I started chatting like I was from Brum. Everyone influences everyone. We are a small gang, everyone is not from London. I rate that.
"None of us will be in our position if it is not for our respective cities," he continued. "We made a statement like that, a trail. If there isn't anyone like us from these different cities, it's only London music. And there is no disrespect to anyone, but people from London try to sound like they are from America, and they say this UK music, that UK music. People from outside London represent British music sometimes a little better than people from London. "Indeed, they brought enthusiasm and variety to the charts that didn't exist even a few years ago – and still get a change from a tenner for a glass of drink.
Aitch played at SWG3, Glasgow on 3 December, then toured
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