Over the years, traditionally UK hip-hop, has had heavy influences of not only U.S hip-hop, but also distinct Jamaican-dub sounds. In the late 60’s and 70’s this was an exact response to the rising number of West Indian migrants settling in the UK, and the music has and always will reflect the people; whether that be the multicultural lives and homes of Brits, or the increasing anger towards political parties.
The UK has bred, artists such as Monie Love, Rodney P, Blak Twang and Roots Manuva in the 80’s/90’s with incorporated elements of Caribbean sound-system culture, to grime artists like Durty Goodz, Doctor, Ms Dynamite, Dizzie Rascal with their lyrical flirtation between London dialect and Jamaican slang in their verses.
Now it’s not only Caribbean influences we’re familiar with in UK music, fast forward to 2015 and an increasing number of tracks have clear afro-beat influences and are fast becoming hits. Verses are sprinkled with African cultural references, memorable ad-libs derived from African languages, and influences stemming from the sounds of Nigeria’s Fela Kuti to road-man rap inspired by South London’s Giggs.
Although Grime is having a big resurgence at the moment, the number of artists fusing afro-beat and rap is on the rise. Artists are merging British and African culture to create a unique and increasingly popular sound. From Naira Marley’s ‘Marry Juana’s’ overnight viral success, to J Hus’ infectious ‘Calling Me’, these tracks are clearly popular and catchy. I took a look at the trailblazers, artists who are creating a new musical hybrid; UK road-rap meats afro-beats.
A twitter bio that calls himself ‘The Ugliest’, and with over half a dozen freestyles, and a very, very sick mixtape The 15th Day Mixtape, J Hus has proven he’s not just a one trick pony. A fifteen track project may have seen some artists out of their depth, but not Hussla. His combination of road-man rap meets afro-beats had gone from the East London streets to the speakers of listeners throughout the UK. Hus has a confidence in his sound; he stands apart from the Grime MC’s —because he’s not making Grime.
Listening to J Hus, you’ll hear him call out his foes as ‘small boys’, refer to the ‘juju man’ or merge African pidgin into his raps, ‘are you de craze?’ His track ‘Dem Boy Paigon’ managed to generate over two million views on YouTube – without being signed, any radio or even an official video – it’s just an audio video. With comparisons to Brooklyn’s Bobby Shmurda and Young Thug, J Hus is undeniably catchy, funny and relatable. His track ‘Lean and Bop’ features adlibs from a cockney geeza, and has elements of house, that weren’t heard in his previous tracks. Last week the track finally got released officially on iTunes. His consistent releases show Hus is here to stay.
South London’s Peckham is renowned for numerous cheeky talents over the years. From cult TV classic Only Fools and Horses infamous main character Del Boy Trotter, to ‘Talking the Hardest’ rapper Giggs. Little was known of Peckham’s latest export, Naira Marley before his infectious track ‘Marry Juana’ exploded overnight at the end of 2013 – and little is still actually known of him. Going from an online presence of zero (no interviews, no previous tracks) ‘Marry Juana’ now has over 1.6 million views on YouTube, and was sung by grown women in the club, to my 13 year old next door neighbour walking down the road playing it on his iPhone.
From cannabis, women and Facetime Naira’s songs and videos have a clear theme; this guy is about having fun, smoking and drinking. His distinct accent, laced with autotune is embedded in his choruses creating a vibe that is undisputedly catchy. After a brief hiatus at the end of 2014, Naira kicked of 2015 with his ‘Gotta Dance’ EP. His latest song ‘Back2Work’ has a distinct U.S sounding vibe and shows a clear message, Naira is back to work.
Having a good hook is one of the most vital ingredients needed to create a catchy and memorable track. Timbo, part of South London collective STP (with rappers Mitch, Cass and Rugez) has proven that he is the go-to hook-master for an afro-beats/rap track. Timbo offers consistent releases, undeniably catchy hooks with a clear afro-beat influence. In the past year, Timbo has collaborated with the likes of Moelogo, Sneakbo and Stormzy over authentic afro-beat tracks as well as distinctive UK grime sounds.
Renowned for his ‘Eylelele’ adlib, the part singer, part rapper’s latest track ‘Astalavista’ sees him rapping ‘Everyday I stack that paper coz I don’t wanna look youuu’ over a summer sounding afro-beats instrumental.
Will be interesting to see what musical direction Timbo takes and what else he has up his sleeve for the rest of 2015 and beyond.
18 year old Mancunian, Geko is an emcee that at the tender age of 13 was already signed to K Koke’s USG and had his UK rap academy induction with various online freestyles and warm up sessions. After a brief hiatus and departure from USG, Geko is back, with his own record label ‘One Tape Records’ and is experimenting with afro-beat sounds. His track ‘Baba’, saw Geko using Arabic phrases and pleading with the fathers of females for a chance with their daughters; ‘can I have your daughter for the rest of my life say yes say yes’ – sadly for Geko, he’s not getting a good response from the Baba figure in the track, but his fans love it – to date it’s had over 3.2 million YouTube views.
Geko has a very strong fan base, who will no doubt be out in full force at his sold out headline show later this month at the 02 Islington Academy .
Since Baba, Geko’s worked with the likes of Timbo and Moelogo on the remix, and his latest track ‘Remember You’, features Moelogo and sees Geko blending not only rap and afro-beats, but R&B too.
In the coming weeks he’s set to feature on WSTRN remix of In2 alongside Chip and Wretch 32 and a tune with Paigey Cakey. And after proclaiming it’s ‘Wizkid Season’ on Twitter, it’s clear Geko’s love for afro-beats, grime, hip-hop and R&B will continue to blend with his music.
After Drake and Skepta jumped on Wizkids ‘Ojuelegba’ it was an Afrobeats meets Grime, meets Rap moment and it put the whole sound on the global music map. In the UK artists like Geko, Hus, Naira and Timbo are leading the way, but artists such as Negash Ali and even Fuse ODG are flying the flag for this sound. As yet there’s no official music industry term for this genre, call it UK Afrobeats Rap, UK Afro-Rap, Afro-Hop – whatever it is – the YouTube views and sold out shows clearly show that it bangs.