A look at More Life’s ties to the UK; Plus 6 other British MCs you need to know
London, UK – While taking in the More Life debut on Saturday, one thing that really caught my interest was the amount of love Drake showed the UK.
Even before the premiere it was well-known that Drake had embraced the British hip-hop and grime scenes, working with Skepta and others over the past few years, remixing UK records (like London rapper Dave’s “Wanna Know”), referencing UK slang in various songs (like “Cameras”), and most recently bringing several artists out during his ongoing European Boy Meets World Tour. And the playlist dropping while Drake was still in England? No coincidence.
“If Drake and Skepta’s connection bridged the gap between the UK and Toronto, More Life just cemented the foundation of that relationship for years to come.“
Giggs, a South East London rapper from the Spare No 1 movement who first appears on More Life’s second track, “No Long Talk”, has actually been on several BMW tour stops dating back to January when the tour started off inside Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome. The Giggs-assisted “KMT,” track 15 on More Life, is even listed as part of the tour’s official set list but it wasn’t clear if it would end up on the final cut.
By now we know that even when a guest appearance for a Drake project seems to be set in stone, you still can’t bank on seeing it on the final track listing. Just ask Jay Z, Kanye West, Popcaan, and maybe even JLo.
Boy Meets World Better Know
Drake also blessed the Boy Meets World platform upon other UK artists including Krept and Konan, Kyla, Dave, and the Section Boyz.
Last night the tour returned to London for the last of the seven dates scheduled for the city, no doubt in front of an audience highly appreciative of the look bestowed on their golden scene by the 6 God. Adding to the hype of the performance, Drizzy closed out the show with an indication that OVO Fest London was going to happen. “Mad ting!” This news sent the packed O2 Arena (and social media) into a frenzy.
The genre-melding More Life playlist embraced the London scene, loosely employed its slang and opened up new markets to Giggs and the other Brits who were curated into the mix. It will likely take months to really see More Life’s positive impact on UK music as a whole.
Skepta of Boy Better Know is actually only featured on a solo NaNa Rogues-produced More Life interlude but the bars he drops are some of the hottest you’ll hear. If you recall, when Views came out a lot of Skepta fans were quick to voice their disappointment that he had been left off the album so this should go a long way towards smoothing that over. The producer, Rogues, is well-known among British heads, having produced some massive records over the past few years. His credits include tracks like the hit single “Trapping Ain’t Dead” by Section Boyz, “Can’t See Me Again” by Skepta, Bashy and Kano, and “We Don’t Play No Games” by Tinie Tempah. Along with the “Skepta Interlude,” Rogues also produced More Life’s “Passionfruit,” which has already become a fan favourite. Perhaps as much as “Blem,” but for the fans who prefer Drake’s softer side over his aggressive bars.
Jorja Smith (who is actually from Walsall, near Birmingham) made her presence felt with her soulful contributions to the Nineteen85 and Shebib-produced “Get It Together,” which also features South African DJ and producer, Black Coffee. Smith’s debut EP, Project 11, is worth checking out on Spotify.
28-year-old South London crooner Sampha is another UK act granted a solo appearance on More Life, crushing the touching FrancisGotHeat-produced “4422.” Sampha was also featured on “Too Much” off Drake’s Nothing Was The Same album, and performed the song live with Drizzy on numerous occasions, including Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. If you like what “4422” had to offer, you won’t want to miss Sampha’s debut album, Process, which dropped back on Feb. 3 through British independent record label, Young Turks.
It has also been revealed that the voice on the “Teenage Fever” outro saying ‘very much 6 a.m.‘ and ‘awake for 24 hours‘ belongs to none other than Santan Dave.
Very Much 6 A.M.
All-in-all, great contributions from the UK acts tapped for More Life and a great look for UK hip-hop and grime in general. OVO fans around the world unfamiliar with Giggs, Skepta, Smith, Sampha and Rogues are already hitting Google to find out more about them. You can bet some are going to listen to playlists and watch videos, thereby exposing them to even more UK artists in the process.
In fact, this graph from Google Trends shows a spike in search traffic for each artist during and after the premiere of More Life (refresh if it doesn’t load):
If Drake and Skepta’s connection bridged the gap between the UK and Toronto, More Life just cemented the foundation of that relationship for years to come.
I had listened to songs coming out of the UK on occasion, but it was this past April where I really started to take interest in the London scene. My boy Bills put me on to a drill group called 67 (pronounced ‘Six Seven’) and since then, I don’t think I’ve gone more than a couple of days without taking in some of their tunes. Shouts to Bills for the introduction. We still talk about going to London sometime to catch a show.
It wasn’t long before my new fondness for the Brixton Hill gang was leading me to check out other artists they were affiliated with. Artists like 86 (‘Eight Six’), Mischief, K-Trap and even Giggs, who appears on 67’s massive 2016 single, “Lets Lurk.” And then from there I was even looking at artists they were beefing with like Ard Ardz, Sho Shallow, S Wavey and J Boy.
You quickly realize how incredibly large the London scene is and the sheer amount of talent peppered across the city’s boroughs. The population of the city is estimated to be close to 9 million deep and the amount of ‘urban’ recording artists in the city is easily in the thousands. And each and every one of their YouTube videos features a comments section filled with passionate and knowledgeable fans arguing over who the top dog in the city is. If you try to make a list of the top artists in the city, someone is guaranteed to disagree with you.
Knowing all that, I still thought I’d at least share a short list of UK artists that I’ve been closely checking out, in no particular order. Definitely a good handful to start with if you’re looking to dive deeper into the scene. They’re all expected to make big moves this year, or are already in the process of making them (see Stormzy). A few points about what each artist or group is up to, along with a video that will better familiarize you with what they’re all about.
Dutchy’s Picks: 6 Hot UK Hip-Hop Acts
Starting with the group that is ultimately responsible for me writing this, 67, consisting of LD, Dimzy, ASAP, Monkey, Liquez, and SJ, who was given 5 years in 2015 for possession of a firearm.
As Complex’s Laura Brosnan described in her June 2016 article, the song “Take It There,” one of the 67’s first big singles, “captured [the group’s] unfiltered collision of Chiraq Drill, UK street slang and London road politics in a way that we hadn’t seen.”
As I was just starting to take notice in the group, the buzz had just died out on their involvement with a beef between two other popular local artists, Chip and Yungen. 67 didn’t actually release a song or even say a word, or really have anything to do with the beef, but the mere mention of their name in one of Chip’s diss tracks seemed to dead the issue altogether. It certainly added to the allure of the group’s mystique and intrigue.
67 is currently touring and promoting their 2016 album, Lets Lurk, available on iTunes, Spotify and other outlets. The album is full of big tunes like “5AM Vamping,” the Reekz MB-assisted “Way Too Active,” or the title track, “Lets Lurk” featuring Giggs. Peep the video below.
From everything I’ve heard, North London’s Abra Cadabra is as talented as he is greezy. He’s even being dubbed by some publications as a new age Giggs, largely due to his “same slow-paced, near-apocalyptic delivery” on big records like “Robbery.”
It was the Krept and Konan-assisted “Robbery” remix that served as my first introduction to Abz (as well as K and K for that matter), and it lead to me digging through YouTube for anything Abra Cadabra related I could find.
Most recently I’ve been going back to the “Banana (Remix)” by Belly Squad featuring Abz alongside Young T, Bugsey, Timbo and Showkey, a rising star who was stabbed to death back in August at just 16 years. The video was released in December and has racked up close to 4.5 million views since. The Belly Squad trio, consisting of Ty, Max and T1, released their Banana EP featuring the remix with Abz back in February.
I’ve also been bumping a couple of newer songs from Abra Cadabra including “The Roads,” and “Valentine,” which both feature another artist named Kush.
Krept and Konan
South London’s Casyo “Krept” Johnson and Karl “Konan” Wilson are a popular rap duo known together as Krept and Konan (or Play Dirty back in the day). After making their debut in 2013 with the Young Kingz mixtape, Krept and Konan signed with Virgin EMI. The first single, “My Story,” was especially popular with fans as it tackled the publicized murder of Konan’s stepfather who was killed during a 2011 home invasion. At the time, Konan expressed that it had “weighed heavily upon him since he believed himself to have been the real target.”
In 2015 they released their album debut, The Long Way Home. The project was named Best Album at the UK’s annual 2015 MOBO Awards and the group was also named the Best Hip Hop Act of the year. They were also named Best Hip Hop Act in 2014 and named Best Newcomer in 2013. Clearly they had the right approach out the gate.
2016 saw Krept and Konan win another MOBO Award, this time for their contributions to the aforementioned “Robbery (Remix)” by Abra Cadabra, and they also snagged another BET Award nomination for Best International Act: UK. The duo had been nominated in the same BET Awards category in 2014, beating out Rita Ora, Tinie Tempah, Dizzee Rascal and more to take home the win.
Most recently the group has been keeping busy touring and making guest appearances on various tracks including Jeremih’s “London” and MoStack’s “Liar Liar (Remix).” They’ve also made headlines with their appearances on Drake’s Boy Meets World Tour. They’re overdue for a new project or mixtape and during interviews last year they indicated one would be coming.
Black Butter Records artist J Hus is only 20-years-old, but already becoming known for being one of the hottest acts to come out of London. After being stabbed 5 times in 2015, Hus’ notoriety sky rocketed and only added to the buzz surrounding him. He was given a hard time in the media for throwing up gang signs in a hospital bed picture, criticized for not using his platform to spread a more positive message. The reports made a point of commenting on his social media following at the time – 30K on Instagram and another 19K on Twitter. To give you an idea of his growth in popularity since then, his Instagram followers now stands at 138K and his Twitter following has climbed to 54K.
The self-proclaimed Bouff Daddy is currently promoting recently announced dates for 11 shows across the UK which kicks off May 1 in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Musically, the young artist is promoting his new “Did You See” video, which just dropped a couple of weeks ago and has already received more than 3.5 million views, as well as a recent collaboration with Dave called “Samantha” which has quickly become a favourite. J Hus is also killing the guest appearance game, finding a spot on Nines’ new video “High Roller,” and Stormzy’s new “Bad Boys” tune which also features Ghetts.
On social media, J Hus has been teasing fans with a new album which should be out any day.
XL Recordings rapper Nines got a boost in international publicity when The FADER showcased his dope new album and how it was “breaking the UK charts without compromising the sound of the streets.”
Nines had broke the 1 million stream mark with his chart topping album One Foot Out, and since then that number has increased at an impressive rate. In fact, the J Hus-assisted single “High Roller” is close to cracking 1.5 million streams on its own, and 8 out of the other 15 songs on the album have surpassed 500K streams. The album is still doing fairly well on UK charts and entered the UK Albums Chart at number 4. By doing so he became one of the few British rappers to release a top 5 project along with Giggs, Skepta, and Krept and Konan.
The FADER goes on to draw a comparison to some of those artists in the coverage of One Foot Out:
“The beats are unflashy rap beds of minor key melodies and 808 kicks, augmented with occasional, sung R&B hooks. There’s none of the experimentation that saw Giggs work in grime rhythms or flashes of minimalism on last year’s Landlord, or any of the more outlandish sonics you’d find on a project from Skepta.”
The name AJ Tracey is relatively new to the grime scene, but the West London MC has actually been putting in work since back in 2011 when he went by the name Looney. Since taking on the new moniker, Tracey has released an arsenal of big videos, the most recent being for the song “Luke Cage” which was produced by Toronto’s own grime king, Tre Mission. The Toronto producer-MC also produced Tracy’s “Buster Cannon” single, one of his most popular songs to date.
“Luke Cage,” directed by West London’s own Mornix, is actually the third single off Tracey’s 2016 EP, Lil Tracey, which is available on Spotify, Apple Music and other outlets.
While AJ Tracey was already making waves locally, a shout out from Drake on his remix to Dave’s “Wanna Know” pushed things to new levels. His May 2016 video with Dave, “Thiago Silva,” has done huge numbers, getting close to 5 million views to date. The pair are currently on a mini-North American tour with shows in LA, New York and tonight inside Toronto’s Mod Club (722 College Street). Click here for tickets.
Honourable mention: Santan Dave
Despite being one of the youngest artists mentioned in this post, Santan Dave is quickly becoming one of the most popular MCs coming out of London. He had already gotten the attention of local taste-makers, but Drake remixing his 2016 song “Wanna Know” created new opportunities and significantly sped up his growth.
Dave has been brought out as a guest on the Boy Meets World Tour, and he can also be heard doing the outro of More Life’s JLo-sampled “Teenage Fever.”
Also in 2016, working with producer partner 169, Dave released the Six Paths EP as well as singles “JKYL+HYD” and the aforementioned “Thiago Silva” collaboration with AJ Tracey. The new year saw Dave release another big tune as he came together with J Hus for “Samantha.” Since its release date on Jan. 26, 2017, the video has received close to 7.5 million streams with no signs of slowing down. Dave is live in Toronto tonight with AJ Tracey inside Mod Club.
— REVENGE (@Santandave1) March 21, 2017
Tags: 67, Abra Cadabra, AJ Tracey, Black Coffee, Dimzy, Drake, FrancisGotHeat, J Hus, Jorja Smith, Konan, Krept, Krept and Konan, LD, Liquez, Monkey, NaNa Rogues, Nines, Nineteen85, Noah "40" Shebib, October Firm, October's Very Own, OVO, OVO Sound, Sampha, Santan Dave, Section Boyz
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