UK Hip Hop: International
Volcano Festival / Homegrown Entourage
Braintax and Mystro
Lee Ramsay
Lee Ramsay and Karisma
Extremits No. 1
Extremists and Skeme
My anticipation of this event had been building for a while and I was in a high state of expectation. This was to be one of the best and most extensive line ups of UK Hip Hop talent gathered together for one event - almost a full 6 hours of solid live performance. I have to admit that it was hard to get up and out to the event for its early start time of 12:30. For me making my way to Hackney Marshes should be a relatively simple affair, but today the roads were jammed up - I thought maybe this was with all the heads heading over to the Volcano festival, but by the time I got there it was still relatively empty. The Marshes is an ideal venue for such a large festival such as this as it is simply a vast grassy expanse far from any housing slap bang in the center of East London. On this occasion there were several music tents, a fun fair, tarot readers and other mystical attractions as well as a wide variety of food stalls and merchandisers. Amazingly the event was free and was backed by Hackney council who had done a great job providing the venue. After approaching from the Eastway side and crossing the footbridge into the arena one of the first sounds you would have reached was the Home Grown sound. Noting its position and observing that none of the live performances had started due to the lack of a crowd I went to have a look about. There was a Drum & Bass stage which was already buzzing with the 'hype men' hyping the crowd. There was a poetry / live jazz tent and a Reggae / Dub sound as well as other assorted sounds and of course the main tent. I have no idea what went down in there.

Back over at what appeared to be a disappointingly small sound and stage I laid out on the grass in front in what was steadily strengthening sunshine. Obviously the Homegrown crew had planned for a downpour with both the speaker stacks securely covered in tarpaulins and the stage covered with a tent. I was hoping that these precautions would not be needed especially being at a venue called the Marshes and fortunately it wasn't. DJ Kamikaze of the Homegrown Entourage was spinning back to back bangers to the few receptive heads that were gathering. There was a general milling about to the side of the stage as General and the other organisers decided how to proceed. There had been a pretty strict running order giving bands and DJs 10, 20 or 30 minute sets throughout the afternoon, but that immediately went out the window. It seemed many of the artists had not arrived as early as they should although a few members from Out Da Ville could already be seen enjoying the beats. I don't know what time it was, but I suppose it was eventually thought that either there was now enough of a crowd present to warrant putting on a show or that it couldn't be held off any longer.

First up was Mr Hectic who was totally unknown to me, but apparently has an LP out at the moment. I don't know whether he was disappointed to be performing to so few people or whether he was chuffed to just be up there. Either way he got down with energy and did his best to get everybody into it. Unfortunately not much happened in the crowd, although it was gradually growing. Unperturbed Mr Hectic ran through a few tracks and I hope impressed who was there to see him. I thought he did a pretty good job and will look out to see what he does in the future. The sound system wasn't as bad as I had first thought either and although it could have been a bit bigger, was satisfactory and more importantly the sound quality wasn't too bad. We were in for a bumping afternoon.

The Homegrown Entourage came back too spin a couple of tunes, but really there was to be no hanging about and after a short break Da Essence and Shiesty Da Gipsy of the Social Misfits crew took to the stage to represent for South London and the US. Currently having a double CD containing 40 tracks out right now they had a fair deal of material to showcase and got on with it in a professional manner, but without the raw energy of Mr Hectic who had lived up to his name. They kept things moving along and persuaded more people to come to the front of the stage for a better atmosphere. They even had CDs to throw into the crowd for which a bit of a scramble took place at the back.

After another unusually short break for a live show Gemtoy recording artist Malarchi took to the stage backed up by a shy looking Battle Scars contender - Kerosene. The pair got a bit of crowd participation going, getting them to shout out the name of his LP the 'Forgotten World' and ran through some of the tracks from it. Malarchi showed that he is a true performer and entertainer and not just a rapper when he jumped over the barrier into the crowd and approached a group to get them dancing - focusing on a girl who got into it. He then leapt back over the barrier just in time to pick up the mic for his verse. Obviously enjoying the show both MCs spat a few freestyles, but for the first time some of Malarchi's words weren't all that clear. Kerosene however was really clear and showed why he has such a good freestyle rep. His style is slow, so I guess that maybe he has a bit more thinking time, and this also means he gets his words out clearly. He definitely has a flow and some lyrics too. He's only young and is going back to the US shortly, but keep your ears open for this MC and maybe expect to see him back over here in the future. 

Harry Love then came on to do a DJ set which consisted of him playing a couple of tracks to keep the crowd hyped from the previous performance and as an excuse to get a couple of members from Low Life up on stage. Jehst was hanging about and I hoped he might get up, but he must have been saving himself and his voice for his show the next night at the Camden Underworld. Instead Braintax and Mystro got up and dropped a couple of things on the audience including Free The Walls from the new Wordlab 2 LP and a lengthy 'rehearsed freestyle'.

Malarchi surprisingly stepped up again, I don't know whether this was scheduled or not, but he and his crew were still full of life and went through another whole, but different set doing more tracks from the LP and more freestyles, some of them accapella when the MCs couldn't wait for the DJ to drop the next joint. This time instead of jumping into the crowd, Malarchi climbed on the barrier onto the speaker stack and lead the dancing standing on the top and after jumping down, again picking his mic up just in time to continue. For this set he was also joined on stage by Roy the Disciple, his producer, who helped out on backing vocals. 

Moorish Delta came on stage representing for Birmingham and showcasing new tracks like 'Silent Screams'. They were much better than I had been led to believe and I reckon I'll be looking out for them in the future. For such a warm day they had some weird gloves thing going on with the whole crew sporting them, I'm not sure what that was about? I guess they can't afford to leave fingerprints anywhere, not even on mics!!

Out Da Ville came on stage and proceeded to tear shit up from top to bottom. Each act was playing to a bigger crowd than the previous act and seemed to raise the energy levels to suit. These guys had everything locked down, Lee Ramsay acting as the hype man almost continually rapping, both over the beats and the gaps in the music. When he did stop for a break I thought he was going to bust a lung the amount of air he was heaving into his chest, but within seconds he was back facing the crowd spitting rhymes as if he'd only just started. Karisma and Instinct (I think?) took their turn to shine whilst the crew performed older tracks from their previous releases and debuted a few tracks off their up coming LP. All the time Scor Say Zee had been prowling about at the back of the stage but as the show progressed he came more to the front, especially for his 'Picasso' track and his 'We Don't Care' track off the Wordlab 2 LP. All the time though he never got animated, keeping his hand in his pocket the entire time. Nevertheless he is one of the UKs top MCs and the audience witnessed a great display of mic control and well though out lyrics.

Then, anyone would have thought that Out Da Ville had fully represented and put on a worthy show, but they asked to 'Bring on the girl rappers' as Scor Say Zee said, and C-Mone, Tempa and a white singer whose name I unfortunately forget came forward from their previous 'backing dancer' role. They had an RnB track and dropped several dope freestyles as well as Tempa's 'Life' track. These girls have really got it and bring it just as hard as their male counterparts and continued the extraordinary show that was evolving before our eyes. As well as that they looked kinda good as well and certainly had me gawping. This is a truly hungry crew who are obviously vibing off each other and pushing their boundaries. If you ever get the chance to peep Out Da Ville make sure you do, you will not be disappointed.

In the short breaks between acts there was barely time to lay back and enjoy the sun, beers and the liberal attitude of the police towards those who wanted to have a big smelly spliff of Skunk. There was a friendly family atmosphere with kids running about and the smells of the food stalls wafting over. Rodney P had arrived and was looking every bit the daddy of UK Hip Hop that he is, wearing a pressed white shirt and a fat gold bracelet. He also had some nifty video recorder with which he was recording all the performers from the side of the stage. 

Next up was Skitz's Titan Sounds spectacular showcase featuring many of the acts off his tremendous Countryman LP. By now things were becoming a bit of a jumble for me and from what I remember it was Skeme who came on first and acted like a compare for this bit of the show, performing his own tracks like UK Bubblers, and introducing each of the other acts that came on to add their lyrics over Skitz's beats. I think it was the Extremists who stepped up next who went back and forth with Skeme like they were a proper three man crew. As usual Skeme got a bit angry with the crowd for not supporting enough. He explained how he had just come back form France where he plays to huge arenas and feels totally respected. I did feel he was mis-directing his arguments though, those people who had come, had come to support and unfortunately the people who needed to hear what he said were absent. That is why they needed to hear what he said!

Next Skeme introduced Tempa, who like a proper pop star had changed outfits and hairstyle, Wildflower and Estelle for the Domestic Science track which went down really well, especially with a few guys who had by now got completely blasted. They proceeded to put on a well rehearsed show with the only bad point being that Wildflower's mic wasn't loud enough and nearly her whole verse was inaudible. All the time Skitz was supplying the music and swaying from side to side obviously enjoying playing his own beats.

People had been wondering whether he would get up or not, but were definitely hoping he would and finally Skeme called up Rodney P. Everyone was relieved, although what had been presented so far should have sated any Hip Hop fans appetite, having seen him walking about it would have been a shame not to hear his familiar tones. All the audience seemed to know all the lyrics and made plenty of noise when the opening bars of Dedication dropped. They also played the Killing track and all too quickly they were off stage.

Then it was rapidly over to Karl Hinds and Seanie T from Ill Flava recordings who were a fitting end to the show being kinda local and having more big tracks than I remembered them for to rinse the last ounce of dance out of the crowd. Of course everyone went mental for Don Gramma, but people were also treated to Seanie T doing his 'Same Ole Sean' track. This is a crew that are going to go far in this game if they can keep up these energy levels, maintain the plaudits of the audience and continue to drop bangers like they have been doing. At one point they called as many of the artists as they could to the stage to shoot a video, so you may be seeing some of that footage on MTV one day. For the last few minutes Seanie was keen to play some dub plates he had just received of a Bashment Hip Hop mixtape that he was promoting. It sounded dope and is a mix between the two styles as only the British can do right. There appears to be one main version which Shaunie has somehow got several of the UKs best MCs including Mystro, Rodney P and Skeme to bless. try him on darchorizons@aol.com and he may be able to hook you up a copy. As he was doing this the event was coming to a close and he was pleading with the police and the organisers to drop 'just one more track', which they allowed him to do about three about more times not including all the rewinds.

This event took me back to the days when these events were held on the regular - Brockwell Park, Victoria Park - the ARA Fest and AFA Fest etc. This one was different because of this sound and shows what is possible when everyone pulls together. It also points to a rosy future where homegrown Hip Hop is gaining more of a following and more exposure and points to just a few crews from the wealth of talent out there. There was a lot of mingling between the artists both backstage and out in front and hopefully some useful contacts and hook ups may have been made. Much respect has to be given to the artists for showing up and showing love to the crowd by putting on such a great show and maybe more importantly doing it for free - that should most definitely be pointed out. Props should be given to The Homegrown Entourage for organising all the talent, sound and weather and what was a great 6 hours of live UK Hip Hop in the blazing sun.

Visit the Homegrown Entourage on the web: www.homegrown.co.uk
Email Homegrown: nem1972@hotmail.com :: Tel: 07970 254 960
Photos courtesy of Homegrown.

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