OK, can you first introduce yourselves and let the readers know a bit about where you are coming from? There is three of you isn't there, two MC's and A H Fly the producer…
Ric: Yeah, Ultra V (aka Spike Militant or The General) and me-Ricochet (aka Juggla Redz or Ric Branson) are the two front men of the group and Fly provides the
Where were you born and where did you grow up, are you all North London through and through?
Ultra: Edmonton through and through. Ric: I moved to Edmonton nearly 6 years ago but I used to move round here from day. Fly: I grew up in Highbury.
So, you are now from Edmonton in London, is there much going on there, apart from you who else is repping Edmonton? Who are the artists in your locale you really rate?
Ultra: There's nuff people coming up in the game but it all started from us. Man around us was just teefing and shotting but we brought this business shit to the table. Ric: Bare kids are coming up now, but a lot of them still need to develop confidence in their styles and stop watching the states so hard. We've become a flagship group for the area
'cos man know that we're serious about what we do - on a creative and a business level.
Can you break down some of what has been happening Hip Hop wise in Edmonton and the surrounding areas over the last few years? What I mean is who were the local heads who have been performing, putting on shows and setting up pirate radio stations?
Ultra: Since we put out our first shit, nuff yout's have started putting tings together. Me and some of my crew have set up Heat FM and Sweet FM - two local pirates that specialise in all types of urban music. We don't have to wait for man to play our shit now. Ric: The ting is, most of the youth are still heavily into garage and don't check for hip hop that hard - only that commercial type of hip-hop that gets played in the clubs. So when yout's start experimenting with rap styles now, it takes them a lot longer to develop themselves to a level where they can do anyting really constructive with it.
How did you come by your names, Ricochet, Ultra and A H Fly? A H Fly is a particularly strange one…
Fly: The full title is A Human Fly… Ultra: Ultra is slang for skunk. I used to sell to man and I picked it up from there. Ric: I first come up with the name in '92 - that was around the same time I started trying to develop a English style of rhyming so I kinda stuck with it from then.
Right, so how did you first get into Hip Hop, and when would this have been?
Ultra: My brother used to force me to write rhymes when I was 10. We had a competitive ting going on-we'd go into our rooms and write for 10 minutes and then we'd have to come out and spit… Ric: I remember seeing the video for Eric B & Rakim 'Move the Crowd' and thinking that he was the fucking man! I used to put little tings together from when I was about 13 but I only started taking it serious a couple of years after that-around '91. Fly: I remember hearing 'It's Tricky' by Run DMC.
So Ricochet and Fly went to school together, is that how you hooked up?
Ric: Yeah-and I ain't been able to get rid of him since!
So when did you start actually making Hip Hop? Who influenced you and made you think, yeah I can do this?
Ric: I was a bedroom MC for four years before I even got into a studio at 17. From there it's been a long, painful journey to where we are now and most of the time I feel like we ain't even come that far, truss.
And Ultra came later when you were at a Music seminar?
Ultra: Yeah, I'd already made a few demos on my own and after I met Ric at the workshops, everyting seemed to fall into place.
This was around 1998 right?
Ric: Yeah-I ran them from August to November of that year.
Before we get further into the crew can you tell us about these music workshops? Who was running them, and where did the funding come from etc.?
Ric: I must've come up with the idea to set up the 'Northern Lights' workshops 'cos I was sick of rhyming in bedrooms. I was running with a little cipher at the time and I knew there was bare man in our area and the surrounding areas that was rhyming aswel. So I hooked up the local community centre, my brother's sound and a couple of DJs and that was it. Funding? That was when I learnt if you going to make anyting happen you best be prepared to reach in your own pocket 'cos it won't happen no other way.
In the past so many of the people who listen to and like Hip Hop were also involved in its creation at some level. Why do you think this was and do you think this is still the case, or with increased popularity are there more people who just listen to and consume Hip Hop?
Ultra: As many are rapping now, if not more 'cos it's so commercial. Ric: Yeah, every Tom, Dick and Leroy's trying a ting now 'cos hip hop has crossed into the mainstream so hard and everyone thinks they can do it. As far as the British scene goes, it's always been like that anyway.
Is there a hierarchy within the group? Does one person seem to take on the role of organiser? What are the qualities each member brings to the table?
Ric: Yeah, I more or less handle the business side of running the label. When it comes to organisation I know I'm the man. V and his crew have the ability to promote our shit through the pirates under their control and keep our name buzzing on a street level-that's crucial to us 'cos without our love off the road there ain't no point to doing this. Creatively speaking, we all feed off each other - I'm the technicien, V's the fire and Fly is the composer. That's why when we combine we can't be touched.
Right, you have already dropped your two Street Veterans 12" and the mini LP that went with them. How have the records been received?
Ultra: Right now all we're doing is going from strength to strength-each release can only take us further up the ladder… Ric: That's it, man are known all over the country for those records and recognised for setting standards in a rap arena that's flooded with a lot of shit. Those weren't our best tunes but they did set a standard-I don't give a fuck what anyone says. But it was only when we put out the cd that I realised how much of a following we could have 'cos we started getting pumped by niggas in their yards and in their cars and the love we got was nuts. That's what inspired me to carry on and not to say 'fuck this, I'm staying on road.'
Can you describe the releases and what your thoughts were behind each track? What did you expect people to make of them?
Ultra: I will say this, on the first one we tried to cater for everyone. We didn't expect everyone to love every tune. Ric: Yeah, I'd agree with that-it was our first release and we was looking to make a dent in a scene that already had so many rap groups. We was unknown and from a manor which hadn't made any contribution to the rap world at all so we didn't have the confidence or the experience to do exactly what we wanted at the time. Ultra: Yeah, even on the second 'Street Veterans' EP we was still experimenting. We still hadn't found the sound and style that best represented us. We catered more for the street listeners on 'Part II' though… Ric: Yeah, but up country I know they love that punchline shit so we done alright on a national level too. Ultra: At the very least we expected people to recognise we was making something different from everyone else. However you want to define the shit, it stands apart from everyone else. It's British street life. Fly: With the new release you can hear that we're gaining some definition. That's more representative of the stuff that's going to follow.
Can you describe your styles, both in terms of lyrics, which I would say are often imaginative story raps and production, which is straight forward mid-tempo Hip Hop, but does have a distinctive feel?
Ultra: Rapid-fire muckiness… open sewage… Ric: Autobiographical dirt… Rhyming is just a way of washing my dirty laundry in public..!
Did you see a progression in terms of sales with each release?
Ric: Yeah, I've seen a progression.. the distributors are getting progressively worse at paying us… Ultra: We're shifting at a faster rate with each release… Ric: The ting is, we know we could shift more if we did shows, but our lifestyle is making that more and more difficult. We've all got bills to pay and doing hip hop actually costs us money most of the time…
What is it like running your own label - Tongue Tied Records? Is this indie route the only way you could go to get your stuff out? Could you explain to the readers some of the pros and cons involved with doing everything yourselves right through recording, manufacturing, distribution and promotion etc…
Ric: The reason that me and V threw some dough in the pot and set up Tongue Tied was because if we didn't we'd still be waiting to release some vinyl. Brainz was very inspirational in showing me the right way of going about tings and without him I know we would have been fucked. As far as being on a indie, there's no label politics and no bureaucracy to deal with but it means we have to handle all areas of this industry shit ourselves. It means that me and V have to show ourselves as being business-minded niggas if we want our product to look and sound professional. Obviously we've got a team of people that we work with on them tings but the final decision is always ours.
What have you learned from your recording, performing and business experiences so far? What advice would you have for anyone trying to get out there now?
Fly: I've learnt that recording is one of the most important elements in the whole process of putting out records-particularly hip hop if you want it to sound right. The only advice I could give is for people not to fall over themselves when trying to emulate the sound of other artists. Ultra: As far as the whole process goes, tings take a lot longer than you might originally think. You can't really rely on no one at any stage… Ric: I'd advise man to try and deal with everyone in a professional way at all times-you'll find people will be less prepared to take you for a prick if you handle yourself right. Plus, keep the best people around you-you don't need a bunch of yes men massaging your ego all the time any more than you need them red-eye people who just wanna bring you down.. Ultra: Be prepared to do nuff donkey work and you're going to have to promote yourself-it's your career.
Is it a problem being from an area where there is so much competition from other aspiring acts? What are the bad points and what are the good things about being in London where most of the UK's music business is?
Ultra: Nah, it keeps us on our toes… Ric: But on the London rap circuit the standard goes up and down… Ultra: Any competition's healthy though Ric: We're cut off from all of it anyway-geographically and psychologically.
What do you do to stand out from everyone else?
Ric: Be myself… Ultra: Our minds work differently from other people's… Ric: We interpret life different… Ultra: I'll do anyting to survive..!
You have done quite a few gigs now. What have been the best gigs you have done and why? And have there been any mad experiences you can share with the readers?
Ric: We ain't done a show in nearly two years! But when we did Kung Fu at WKD café in camden, that was crackers… Ultra: We had nuff support that night… Ric: Yeah, I think the roof nearly come off.
What makes a good night out for you? Would it be a night when you were performing, or do you have a better time when you go to watch acts?
Fly: In my opinion, there's no such thing as a good night out. Ultra: To be honest we don't really go to too many UK rap jams. Ric: Battlescars is pretty fuckin' funny though