FEATURE: Get Into…Hip-Hop | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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In our latest Get Into… feature, we take a look at the world of North East hip-hop with Lee Hawthorn.

“I hold music in such a high regard that, to this day I still feel like its destiny” raps Joe Budden on his All Love Lost album. It’s one of my favourite lyrics of all time. Simple but able to capture the relationship I, and many others, have with music. You’ll never see me without a pair of headphones wrapped around my neck, and that has been the case ever since my early teens.

For the past five years I’ve written extensively about hip-hop and rap music for various websites in addition to starting my own blog, TheRootMusic. I’ve also amassed experience in PR, artist management and now, a radio show for TheRootMusic which I use to play a lot of local hip-hop artists in the North East.

I first discovered local hip-hop through fellow Geordie hip-hop head Grant Brydon. A PR company Grant was working for were handling promo for the release of Middlebrough duo Leddie & Smoggy’s debut album Sorry We’re Late. Hearing rap music in an accent not dissimilar to my own was alien. Growing up I’d heard plenty of New Monkey but never any hip-hop made within the North East until late-2013. It took a while to get used to, but it wasn’t long before I was hooked and discovering more local artists in the form of Jister, Kema Kay and more.

Whilst I have always been obsessed with music since being very young, hip-hop brought it to another level. In the introspective styles of Eminem and later the aforementioned Joe Budden I found myself mirrored in the music. North East hip-hop upped the ante again. It was just as raw, authentic and honest but with a dialect the same as my own and the content referencing people, places and things which felt like exclusive knowledge to someone born and raised in the North East.

To my knowledge there aren’t any books written on North East hip-hop, yet. Charlie Sloth and 1Xtra’s It’s Grime Up North documentary isn’t remembered overly fondly, but worth checking, if only for a quick background on artists from the region. For an alternative, Nick Light’s Hip Hop Is Dead can give you a better, more insightful offering of the recent history within North East hip-hop. 

My fondest memory following the North East hip-hop scene is the first time I seen H-Man and Just B, collectively known as HB, live. The energy in their set, the crowd screaming H-Man’s quotables back to him and Just B’s breathtaking double time flow will forever be etched into my brain. I’ve since seen them on a number of occasions and each and every set the pair impress me like it was the first time all over again.

If you’re new to the hip-hop scene, the best way to get involved is following Hash Rotten Hippo on social media. Grant Seymour, the man behind the account, is completely unbiased in the music he shares to the page. You will find a range of styles of rap music on Hash Rotten Hippo pages so you’re bound to find something you like. If you prefer your music live, Hash also organises ObSceNE, an open mic night in Gateshead’s Arch Sixteen Cafe where any and every artist is welcome to show their skills on the mic. So far we’ve seen sixteen year olds like Big Fletch, Eum and AnthNE impress alongside local legends like Ken Masters, King Hippo and Rick Fury.

South Shields’ Rick Fury is unanimously considered the greatest rapper to ever hail from the North East. If you’re a fan of hip-hop generally but new to regional artists then I’d recommend starting with How To Enjoy Losing while we wait on the highly anticipated Lego Scarface. For grime heads, HB’s The Perfect Storm is a must-listen. If you’re completely new to hip-hop and want something a little more accessible, Reali-T’s Stay Tuned is a perfect balance between credible artistry but with punchlines which crossover to the mainstream.

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