FEATURE: The Rise Of The North East Hip-Hop Scene | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Jay Simian & The Midnight Society

Despite my limited knowledge and without wanting to sound like a Tim Westwood/David Cameron hybrid when using colloquial slang, I’ve been incredibly inspired by the region’s hip-hop scene. I am drawn to it because it contains the angsty, satirical voice of the underclass; something no longer prevalent in my once beloved rock and roll.

Middlesbrough rapper Jister, who has supported the likes of Scroobius Pip and who (along with producer The Lion Ranger) received widespread praise for recent EP Absurdism, agrees. “In this country I feel hip-hop is definitely the voice of a more working class background, and you can hear that in the local scene.” Grant Seymour, from online hip-hop community and music promoters Hash Rotten Hippo (an anagram of North East Hip-Hop), believes that its grounded subject matter is responsible for the appeal. “It’s way better when it’s relatable content, growing up in the North East, being on the dole, drink problems… I’m pretty sure if you’ve spent any time in the North East then these are things you are going to witness and have some understanding of.” However, as he points out: “It’s not all glum, social commentary. It’s a truly diverse scene!”

This diversity is definitely reflected in Richmond hip-hop group Ceiling Demons, with their energetic performances and Mexican ‘Day of the Dead’ style masks. Psy Harrison, who shares lyrical duties with his twin brother Dan, agrees: “The project was born from bereavement. We were never really gunning to fit into a scene as such, as we originally felt like the ultimate outsiders, so instead favoured creating our own world. From the start we were always conscious of how we came across and wanted to walk our own path, which is why we describe our music as alternative hip-hop.” It’s clear that other local acts share a kinship with the group too, with names like Outside Your House, Leddie & Smoggie, Absorb and Rick Fury all cropping up as recommendations.

As I’ve discovered the scene I have been surprised at the number of artists, all with their own lyrical/production style and each with something to say. Smooth Jezza, Zico, Handsy, Jay Simian & The Midnight Society, Chattabox, ConseptandD6ixs, Kv$hnoodle, Legitimate Anarchy, Chattabox and Caff to name but a few, are all hiding in plain sight.

I am drawn to it because it contains the angsty, satirical voice of the underclass; something no longer prevalent in my once beloved rock and roll

Many artists were stumbled upon through Hash Rotten Hippos’ various social media pages. “There is something for everybody in this scene,” says Grant. “I discovered it through Dialect Crew so I have to mention them, though they don’t rap together anymore but are still killing it individually! iLL Prepared crew from Newcastle, New North East crew from Sunderland, Gang:Greenz from Stockton and H-Man & Just B. There’s many more though, I urge everyone to follow Hash Rotten Hippo on social media, not for my own selfish reasons but because I share everything from everyone!”

If there is so much going on, then why is it that all other genres seem more prominent on the music scene? Finding a place to play has been an issue according to Jister. “There have been events held around Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Sunderland, but no real hip-hop oriented venues. There aren’t enough promoters or venues willing to put their necks on the line to put on local artists, the only ones who do are artists themselves and they generally lack the knowledge of promotion to make a regular successful event.” Although despite these issues he believes this is changing. “Static Newcastle does grime, hip-hop, techno and they have a regular night at World HQ with loads of local acts.”

The lack of hip-hop oriented nights is something that Grant Seymour was also keen to address. “Recently I got involved with Wearsiders Presents and Young Sceptic’s Hip-Hop show, [which airs on Mondays between 9pm-11pm on Spark FM] we host a monthly night at Sunderland’s Independent which is growing in popularity.”

Psy from Ceiling Demons feels that it’s a scene which is very much home-grown. “A DIY mentality is essential to push things forward. Promoters like Wearsiders and Frux Tapes amongst others are helping the scene tremendously.”

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Kay Greyson

Instead of waiting for specific nights, local artists have continued to perform, as young Newcastle-based rapper and winner of ‘Bring The Beat’ competition Kay Greyson explains. “I’ve done every kind of night…grime, indie, club nights, all kinds. I don’t think I’ve ever done a hip-hop night with only hip-hop acts and a hip-hop crowd. Which I think is a good thing because it’s forced my music to morph and change into something that could reach a more diverse crowd.”

This ability to adapt has had a positive effect on the scene as a whole, which was clear to see at this year’s Evolution Emerging. “Jay Simian & The Midnight Society and Kay Greyson were both on fire at Evolution Emerging! I loved the hip-hop tinged beats of Grey Tapes and the slightly more alternative Outside Your House.” Said Psy Harrison.

Although not perfect, the North East hip-hop scene is on the rise and creating its own identity. What initially attracted me to it was its voice for the downtrodden, but as Newcastle rapper Rex Regis points out, its strength lies with its inclusivity and the diversity of artists. “This scene is special when it’s rolling strong. Of course the accent makes it that bit more special too, but the main thing is that no matter their age/race/sex, everybody is capable of making an impact; the door is always completely open.”


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