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What hip hop means to us

Jed Martin laughing

Ged Martin - Head of Design

Where were you when you heard Hip Hop music for the first time?  

My first introduction to hip hop was in school, like a lot of people in the UK. When Eminem said “My name is” South Park was big news and his humorous style seemed to soundtrack that era aptly. I had a friend who I spent every weekend with and he had a really cool older sister who was always playing hip hop. At the time, most of my friends were really into grunge and alternative and it was doing it for me. When I heard hip hop it really transported me somewhere else and I was immediately drawn to it almost obsessively. I was really into the ideas of the beats. Everything that was going on musically around me was quite dreary but the upbeat tempos and the use of obscure samples was really interesting and different at the time.    

The first record that really did it for me was The Roots - Things fall apart. From there I went down a bit of a rabbit hole with A Tribe Called Quest and Jurassic 5 but it wasn't really until Dr Dre's 2001 when hip hop really made an impact on others around me. When that dropped it seemed that everyone regardless of their musical preferences was interested.    


What's your favourite Hip Hop album of all time?   

Mos Def - Black on both sides. This album is the one that I have gone back to the most over the time despite not being the album that got me hooked. Before that I used to love the funkmaster flex mixtapes as I would hear an artist, go tot he local record store and grab everything I could by them. I'd listen through the lyrics and hear other artists featuring or referenced and do the same and it was just a great time to discover music and quite quickly grew a collection and interest.


Biggie or Tupac? 

I never really had a favourite. There were always periods where I liked them both. After watching the Nick Broomfield documentary exploring the circumstances around their deaths and the east coast west coast split I think I fell more into Tupacs music after learning more about his life as it felt like he was more authentic.


Is there a current artist that keeps your love for hip hop going today?  

I tend to just go back in time. My music tastes changed a lot at university, hip hop was always there but we got really into techno and electronic music and that hasn't changed so hip hop for me is a very nostalgic thing, my building blocks musically speaking. For me so I love to go back through my old collection but don't really follow any new artists. 


Riah enjoying her music moment

Riah Stevenson – Marketing Assistant 

Where were you when you heard hip-hop music for the first time?   

I guess I was six years old. I was sitting in the backseat of my dad’s very darkly tinted, blue ‘04 Impala. He put huge subs in his trunk and played music so loud that the windows would rattle. He said he liked that people could hear him coming haha. I’m sure he was playing either The Chronic by Dr. Dre or The Documentary by The Game via CD at volumes much too loud for a small child.

I wasn’t really into it at first – it wasn’t until I started to see hip-hop represented visually on television that I started to fall in love with it. At this time, I was watching reruns of popular ‘90s and early 2000s shows that my mom played on television. This was stuff like A Different World, Martin, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Living Single to name a few. Generally, Black American sitcoms that made sure to spotlight hip-hop. This is when I discovered Queen Latifah in particular. Seeing her pop up on my TV screen rapping about ‘U.N.I.T.Y.’ and female empowerment with such a cool swag about her made me dive headfirst into the genre. She is also the reason I have such high moral standards for hip-hop content. 


What's your favourite hip-hop album of all time?    

Kendrick Lamar - DAMN. His spirit feels like a modern-day combination of Prince and Tupac. I didn’t feel this way at first. I wasn’t in agreement with Snoop and Dr. Dre crowning him the new King of West Coast rap over Tupac during his good kid, m.A.A.d city era. It wasn’t until To Pimp a Butterfly that I fully understood that they knew exactly what they were doing. Kendrick’s 2015 BET Awards performance of ‘Alright’ is what made me a fan for life. It came at the perfect time in my life. I listened to it when it first came out and was of course a huge fan of the more popular singles like ‘HUMBLE’ and ‘LOVE’. It wasn’t until summer of 2018 that I really began to understand the full content and context of the project. At this time, I’d just graduated from high school, and I was living with my dad in Japan for the summer – completely isolated from everything I’d ever known over the last 18 years. This album helped me come to age and gave me the freedom to discover myself and express my anger over the state of the world as I’d experienced it at that time. It’s a classic coming of age story really.  


Biggie or Tupac? 

No disrespect to Biggie, but Tupac 1000%. I resonate with his rebellious spirit and civic attitude towards racial injustice amongst the black community in the US. I love that his music has transcended time. It’s unfortunate that the statements he made then may be even more relevant today.  


Is there a current artist that keeps your love for hip hop going today?  

It’s currently Latto. I love her energy. She reminds me that hip-hop doesn’t always have to be about politics, government, or anything serious. She makes hip-hop fun for me and reminds me to live in the moment. It has been interesting watching her ascension to fame and popularity from where she started as a kid and as the first winner of a popular rap game show in the States. 


Liam enjoying his music moment

Liam McMillan – Social Media Manager 

Where were you when you heard Hip Hop music for the first time?  

Back in the early noughties, we had a joint family trip to a theme park with my cousins, where all the boys shared a room. My oldest cousin was 14 and had just discovered Wu-Tang. I was an unsuspecting 10-year-old. He whipped out his Walkman, shoved his headphones over my ears, and hit play. First track, ‘Bring da Ruckus’. Did I understand anything they were saying? No. Did it sound like the coolest thing in the world? 100%. It was all downhill from there (sorry, Mum. Blame Kieran). It was naughty. Something you knew your parents would hate. Looking back on it now, the production played a massive role. 36 Chambers is heavily sampled with that underground, lo-fi vibe; the antithesis of polished noughties pop music on the radio.  


What's your favourite Hip Hop album of all time?   

Notorious B.I.G – Ready to Die. Biggie is the ultimate storyteller, refusing to shy away from the gritty realism of gang culture and drug dealing; the good, the bad, and the ugly. From ‘Gimme the Loot’ to the iconic tracks ‘Juicy’ and ‘Big Poppa’, it arguably contains three or four of the best hip-hop tracks ever written.  


What's your favourite hip-hop song of all time?  

A Tribe Called Quest – ‘Can I Kick It?’. Such an iconic sample and the first track I learned to mix on decks. Phife Dawg's verse always makes me smile: 

Can I kick it? To my Tribe that flows in layers 
Right now, Phife is a poem sayer 
At times, I'm a studio conveyor 
Mr. Dinkins, would you please be my mayor? 
You'll be doing us a really big favor 
Boy this track really has a lot of flavor 
When it comes to rhythms, Quest is your savior 
Follow us for the funky behavior 


Is there a current artist that keeps your love for hip hop going today?  

Hip-hop has changed a lot. It was Eminem and Dre when I first started listening in my teens. Now it's Lil whatshisname and mumble rap, which I can't get into. There are still amazing artists out there. Hard not to mention Kendrick, even though his last couple of records have been hit-and-miss for me. good kid, m.A.A.d city was probably the best hip-hop record of the 2010s.

Got to give Megan Thee Stallion a shout for focusing on empowering women in a heavily male-dominated arena. I absolutely loved Princess Nokia's 1992 Deluxe when that dropped back in 2017. A nostalgic nod to the ‘90s but with flecks of trap and modern production.