In 2010, a young Lee Hawthorn wasn’t obsessed with Hip Hop or Grime. I always felt an affinity with music, but I skipped between genres quicker than the tempo of Makina. Where I grew up Makina had become affectionately known as New Monkey and whilst it was partially a laughing stock, it will also forever hold a place in my heart. I fully believe MC Bouncin’s Metty Mission is one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard. Throughout high school I shifted between New Monkey to Screamo, Fall Out Boy to Eminem and a bunch of chart music in between.
As I came to the end of High School, I began to delve deep in the world of lyrics and flows, metaphors and socially conscious narratives. It was on the pop-side. Its no surprise that a white boy from the North East of England would be introduced to Hip Hop by Eminem. At the time, Chipmunk was unloading his arsenal upon the charts. I’m not ashamed to say my introduction to Grime was the likes of ‘Oopsy Daisy’, ‘Until You Were Gone’ and ‘Diamond Rings’ – although I always hated the latter. If it weren’t for Chip’s so-called ‘sell out’, I might have never discovered Ghetts or Kano, or more recently the likes of Grim Sickers and Capo Lee.
One things for certain, I probably would have never discovered Marvell. Double S, Shocka and Vertex were apart of a mega tour with a line-up consisting of Chip, Marvell, Bashy, Loick Essien, Aggro Santos and Candy Rain. I’ll never forget Bashy calling me out as a sixteen year old mid-performance because I looked bored. Partly, that’s just the extent of my facial expressions, but also at the time, I wasn’t there for his version of rap. I was a naive teenager who expected a pop concert – instead it was one which walked the line between pop and grime with a perfect balance but I was too young to appreciate that at the time. The tour opened the door for me to fall off the bland fence and into the exciting world of underground UK urban music.
Marvell were the first act I gravitated towards. Around the same time, I had fell in love with Mr Hudson. ‘Straight No Chaser’ was the album which made me really dig deep into American Hip-Hop, and remains my favourite album of all time. But for me, for the UK, Double S, Shocka and Vertex were godlike. They had bars, but were able to infuse their rhymes with a pop accessibility. The production was clean and professional, the whole Marvell brand was on-point. It is bewildering that they never truly obtained chart success despite co-signs from the likes of Rihanna and Drake – way before anyone knew Section Boyz or Dave…in fact before Dave was old enough to buy a lottery ticket.
For a while, I wound up focusing upon the movements in the U.S.. Kanye West epitomised what I had grown to love about music, blending creativity with braggadocio. It wasn’t until I started going out to clubs when I was 17 that I rediscovered the three way flows of Marvell. The bar “I hit the club like Jay Z’s producer, I ain’t gotta bring No I.D” definitely wasn’t written for a 17 year old able to get into clubs without bouncers stopping him, but if the shoe fits…
Now as an out of shape, bald, 22 year old I’m not so happy about the fact I look twice the age I am. But looking like the bouncers that wouldn’t stop me for I.D, isn’t whats making me feel old today. Its the fact that ‘Marvell FM 5’ was released a WHOLE THREE YEARS AGO. How?
How has it been three years without Double S, Shocka and Vertex releasing music together? How has it been three years since Double S and Shocka dropped the most slept on Fire In The Booth? How has it been three years since Shocka’s verse on Angels? How has it been three years since Vertex dropped the best bars of his career? How has it been three years since Double S made the decision to go solo? How did three years pass without me even realising?
I understand the reasons for their split. I was the producer who secured the interview in which Shocka revealed the growing tension between Double and V. I was in the studio whilst he told that story for the very first time. Part of me was happy because as a producer, an exclusive like that was like hitting the jackpot. Part of me was relieved because there was finally some closure. Mostly though, I was devastated. The group very much responsible for making me who I am today had decided to call it a day.
Recently Shocka posted on social media, asking if there would be interest in a reunion gig. Initially I got excited, the teenager within me thought this could finally be it. The adult in me however, realised that the chances of this actually happening are slim. Whilst Double S hasn’t outwardly spoken on the rift, Shocka has done more so since I secured the exclusive for Spark including his ‘Letter To Marvell’. Whilst he’s never been the most active when it comes to promo, clearly more comfortable behind the scenes, in the last three years Vertex has been more ghost than the lead character of Power.
Even if there was a chance of Double and V burying the hatchet, where do Marvell fit in the current landscape of UK urban music? Whilst they pioneered the three-way flow and have a solid track record of cracking songs full of crossover appeal – that’s not where music is at. Stormzy just hit number one with a gospel grime album. The big YouTube platforms are saturated with Trap and Drill. Whilst I would love a Marvell reunion personally, sometimes if you love something enough you have to let it go. I’m not sure its worth risking their legacy, and the fond nostalgic memories I have of their run, if the new venture falls flat and they’re unable to recapture the magic.
Are Marvell even capable of recreating the records they’re so revered for. I don’t know what Vertex is up to in 2017, but I can only imagine his MC days are behind him and he’s focusing on being a genius when it comes to music videos. Shocka has seemingly evolved since the Marvell days as he takes influence from the likes of Kendrick Lamar and J Cole as he challenges and subverts social, cultural and industry conventions. Double S has achieved a load of acclaim over the last few years as he showcases his iconic flow over production from the likes of HeavyTrackerz, DJ Q and the classic Oi! instrumental. Whilst Double and Shocks have provided proof they can still work as a double act, truthfully their respective solo work is taking them in totally different directions.
Regardless of whether Marvell can reunite. Regardless of whether Marvell should reunite. Regardless of whether Marvell will reunite. Their legacy deserves preservation. I know I am not alone in the role they’ve played in my adolescence. Music is probably the predominant influence in my life, and whilst I’m not sure I’ve ever realised it until writing this tribute to them: Marvell are largely responsible for why I have become so obsessed with Hip Hop & Grime. Marvell have made me the man I am today, and on the third anniversary of ‘Marvell FM 5′ which coincides with Double S’ birthday, I want to thank the three-piece. Them man are straight legendary.