Throughout August 2017, TheRootMusic is celebrating hip-hop and grime scene in the North East of England as part of ‘Local Music Month.’ As part of this we have contacted a range of artists, DJs, and other behind-the-scenes individuals to ‘Pass The Aux’ and express some of their personal favourite music releases.
Mark Tyers is out fourth Pass The Aux selector. He’s even written his own intro so I don’t have to, so top marks to Mark (pun absolutely intended).
Hi I’m Mark Tyers, I’m a Sunderland based music fan, busker and occasional promoter for Wearsiders Presents.
The NE has lots of young and not-so-young people who due to a lack-of-decent-jobs and the ongoing impacts of austerity, automation and rationalisation struggle to make a decent living – more than any-other UK region. Life for these members of the working class isn’t comfortable, it’s stressful. Despite what Theresa May, the Daily Mail and Jeremy Kyle say, benefits don’t go very far, rubbish jobs are rife and each day is an on-going struggle for money, security and good times. This is where NE hip-hop and grime comes from, this is why some people will find it’s language offensive and these are some of the people it gives a voice and escape to.
Many thanks to Lee Hawthorn for inviting me to pull together this 12 strong track list together – it’s brought back a lot of good memories and music! Shout out to Lee and Rob Leatham for transforming the Spark Monday night rap show and hosting all those gigs at IndyP alongside DJ 90BRO who is now doing a vital job spinning the virtual decks at Hash Rotten Hippo’s monthly ObsceNE open mic. That rap radio show and ObsceNE are probably the two single best things which have happened to the NE rap scene in the last few years so long may they flourish.
U Call Me Sir was THE person who introduced me to north east hip-hop and opened my eyes to the quality, wit and uncompromising-integrity of many of the local rap artists. Bastard English was the first NE hip-hop album I listened to and it’s packed full of dark humour, anti-establishment anger, diss tracks and good production.
Rap music is male dominated, even more so than the male dominated music industry. The SceNE is no different, so it was a blast of fresh air to hear Spark rap show host Lee Hawthorn dropping a track by Leddie MC for the first time. Leddie has since gone on to score festival spots, copious radio play and is currently peerless in hoovering up local gig spots, but this soulful track is still one of my favourites.
This track is in many ways the Mount Everest of this list. It’s been listened to by more people than all the other tracks on this list combined, in fact it’s easily one of the most listened to NE rap track ever (apart from that song by Ant and Dec which really doesn’t count) and is currently on 83,645 views and counting on the Indi website. It’s won the pair several international song-writing competitions and took 5 months to write.
When I asked Adam about what inspired his song, he said: “Well I listen to BBC Radio 2 everyday at my day job and Jeremy Vine speaks politics everyday at midday and he used to speak a lot about the immigration crisis and about the government’s decision to bomb Syria. People use to phone in and speak about how the government should send them [the refugees – mostly Muslim] back where they came from “because they are terrorists”, and “Muslims are all the same”, and that infuriated me and the only way to express my emotions was to write a song, so I did. “I chose to have the picture of Aylan Kurdi sketched up [on the artwork for the single] because that image alone explains the title of the song and that is; people are dying trying to reach safety”.
I use to host an open mic night in a German Bar in Sunderland with B-Type. NNE’s Listaa was one of the few rappers who performed at it and braved an acapella battle with B – he lost like everyone else but that really didn’t matter because whilst he was there he also shot a couple of music videos including one for this track which enabled him to become THE MAN in the SceNE for a few fleeting weeks. The Facebook vid for this track has been viewed an incredible 22,770 times to date and is Listaa at his very best.
As soon as I heard the first few tracks from his brand new album; Lego Scarface, my mind was blown. DJ ADS and Rick “the NE rappers, rapper” Fury have come-up with a seamlessly great album which deserves to be downloaded by the masses – this track embodies it’s mission.
U Call Me Sir was a former Brainfeeder and so was Rex Regis- who gets more gigs than most because for a load of good reasons. This track is probably one of his more obscure ones, but I think it’s haunting – the stress and struggle of trying to make a living whilst also trying to go somewhere meaningful and hopefully lucrative with rap music is right there.
U Call Me Sir referred me to this Sunderland based rap movement for a fundraising gig and the energy and fun they brought was infectious. These lads have since moved on to concentrate on solo projects and collabs with considerable artistic success and have really matured in terms of their song-writing and production, but as a unit back in 2015 they were the second biggest live draw in the NE rap scene. Their stage show was raw energy, I still remember Tehuti Gold’s stage dive in Independent! This track capture’s some of that youthful-fun approach and band-of-brothers vibe they had back then.
Steesh and Breeze are the only rappers in this list who have made a living from music as part of 4 piece hip-hop/break beat group Big Beat Bronson who played major festivals like T-in-the-Park and were signed to a Champion Records back in 2013. Whilst I’m still waiting for Lee Hawthorn’s inside scoop on the story of how that all went wrong, they haven’t and have spent the last few years pushing forward under their new moniker; The Great and The Magnificent. This single comes from their brand new album and is quite simply the best track the pair has ever recorded.
I can remember getting so stoked when I heard the teaser track for this EP (MMXV), it didn’t sound like anything I’d ever heard and then the EP delivered on that promise and more – a great marriage between a meticulous producer in Bruce Beats and 90 Bro’s political, party-time and introspective bars. I’ve probably listened to this well rounded EP more than any other.
Absorb is like Guinness; he’s a totally-frothed-up outlier. SSome love him, some hate him and he’s way more social media savy than the black stuff. No one else from the SceNE made the MOBO 2015 ‘ones to watch’ list. No one goes down to London regularly and gets on the pirate radio stations. No one else in the SceNE has a back catalogue stuffed with dancehall, drum-and-bass, dub-step as well as Grime beats (with the exception of Zico MC). No one else rehearses for a month and brings a full band to accompany them at their gigs. This track reps his energy, skills, focus and sound better than any-other.
Adam Penman and Lloyd Joyce took 5 years to write and record Plecdrum Inc’s one and only album; Jangled Nerves. Their biggest single was Love Monster, the music video to which has racked up more than 15,400 views on Youtube. A darkly rhythmic tale of a man driven to suicide by a femme-fatale, it showcases the very best of Plecdrum.Inc’s sound and lyrics, starting sharp and accoustic and ending with a full-on dub-step and then drum-n-bass climax.
Opening tracks to albums don’t get any bigger, bolder or better than this. HB dominated the SceNE in 2016 with this album and their legendary live shows.