In August 2016, North East rap music was shaken to its core. An earthquake shattered the epicentre. Tectonic plates shifted with grime artists at the epicentre. Endem’s ‘King Of The North’ is the most talked about release of the past twelve months. The impact it has had is unprecedented. Regardless of opinion on Endem, the song itself or the message it contained its undeniably the hottest topic North East hip-hop and grime has had since I stumbled across the scene in 2013.
A month prior to the release of ‘King Of The North’, Endem had performed at a Young Sceptic Presents gig in Sunderland. At the time, Endem was one-third of rap-trio Legitimate Anarchy alongside Tommo and Spekz. It was at this gig, Endem felt inspired to write ‘King Of The North.’ Endem explained his inspiration stemmed from an event in which Legitimate Anarchy “supported TM alongside Jay Simian & The Midnight Society and Cyberbite.”
Its an event I remember very well. At the time I was producer for Young Sceptic’s hip-hop show on Sunderland community radio station, Spark. As a result, I ended up helping out with the Young Sceptic presents gigs and subsequently attended each one. It was at this gig TM promised an exclusive premiere of his ‘NEGK’ mixtape. TM & Dano turned up late, but their performance made up for it to me.
Perhaps, Endem disagreed: “I had heard of TM prior and rated his work, however without going into major detail, I didn’t agree with how he and his party conducted themselves. My thoughts were, if this is the guy who is supposedly up there in the top 5, then it’s time for a change.”
It’s not clear as to how much has changed in terms of Top 5’s; although TM has gone quiet since the dust settled around ‘King Of The North’ and ‘NEGK.’ TM wasn’t the only name dropped during ‘King Of The North’, Endem also mentioned Teesside trio Gang:Greenz and Newcastle based duo HB.
Most of the six MCs mentioned responded on wax. An exception being Just B. Endem recognises the ‘Lyrics From The Villas’ artist was “above” responding considering he was only mentioned in one bar. Of those mentioned who did respond, Naughty40 was the first. The Gang:Greenz producer-rapper was prepared, having already heard mumblings of the track. ‘High Treason’ was followed by G-Rhyme General’s ‘Panacalty’ which is widely regarded as the best response.
Speaking on the best responses, Endem said “it was Panactly by far. It was structured, with a good video which he obviously took time over. Naughty 40’s was also worth a mention.”
According to Endem, he was planning some responses: “Gang Greenz were the only reply I had fully finished because their quality of work deserved a response. The rest in my opinion were poor. From ranging to phone recordings, poor track mixing and rushed lyrics. They were not worth the ink or paper I would have wasted.”
It wasn’t just the six MCs mentioned that reacted to ‘King Of The North.’ The whole scene exploded with triple figure comments on Facebook status’ – the scene’s main platform for discussion. Almost instantly Blitz and the rest of Tees Grime Fam responded to another MC claiming the throne. An online back-and-forth following Blitz’ ‘King Of The Nor’ drop, resulted in real-life threats.
With the amount of backlash Endem received, you’d expect the MC to regret the controversial track. Instead, the Darlington based artist’s “reactions are mixed.” Whilst he finds the multiple threats of violence “highly laughable”, he accepted “if everything including my own reaction to the responses did not transpire exactly as they did, it would not have had half the impact it had.”
Endem acknowledges “people got incredibly offended” in ways he could have never seen coming. Claiming king will do that – just asked Kendrick Lamar after ‘Control.’ The difference being, K dot’s name drops were done respectfully, Endem’s were inherently disrespectful. Just like Kendrick’s ‘Control’ verse, Endem’s ‘King Of The North’ earned more reaction from artists not mentioned.
Direct responses immediately came from not only Blitz, but Conscript, Kv$hnoodle and Ego Trip too. A year on, several artists have said their piece. Whether in 16 bar challenges, in album cuts or just in general conversation. Endem finds the outside involvement “hilarious, but also positive.”
“When I dropped it everyone said they would ignore it because I didn’t deserve a response. The more it grew, the more people jumped on it for personal gain and probably to impress their little pals. I’m not aware of many of the people that have mentioned me aside from the obvious because I don’t care enough to look. I’ve been doing me because as mentioned, we’ve evolved. It’s been well over a year and people are still mentioning to this day…but yeah guys you’re right, it had no effect and it was terrible.”
Its interesting that to this day, it elicits such extreme responses. I posted the video for ‘King Of The North’ to my personal Facebook page on it’s exact one year anniversary and the reaction was similar to the initial release. Apparently 365 days is still too soon.
Whilst others in the scene, still aren’t over a relatively new rapper splashing on to the scene with a well-timed reference to Game Of Thrones. Endem has been evolving over the past twelve months: “There has been a lot since ‘King Of The North’ that we at Legitimate Anarchy are extremely grateful and proud of. The highlights for me would be multiple BBC airplay, the response to mine and Leum’s first set together at Music Box and ‘Strictly For Promo’ which was a great end product I wrote solo quickly because I was let down by individuals which are ex Legitimate Anarchy.”
Endem’s evolution as an artist runs parallel with the changes to Legitimate Anarchy from a rap trio to a label. The rapper explains the original trio “all had different ideas for direction and different levels of commitment to musc. That became more apparent after ‘King Of The North’ and it’s the reason why it’s such a milestone for Legitimate Anarchy. It was the start of the transition to what LA is now. Tommo left because me and him did not see eye to eye and Spekz had personal issues. At that time, in honesty, I was unsure I could carry myself solo so I took time out to further myself as an artist, not a rapper. I studied recording techniques, how my personal idols became what they became and also my own craft. Then and only then, when I was happy with my level, I started releasing again. I had to choose whether it was what I really wanted. Obviously my choice is apparent.”
As a label Legitimate Anarchy has grown beyond Endem, signing an in-house producer in the form of Leum. Endem says “we went out to make ourselves an official label. Jonny at the time was helping me with design and advising me anyway so I asked him to manage. I don’t see a point in doing something in any walk of life if you aren’t going at it 100 percent so we threw and still throw our all at it.”
Sam (Leum) found us off the back of my second Lock The Door Freestyle. He wanted to produce for me so I invited him down to stay at my house for a couple days to get to know me and LA. Awesome guy. From then it spiralled into him producing everything I put out, including producing the full upcoming album back to front.”
Endem credits Leum for effecting the quality of the forthcoming releases he has on the way: “Having a singular producer is great for my output. Me and Sam are good friends which bleeds into our music. The stuff we have for this album is the best stuff we’ve ever done and we will continue to grow with every release. We already have our next project planned, underway.”
It’s clear that Endem has removed himself away from the ‘King Of The North’ situation. A year on it’s still affecting the scene, and there’s no sign of people stopping acknowledging the controversial track anytime soon. What are the plans for Endem and Legitimate Anarchy?
“To carry on with exactly what we’re doing, furthering and growing our brand. I’m dropping a couple remixes and promo tracks in the run up to releasing our album, which is scheduled for release end of November/start of December on all digital platforms. It has some insane features on it. We will start dropping visuals taken from it in November on the back of our structured album campaign. The artwork of the album is a hint regarding our next release, so look forward to that. Myself personally, I’m considering acapella battle rap, however music comes first so not until after our project is finished at least. I’m going to do some freestyles further afield of the North-East,” Endem answers before ending, “Also, Mr. Hawthorn, I aim to do a SparkUpTheMic.”