THE REALS IN THE RHYMES: INTRODUCING ZEE STACK

I was sliding through the insta timeline as you and I stumbled across a rapper by the name of Zee Stack a couple week or so ago. After being drawn in by a preview of his latest release ‘Transition’ I was immediately struck by his rigorous rhymes and the realness the emanates from his vocals. Although he’s managed to accumulate a solid 6 figures views across all his releaes and even a milly on his track ‘No Days Off’, after a quick google search it became evident that his rap skills had yet to be fully recognised for it’s quality. That being said, Kenny Allstar – being the guy who always has his ear to streets did pick him up for what is undoubtedly a fire freestyle on his 1xtra show a month ago, so I guess he’s on his way way to bigger and better things.

In addition to this, I get the impression that, based on his latest single, he shows signs of a rapper that has more development to come and a lot more to offer if given the opportunity to team up with some of the UK’s leading producers. So, I felt compelled to share some tracks I was feeling and shed some light on this underground talent.



So, here’s a couple selections from his limited catalogue, and hopefully, in due course, more lovers of Britsh Rap music will find their way into his fanbase.

Written by Timi Ben-Edigbe

/@TIMI.WATSONROSE

LORD OF THE DUBS [PART 7]: CORONAVIRUS, CLASHES AND CHAOS

It was all looking up in the world of Grime and broader Black British music culture. That was until the global pandemic known as Covid-19 hit the UK shores and towns and cities across the nation were put on lockdown. For all intents and purposes, from sports to the arts, progression was put on pause. But, with that said, forward thinking members of the scene have taken the opportunity capitalise on the moment and continued to entertain the masses.

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Shoutout C4 for being the first to merchandise the mask ting – salute.

As everyone began to accept the inevitable and adapt to the climate some artists turned to their craft to take them through this period of uncertainty. One such MC was the young mic man known as SBK, who decided to send a shot at the North London newcomer by the name of Subten – who got in the mix of the warfare that kicked off the year with the Wiley dub which was entitled ‘Back To The Village’. With Yizzy closing the door on his feuds with certain MC’s, Subten seemed to be one of the few MC’s that could be a justified target for SBK, so, in the name of war, he waged his offensive in the form of the track ‘Back To The Village’.  It’s unclear if Subten will respond, but the stage has been set, and we’ll have to see how this one goes.

 

As the days and weeks of  a nationwide quarantine progressed in the UK and the US, a lot of us have been tuned in to the beat battles that were sweeping the states and garnering global attention. The culture of clashing is intrinsic to the nature of Grime culture, and the excitement generated by these wars were beginning to inspire some action on our homeshores leading to arguably the most talked about clash since Stormzy and Wiley went head to head in January.

Skepta and Jammer took to insta live for an impromptu beat battle which resulted in a spectacle of epic proportions. Both artists dug deep in the crates, but what made it special was the interactions between the two from Skepta talking up the war and Jammer’s comical reactions. If you missed it, it’s a kinda “You had to be there” situation, but some did manage to capture some of magical moments that will give you an idea of the experience, and incentive to not miss out on the potential clashes that are the cards.

 

 

Although Jammer came with some serious selections and created some magical moments, by popular opinion Skepta took the title with a landslide victory, as reflected in the rundown by some of the key figures in the scene.

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As DJ Logan Sama accurately mentioned, when Jammer dropped the Destruction vocal it was an emotional moment particurlary when the late great Esco verse dropped in. If you wanna sample a piece of the energy check out the extended vocal below – pure Grime gold.

 

 

Following this clash the thirst for more war was a feeling felt by everyone who shared the experience, and work began on coordinated a follow up affair…

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The Rapid Vs DaVinChe clash is one I’m sure all the hardcore Grime fans would love to see. Two Triple OG producers with two contrasting and distinctive styles digging in the crates and clashing for the culture is the stuff that dreams are made of. But with no confirmation from DaVinChe, we can only hope he’ll come out of the shadows to take uo the challenge and gives the people another standout spectacle to lift spirits in these disparaging times at some point in the future – although, for some reason, this seems unlikely.

 

 

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There’s been a lot of people calling it on, but confirmations of who will actually engage in the war are still pending, but we’ll surely be seeing more of these clashes as the weeks progress, especially with Rude Kid & Spyro now confirmed to throw down for the culture.

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With all the attention on the producers, this instalive format lends itself to clashing in all forms, and it was only a matter of time before someone encouraged the MC’s to take part.

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With Jammer now pushing for some vocal match up’s, it’ll be interesting to see how Grime in the digital landscape will shape out in the coming weeks. But, I’m the products of this circumstance driven format will yield some more entertaining moments, and inform the music to come.

Written by Timi Ben-Edigbe

/@TIMI.WATSONROSE

 

LORD OF THE DUBS [PART 6]: COMPETITION, COMPLAINTS & AYIA NAPA STORIES

At this point entering the 3rd month of 2020, the tension within the Grime that informed the clashes that took place has shifted from the sound-war into a different kind of conflict that’s raising a broader issue that in some regards is holding back the development of the scene.

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Grime culture has always been about competition and fighting for recognition, but the tone of affairs among a lot of artists has become quite resentful and has started to manifest into a culture of complaining and clout chasing. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the more forward thinking members of the scene who’ve challenged this issue, but the fact remains that this attitude is growing in prevalence and is doing nothing to push the scene forward.

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The remarks made by Saskilla and Grandmixxer reflect the attitude approach that’s required to make a success in the scene, and it’s encouraging to see some reputable figures with influence trying to redirect this trend. January was a month of excitement, February was a month of development and it would seem that March is looking like a month of reflection. Artist’s who feel they haven’t been recognised are taking to Twitter to vent their frustrations, but the fact remains that when all is said and done, the music is what counts, and as the weeks progress, I hope the efforts made to channel this frustration back into the music will prevail so more artist’s can capitalise on the growing interest in the broader Black British cultural movement.

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Wiley, who’s consistently been encouraging this on a major scale has continued his efforts to elevate scene with his work rate on max, flinging out the features while also presenting a plan for the Grime scene to level up using the blueprint that raised his profile in his early career.

As Wiley highlighted in a recent Instagram video he dropped a couple weeks back, the value of performing on the circuit in Ayia Napa cannot be ignored. We all have a special relationship with the music that was the soundtrack to the happiest moments in our lives, and for the new generation of Grime acts, taking over Ayia Napa would undoubtedly do a lot for elevating the scene. Though nothing is official just yet, key figures in the UK are tying to make this dream a reality.

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Though back in the day, Ayia Napa was shrouded in bad press due to the many incidents that took place on the island in the mid noughties, times have very much changed since then. The street level conflicted that informed the problems that persisted in Ayia Napa don’t really exist within the Grime scene anymore. So, where it may’ve been risky business trying to get the whole scene to cooperate in order to run the relevant shows and sets in Cyprus before, that is not the case today, presenting the perfect time for Grime to return to it’s international roots.

Outside of the Ayia Napa stories and twitter complaints there are a few underground artists that are keeping their nuts down and creeping on a come up. SBK who rose to notoriety when he  engaged in the Grime Scene War Season at the beginning of the year has parlayed the new found attention on him to stake a claim as the ‘Prince Of Grime’ despite Yizzy’s earlier attempts to crown himself with the same title. Though the two aren’t continuing the lyrical back forth’s, this conflict will surely shape the contributions going forward.

Since moving to London from Stevenage recently, SBK’s graft has started to get some recognition from some of the more established artists in the scene. After a video surfaced on Twitter of him in the studio with JME, it’s clear to see that his talent is being recognised and he will continue to grow over the course of the year.

Another MC who’s starting to breakthrough is West London’s GHSTLY XXVII AKA GHS who’s recent release ‘Flex’ is getting some radio spins and social media shares since it dropped less than a week ago.

Although GHS is in the early stages of his career, on a personal level, I’m very much a fan of his style and delivery. That slylee gravily tone is – to me at least – reminiscent of Ruff Sqwad’s ‘Mad Max’. Obviously they are two very different MC’s, but at the same time, with the reality that Mad Max is no longer around, it’s nice to hear someone who strikes the same chords that made Mad Max’s style appealing to me.

Outside of the Grime scene antics, the man that arguably kicked off the war season has continued to send shots and deliver the war dubs. Dot Rotten, who’s online dispute with Sneakbo resulted in a ‘G check’ in Angell Town and subsequent photo and video of the confrontation circulating on social media has doubled-down on the dispute and taken it to the studio.

Though this felt like a case where it may’ve been better to let sleeping dogs lie, for one reason or another, Dot has decided to express his disdain for the Sneakbo, the Brixton area and a whole host of artists he know longer respects for the way they responded to the action taken against him in his latest release ‘Snitchbos Get Stitches’. I hope this doesn’t result in anymore conflict outside of the music, but the fact that the song is really good makes it unlikely this will be completely ignored by those associated.

So with the Grime scene in a state of reflection and restructuring, and Dot Rotten embracing his rogue status, there is a lot more to come this year, but we’ll just have to wait and see how it all shapes out.

To be continued…

Written by Timi Ben-Edigbe

/@TIMI.WATSONROSE

RHYTHM, BLUES AND UK DRILL

It was always a matter of time before the most exciting sound of the moment would take a more soulful direction. Even looking at a lot of UK Drill releases today, it’s clear to see that the production side of the genre has received a heavy injection of melody and emotion which has definitely enhanced it’s appeal. From Headie Ones Music X Road album, to Dappy & Russ’s recent release ‘Splash’ the move towards creating a more melodic sound has really started to take shape. 

This trend towards taking the high-energy from the rhythm section of a genre and layering it up with chords and melodies to create a new dimension is something that’s been prevalent for years. From Teddy Rileys use of the hard Hip Hop sound to inform the New Jack Swing movement which fused Boom-Bap and R&B in the early 90s, to the likes of Terror Danjah, Skepta and a whole host of Grime producers using the same principle to introduce a soulful take on the Grime sound which lead to the now recognised musical styling’s of the R&G phenomenon.

At this stage in the development of the broader Black British music scene, there’s been a few artists taking this approach to their music which may be ushering in a new summer sound that’s set to elevate the culture and further expand on the global reach of Britain’s bubbling underground artists.

With Jorja Smith’s preview of an early UK Drill and R&B fusion hitting the internet December last year – along with like minded producers and vocalists indulging in this area of artistry – it seems like a sound bet that this addition to the arsenal of artistic approaches to the creating R&B music strongly suggests that the future of UK Drill and  UK R&B is looking exceedingly bright.

Written by Timi Ben-Edigbe

/@TIMI.WATSONROSE

LORD OF THE DUBS [PART 5]: THE ART OF WAR

Following on from part 4, the Grime scene war season opened up a new chapter over the weekend with a couple new faces joining in on the action and in doing so, further elevating the efforts to rebuild the scene.

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Possibly due to the Valentines Day hangover, the mood on Twitter on Saturday was the most loving and least hostile I think I’ve ever seen. The abundance of positive energy being shared for Valentines day had, what seemed like everyone, trying to share positive energy and uplift people in what had been a bit of a politically hostile week with the Jamaica 50 scandal putting a dark cloud of Blighted Britain. But the positive, non-confrontation, pro-inspirational attitude that was spreading on the socials all came to halt when out of nowhere Stormzy drops into the TL with this alarming statement.
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With news of Stormzy finally honoring a follow up clash with Wiley spreading like wildfire, so many questions around the topic of the re-ignition of this particular beef began to present themselves. The first of which being the discussion on conduct within Grime. The initial Wiley & Stormzy saga and the amount of “Mum related insults” were a big topic of discussion, and this particular issue was raised again when the two began laying into eachother online on a next hype.

 

Tempa T in particular was making considerable effort to push that conversation.

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You have to admire the Tempz’s intention to raise the level of maturity within the scene. I agree with the sentiment that Mum’s should be left out it, but at the same time, if we’re gunna start censoring the the bars, then the Music is going to lose it’s integrity to some degree.

 

Now while we’re on the topic of integrity, the action Stormzy took over the weekend does raise questions about his own integrity and true intentions. Though he’s claimed to want to honour the culture by clashing Wiley on radio, it should be noted that Wiley did offer him out for a Radio clash not long before and the request was very much aired. Which makes you wonder why he wants to do it now? You could make the argument that Stormzy’s been busy with his tour and hasn’t been available to honour the follow up. But the reality is, he’s made it abundantly clear since the initial clash that he had no desire to pursue it any further.

If you ask me, this may be an attempted to spark up some more publicity to push ticket sales and raise his credibility in the scene. I feel like, based on the opinions shared online by the likes of Wiley and Poet reflect this reality. I believe Stormzy, although highly successful in his field, is not satisfied with his status as effectively being a ‘Popstar’. In his interview with Charlamagne he talks about not having the opportunity to collab with Drake and based on the way he discussed the topic, it came across strongly that this was something that concerned him. After all, Drakes worked with the other top flight Black British hoodstars so why not, Big Mike? The answer to this isn’t exactly clear, but I believe, street credibility may be a factor.

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Wiley’s continued to push the conversation around a live clash at the o2 involving Eddie Hearn. This has been an idea that’s been floating around for sometime now. It’s unclear whether this will come together, especially given the conflict between the two, but the reality is, that an event like this would give Stormzy the credibility he truly desires and be a interesting new take on how Grime could be performed. Though it’s not necessary to involve Eddie Hear at all, with there being plenty of promoter – Eskimo dances Cheeky for instance. However, there would be a lot to gain from the involvement of Matchroom and there elite promotional reach and experience.

 

After the hype between Wiley and Stormzy fizzled out on Twitter when Stormzy made his final call for Wiley to clash him on Radio, Jammer pop’s up out of absolutely no where to stick his horse in the race.

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After Jammer’s little flurry, things went a quite for a little while. That was until Yizzy dropped his follow up wardub ‘Prince Of Grime 2’ in which he sends for Jammer, AJ Tracey, Mez and Dot Rotten again with this highly creative war dub selection, salute.

 

After Yizzy delivered his dub there was a period of a couple hours while people took it and gave their verdicts. Now this is the part of the story that where it gets especially interesting. Jammer, who’d spent a considerable amount of time saying all sorts about Wiley, was doing all the talking and none of the working. Meanwhile, completely unbeknownst to the rest of us, Mez was quietly preparing to shower down on a certain MC who tried to question his pen.

 

How Mez executed his wardub was a example, and excellent execution of, ‘The Art Of War’. He kept expectations as low as possible by not saying anything on twitter, and subsequently over delivered in this devastating wardub. Mez always receieved a bit of criticism for his style, but since spitting alongside the father of his flow D Double E, it was almost accepted he would be the new successor of this particular style. The dub delivers on flows, content and punchlines consistently throughout the track, and in my opinion, has been one of the best wardub’s of the year, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

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The Grime scene seems to be growing legs with a conceited effort made by some of the movers and shakers in the scene develop the culture by asking the right questions and trying to deliver the answers.

 

It’s been inspiring to see the Grime scene becoming a more formidable part of the Black British cultural movement with a team effort on the part of the artists to push the boundaries with the developments we’ve seen so far this year show no signs of stopping.

To be continued…

Written by Timi Ben-Edigbe

/@TIMI.WATSONROSE

LORD OF THE DUBS [PART 4]: DUBPLATE DRAMA & THE 2020 VERSION EXCURSIONS

The Dubplate Drama that kicked off the year and the issues within the Grime scene that were highlighted by all that happened has had a reverberating effects that’s continuing to inform the development of the scene today. At this stage in the story of the re-engineering of Grime culture, there’s been plenty of events that’s are likely to inform the early stages of it’s evolution. 

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After the dust settled from the historic clashes between JayKae, Dot Rotten, Wiley and Stormzy at the beginning of the year,  the War Season continued as a South London MC by the name of Yizzy released his wardub responding to the outrageous claims made by the Stevenage based MC SBK of his title as the ‘Prince of Grime’. Yizzy’s dub, along with sending shots a few keys figures in the scene, took the spirit of the prior events by successfully weaponising the palpable thirst for war as a tool make his assault on the scene to climb up the ladder of relevance among his peers.’

Though this dub delivers as a solid send for all involved on a musical level, Yizzy’s tarred reputation as an MC who steals bars does taints the overall product. The controversial claims that have been raised by MC’s in the scenes as well as fans online will continue to follow this MC around based on the reaction to his entry into the war, but with collaborations with Dizzee Rascal under is belt and accumulating the more views on his dub compared to his generational counter parts, he’s definitely far from a right off with all things considered. His willingness to continue to stir the pot, plus bars flows that are up to par, as long another writing scandal doesn’t surround the young mic-man his position as a serious up and coming MC could be a more legitimate title.

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Wiley’s been heavy on Twitter and heavy in the studio, but we haven’t seen much outside of that. The claims of some kind of Grime hub in the form of a shop on Hackney Road along with a load of other plans haven’t come into fruition which isn’t at all surprising considering it’s Wiley we’re dealing with.

However, Wiley’s been running around London and working with a bag of the most relevant artists in the scene in what seems to be an individual series of singles showcasing the talent from across the capital city. It’s unclear when these tunes will land, but it’s safe to assume they’re on the way in a continuation of Wiley’s efforts to parlay the interest of his new fans from singles like ‘Boasty’ and his clash with Stormzy into hardcore Grime fans through social media, which – albeit reckless at times – has been a commendable pursuit. 

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Another MC who’s utilised the events of the clashes earlier this year after being brought into the spotlight by the Wiley Vs Stormzy chapter of the war story, Cadell has since released two singles with two videos, the latest of which being the “alternative” Grime release ‘Put The Knives Down’. Though the song sounds as cliche as the title suggest, Cadell’s vocals offerings from the flows to the lyrics were impressive, turning the concept of ‘Putting The Knives Down’ on it’s head, and instead of condemning violence, rather suggesting an alternative approach to conflict.

Now although clashing is a massive part of Grime, it isn’t the entirety of the culture and that competitive element doesn’t always have to manifest in clashing. This concept hasn’t been overlooked by some of the artists who’ve putting in some considerable work to grow this aspect of the culture, and is now being recognised by some of the bigger platforms indicating a shift in consciousness among the mover and shakers in the broader British Urban movement.

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It was a reassuring moment when Link up TV’s tweet addressed the “dubplare version” trend that was prevalent in the scene once upon a time. Similar to Dancehall culture, it was expected that whenever a new instrumental started to take off that a series of versions from the top MC’s would inevitably land in the record shops and discussion of who’s was best, or at least who’s was your favourite would ensue, indirectly informing competitive attitudes and artistic direction of the MC’s, while also enhancing  the appeal of the music. 

In today’s climate, after all that’s happened this year, this kind of “Safe-Space” for MC’s to spar would be something that a lot of MC’s and producers would benefit from embracing and this fact hasn’t escaped some of the forward thinking members of the scene.

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Jammz, who teamed up with Jack Dat along with Buggsy, Blay Vision and Mayhem NODB towards the end of last year with the ‘French Montana Riddim Version Excursions’ releases has made a firm forward step towards reintroducing the concept. That along with the Grime label ‘South London Space Agency’ who released the Grandmixxer Versions series featuring Mez, PK, along with Spooky’s recent Version release ‘Haunted Joyride’ which dropped in Dec. The continued efforts of some keys figures does strongly suggest that there will be more to come in this area of the game

With the wardubs flying and the clashing set to continue, plus the strong potential for a new variety of version selections from some of the scenes leading producers flooding the streets, the shift from Grime being considered the UK’s “Hip Hop” towards being more accurately considered the UK’s “Dancehall” are signals that the broader culture is moving in a direction that lends itself to better results in terms of the quality of the music and overall appeal of the culture as dynamic “Dance music genre” that delivers on a global level.

At this particular point in history it seems as though the people who care about Grime culture and are in a position to help elevate the scene are doing what they can innovate and inspire…

From JME’s offline releases and Gorilla-Street Party-Pirate Radio events to Jammz, Jack Dat, Spooky and Oil Gangs efforts to kick start the ‘Version Excursion’ wave, the collective commitment of some key members of the scenes from across the generations to elevate the culture is in full effect, with what I’m sure will be more inspiring developments to come as the months progress.

To be continued…

Written by Timi Ben-Edigbe

/@TIMI.WATSONROSE   

FROM TWO TONE TO ROAD RAP: EXPLORING THE STREET SOUNDS OF COVENTRY

If we rolled it back to the early 80s it wouldn’t of been unusual to associate the humble city of Coventry with a progressive music scene and vibrant youth culture. The large Afro-Caribbean community, and broader working clash culture throughout the small the city of Coventry – for the period the gave you the likes of The Special’s and Two Tone records – was a symbol and product of modern multiculturalism.

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The 80s Ska Movement that swept the nation and gave us bands like The Madness, Bad Manners and The Selecter was indicative of a progressive social evolution across Britain and a small city like Coventry with it’s multicultural heritage is the type of place a movement like this should’ve continued flourish. But unfortunately because of Coventry’s small size – being a help in the beginning, hindered it from continued to maintaining any prevalence among broader youth culture. So after the successes of Two Tone records the tides changed and Coventry returned to being in some regards a desolate cultural ‘Ghost Town’.

However, things were bubbling when the Global influence of the 90s US Hip Hop movement continued to influence youth culture and Coventry was not out of it’s reach. Much like PDC in Brixton or Moorish Delta from Birmingham, crews like COV came with the classic Americanised style synonymous with the era. Despite this being an almost laughable attempt at Rap music today, when you consider the time and respectable levels of lyricism on the track, you still gotta give them credit for their contributions towards laying the foundations for the future rap talent of the city.

Like most cities in the UK, in the years between the early noughties and now, there was no notable musicians from the Urban sphere coming out of Coventry. That was until the latter stages of the last decade with the nationwide popularity of Grime and UK Drill fueling some much needed creativity, culminating in a new wave of rap acts.

From the likes of RB7 in UK Drill, or Shakavelli and Jdiz’s UK Rap selections or the collective C3’s offering that rest in the realms between Grime and UK Drill, over the last few years Coventry has really began to deliver music that matches up with the standards of the time, culminating in a recipe for inevitable crossover success.

Enter Jay1 who rose to fame with the popular hit ‘Your Mrs’. Jay1, like the likes of Ramz in the past managed to come with a song that connected at the right time. Though his success was meteoric, his legitimacy as a front runner for the city was short lived. First with his inaugaral album being widely panned by critics – namely the LinkUpTv show ‘The Listening Party’. Along with the recent scandal that surrounded Jay1, Dot Rotten and Steel Banglez only serving to further damage his reputation.

Though Jay1 has a healthy fan base and is one of the first Coventry rappers to claim mainstream success, his status as the torch bearer for the city has been compromised by his lack of critical acclaim allowing the title to be open to other contenders..

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Pa Salieu is someones who is receiving the critical acclaim for his music and is firmly defining his own sound and the city he comes from. Pa’s, who’s arguably the biggest credible rap act to come out of Coventry delivers a credible street edge and off the wall quirks that form an compelling package.

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Though he’s been compared to J Hus by many, his music suggests room for long term development into something of truly his own. The subtle twang of his Gambian and Coventry city heritage are present in his vocal style and status as a bonafide outlier all contribute to his distinct appeal.

With Jay1 and Pa Salieu, along with rappers such as Skatta, Shakavelli and JDidz,plus collectives such as C3 and RB7 accumulating a humble buzz online, the work towards Coventry solidifying it’s status as a city to be taken seriously is well and truly under way. A diverse range of styles from the street sounds of the aforementioned artists, to the more bubble gum sounds of songs like ‘Canada Goose’ by Junior X Tayz which has racked up a tidy 200k views on YouTube so far.

The online success of these underground acts highlights that the artists in Coventry are certainly beginning to connect with the masses. They have a few different artists getting significant 6 figure streaming figures, while all also offering diverse styles and sonics. The Dance music of Bristol, the recent rap success of Manchester and the hardcore Grime scene in Birmingham have all had their moments in the spotlight over the years and looking at the landscape today, Coventry’s gearing up for their own Urban music moment in the not too distance future.

Written by Timi Ben-Edigbe

/@TIMI.WATSONROSE