It hasn’t always been like this. Black music, under­ground music, Sound Sys­tem cul­ture, bass driv­en sounds have been birthed by our com­munit­ies for gen­er­a­tions, but haven’t always gained sup­port with­in our com­munit­ies or out­side them, at least not in the way it is now, for a lot of reas­ons. The exuber­ance and excess of major labels dom­in­ated the decision mak­ing of who was suc­cess­ful through­out the 80s and 90s, and when that industry and life­style crashed in the early 2000s, a void was cre­ated along­side the infant­ile eco­sys­tem of down­load­ing and stream­ing that made it one of the most dif­fi­cult times to dis­trib­ute and pro­mote music, espe­cially inde­pend­ently. This era was the time when Grime was formed, which des­pite being attacked by the powers that be has sur­vived and thrived thanks to the ambi­tion and ded­ic­a­tion of the people who cre­ated it, some of who have now rightly reaped immense suc­cess today, as that online eco­sys­tem is now mature enough to work in the favour of inde­pend­ent artists. That same peri­od also coin­cided with the “boom” of UK Hip Hop – clas­sic, boom bap, rugged, lyr­ic­al UK Hip Hop. More rap­pers and beat­makers seemed to exist then than before and now, though it rarely pro­duced suc­cess­ful careers; by the time we reached the place we are now, the wave of interest had mostly moved on to the young­er sib­lings of Grime and Drill.

O7nFP0AUThere are artists though, who not only laid the found­a­tion for our cur­rent moment, but shaped the art form and cul­ture, main­tained it though those dif­fi­cult years and have come out the oth­er side with their lives, san­ity, respect and repu­ta­tions not only intact, but enhanced. Rod­ney P, Blak Twang and Ty are 3 of those artists – rep­res­ent­ing 3 dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions each inspired by and build­ing on the one before. To see them come togeth­er as The King­Dem, with a nation­al tour, an EP on the way (pro­duced by Nutty P and set to be released on Tru Thoughts) and shellin’ rid­dims on plat­forms like Charlie Sloth’s new Fire in the Booth is a sig­ni­fic­ant moment for lyr­ic­al Hip Hop music, our cul­ture, those who make it and those who have always sup­por­ted it. That fact has not been lost on our com­munity, around the coun­try but espe­cially in Lon­don. The last date of The King­Dem tour at Jazz Café sold out com­pletely, with people who’d assumed they’d be able to pay on the day miss­ing out.


For those who didn’t miss out (or were blessed to have a press pass!) it was a spe­cial night. I’ve been to Jazz Café a lot over the years, and seen crowds like this for the likes of Jedi Mind Tricks and Onyx, or may­be some­thing close to that for a huge com­pil­a­tion line up of Lon­don based acts, but this was dif­fer­ent. This was for one crew – yes, a super­group made of 3 legends – still, it was a power­ful state­ment. What was also telling was the range of the audi­ence; a beau­ti­ful mix of Hip Hop heads in their 20s, 30s 40s and above, and too many influ­en­tial names to men­tion. Import­antly, a large pro­por­tion of the crowd were sis­ters. One cri­ti­cism UK Hip Hop has faced over the years is the mar­gin­al­isa­tion of and inab­il­ity to attract women to events like this. The King­Dem have bucked that trend, not only in the demo­graph­ic of sup­port but in the homage paid to the Cook­ie Crew, already being referred to as The Queen­Dem, in the pro­mo­tion­al events and at this show – as the fun­da­ment­al inspir­a­tion for Rod­ney P to start rap­ping back in the 80s.

eJ56VbxIIt also mani­fes­ted in the wildly dope Isat­ta Sher­iff being brought onstage by Ty, to add to the sup­port from Rot­ton family’s K9, Not­ting­ham vet­er­an and com­munity build­er Jah Dig­ga, pion­eer­ing selecta and taste­m­aker DJ 279 who all killed their sets, all held togeth­er by Rapscal­lion as mas­ter of cere­mony. The homage paid, the sup­port of old friends, the pro­mo­tion of young­ers, the bring in of heads from oth­er cit­ies and the sup­port and reac­tions from the crowd was evid­ence of what The King­Dem said all night – this was about more than 3 men – this was about Hip Hop, and the branch of its cul­ture born in the cit­ies of these isles.Fj_Z6iaI At the same time though, it was all about these 3 legends, as it should be. We were treated to a mix of clas­sics and fresh­ness, through their indi­vidu­al sets and their col­lect­ive per­form­ance. Another legend, DJ Teddy Ted, held down the decks for the whole night, mak­ing the crowd go crazy as Ty dropped tracks like ‘Heart is Break­ing’, ‘Ha Ha’, ‘As the Smoke Clears’ and ‘Some­where Some­how Some­way’. Tony Rot­ton went in with his clas­sics ‘Dettwork South­East’, ‘Help Dem Lord’, ‘G.C.S.E.’ and end­ing on what prob­ably got the biggest reac­tion of the night ‘So Rot­ton’. With the tone set, Rod­ney P took the stage, his set play­ing like a his­tory of Black Lon­don music, mov­ing from his ‘Live Up’ col­lab­or­a­tion with People’s Army and Mighty Moe, through clas­sic Lon­don Pos­se tracks ‘Money Mad’ and ‘How’s Life in Lon­don’ to solos like ‘Rid­dim Kil­la’ and ‘The Nice Up’, with clas­sic Jungle, Rag­ga and Hip Hop vibes mixed through­out. You could feel the genu­ine appre­ci­ation and enjoy­ment from the crowd all the way through, and look­ing around there was big, big smiles on faces all round. The night reached its cli­max when all 3 King­Dem shared the stage, per­form­ing new tracks ‘The Con­ver­sa­tion’ and ‘King­step’ and the bars per­formed on Fire in the Booth, show­ing that 30+ years of grind, growth, per­sever­ance and cre­at­ing has sharpened the skills, not dulled them.


These broth­ers, legends, kings showed bey­ond all doubt that lyr­ic­al, sub­stance driv­en, home grown Hip Hop was not only alive, but thriv­ing in this era of merged gen­res, new sounds, revital­isa­tion, inde­pend­ent achievements…and mumble rap! The King­Dem is a move­ment, with a lot more to come, that was not star­ted but has def­in­itely been con­tin­ued through this show, this tour, this crew, the music they’re about to release and the bridges that will be built through their con­tin­ued suc­cess. A corner has been turned and there’s no turn­ing back; again, I feel blessed to be wit­ness­ing it and be a part of it.

Fol­low the move­ment at

Pho­tos by Ern­est Simons (@ernestsimons)









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Apex Zero

Apex Zero

Apex Zero is an emcee and beat maker who has been express­ing his anti-polit­ic­al views and extend­ing his work towards defin­ing, inspir­ing and cre­at­ing last­ing change through Hip Hop for over a dec­ade. Apex has been work­ing with grass­roots and mil­it­ant organ­isa­tions, edu­cat­ing him­self and oth­ers, organ­ising and build­ing towards over­turn­ing the oppress­ive mech­an­ism at large since his mid-teens, around the same time that he entered London’s under­ground Hip Hop scene as part of his crew, First and Last with his brother OMeza Omni­scient. Years of earn­ing respect and enhan­cing their repu­ta­tion, which lead to col­lab­or­a­tions and work­ing rela­tion­ships with many of the scenes most prom­in­ent artists and organ­isa­tions, mani­fes­ted in the Octo­ber 2013 release of Apex’s debut solo album ‘Real­ity Pro­vok­ing Lib­er­a­tion’. The 15 tracks of self-described ‘Neo-Hard­core Hip Hop’ gathered inter­na­tion­al acclaim from both fans and crit­ics, fur­ther enhan­cing Apex’s repu­ta­tion as one of the strongest and clearest voices in anti-polit­ic­al, ‘revolu­tion­ary’ Hip Hop in the UK. Based in Beijing, China since 2014, Apex has been trav­el­ling out­side of the UK, seek­ing new per­spect­ives and aim­ing at enhan­cing his out­look, explor­ing dif­fer­ent soci­et­ies, con­nect­ing with Hip Hop heads, act­iv­ists and schol­ars world­wide. Like his music, his writ­ing is often an exten­sion of his ideas and efforts to effect change in the world whil­st enhan­cing and elev­at­ing both the cul­ture of Hip Hop and the people who embody it.

About Apex Zero

Apex Zero
Apex Zero is an emcee and beat maker who has been expressing his anti-political views and extending his work towards defining, inspiring and creating lasting change through Hip Hop for over a decade. Apex has been working with grassroots and militant organisations, educating himself and others, organising and building towards overturning the oppressive mechanism at large since his mid-teens, around the same time that he entered London’s underground Hip Hop scene as part of his crew, First and Last with his brother OMeza Omniscient. Years of earning respect and enhancing their reputation, which lead to collaborations and working relationships with many of the scenes most prominent artists and organisations, manifested in the October 2013 release of Apex’s debut solo album ‘Reality Provoking Liberation’. The 15 tracks of self-described ‘Neo-Hardcore Hip Hop’ gathered international acclaim from both fans and critics, further enhancing Apex’s reputation as one of the strongest and clearest voices in anti-political, ‘revolutionary’ Hip Hop in the UK. Based in Beijing, China since 2014, Apex has been travelling outside of the UK, seeking new perspectives and aiming at enhancing his outlook, exploring different societies, connecting with Hip Hop heads, activists and scholars worldwide. Like his music, his writing is often an extension of his ideas and efforts to effect change in the world whilst enhancing and elevating both the culture of Hip Hop and the people who embody it.