Is the Uk taking over as the home of Hip-hop and Rap?
Artists, critics and fans often argue that the 90s generation of Hip Hop and Rap will never be topped. The 90s-era consisted of young artists looking to speak out from society and use their talent to make changes in the world they live in. As the pioneers and innovators of the genre I completely understand why they would consider this however, I am begging to question whether the current UK music scene is taking over as the greatest generation in Rap? Being a fan of both old school Hip Hop and the growing UK rap scene, I have drawn many similarities between artists; whether it’s their style of rap, the imagery portrayed in their lyrics, flows or even their influence on culture. There’s only one way this and any other music debate can be settled. A Sound-Clash. I have taken five of my favourite artist and groups from the US and UK and paired them up with who I believe is there counterpart for the ultimate clash. Without further ado, Round 1!
NAS VS Dave
Interestingly Nas and Dave have similar career paths regarding their development and breakthrough into the mainstream. At only 19 Nas dropped his first album ‘Illmatic’ which is still considered the best rap album of all times by critics and his peers. Comparably, Dave’s first album was released in 2019 at the age of 20. His album ‘Psychodrama’ debuted at number one in the UK earning the biggest first week sales ever for a British rap album. Nas and Dave both set new standards for rap with their debut albums solidifying themselves in the game and as legends at such young ages.
Looking at the two debut albums the consistent storytelling merged together by intelligent punchlines demonstrates that they were and still are ahead of their time placing them in the top tier group of MCs. Both rappers are famous for having well-structured and thought out verses and using double-entendre as well as religious references to tell their stories. Nas does this with ease on the second verse of ‘It ain’t hard to tell,’ the lead single off Illmatic and Dave displays these qualities on ‘Streatham.’ Their bars have great ambiguity allowing for new interpretations every time you listen.
Sound Clash – In my opinion, no one can compete with Dave’s world play. Not even Nas! Some of the double entendre Dave has said have kept me up at night. For that I have to give him the round.
NWA VS 67
NWA need no introduction but for those who are unaware, with the release of the album Straight Outta Compton (1998) NWA birthed ‘gangster rap’ by speaking out on the racism and police brutality they faced. Since their rise, gangster rap took over as the prominent genre and shaped American rap culture to what it is today. Ultimately 67 have done the same with Drill music. 67 popularised it to the point where it is now the mainstream sound in the UK. Like NWA, 67 spoke about their environment and upbringing drawing in audiences with their raw stories about life on the block and a constant battle against police.
The flows, beats and lyrical ability of songs may be dissimilar between these two rap groups however, it is their influences on rap culture that link them together. Both groups commercialised a genre that ultimately ended up taking over.
Sound Clash – Round two of the clash falls in favour of the old school. Both groups had a similar influence on culture but it is the lyrical excellence of Ice Cube and co that rightly earns them the win.
Notorious BIG VS J Hus
J Hus, to me, is who Notorious BIG would be if he was from the UK. What draws me to Biggie is his rhyming pattern. His is a master at finding continuous rhymes using the same syllable. This is ever present when analysing his raps and perhaps best displayed on his track ‘Notorious Thugs.’ J Hus also frequently display this style of rapping. They fill a bar with complex and intricate words yet have a prominent word that remains true to the single syllable rhyme. It makes both rappers sound so smooth on any beat. Most recently J Hus also used this style on his hit song ‘Must be.’
The two rappers have also created various personas which allows them to switch from their usual gangster riddims and work their magic on more RnB sounding beats. J Hus has; ‘Hustler baby,’ ‘Juju J’ and ‘Bouff Daddy’ to name a few whereas Biggies Smalls resonates with; ‘Notorious BIG,’ ‘Big Poppa’ and of course Biggie. They use the personas to give the audience different insights into their lives ranging from past struggles to dealing with women on the regular, both more than capable of excelling in either topic. It is not uncommon to have alter egos in rap and hip-hop but there is a strong resemblance of the alter egos between these two.
Sound Clash – This round has to go to 90s. Although J hus is my favourite rapper of this era, Biggie’s music has become timeless since his passing as he remains the King of Hip-hop. It was a close call but Biggie opened the door for notorious gangsters to rap over RnB beats and earn worldwide status. Ultimately influencing the like of J hus and many others.
Slick Rick VS MoStack
In my opinion, these two rappers are criminally underrated and when it comes to smooth delivery and catchy punch lines there aren’t many better past or present. Slick Rick was a pioneer in rap with his unique style. He began the trend of mimicking different voices throughout songs when narrating stories. Mostack often follows this style. Across all his songs, for example Wild, you can hear him impersonate various voice to add further context or switch flows during his songs.
Another reason why I love listening to these two rappers is the way they use sing-along melodies to fill in rhymes and make their songs even more memorable. Slick Rick is famous for creating the much sampled ‘La-Di-Da-Di’ whereas Mostack has his iconic ‘Ma-ma-ni, na-na-na.’ This adds a certain humour to their rapping which is then carried out in much of their lyrics. Both MC’s do not take themselves too seriously and you can often find a sense of whit and sarcasm in their bars. Slick Rick does this when storytelling, for instance in his song ‘Me and Nas bring it to your hardest.’
Sound Clash – Another win for the modern ear! No one tells a story quite like Slick Rick but what wins this round is the diversity Mostack has in his locker. Slick Rick never made a club banger.
Lil Kim Vs Little Simz
Before Lil Kim, female rappers were not highly regarded as big names in hip-hop and rap. By adopting a different style to her counterparts, the Brooklyn rapper paved a way for a generation of female rappers. Through hard hitting and more sexualised raps Lil Kim provided a platform that encouraged other females not to worry about society and spit how they see fit. Lil Kim raised the bar for females in the 90s on songs such as ‘Queen Bitch.’ Little Simz follows in these footsteps as she holds her own a UK rap scene dominated by men. Simz doesn’t shy away from showcasing her talents and, why should she? Her intense flow and clever wordplay has built her a core following and placed her as one of the hardest in the UK. She portrays this on her hit track ‘Venom.’ Both Lil Kim and Little Simz demonstrate great talent that wasn’t there before them so for me, pioneers in the industry and two queens of rap who can hold their own against the kings.
Sound Clash – Little Simz secures the win for the UK. Little Simz certainly has more context behind her bars and didn’t need the help of Biggie Smalls unlike her competitor, we won’t get into that now though.
Admittedly there may be some biased in the decisions as to who won those rounds, however, it is clear to me that the current UK music scene is becoming more talented and competitive than ever before. No longer do we rely on US music to flood our charts and radio. The UK have created our own sound and culture. We must still pay homage to the past greats who allowed Hip-hop to reach the heights it has, and If you don’t know the artist mentioned get to know! Nevertheless, it is now time to celebrate UK music and their hard-earnt victory in the culture clash.
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