Davy and Freddy of The 27 Club
Hip hop on Tyneside
By contributor Ben Holland
Ben Holland chats to Newcastle-based The 27 Club about the region's often overlooked hip hop scene.
Davy swishes red wine up around the inside of his glass and takes in the increasingly surreal surroundings: "Have we walked into an episode of the Mighty Boosh?"
In a previously quiet café, The 27 Club, the North East's brightest hip hop band, have come under a sudden and unexpected siege of twee.
Davy, guitarist with The 27 Club
"Why do I not get cheap wine?" ponders the guitarist. "I mean this lot get it for nine quid a bottle… just because they're knitting."
And so it is, among the brightly-coloured yarns of spinning wool, that The 27 Club sit, in a fighting mood to talk up the virtues of local underground culture.
Is the North East, that bastion of endless identi-kit rock "n" roll indie bands, now the home of a burgeoning hip hop scene?
"The hip hop scene is pretty vibrant," explains MC and resident 27 Club trombonist, Freddy.
"[There's] a lot of people doing a lot of good stuff, certainly rapper, DJ and producer wise – there's perhaps a lack of a uniting force or a place that everyone congregates but there is a lot of good talent."
Music to dance to
This lack of a "uniting force" is a recurring annoyance. In a region where average indie prospers nightly, other genres have to fight twice as hard for recognition; a fact not lost on Davy.
"There's a lot of bands I see pay more attention to their haircuts and how tight their trousers are than they do to whether they can play an instrument or not."
No such problems for The 27 Club. Gathered from outposts of Durham and Darlington, this Newcastle-based collective have cultivated their style over the past three years (via endless line-up changes) to get to their current eight-piece guise of MC's, guitarist, rhythm and brass section.
MC and trombonist Freddy
"The influx of brass has changed the style a lot," smiles Freddy. "That was a milestone in our development as a band. It's changed from wanting it all to be about hip hop and a good speed to rhyme over to being something I just want people to dance to."
Impossible to truly pigeon hole, then? "I'd describe it as any genre," counters Davy "with hip hop as the thread that ties it together."
Recently signed to London-based hip hop label ReGen Records, the band's self-titled debut album is littered with danceable hip hop tinged with "a strong feeling for social justice and ways of describing politics of the left."
This clearly is a band with a social conscience. Organisers of "No Borders" awareness nights around Newcastle, they have a string of live dates spanning summer 2009, some of which are even more surreal than the knitting club.
"We're playing a demonstration gig in London with [Channel 4 newsreader] Jon Snow," muses Davy, whilst they've also bagged the main support slot to play alongside hip hop legends De La Soul at the Sage: "mint".
So it is that The 27 Club needn't be too concerned with what the indie scensters are up to. Not many of them, after all, are landing such prestigious, or slightly bizarre, dates as that.
They will support De La Soul
Though try telling that to Davy.
"I think it's about time some labels, management or promoters were brave enough to say, 'Right, we're sick of this, let's give someone else a chance or let's forget the genres altogether and just listen to the people with passion and the people who have something to sing about.'"
The 27 Club certainly are a band with something to sing about and reasons to be happy. As the interview comes to an end, and the room continues to fill with more ardent knitters, we dart for an exit.
Davy turns ands makes the point that for the scene to become united, everyone should be checking out everything.
"Basically, it's about good music…" he says, echoing the ethos of why The 27 Club are making such a stir, both locally and nationally. "In the end, genre doesn't matter at all."
Use the links on the right to find out more about The 27 Club and to check out some of the other bands they recommend on the North East hip hop scene.
last updated: 03/08/2009 at 09:18
Hip hop on Tyneside
Want to know more about the North East hip hop scene? The 27 Club recommend:
This North East hip hop band have supported the likes of Public Enemy and Wu Tang Clan.
Dialect are a crew from South Shields, made up of Sep5, Peta Max, Chattabox, Ynot and Rick Fury.
The Sonic Rites Collective aims to showcase a range of artists and bands through gigs and events and has been created and cared for by the Newcastle music community.