The hip hop scene in Wales

Metabeats

Last updated: 15 September 2009

Cardiff-based hip hop journalist Adam Anonymous looks at the current state of the hip hop scene in Wales.

Photo of Metabeats by Southpaw Vision.

Though a devoted core of fans and artists are ensuring UK hip-hop's flag stays flying, throughout much of Britain the scene is somewhat on the wane, the gap between superstars and should-have-beens widening ever more painfully by the day.

Welsh hip-hop, on the other hand, has maintained a comparatively even keel, keen penchants for individuality aiding its survival and evolution. And though a few promising MCs have dropped off the radar, as well as joke-hoppers Goldie Lookin Chain falling from grace, the core of Wales's hip-hop scene is as vibrant as ever.

Much of the activity centres on the capital, Cardiff, where the Associated Minds stable has established itself as an almost faultlessly reliable seal of quality. Its roster boasts a clutch of names who have broken out from Wales, touring and gaining steady press attention - Barry producer Metabeats, mouth-manipulating whiz Beatbox Fozzy, mic destroyer Mudmowth, freestyle master Ruffstylz, larger-than-life rhymer Ralph Rip Shit - with a rash of forthcoming releases planned. Also from the city, in 2009 experienced trio Dead Residents dropped Triple Crown, one of the most enjoyable Welsh hip-hop albums in recent memory.

Multilingual principality-spanning crew Y Diwygiad are keeping the close-knit mother tongue sub-scene ticking over steadily, as are the likes of Bethesda's Hoax Emcee and Talysarn's Dybl-L. Both those latter artists are involved in Pen-Ta-Gram, a lyrically dense North Wales-representing collaborative project that involves, among others, Y Diwygiad's Mr Phormula.

Swansea's bit-part contribution isn't perhaps quite as significant as in past years, meanwhile, although members of seminal crew The Headcase Ladz and their extended family - most notably Lews Tewns - continue to ply feted solo trades. Further west, the uncompromising Qred has put Pembrokeshire on the map, switching guises to release drum'n'bass as Drum Cypha, and Barry enjoys its own bustling mini-scene, largely led by crew Squid Ninjaz, featuring Metabeats and Joe Blow.

Several originators, like innovative North Wales veterans Llwybr Llaethog and Cardiff's DJ Jaffa and 4Dee, are still holding it down having initially helped hip-hop permeate the Welsh musical landscape. The future is well looked after too, not least by Cardiff crossover characters Chrome Kids, a 'blog-loving DJ collective charting the metamorphosis of hip-hop into genres such as dubstep and bass-heavy club culture.

In days where 50 Cent/Lil Wayne-powered gangsta rap dominates album sales while demonstrating more respect for drug dealers and hoodlums than hip-hop traditions, Wales is at the forefront of keeping the artform's hallowed original elements alive. The Welsh Open B-Boy Championships 2009 at Newport Centre continues the noble art of breakdancing battles, also welcoming performers including Jurassic 5's Akil The MC.

Elsewhere, Cardiff festival Roxe Jam, set up in memory of late city graffiti artist Bill 'Roxe' Lockwood, has provided a rare outlet for legal spray paint work alongside attractions from breakdancing to local and national artists playing live. And with a smattering of sympathetic venues and promoters - Higher Learning, The Mutty Wango Party, Swansea's Monkey Café, the newly reopened Toucan Club - hip-hop in Wales appears in safe hands for the foreseeable future.


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