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Shunning gangs, addiction and violence for a life in hip-hop

14 June 2019

BBC Scotland has created a season of programmes that celebrate the world of hip-hop and explore how the American-invented musical genre has impacted the lives of people in Scotland.

One of the programmes is Loki’s History of Scottish Hip-Hop, in which rapper and writer explore how the pioneers of hip-hop in Scotland helped create the thriving scene today — including success stories like the Kanye West collaborator Hudson Mohawke.

Darren McGarvey AKA Loki performs his track Paisley

An introduction to the documentary Loki's History of Scottish Hip-Hop.

Hip-hop came along and educated me; it elevated me; it shaped me.
Davie AKA Freestyle Master

Many of those involved, including Loki, described hip-hop as an escape from the isolation and cultural alienation they felt growing up in some of Scotland’s most deprived areas.

Since hip-hop first came to Scotland in the 1980s, attitudes to hip-hop culture have changed. Loki highlighted the city streets transformed by graffiti artists who honed their skills painting on abandoned buildings and tracksides.

Loki explained that Scottish hip-hop is not a new thing. For the programme, he explored the scene’s the 30-year history by talking to the people involved in developing a Scottish slant on hip-hop’s ‘four pillars’: MCing, DJing, graffiti and breakdancing.

Scotland’s first breakdancing crews

The crews that started out in Scotland in the mid-1980s provided a creative outlet for young people who might otherwise have ended up in gangs — but that didn’t mean there weren’t fierce rivalries at play.

Glasgow City Breakers and Irvine’s Lazer City Crew were two of the better-known breakdancing crews who would dance against each other at events held at venues such as Glasgow’s Plaza. Their fierce rivalry soon gave way to camaraderie as the crews shared a determination to boost breakdancing’s profile and for it to be seen as a proper art form.

Brian Sharp of the Glasgow City Breakers said, “I wanted our dance to be watched by the world through the same eyes as somebody watching the best ballet.”

Breakdancing history

Development of breakdancing in Scotland in the 1980's

The Payback: Hip-Hop

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