Wednesday, 12 January 2011


As the first Liverpool Hip Hop act to make it onto vinyl, the story of Liverpool's largely undocumented Hip Hop history can't really be told without putting the spotlight on Bantu. There's very little information around about these influential local artists so forgive me if some of this seems a bit vague but its pieced together from our own early encounters as well as recollections and images from some of our peeps so thanks to Mark McNulty for the images, Evo for the beats and a bunch of other people for the 'facts' and I use that term loosely.

Formed in Liverpool in the mid 80's members Ibrahim, Calvin and Kevin were set to be the forefathers of a generation of Liverpool Hip Hop artists.

Develping their craft in the aftermath of the Toxteth riots and against a backdrop of high unemployment and little opportunity Bantu understandably had a hard edge and overtly political message to their subject matter. They had close ties with Jalal from The Last Poets who had a huge influence on them and at some stage in their career they moved to New York to work with producer Davy DMX. To young Liverpool Hip Hop fans watching live shows for the first time Bantu looked and sounded every bit the Rap Superstars.


We would see them outside HMV on Church Street, one of us plucking up the courage to ask when they were performing next or, if we had the bottle, ask what records they had just bought. While their material was often serious their live show was always hype. Although back then we had little to compare it to I remember them being slick and full of energy on stage. Never was this more evident than at the Malcolm X Festival in 1989 (I think) in Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall.


The show was curated by Bantu who performed alongside, if my memory serves me right, Jalal from the Last Poets, Davy DMX, MC Mello and the Cookie Crew who absolutely smashed it. Check out this picture of them in action, The Philharmonic Hall has never been so rowdy.


Incidentally I met MC Remedee (or was it Suzy Q) with Mickey Blue eyes at a party in London a few years ago. Very inebriated I blurted out my recollections of the Malcolm X show, she remembered it more vividly than me and spoke very fondly of the show, other artists and how Liverpool represented that night.

At this stage Bantu were yet to release anything. In the Autumn of 1991 they recorded and released a white label, promo 12" 'Urbanglo/Switch'

 'Switch' - Bantu

With their talent, pedigree and reputation, at some point, almost every major record label in the land expressed an interest in Bantu but with their political subject matter it was largely felt they could never cross over to achieve mainstream success, nor that they particularly wanted to. In an interview with local journalist Kevin McManus Bantu's Ibrahim defiantly states: 'Being born a black man in England you are born political, and in Liverpool you are definitely born I'm not really bothered if people find it hard to accept. If we were doing the MC Hammer baggy trouser routine we'd be in there but that's not us...what we are saying is reality and people shouldn't be scared of reality.'

Subsequently no record label would take a chance on Bantu. I know very little about what happened to them after the early 90's but their influence was to be felt across Liverpool's fledgling Hip Hop scene and Bantu had paved the way for the next crop of Liverpool's Hip Hop talent; Pool Stable, Live Tribe, Lyrical Compact and First in Command.