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.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

'Liverpool was cool and even Manchester felt it' - Jigmastas "Across The Globe"

Some time in 1995 whilst driving home from the daily grind, Mr Jonze and Kwinzola heard an advert on Key 103 for a new club night in Manchester, the strap line went: 'from the 70's funk licks that kick to the new skool jazz of today, add a slice of latin and a touch of disco and you've got it...HEADFUNK'

It sounded dope, a change of scenerey from the Liverpool Acid Jazz nights and an outside chance to get a Hip Hop fix. That Friday we were there, among the first people through the door on the first night. Headfunk seemed fresher than the club nights in Liverpool, perhaps, to some extent, because we were out of town but more so because the resident DJ Chubby Grooves had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Chubby was the main man behind the counter at Fat City Records and as a result of this his all encompassing DJ sets went deeper than any DJs we'd encountered before. Funk and Soul Breaks, Latin and Reggae joints we'd never heard before alongside 'Poppa Large' and 'Scenario' but more importantly Chubby had his finger on the pulse with the independent Hip Hop releases that were coming out of the states, and he was killer on the cut too. For almost 2 years our weekends revolved around Headfunk every Friday night then driving back over to Manchester every Saturday to try to buy every record we'd heard the night before from Chubby at Fat City.

Musically Chubby was and still is a massive influence on everything No Fakin' and his contribution to Hip Hop in the Northwest and beyond is often overlooked. Chubby's sets were always the highlight of any night he played at and he always topped the bill above Mr Scruff,  Mark Rae, Tom Simba (AKA Tom Findlay/Groove Armada) and many other household names today:

These were both dope nights. We would make lots of friends at these nights, many of whom have their own part to play in the No Fakin' Story. Chubby would go on to spin at tonnes of No Fakin' parties.

During this period things were starting to happen for us in Liverpool. We hooked up with DJ Bias in '95. He was Lewis Parker's DJ and had moved to Liverpool to study. He was a wicked scratcher, liked darts and Ultramagnetic MCs so straight away he was down. Later that year we did our first club night at Heebie Jeebies. Tony at the club was a mate of Mr Jonze's but would only give us a Wednesday night. We were wet behind the ears and with little thought called the night Breaking Atoms and forgot to put a date on it. Still I think 68 people came and we had a great night. I don't have a copy of the flyer but i'm sure you can picture it, basically the cover of Main Source - 'Breaking Atoms' with Main Source, Sir Scratch, K-Cut and Large Pro taken off, venue information, music policy, no date. Shortly after Tony sold Heebie Jeebies and the Italian Ice Cream man who bought it couldn't understand we weren't a band and wouldn't give us a date. We played the odd nights here and there like Chris McBride's Monday night at Jack's but nothing we could call 'Ours' and nothing compared to the atmosphere of our Manchester adventures.

Evrockski started working 2 days a week in No Quater Records in Quiggins in Liverpool and these flyers could be found in and around any venue where Hip Hop lived:

We would go here every Friday afternoon and snap up the handfull of indie Hip Hop 12's he'd ordered in. Amongst our crew we would argue over who was going to take the only copy Indelible MC's 'Fire in Which You Burn', Shabam Sahdeeq 'Side 2 Side' and this dope slice of 1997 independent Hip Hop:

As it happens Mr Complex would too go on to smash it at several No Fakin' shows. If you ever stumble across this thanks Plex!!!

Its now February 1997, evrockski's 'pop up Hip Hop record shop' is in full swing, Tony has took over the old Bourbon Street Jazz club and called it the Zanzibar and Headfunk has left its original home of Time and is struggling to re-create the vibe of the last 2 years. We decide its time to start our own night proper. We ask Tony if we can have the last Friday of every month at the Zanzibar, he says YES. We ask Chubby Grooves if he'd come and play our opening night, he says YES and so No Fakin' is born. On deck duty that night; Kwinzola (then Quinzola,Mr Jonze (then Boogaloo Jonze), DJ Bias and special guest Chubby Grooves (Fat City / Headfunk). The intimate Zanzibar was packed to the rafters, we were spinning underground Hip Hop, the atomosphere was amazing, this was the home of Real Hip Hop in Liverpool. We were on to something special.

The 3rd No Fakin' flyer, hand drawn.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

I reminisce for a spell, or shall I say think back. 22 years ago to keep it on track...

For a young Hip Hop head back in Liverpool in the late 80’s the 20 minute fix of Roxanne Shante, Spoonie G and Mantronix sandwiched between Iron Maiden and the Smiths in clubs like the State and Macs could never be enough. There was only one place to get your rap fix and that was the Mardi.

A dedicated hip hop night where you could hear DJ Terminator Sef cutting and scratching, mixing Eric B & Rakim ‘I Know You Got Soul’ into Mr X and Mr Z ‘Drink Old Gold’...Genius:

If you were lucky there would be an afterparty in 61A Bold street with freestyle sessions from the likes of First In Command and Power to The Max. All good things come to an end and after Quinns 2 closed and the Mardi changed its music policy the scene became fractured but you could still catch some Hip Hop at nights like...

Then when Acid Jazz hit Liverpool, Hip Hop fans embraced it with many discovering the original funk breaks and samples that were so familiar to them. Grand Groove were among the torchbearers playing the Pharcyde and The Goats alongside Acid Jazz and Ultimate Breaks and Beats. For the next few years Hip Hop lived in Clubs like:

...And of Course First in Command's open Mic Freestyle night Phat Skillz. 
...and many of the heads who were present at the Mardi Gras from day one were recreating that vibe in the D.I.Y. spirit of Hip Hop with parties at various 'Venues' in Toxteth:

On some next tip and a definite must for all ladies...FRESH!!!

During this time you could cop the latest Hip Hop 12”s and a promo copy of ‘Stunts, Blunts and Hip Hop’ from Jenny D at Unity Records on Bold Street or if you were in the know Pyramid Records on Lodge Lane:

Then as the Drug Wars gripped the city in 1996 and the only people on the streets of Liverpool were armed police...a handful of dedicated Hip Hop fans could be found head nodding in the basement of Le Bateau at...

Check out the prototype Art Attack flyer using cardboard, glue, gold marker pen, letter stencil sets, a scalpel and an Old English bottle label...Fresh.

Massive thanks to Grand Groove (AKA evrokski and Danny Crates) for the citation, stories, flyers, memories, support and above all this photograph:

You can catch them spinning at various No Fakin' Joints and Beatdowns across the city.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

First In Command

Well it's 1995.....having formed in Liverpool in '89, aware that studio time is expensive and mistakes would be costly Abyss (MC/Producer), 2Kind (MC) and DJ Olabean have spent the last 6 years honing their craft. Collecting Jazz breaks and Library records. Studying rhyme patterns, lyric structures, metaphors and production techniques of the US artists that have inspired them. First In Command are ready to create 'Pest Control'.

Aiming not to imitate but to contribute to the genre F.I.C. Succeed in producing 18 tracks of sublime jazz loops, funky drum breaks, soulful cuts, scratches and skits topped off with a flow and subject matter not yet witnessed this side of the pond. 'Pest Control' compliments and sits perfectly alongside Hieroglyphics, The Pharcyde, A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets. However what sets 'Pest Control' aside is the MCs' refusal to compromise their own background, with a scouse accent and subject matter that any British kid listening to Hip Hop would relate to and appreciate.

...But this is 1995, the internet is still in its infancy, no myspace, no facebook. Independent Hip Hop record labels of the US like Fondle Em and Rawkus are still an idea in the heads of American Hip Hop mavericks and the UK is way behind still. Major labels don't know what to do with UK Hip Hop artists and, perhaps most importantly, this is Liverpool. F.I.C. Do their best to get 'Pest Control' heard. They organise their own club night Phat Skillz. They perform up and down the country supporting Credit to The Nation amongst others. They shop the album around and beat off over 40 acts to be declared the Best Unsigned Hip Hop Act in Hip Hop Connection. But unsigned they remain. Industry politics, families, mortgages and life get in the way and F.I.C. Go their separate ways. Abyss continues to make beats producing tracks for Children of the Damned and Tommy Evans. 2Kind puts down the mic and takes to the turntable becoming one of Liverpool's most sought after club DJs and opening Liverpool's first dedicated Hip Hop records store 'Static'. DJ Olabean becomes a member of UK DJ Super crew the Hitmen, touring the globe alongside Semtex and Shortee Blitz. 'Pest Control' is put to bed.

Fast forward to some point over the 15 years 'Pest Control' finds its way into the hands of Liverpool's No Fakin' Djs. It becomes a staple in their sets. They wish F.I.C. Were still together, regretting not having the opportunity to have them perform at their club night. A Liverpool Hip Hop act that could perform alongside the US acts they were booking; Lootpack, J-Live, El da Sensei. They wax lyrical with the lads from F.I.C. About how different things could have been had they know each other back then and regret not having worked with them. No Fakin' DJs release the first record on 2Dogs and during a think tank session with the label's head honhos, planning future releases, they crack open the 15 year old 'Pest Control', its matured well and still sounds fresh. They label are hooked, they believe it still has an audience and Abyss, 2Kind and Olabean are convinced. The time has come to finally unleash perhaps the greatest UK Hip Hop album never released. First In Command's 'Pest Control'.

Until then here's a taster.....DOPE!!!

First In Command - 'my next project'

...And Here's First in Command on the bus.

Going way back

Whilst helping our kid move out we unearthed some early No Fakin' Flyers and photographs which prompted me to dig through boxes of junk in my loft to try to piece together the history of the club night. There's a few gaps but I've managed to put most of it together chronologically, so over the next few months on here I'm going to bore you with images, flyers and the odd recording to paint the picture of No Fakin' since '97.

Here's the first flyer....we didn't really know any graphic designers so its a bit turd but for its time in Liverpool the line ups were dope and we were off to a flyer:

The second one was done by a friend of mine who designed greeting cards and I think it looks Fresh:

4 Decks of Flava yo!!!