Another fantabulous evening at Devizes’ tropical holiday resort, The Muck and Dunder rum bar, where Bristol’s boom bap trio I’ve been hailing since day dot, The Scribes, came, saw, matchlessly interacted with the audience, and tore the place down with a riotous show of incredible skill and talent; secretly, it was foreseeable months ago……
Again, straw hats off to the Muck, just like previous evenings with the Allergies, Jimmy Needles and recently the BBC Introducing showcase, it’s the like we don’t usually see in our humble market town. Something I’ve been excited about before even leaking the scoop, hyping up here till the cows come home, and still, it exceeded my expectations. It did so with one most important element; Devizes showed their respect loud and proud, attending in full force for this sell-out show, and made me honoured to illustrate what I’d hitherto promised to frontman Ill Literate, and even his dad, Literate senior(!); this is our hometown, it punches well above its weight in knowing how to party.
For if there are others of this calibre currently on the UK hip hop scene, I’m unaware of them. The Scribes, I find no quarrel in dubbing “our Tribe Called Quest,” for the similar way they can lyrically interchange and bounce off each other, extend their presence further afield from the niche. They’re about spreading their love of hip hop and rap, using an exuberant and carefree east coast old school ethos, blended with contemporary rap techniques, blessing new audiences with what they’ve got, and aside their addictive and inimitable style, they’re having a heap of fun doing it. Just don’t do like I did, and try to capture a snap of them, they move about like Michael McIntyre on fast-forward!
Tunes played out were tricky to pinpoint, not while jigging and balancing my pina colada! Undoubtedly, they dipped into the vitrine of their latest EP, a forthcoming second in the series of the Totem Trilogy, and I did pick out my dub-inspired favourite, Mighty Mighty. Yet in rap no tune is ever precisely replicated, making an improv live show different every time. What was a highlight of the miscellany was the Doug E Fresh moments of drafting in the single-most amazing beatboxer this side of Barnard Star, which if you’ve never seen the like of in good ol’ Devizes before, it’s equally unlikely you’ve seen the like of anywhere before, if you catch my drift?! What? I’ve had rum!
With the upmost respect for the influence Mel Bush left on Devizes, the legendary promoter who bought Thin Lizzy to the Corn Exchange, I find it fascinating the same year he did, 1973, across the ocean in a Bronx block-party, Kool Herc isolated percussion “breaks” by switching between two turntables via a mixer, to prolong the beat of the track. Yet to many here, what he fashioned that night is still regarded as new-fangled!
Albeit progress out of the ghettos of New York for hip hop was sluggish, at best not arriving on our shores until a decade later, hip hop culture is no new thing. So, while this legacy for electric blues and prog-rock is still felt today, through the likes of Jon Amor, who plays the Southgate this afternoon, Innes Sibun and whenever Robin Davey returns, and this marks a blessing on our music scene which I fully appreciate, rum bar The Muck and Dunder aim for diversity, for daring to present dance, club, and hip hop, perhaps reaching out to the twenty and thirty-somethings wanting more than a standard nightclub. And for this, providing they’ll accommodate my aging sorry existence, I cannot thank them enough!
For me, you see, I loved it since a nipper; the cuts of Grandmaster Flash, the moves of the Rock Steady Crew, the subway graffiti, and right through to Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys, so I believe I’m conversant on the subject to assess the Scribes are the freshest on the block, and I’m glad we showed them what we’re worth in Devizes. Because, here’s my final point, and I feel it’s the most important one, at least in destroying an ill-conceived misconception about the genre which The Scribes highlight with bells on. And that is, the pretentiousness, the bling, guns, and chip on the shoulder stereotype is a product of commercialisation, and is more often than not, an unwelcomed division.
The Scribes circumnavigated the good ship Muck & Dunder prior to the hoedown, chatting enthusiastically with all. To talk with Ill Literate is to find a kindly fellow with definite goals, a positive agenda, and ardent in the direction he needs to take this. Take his recent solo EP, The Shipwreck as a prime example; here’s a rap record on the level of concept album, akin to prog-rock, with a conscious narrative flowing throughout. This isn’t just rapping to make a noise, this is dedicated writing and production, though on a night like last night at the Muck, it’s also about appeasing the crowd, which they did, sublimely. I walked home in the pissing rain, smiling all the way.
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