White suburban middle class rappers could be the future of hip hop
A gangling looking intense guy stares at you through the lens over a DIY beat. The background isn’t industrial Detroit, it’s a leafy picturesque field. It could be the Lake District. It could be an awkward family holiday video taken because your mum doesn’t quite know how to take a picture properly on her iPhone. You half expect this guy to start whining at his auntie Yvonne about when they’re going to have their afternoon picnic. But he doesn’t, instead he starts rapping.
It’s not a family holiday snap, this is a music video from celebrated rapper and beat-boxer Bradley Bromley, just one of the many slightly awkward, white, probably middle-class rappers dominating the Middle England hip-hop scene today.
The renegade 21-year-old was even arrested in Manchester earlier this month and escorted from the city centre for “rapping too loudly”
Talking to Manchester Evening News at the time he said: “Council officers just came up to me and told me to leave because it was a ‘breach of the peace’ but no one had complained about me being there.
“But they just kept telling me people had complained – but I spoke to the shop and they said they were happy for me to be there. So surely the council’s view is void if nobody is complaining.
“I make a bit of cash so obviously people are enjoying what I’m doing, I’m just trying to bring smiles to people’s faces. And if I had done something wrong then take me to the police station and charge me with something.”
The brush with the hand of the law only lends more powerful meaning to some of Bromley’s lyrics, where he raps about having a PMA (positive mental attitude), being picky with his food, and holding on to the “vibe of life”. His gauche 8 Mile style of spitting verse rips doesn’t exactly reach deep into the heart of bored twenty-somethings, with lines like “I’m one of those guys who have experienced raves, I go sick all day”, “I’m gonna growl, like I’m an idiot or something. I’m a cretin”, but he’s not without his bangers.
In a freestyle rap video he wisely chastises: “You think you’re just gonna carry on getting pissed every weekend, women not wearing femidoms men not wearing condoms.” And he actually really believes it. He doesn’t think he’s shit.
Bromley’s vibe of life is replicated by other awkward white boy English rappers up and down the country. Nestled in a presumably quaint corner of West Yorkshire, Leeds University Chemistry student Andrew Linstead moonlights as grime artist FulKost, dedicating himself to dropping his first mixtape “From Way Back When”.
Studying at a uni which gave the world Alt-J, Bastille and half of the Made in Chelsea cast, Fulkost tries to stay close to grimy roots.
He says: “I skipped a professional studio and recorded from my bedroom using raw and authentic sounds to showcase my potential as a musician and sound engineer.”
“I’ve always been a massive fan of urban music. Growing up in Coventry I was surrounded by people who rhymed, back when grime music wasn’t respected in the same way it is now.
“We rapped because it was fun, for the respect. For me it started out just writing lyrics that were funny with my friends until I eventually realised I’m quite good at this and maybe I should take it a bit seriously.
“When I did, of course there were certain friends that thought it was funny because everyone they knew only rapped about being a badman and living a lifestyle that most of them didn’t.”
But for Linstead, rap comes hand in hand with going to a university where nearly a quarter of the students are privately educated: “Fuck all care was given to what others might think – it was our own way of university life”.
He and his friends call themselves serial chillers. Girls who live near him in halls say: “Is that an angel next door? Is he signed to a label?”. Listening to his sick rhymes, hearing about the lifestyle, you think yeah, fuck it. Fuck Wiz Khalifa getting arrested on a swegway. Fuck shows at New York fashion week and marrying a Kardashian. This lowkey British rap life is the future.
And it can take you places probably. At least all the way to reality TV on Channel 5. Everyone laughed when Matthew Clarkson, a Medicine fresher at UCL, rebranded himself as Christian MJC and tried his hand at rap-by-numbers on top of Canary Wharf, laying his soul bare for his girl with “baby you’re my peach I would never pick a plum”. We laughed.
“He probably thinks Dapper Laughs is a good lad”, we said. “He looks like he maxed out his loan in Urban Outfitters. He’s wearing an orange gilet”.
But then Christian MJC shocked us all, showing up on Big Brother, minus the orange gilet, still pursuing his dream of single-handedly invigorating the UK rap scene. Maybe there’s something in his claims he was a national-level swimmer before he got in with the wrong crowd and “being chased by the police became a game”.
After two days at secondary school he was suspended for three, can Skepta say the same?
Even rebellious Bristol based beat-poet Charlie Makepeace isn’t far off dropping the sickest mix tape of 2015. Sure, it’s easy to dismiss a Veterinary student in a chequered shirt when he’s standing in the middle of an empty record shop and saying “the music industry is dead”, but maybe he’s on to something.
With a slightly manufactured MLE English accent Charlie launches into a defence of club music and “the beats and the drops…maybe you’re high on pills…or you just toot rock” (toot rock means smoke crack).
But it’s rap music he likes the best because of “the way they can intertwine their words so intricately and the way you can grasp their concepts so quickly”.
Sure, bizarre artists like Charlie, Matthew, Bradley and Andrew probably couldn’t survive on the mean streets of early nineties Detroit, but they don’t need to. They’ve found their niche in starstruck students, beat poetry sessions and anyone talking about how Frank Ocean still hasn’t dropped that fucking album. For us, they’re probably the future of the music industry. Which would be fine, to be honest.