story: Rock Hunter, Pictures: Beezer
With so much current attention focused on oLd schooL hip hop, with Flash, Herc and Cold Crush all enjoying new leases of life, one can't help remembering the early hip hop days in the UK. Before Fresh '86, Covent Garden and even Westwood, there were crews in and around London paying homage to their NY mentors. These early rap cuts were often exposed through the new wave. The Clash brought through Futura, Mcluren exposed Bam and The Supreme Team; and an oddball old punk from BristoL called Mark Stewart was voicing tracks with Sugarhill's finest session musicians, namely Keith Le BLanc and Doug Wimbish. In London, the infamous Language Lab started by James and Mark Le Bon was kicking up a heat with Sir Jules And The 
Knights Of The Turntable. This included Lurch, Froggy, Dizzy Heights and others. Then a young brother called Bertram but better 
known as Newtrament let loose with the first UK rap release, London Bridge Is Falling Down. This was released on Jive and featured Mighty Ethnic's veteran Sir Drew as well as Mono Man, who now holds a post with Skunk Anansie. Such is the acclaim of this pioneer release that it was even included on the 
Mastercuts Electro compilation. A stencilled Logo KREW appeared all over West London, Futura did a piece under the Westway, Whizz 
Kid ripped up Acklam Hall [now Subterania]. Prior to all these landmark events, UK hip hop had its origins in a most unlikely spot, 
namely the West Country or to be more specific Bristol, for this western port has housed an Afro-Carribbean community almost 
as long as its neighbour Tiger Valley. This fact, together with the healthy punk attitude of the late '70s provided the backbone for a musiciaL genre that would conquer the world.  Because when Miles and Grant started their home built sound system in 1982 they didn't realise that this was the beginning of Massive Attack. The sound was called the Wild Bunch and it adopted itself a residency at a local hippie after hours shebeen The Dug Out. 
   "I would return from New York and Miles would be playing this Spoonie Gee tune or whatever. I'd say supp'm like, yeah I was at Arthur Bakers when they were mixing that. They'd look at me and say, yeah okay, Mark."
But such links weren't uncommon, the mainstream black audience was still very much into Jazzfunk and it took the leftfield element of Notting Hill and Bristol to set the fuse alight. 3D, Goldie and Futura had all been daubing local wall space when they decided to visit the Dug Out. 
   "I couldn't believe it, it wasn't even in London and these kids were rocking a party New York style. hey knew their music," said Futura.
   "They'd look at my feet and say nice trainers Mark, but you've done the laces all wrong. I was Like, Oh sorry Lads didn't have time to iron them. I was a bit busy this morning," says Mark sarcastically. He then continues with some sentiment. 
   "You see, we were all the crusties squatting on the Waterfront. Tricky and his pals from Knowley West were in some rap crew called the Fearless Four or something like that. They would come down to our squat
and play U2 records and David Cassidy just for a laugh."
  Back in the Dug Out, Miles and the rest of the Wild Bunch were building their skills and in '84 they travelled to London to battle Cybertron at the Titanic. Word has it that the Bristol boys stole the show, although some would venomously disagree. Then the breakers from Ladbroke Grove, Tony Tone, Scam, KD and others visited Bristol. Newtrament spun the tunes while Sir Drew provided the Lyrics.
  "Miles was the force behind the Wild Bunch, Nellie learnt from Miles, but Miles got fed up with the music industry and set up a clothing business in New York with his girll friend." 
   Nellie himself went on to do beats for SouL II SouL, then Massive Attack and also Madonna. While in Japan Miles became Milo and did some work with Japanese hip hop crew Major Force this was all after the demise of the Wild Bunch, who did have a brief recording career from '86-'88. The first outing was a cover of Bert Bacharach's The Look Of Love. They later signed to Island's 4th & Broadway but then hits seemed futile.
   "Nowadays it is bollocks. Trip hop, fuck off please! Tricky and Massive always quote me in their interviews, but don't! I don't want their crowd, moody students jitters! There's some drossy boring mongy trip hop shit and some guy with the mike, ya know some glove puppet. MC Glove Puppet! Actually, they used to have a ventriloquist rapper on Sugarhill.  No, I'm serious. Wayne and Charlie!"
   Before Mark Stewart got carried away, I fucked off. Tune in next issue for the London leg... 

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  photos: Beezer