This one is pretty rare. Given the recent hoo-ha regarding American social media reactions to Giggs’ duo of More Life appearances (our music being slandered by Americans would have stung a decade ago, but now? Less so.) and the frequently naive history lessons offered as a response from these shores, it’s worth rewinding to London Posse’s Yo! MTV Raps international edition appearance from 1993. It certainly wasn’t the first Brit-America rap crossover moment by any stretch, but I remember being impressed by this second-half section of an episode being dedicated to this nation’s capital, where a baffled Fred attempted to interview Black Radical and General Levy talked about our scene, before we had to watch a scattering of videos by Marxman, Urban Species and Honky instead of the American videos that the US audience was getting to see on their broadcast. Personally, I think that — with plenty of honourable mentions, mostly singles rather than albums — between Rodney and Bionic’s opus Gangster Chronicle (this interview was from around the time How’s Life in London? was reissued, remixed and sponsored by British Knight) and the rise of road rap, UK rap was a patchy, patchy thing. It took another 14 years or so for it to seem like it could be a actual career. Go to this blog right here and watch this encounter, filmed in Piccadilly Circus just after an IRA bomb scare for extra historical context — Rodney P espousing the importance of following the indie route and Bionic echoing the importance of that outside-the-industry approach preempts the recent business model that took Stormzy to the top by a long, long time. Back then, it seemed like a pipe dream. Now it’s the road to going gold.
The recent talk of Drake appropriating London slang seems to be wilfully leaving out the fact that he hails from a city which, like this nation’s capital, has a substantial Caribbean community that passed on the dialect to subsequent generations. The whole Stone Island connection is still a mystery to me*, but I asked that question a couple of years ago. Another YouTube miracle occurred recently when Genie Madahar uploaded Fab Five Freddy’s visit to Sting 92 — something that became almost mythological in conversations with a friend for an interview with Supercat as well as a rare chat with the oft-discussed man like Dominick. As a white Londoner, Dominic Kenny was a curious case in outsider acceptance, a close friend of Paul Simenon, taking his love of dancehall to Jamaica as a journalist and becoming a DJ under the Dominick name. There’s a great piece on him here from 2007 here where he tell his story — another case study in this country’s connection to the culture — and the importance of black music, as well as its pillaging and dilution at the hands of white industry folks.
Dominick put out a few memorable records — Cockney & Yardie with Peter Metro in 1987 that follows a similar path to Smiley Culture’s (RIP) seminal Cockney Translation (the Ebonics of its time), complete with live performances where he looks like a taxi driver who seems to have stumbled onstage. Dominick would also record an un-PC track where he’d strenuously deny favouring Boy George over the Fresh Riddim (plus another track called No Shirt Lifter) as part of his self-titled, Sly and Robbie produced debut album — to end up getting produced by both them King Jammy was no mean feat. A second album, Ready for Dominick, followed in 1988 (the same year that he took to the stage with BDP in NYC on Christmas day), before this occasionally Troop-clad whiteboy with skills seemed to vanish. A testament to the power of putting in work and heading right to the centre of the action rather than merely covering it from the distance of a MacBook screen, it’s a shame that the book he promised years ago hasn’t manifested and it’s equally sad that the Junior Reid produced third LP mentioned in the Yo! MTV Raps piece that was set for a 1993 release never dropped either. Respect to Dominick for becoming part of the thing he loved**.
*Glenn just answered the Drake SI mystery by explaining the whole unpaid stylist scandal/Nepenthes/SI connection to me.
**Kish reminded me that there’s a follow-up to this story. Here’s Dominick on a 1994 Underdog remix of a Sabres of Paradise track. In 1999, Apeman Records and Apeman magazine were launched by Dominic Kenny, who’d already got connections to Mo’Wax and Major Force. Those who hoarded cut and paste records or were fans of Spine Magazine back in the day will be aware of some of the label’s output from the likes of DJ Bombjack.