Home Grown: The Story of UK Hip-Hop

Hip Hop is now 30 years old. I know it’s hard to pinpoint an exact date when hip hop emerged, sometime in 1979 in the Bronx, as a reaction against gangs, drugs and violence. But what’s the story of Hip Hop in the UK? Urbis in Manchester is exploring this question with their new show, which opened on 15 October, ‘Home Grown: The Story of UK Hip-Hop’.

‘Home Grown’ focuses on the wonderful, unpredictable story of UK hip-hop: a music and culture that dragged itself up from the streets – with a little help from some surprisingly eminent friends – to change the face of British music and style. From producing some of Britain’s most esteemed artists, to helping spawn almost every major British dance music genre of the last twenty years, it makes for a cracking story. But surprisingly it is one that has never before been told.

Co-curated by Urbis’s Andy Brydon in collaboration with hip-hop writer James McNally and artist / musician Kid Acne, ‘Home Grown’ will showcase never before seen photography from the personal collections of DJ Milo (The Wild Bunch) and DJ 279; rare film footage sourced directly from Malcolm McLaren and cult documentary director Dick Fontaine; and exclusive documentation from seminal early hip-hop clubs like Spats and the Language Lab, right through to influential latter day spots such as Deal Real record store. It also will include rare – and sometimes unique – audio, flyers, posters, clothing and unseen photographs from the private collections of artists, promoters, producers, dancers and photographers – including the legendary Beezer, photographer of the Wild Bunch before they became Massive Attack; the inimitable Normski and former Hip-Hop Connection lensman Richard Reyes.

“British hip hop has never had the recognition and kudos it deserves. We have a wealth of talent in this country that has developed and grown in the last 30 years to become a respected musical force to be reckoned with and the artists that are consistently breaking through continue to push boundaries and take hip hop further. Many people are unaware of how British hip hop has evolved and of how influential it has been. Through this exhibition visitors will be able to trace the history of the UK scene before discovering what and who will be the next to make their mark,” comments Andy Brydon.

‘Home Grown’ is divided into 7 sections, covering rapping, deejaying, graffiti and breakdancing. They are:

•Origins of UK hip-hop, looking at the existing British black music culture of soul boys and reggae sound systems in the late 1970s

The Early Years, focusing on the emergence of UK b-boy culture, the continuation of the sound system legacy, and the UK’s first hip-hop and electro records

The Boom Years, zooming in on the media’s adoption of hip-hop as a new cultural phenomenon, setting the stage for a first generation of major label home grown talent such as Cookie Crew, London Posse and Hijack

Broken Beats will focus on UK hip-hop’s underground years as it became overshadowed by the emergence of club culture. This tension ultimately helped breed some of the most diverse and challenging mutations of UK breakbeat culture (from hardcore and trip-hop to jungle and drum ‘n’ bass) while hardening the UK hip-hop scene’s DIY values from within – most famously in the so-called Britcore movement

The Renaissance, showing how the British hip-hop scene rallied around a new generation of acts – such as Roots Manuva, Blak Twang and Lewis Parker – championing their new British sounds, and bringing a fresh sense of optimism to the scene

The Home Grown, looking at the consolidation of this success in an underground network of self-sufficient labels, shops and promotions, while new stars blew up on the mainstream

Emergent UK Hip-Hop, showcasing new hip-hop from all of the traditional elements, as well as the best of the new artists about to break through – whether they’re incorporating elements of grime, dubstep and wonky, or just doing it straight, no chaser.

Pollyanna Clayton-Stamm, Head of Creative Programmes at Urbis says: “This exhibition continues the ethos that underpins all programming at Urbis, to explore a broad spectrum of popular and often timely topics, reclaiming popular culture by covering sometimes uncharted themes that are not traditionally covered by other galleries or museums. It’s exciting to be highlighting a genre that has had such a huge impact on our culture, not just through music but also fashion, art and film; with this exhibition visitors will for the first time be able fully to understand and appreciate how and why British hip hop developed and where it goes from here.”

Contributors to date include Malcolm McLaren, Normski, DJ Semtex, DMC, DJ 279, Fallacy, Morgan Khan, Part 2, Greg Wilson, Jehst, THTC, DJ MK, Dreph, Andy Cowan, Vie Marshall, Beezer, DJ Milo, Tuf Tim Twist (Rock Steady Crew), Rising Styles (Hip Hop Festival), Contact Theatre. More artists will be revealed in the coming months.

Home Grown: The Story of UK Hip Hop
15 October 2009 – March 2010
Urbis, Manchester
Free admission

For further information visit www.urbis.org.uk

Image Credits

Graf. Covent 1985 ©Richard Reyes, Home Grown, Urbis 2009.