In the previous instalment, I spoke on my love of Metal. My second great musical inspiration comes from Hip-Hop, disparate as it may seem. It is indeed diametric influences I draw from each genre, but their importance is equal. Metal gives me atmosphere, I can write with metal on because most of the time the vocals become so indecipherable, it’s just another instrument. Hip-Hop I can’t write to since it’s so vocal. Hip-Hop is wordy and I can’t get my words on the page when someone else is shouting theirs at me. I can however, hear something that’ll set my mind off on a tangent but I then have to pause and get that on the page.
I came up on a diet of Eminem and Slipknot, real cliche angry kid music. There came at time where, for whatever reason, that Metal resonated with me more and I decried Rap music. I chucked out those Em records and I furthered my learning in the Metal realm. But as I’ve grown, my taste’s in Metal have grown more mature, those Slipknot records got chucked too, and suddenly Hip-Hop came back into my life. I thought it was the sound I disliked, I thought I hated Hip-Hop production for being “fake”, electronic, for not being played by what I considered real musicians.
What I realise now, and this is why Slipknot and Eminem took the fall, is that it’s not the vessel that resonates with me, it’s the intent. Hip-Hop and Metal are the same because they are villainised and forced into the underground and in the same way they are made more pure, more true. They are both forced to speak out and become more alien to the mainstream. It’s the same reason a film like The Master resonates with me more than a film like GI Joe. So I thank the mainstream, let’s create our own stream.
When I’m not wallowing in the futility of it all, I like to be reminded just how baller everything is. Something about the larger than life personalities of luminaries like 2 Chainz and Action Bronson just speaks to me and my inner baller. As much as our goal here at (Y) is for a more fair distribution of wealth and the equality of gender stereotypes, I would not complain if I had access to a bloody great gold chain, a Bugatti and a few bad bitches…
I guess in all seriousness it’s the strain of Hip-Hop usually known as “Conscious Hip-Hop” that is most relevant to me and my work. This brand of socially aware, sometimes even cosmic Hip-Hop is what drives me to be the best writer I can be. Some of these guys are so lyrically gifted it upsets me, I know I’ll never be able to stitch bars together like Jehst does, but hopefully I have the command over my dialogue in the same way he does his rhyme schemes in order to put my message across in such a compelling manner.
The Wu have been so singularly influential to me in the last 2/3 months that I figured they deserved their own section. They are after all responsible for all this, for the conception of (Y).
To begin with I had just their debut album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), a dense, dark, street-born, world-topping album. There are nine members in the Wu, and it took me a long time to be able to place their individual voices, their styles and to put those to faces. But before long I had placed all that and was able to move onto their solo ventures. Quicker than you could say Shaolin, I was knee-deep in classic Hip-Hop all thanks to de-facto leader RZA and his ambitious, groundbreaking approach to both business and art.
Wu-Tang was born, as was (Y), due to a need to get heard. RZA had tried before to break out as an artist, so had his cousin GZA under the names Prince Rakeem and The Genius respectively and had even formed a group, All in Together Now with another cousin and future Wu member Ol’ Dirty Bastard, but eventually they were all dropped from their labels. So they regrouped, rebranded and brought in 6 of the finest MC’s they knew under the Wu-Tang moniker.
Under the RZA’s lead, they came together, told to bring 100 dollars and their best verse. RZA used this and his beat-making prowess to put together their first single, the independently released Protect Ya Neck. They signed a unique deal off the strength of the single in which each was allowed to sign a separate contract for their solo material and each had to give 20% of their earnings back to the label to safeguard, a veritable Wu fund for future endeavours.
With little time, little money and a lot of talent, RZA forced the members to fight for space on each beat, using this competition to bring the best out of each of his collaborators. And so 36 Chambers was compiled and released, now a platinum classic, bold and dangerous, youthful and raw spawned by it’s surroundings and RZA’s need for break out of what he referred to as “deep poverty”.
Over the next 2 years, all with RZA on the boards, Ghostface Killah, Method Man, Raekwon, Ol’ Dirty Bastard and GZA released solo records, all of which are rightfully regarded as classics, meanwhile RZA teamed with Frukwan and Prince Paul to form Gravediggaz, spearheading the “Horrorcore” movement and releasing another classic in 6 Feet Deep.
So after being dropped by his label in 1991, RZA put together what is widely regarded as the greatest Hip-Hop group ever formed and in the span of 3 years between ’93 and ’96 produced not one, not two but SEVEN future classics. It’s easy to see why the man inspired me. So with that in mind, I wanted to take his methodology and apply it filmmaking. The three of us all have individual universes and individual talents that we’re eager to see realised but first, if we can come together and release something as a group, with a recognisable brand and an in-built fan base, then that task will become significantly less insurmountable. That’s how (Y) began.
Hip-Hop for a long time has been the domain of our neighbours across the pond, but the last 2/3 years has seen a surge of talent erupt from our grey little isle, to make waves across the Globe. More or less spearheaded by High-Focus and their RZA like leader, Fliptrix, a dazzling array of diverse, socially aware, disillusioned young men have come to the forefront of the global HH circuit. Not only that, but thanks to them, I’ve been schooled on some of the older heads, the Jehst’s and Chester P’s that have been here, struggling for the last decade or so to get their message out.
Unlike the socially/geographically diverse American scene, where in some places the Sun shines once in a while and everyone owns large quantities of gold and Bugatti’s, we live in a frankly soul-destroying grey mess of a country. Frankly, Britain is boring. The parts that aren’t occupied by chimneys are occupied by fields of nothing, a sheep or two, some cows, old people here and there. And so, unlike the flamboyant American rappers, the Rick Ross’s and the Drakes, our Hip-Hop has taken a similarly grey turn.
Almost universally aware of the dismal place we live in and pissed off about it, our Hip-Hop scene says many of the same things I want to say with my films about this terrible, dismal country we live in.
“Racked lines mirror image tapped like inner city landlines landslides back to the city limits,
Back to the high rise mouse trap scraps that we try pillage pounce write writings to pen pals.” – Edward Scissortongue.
Now I had planned on writing something larger about our lord, Yeezus Christ, but there is just so much to talk about I don’t think I can even fathom it. If you’ve been online sometime in the last year, then you should be fully aware that not only did he release the most interesting album this year, and probably one of the best albums of this decade so far but he’s been on the interview trail promoting said musical goldmine.
And he has been ruffling some feathers, pointing fingers and saying some truly mad things. But Yeezy has many, many values that resonate with us here at (Y). He too is sick of what he deems the “classist” paradigm we live in, he wants to be able to create and design and help others to the best of his ability but is held down by the current system. His goal is a world where everyone is taken care of and beyond that everyone can achieve something brilliant, everyone can have a voice.
Not only does he want the world to be fairer in terms of basic amenities but beyond that, Yeezy can see a world where high art, high fashion and intuitive design is within the grasp of everyone on this planet. If that isn’t a beautiful statement that everyone should be backing, then I don’t know what is.
West speaks often about perception and being put into a box, he has the belief in himself and the motivation and the creativity to hang with the Versace’s and the Hedi Slimane’s and the Karl Lagerfeld’s but since he’s black, none of it matters. He can make an “urban” clothing line, but for all his good will and hard work, white Europeans won’t let him come and play their game.
Now this is a basic tenant of what we believe here at (Y), Hollywood is guilty of the same prejudice. Me and my fellow creatives would likely have to pocket a lot of our beliefs in order to be recognised by that studio system. If we want their money, we’ll have to play by their rules. Since Hollywood is the playground of a clandestine group of old school Jews, does that mean we can’t write a film where a female character is not marginalised? Or where the hero in an action movie is openly gay or where the bad guy is not a product of simple xenophobia?
I can speak on Kanye for a long, long old time, but it’s better you hear it from the man himself;
“I’m ten years ahead mentally and I’m trapped in todays time. Every now and then I “crack you a smile for 2013, but I’m cracking you a frown for 2023. And I’m focused on what it’s gonna be.” Shift the paradigm, do it with Ye’, do it with (Y)