Mark B & Blade
Mark B and Blade have been struggling on these shores for nearly 20 year. Self promoting, getting the albums out on their own labels and trying to big up UK Hip-hop. Finally, it looks after all this hard work has paid off and looking back at the year 2001 its been a mad one. From support slots with Eminem and Feeder to the massive radio play of "The Unknown" it finally looks like UK Hip-hop has got a voice. We caught up with they guys at the Nokia Totally Board festival in Manchester to get the low-down.
Q: "The Unknown" is about the struggle of being a UK hip-hop act trying to get heard?
Blade: Yeah, more or less. We've just been at it for so long we think we deserve a bit more recognition - not just Mark B & Blade but everybody. There's so many talented people out there that are never going to get a look in and we want to see if we can do our little bit to change that.
Q: Why do you think its so hard for UK hip-hop to break through?
Blade: Sorry to use the word "the Unknown" again but as regards to people in the industry...in the old days it genuinely was a case of the fear of the unknown. Whereas a lot of people who are now in the industry used to be hip-hop fans and they still are to this day...some of them even go out clubbing, DJing and they see what's going on.
Q: What was it that first attracted you to the whole hip-hop scene?
Mark B: When I first heard it, it was just the pure energy of the music. When I first saw it I saw it threw break dancing and graffiti and I was like I want to be part of this, yer know what I mean. Eventually you get into it so much that you progress from DJing to production to making records.
Blade: I've been rhyming for 20 years now and I've been producing for 16 or 17. I've been making records for 13 or 14 years...I actually made a record in 1986 that never came out.
Q: Didn't you sell over 10,000 copies of the album on the streets?
Blade: I sold 12,000 copies of my double album by mail order, on the streets and at shows.
Q: Why do you think we can relate to US hip-hop acts but we can't get into the vibe of the UK acts?
Blade: I think basically when you turn on the TV you've got a choice of Coronation Street or Starsky and Hutch...realistically most people are going to turn round and watch Starsky and Hutch because there's more excitement (Ed: Just remember were in Manchester Blade). That's just basically a sign of the times and most of the kids out there want the excitement.
I'll use another example to make it clear. I find that when you go to Europe, for example, you'll get a rapper that goes balalalalalalalalala and you can't understand a word - you'll get me that comes over and goes "We are the Unknown" and they go for the guy they can't understand...its like an instrument and they go for the thing that's not to hard to think about. Basically what I'm saying is in the US there's a lot of stuff that's seemingly just designed specifically for the clubs...there's no pressure on the mind to sit there and think about it...whereas with the UK tracks there's a lot to think about - it's all concept and there's a lot based around life.
Q: One thing I think you are trying to do is bridge the gap between hip-hop and rock music. Supporting Feeder was just a prime example of you trying to reach out to a new audience?
Blade: Well, the way I saw it was, we'd been plugging away at the same audience for years and years and years and nothing has really changed. Were still selling three or four thousand records...we'd been playing to this audience for 15 years...so when things aren't working you change the plan. I didn't change my lyrics to "You Don't See The Signs", it was just a remix to drag people into what we do.
I've said it in every interview that I want to work with Oasis. Noel, Liam, the whole band - I just think they're a wicked group. Saying that is was a real experience working with Feeder and its possible that we'll working together in the future.
Q: What hip-hop talent do you think is coming up that isn't being recognized?
Blade: Rodney P. Kye has got a wicked album out not, really original stuff, so if you haven't heard it yet check it out.
Q: What next for you guys then. Are you thinking of the next album yet?
Mark B: I've got 8 days of touring and then my life's back to normal. Its back in the studio. Next year hopefully you'll be seeing my album and Blade's album.
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