Wednesday, 20 February 2013

#41: Introducing...Smky

There's no denying that there's been a rise in the popularity of UK hip-hop over the last three or so years. Rap battle league Don't Flop has spawned some of the hottest young rappers that the UK has ever seen and SBTV continues to do more than it's fair share for the ever-growing scene. Once just a platform for inner-city youths to articulate their 'beefs', UK rap has come on leaps and bounds since the days when Dizzee Rascal could be considered somewhat credible. There's been a distinct shift away from bars about “gats”, “straps”, and “nines” in to the kind of lyricism that transcends the stereotypical gangster ethos normally associated with hip-hop. Now we see an increase in societal awareness, eloquent verbosity and wordplay previously unseen across the genre. 22 year old Smky is no exception.

Stockport, South Manchester, isn't the first place that would come to mind when discussing UK rap it's probably not even fifth. However, being voted as one of the worst places to live in Britain given it's perpetual grey skies, grey Brutalist architecture and the ashen-faced denizens that reside within, it's no surprise that growing up there allows a pervasive sense of social responsibility to manifest itself across the ideologies of anyone sensible enough to not have a child by the time they're 16; this can be seen really quite emphatically within Smky's lyricism and across the ethos upheld by his non-profit label/media enterprise Crowd Reaction.

Coming four long months after the release of Crowd Reaction's début mix-tape Dirty Anti Fiction, Smky's Most recent track 'Demon Talk' is a step in a heavier, more aggressive direction than that exhibited on across the mixtape. Thanks to an introduction that features a sample of Jack Nicholson's Joker the darker mood is immediately set. Lyrically the song addresses “militant atheism” and overbearing religious ideology in the first verse before finding itself expressing less than amorous views towards rappers who still harbour a “guns bitches and bling” mentality. While the chorus punches a little below par for Smky's usual lyrical talent it's a damn fine hook that will undoubtedly get stuck in your head. The instrumental behind the vehemence features haunting vocal harmonies and some excellently produced drum sounds which when coupled with the lyricism provide a fantastic if not long-overdue track.

While 'Demon Talk' might not be the most socially aware of trecks 'Prejudice' is a post-modern protest song that really hits home and could only have been written by someone with first-hand experience of the bigotry harboured within working class neighbourhoods. Featuring a fantastically used sample of the woman who gained nationwide notoriety in 2011 for her rather unintelligent and explicitly right-wing views expressed on a tube train, the song brings to light serious issues in an intelligent and forthright manner. The lyrics within 'Prejudice' take hip-hop back to it's roots proving it doesn't always have to be supercilious and egotistical; instead it addresses the wider social issues that have metastasised themselves through contemporary society and his music is all the better for it.

While there are platforms in which up-and-coming UK rappers can exert their talent, the scene is still very much DIY, especially for those who choose to shirk radio-friendly pop-hop in favour of more dissident and antagonistic lyrical musings. There just simply isn't enough for support for local artists, which is all the more reason for people to spread the word of rappers such as Smky who challenge the status quo and refuse to become a product of the area in which they grew up.

Click here to read a review of Crowd Reaction's mix-tape Dirty Anti-Fiction

Check out Crowd Reaction at the links below: