In terms of spread and breadth of influence, hip-hop is the only genre of music that comes anywhere near the might wielded by arms, pharmaceuticals and politics – and let’s not forget the most powerful politician on the planet has Ludacris on his iPod. The sound remains a phenomenon, a global force. Yet there are pockets of the Earth where rap remains a dirty world.
You don’t have to look very far to find them; consider these very shores. Questions of morality aside, when Britain sells a developing nation a gun, it calls it a gun. When its scientists create a pill, they call it a pill. So why can’t British hip-hop stick to the Trade Descriptions Act?
British urban music has long wrapped its output in the guise of art, calling itself grime, or, in the case of dubstep and UK garage, diversifying the sound into different genres entirely. From the off, Giggs’ honesty about his intentions is exactly what makes ‘Let Em Ave It’ exciting. Knowing the spoils that await, it’s befuddling how long it’s taken the UK to unleash a hungry street-smart poet comparable to the genre’s US-born greats. Perhaps it’s a question of politeness, or of introspection, or a uniquely British mindset that correlates the two. Perhaps it’s that there are quite a lot of places like Norwich in the UK, and only a few quite like Peckham.
Whatever the reasons, the man formally known as Hollowman makes scant secret of his desire to celebrate the traditional gangster journey from the grot to the glitz. An hour long in length, Giggs begins bold, the SE15 man cataloguing his journey so far over the imposing, regal string stabs of ‘Intro’. Then the record rumbles into ‘Hustle On’, and gets stronger with each cut that follows, the thrillingly inane ‘Ner Ner’ and the taut, wired ‘Signs’, coming on like a composite of everything that’s long made rap’s US-forged source material so thrilling and so compelling. And it’s unashamedly rap; at times you really do want to flip the record over and check its postcode.
That isn’t to say it’s a record without its own national identity – ‘Look What The Cat Dragged In’ and ‘Have It Out’ embodying a sound anyone who’s taken a black cab at 4am through south London will be instantly familiar with. In fact it’s interesting to note that Giggs took his album title by bastardising a similarly named tune recorded by 2-Pac during his Makaveli phase. He’s dropped the ‘h’, but put something back in its place – that being a UK rap talent the nation can be proud to call its own. Of his ongoing troubles with Trident, the British police black-on-black violence unit, Giggs once told NME that if he hailed from Compton, LA he’d be rewarded for telling it how it is, not denied the right to make a living from his honesty and flow. It still remains to be seen if he’ll be allowed that reward – but his second record is certainly a collection of stories this island has rarely heard told in one of its own accents.
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Click here to get your copy og Giggs’ ‘Let Em Ave It’ from the Rough Trade shop