The debut album from Blak Twang, “Dettwork Southeast” is widely considered by to be one of the best UK Hip Hop albums ever made but up until recently it was only in existence to a lucky few. That has now changed as eighteen years later the album finally gets a release through Sony Music with its original tracklisting which includes collaborations with Roots Manuva, Seanie T and Fallacy.
The remastered album also includes a bonus track, “Dettwork London Revisited” (Dettwork SouthEast Remix), featuring Jehst, Rodney P and Samson AKA Black The Ripper over Harry Love production. Grindin’ caught up with Twang to talk about his career, the making of the album and subsequent delay in its release 18 years later.
What are your earliest memories of music?
My earliest memories of music is probably listening to my parents play old reggae 45″s, some Nigerian artists like Fela, King Sunny Ade etc Millie Jackson, Barry White, Shalamar, Earth Wind and Fire, Pop records like Boney M and of course Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye all played around the house and at parties singing along to tunes.
How did you first get into Hip Hop?
My earliest memory of Hip Hop was Rappers Delight and then I got into the b boying/breaking side of it, years later I got back into the rhyming aspect after hearing acts like UTFO, Uptown, Eric B & Rakim, LL, Kane, KRS 1 etc
Who were your influences coming up as an artist?
I was very much influenced by a lot of the Reggae soundsystems around me at the time, Saxon, Coxsone, Unity soundman like Ricky Troopah, Barry G as well as the aforementioned MC’s.
What was the UK Hip Hop scene like when you first started out and how did you manage to stand out from the rest as an artist?
The Hip Hop scene at the time was very underground and very heavily influenced by that hard Bomb Squad production sound that were responsible for Public Enemy and a few other East Coast artists, so the sound was pretty similar coming out of the UK. Some groups like London Posse and Demon Boyz were infusing Reggae/Ragga into their sound and that was very influential on a lot of new rappers.
What was your first big break as an MC?
My first big break pretty much happened after the release of “Real Estate” when I started getting booked for shows and then “Dettwork SouthEast” was released as a single and I signed a publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music. That’s when I knew I could do this music full time.
Describe the process of making “Dettwork Southeast” who were you working with and what are some of your memories from that time?
Recording the album was a pretty organic process I already had a few singles already released such as “What’s Going On”, “Queens Head” & “Real Estate”. As for who I was working with, it was very much the team/crew and that consisted of my DJ and co producer DJ Rumple, VRS, Roots Manuva, Fallacy and Seanie T. I remember everyone being hungry and eager to show the world what we were bringing to the game so the vibe was mental.
At the time there was so much hype around “Dettwork Southeast” and a couple of tracks from the album were all over radio so the anticipation was at a peak and then the album got shelved what happened?
Well the album didn’t get shelved by the label, it was my decision not to release it with them due to broken promises about the marketing and promotional budgets. As you mentioned, there WAS so much hype and anticipation and I just felt if it wasn’t going to get the deserved and proper campaign then it wasn’t worth doing it with them.
What motivated you to release “Dettwork Southeast” now?
The buzz for the album never died even after all the years passed. People constantly asked if it would ever be released, rumours of the promo cassette that was sent out to journalists being copied, burnt to CD and sold on discogs etc. I realized there was still a big demand for the album then I got approached by someone from Sony who expressed a real interest in putting out the album and he was very passionate about giving it the proper push it should’ve got back in 96.
What are the main differences from the original version of the album to the one that it is finally out?
The only difference is that we recorded a bonus track for the album called (Dettwork London Revisited). Produced by Harry Love featuring Jehst, Rodney P and Black The Ripper. Everything else is the same just digitised and remastered for 2014.
You were a major part of the golden era of UK Hip Hop what are some of your most memorable moments and why do you think there was such a decline in the scene?
My memorable moments I would have to say was my very first Blak Twang performance at ‘Flava of the Month’ at Borderline organised by DJ 279 and I got one of the best receptions the venue had ever seen maybe apart from MC D. I also remember supporting Mobb Deep at the Grand in Clapham and I opened the show with “God Save the Queen” but pulled off the anthem half way thru like fuck dat and went into a version of “Queens Head” and the whole place went nuts. Then there was our Glastonbury performances around the time of the release of “So Rotton” and we had 50,000 people singing along to the song, that was epic. So many classic moments that I would have to write a book to really cover all of them. As for the scene going into decline, that’s just life. You get ups and downs, so I think it was just a case of the scene going back into itself to find that spark again, re energise, get back to the source and come back even stronger.
What are your thoughts on current UK Hip Hop are there any artists we should be looking out for?
Currently the scene is not as strong as it once was, maybe because it’s a different world now and everyone is into so many different things also I do believe the lines are blurred and so many genres of music purport to be Hip Hop, it’s slightly confusing. At the moment one of the newer artists I’m really checking for is Black The Ripper, I think he embodies the fire and energy of what got me into this in the first place.
For those not familiar what 5 tracks/albums do you feel best represent UK Hip Hop?
1. How’s Life In London – London Posse
2.Real Estate/Dettwork Southeast/QueensHead/So Rotton – Blak Twang
3.Glimmity Glammity – Demon Boyz
4. Council Estate Of Mind – Skinny Man
5. Witness the Fitness – Roots Manuva
You career has spanned nearly 2 decades how have you managed to stay relevant in such a competitive genre of music?
By Being real and true to myself and my craft.
What has been your career highlight so far?
It’s been one big highlight!!! “I aint done too bad”
What does the future hold for Blak Twang?
More success, release more music projects, books/movie and I’m hoping to one day be part of shaping a truly unique and talented artist’s music career.
What is your definition of Grindin’?
Hustling hard. Get it how u live it!! Peace, Love n Rottoness!!
Interview by Duggs