Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A funky new era: why women MCs are ruling UK clubs again

Ms Dynamite, who made some of 2009's biggest club tracks. Photograph: David Lau

After too long in the shadow of their male counterparts, women MCs are making their mark on the mainstream. Some of the key players explain why the future of British hip-hop is female.

British female rappers have always been a breed apart. While their male counterparts have tended to wear their debt to US hip-hop greats with pride, the likes of Ms Dynamite and Stush have shied away from the explicit shock tactics employed by Americans such as Lil' Kim and Trina. Stush, the chipmunk-voiced chatterbox who first came to prominence in 2002 with the grime classic Dollar Sign, laughs at the thought of copying the Americans. "Over here, if you came out with that talk, you'd just get people going, 'Oh, that girl's a slag, man!' All the guys would switch on you, you'd get no respect."

Funky bears similarities to turn-of-the-century UK garage – which may be why some familiar names have resurfaced, such as Stush and Ms Dynamite. Like Lady Chann, they have both released essential club tracks over the past year that balance a matriarchal, no-nonsense stance with lubriciousness and levity. They have been absent for different reasons, though.

Ms Dynamite seemed to disappear in the wake of Judgement Days, her 2005 follow-up to her Mercury prize-winning debut A Little Deeper. "I was quite a new mum at that point," she explains. "I reckon I did the second album half-­heartedly. I might have been in the studio feeling like I was focused, but my head was actually thinking: I wonder how my son is? So I decided I wasn't ready to come back to music."

Now, Ms Dynamite feels ready. She was responsible for two crucial UK funky cuts in 2009 – the propulsive, rattling Get Low (Crackish), produced by Rinse FM boss Geeneus, and the frenetic, tough-as-nails Bad Gyal, produced by Sticky. "It's cocky, confident and self-assured," she says of the latter. "There's a kind of arrogance, but this is a cool, fun ­arrogance. Not putting anyone down. Just being that confident in yourself." A new single with Zinc, Wile Out, is a metallic, harder-edged take on funky house; Ms Dynamite is once again on fine form on it, switching adeptly between singing and classic dancefloor MCing, exhorting a crowd to "gwaan, get deep, make a scene, wile out!" in ­rapid-fire patois.

Ms Dynamite's transition out of and back into the music industry was a smooth one. "My record ­company were pretty supportive. I think some of them were genuine, they had kids of their own and they understood. Others were just like, well, we're not going to get ­anything out of her in this state ­anyway, it'd be a waste of money." She pauses. "Creativity's one of those things you can't fake."

Article by: Alex Macpherson