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My Scene: Scottish Hip-Hop w/ Stanley Odd

by DavidBeech
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on 26 November 2014 in Features
Record Label A Modern Way

Though the recent Yes campaign in Scotland might be a distant memory for many of us South of the border, once the film crews rolled out and the news coverage died down, the whole thing didn't just blow over. For the Scots, and in particular those who voted yes, it's still very much in the forefront of their minds; a more accountable country was a piss-width away. It was, however, taken away from them at the last hurdle, the taste of freedom replace with resentment. Once the film crews did roll out, so too did the platform for dissent, the voices of thousands sent packing to the message boards of the internet, instead of reaching the 6 O'Clock news. Or so they thought.

Scotland has obviously never been the hotbed for commercial hip-hop in the same way that the States has, and even when cities such as London or Manchester found themselves at the forefront of the UK grime scene, even still, Scotland was left out in the cold. Why? Conditions for inner-city youths there aren't automatically better than London, unemployment and youth crime are just as synonymous with Glasgow as they are Peckham. For whatever the reason, Scottish hip-hop hasn't ever been in the public eye, until now.

With their recent pro-independence single 'Son, I Voted Yes' six-piece, socially concious hip-hop troop Stanley Odd not only provided a voice for a disenfranchised youth, but also reached far beyond the relative niche of their local scene, burning a scorch mark in to the beige upholstery of UK hip-hop in general.

Of course, Scottish hip-hop is unlikely to ever rival the US, but with their most recent album, A Thing Brand New, Stanley Odd have crafted a record full of self-doubt and self-reflection, identity and realisations; everything all the best hip-hop is about. There's no posturing, no pseudo-macho bullshittery. Just pure heart-on-the-sleeve lyricism and wordplay, spat with conviction to the unusual backdrop of a live band.

We caught up with Solareye for a chat about Stanley Odd and Scottish hip-hop in general. He was also kind enough to hook us up with a mixtape of artists he thinks represents his scene right now.

Hi guys, who are you and how did you get together?

We’re a six-piece hip-hop group based in Edinburgh. We became a band by accident. Veronika and myself were meant to be doing a more conventional DJ/Emcee-type show and the DJ pulled out the day before the gig. So a couple of pals joined us on guitar and drums. The band grew arms and legs from there and metamorphosed into Stanley Odd.

There's six of you in the band, yet you’re named for just one person. What's the story behind it, if there is one?

It was an alter ego that I had created as a rap alias initially. Then Veronika suggested that it would make a good name for the band. Stanley Odd is that awkward guy that feels uncomfortable and out-of-place in social situations, like there’s a bit of Stanley Odd in everyone. He’s an anti-hero; an ill-at-ease everyman.

You've just released your third full length album A Thing Brand New, and there seems to be a lot of ideas of self-realisation, acceptance and finding your place, was this an intentional theme that runs throughout and something you felt you wanted to explore in yourself?

Definitely and thanks for noticing! In terms of lyrics I feel like the social commentary, finger-pointing type of song is something that I’ve done quite a lot of. I wanted to work on being a bit more honest and focus on personal content as well as observational stuff with this record and I really feel like that comes through in places.

There is also the fact that this year in Scotland the whole country has become so amazingly politicised and engaged with the Independence Referendum that I think everyone has done a lot of reflecting and analysing how we live, what is important for our communities and what needs to change. This has probably resulted in a bit more self-reflection too. Between that and becoming a Dad I guess I’ve spent a bit of time in the last year thinking about things like what sort of person I want to be, what our surroundings say about us and stuff like that.

With the exception of Young Fathers, Scottish hip-hop isn't something you hear about as often as that of places like London or Birmingham. How prevalent is hip-hop in Scotland, and how does it compare to say, that in the Capital?

I feel like hip-hop in Scotland is going from strength to strength. There are so many artists across the country making music of a high standard and there’s a real diversity and individuality to the projects as opposed to having one particular sound that everyone is churning out. Scotland has some of the best lyricists I have every heard and people are making music that stands up next to anything I hear coming from anywhere else in the world. It took a long time for hip-hop from London or the rest of the UK to get out from under the shadow of America and be recognised for the quality it was producing in its own right. I feel like Scotland is going through that process too.

Your set-up is somewhat unusual for a hip-hop group, incorporating live instruments in to your recordings and shows. What made you decide to go with more than just beats and samples?

Like I said, the initial reason we’re a live band was pretty much by accident. Having said that, having the live band and the range of influences that everyone brings to that has really helped us develop our sound and draw on a whole bunch of different styles. It also meant that we got to play on bills that otherwise might not have been as easy to get on.

This has obviously opened up doors for you, such as playing festivals you wouldn't normally have been invited to, folk festivals for instance. How have you been received by those kind of crowds?

Hip-hop is just folk music with caps instead of cardigans. Both genres use music as a vehicle to tell a story. Both genres are concerned with telling stories about where you’re from. We’ve been delighted to play on festival bills around the country with artists from a bazillion different musical genres and the response has generally been great.

Presumably at least some of them can appreciate the politics and the message behind your music?

It’s been amazing to get to play all around the country and further afield, and generally folks are really interested in hearing and talking about social and cultural issues. Not everyone is going to agree with everything you have to say but we’ve never had the intention of telling people what they should think or how they should feel about stuff, our goal is much more to hopefully stimulate debate and discussion, regardless of whether you hold the same view.

You've put together a brief playlist for us of artists in your current scene. Who are some of those you think our readers should especially be looking out for?

There are so many folks that I rate in Scotland right now. Loki is a long-time established artist with an incredible back catalogue and his latest album, Government Issue Music Protest, is an amazing, ambitious project set in a dystopian future where Scotland voted No in 2014. Tickle is one of my favourite emcees, with a really original outlook on life and lyrical content as well as a ridiculous double-time flow. In terms of new and emerging artists, I’m really feeling Erratic Sleeping Patterns stuff – the two emcees Teknique and One Tzu have got some super nice verses and are heavily involved in freestyle events like Sketch the Rhyme, which is bananas. I also look forward to hearing more from Glasgow-based duo Urchxns and Ciaran Mac is another quality emcee to look out for. Hector Bizerk have got a really creative schedule of new EPs at the moment too. We’re playing with Spring Break in Inverness next week and what I’ve heard of them so far has been fire so I’m really looking forward to that one as well.

With your new album out now, what can we expect from you now going in to 2015 and beyond?

Right now we’re focussed on getting out and playing A Thing Brand New. So far the response to the new material has been great and it feels like we’ve been waiting to let everyone hear it for so long that it’s nice to be out there playing it now. 2015 is already starting to fill up for us in terms of live shows so it’s looking like it should be a pretty good year.

Finally, any words of wisdom or exclusive news you want to leave our readers with?

Hello and welcome back to the Oddyssey. Stay Odd. Solareye.


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