Friday, 13 November 2009

Is Hip Hop Dead?

Maybe I'm a bit late on this, but the other day I was reading an article about Jay-Z, and the same old question raised it's decayed hand, with a four finger ring attached. Is Hip Hop dead? I pondered on it for a second, my mind awash with the same cliched arguments and images: Kanye West, Skinny Jeans, Bling, The Black Eyed Peas, 'Real', Gats, Timberlands and appalling fake platinum chains. The type you'd find on Oxford street.

Is hip hop dead, what do I know? I'm in my 30's and when I hear some 'underground' music I generally don't like it, and most of the music on my itunes are simply downloads of old albums I have on vinyl. Maybe that's the answer I thought. I've finally grown out of it. Hip Hop was a movement created by the youth for the youth. Maybe Hip Hop's like the characters in 'Toy Story'. It freezes and dies when it's exposed to adult eyes. But Hip Hop's nearly 40 years old now, so it can't be the Peter Pan of musical genres. It's captured the world's imagination and it's a multi-billion dollar industry. So it's definitely got a pulse, but how strong is it?

I flicked through some of my play lists for inspiration. As I read names like Black Moon, Nas, UltraMagnetic Mc's, Black Sheep, Raekwon, Ghostface, and Ice - T, I realised that I didn't really listen to Hip Hop at all. At first glance, the above tried and tested line up with their critically acclaimed credentials, could be seen as a who's who of Hip Hop. But I'd challenge anyone to scratch beneath the surface of any of their songs to find the Hip Hop.

Ever since Nas sampled 'Wildstyle's' 'Subway Theme' for 'Genesis', the opening of his debut 'Illmatic' album, we've known he respects and loves the past. He even schools someone who comments, 'Yo Nas what the fuck is this bullshit on the radio son.' But soon the album moves on to familiar blunts, crack and gats territory. The first line of the next song is 'Straight outta the fuckin' dungeons of rap'. Even a seminal group like UltraMagnetic Mc's aren't very Hip Hop. They were part of the so called 'Golden Era'. Rough, chopped up breaks, big programmed beats, gold chains and braggadocios lyrics. But the 'Golden Era' spawned 'Rap', and Rap wasn't a misty eyed sentimental fool. It left Hip Hop beat down in a graffiti daubed Bronx ally way,
checked it's beeper, wiped the blood from it's Gucci sneakers and left to conquer the world.

Maybe Hip Hop had it coming though? The culture and the music, although crated from old records, always had it's eyes focused on the future. From Graffiti to break dancing, it was always about being innovative and creating new styles. To talk as a purist, you could say Hip Hop could look and sound like anything it wanted to. You just have to look at an example of Hip Hop in it's prime. Afrika Bambatta and the Soulsonic Force sampled 'Kraftwerk' and dressed up like the village people, which was inspired by P-funk's colourful stage shows. Another example of a forward thinking, innovative black musical genre. Hip Hop was meant to be about positivity and creating change. But like a cocky teenager, Rap thought it knew it all and didn't want to hang out with or dress like it's parents.

In 1998 Rap did have a little dabble with the old skool. The Rap super group 'Def Squad' covered Sugar Hill Gangs 'Rapper's Delight' and the video featured Eric Sermon, Redman and Keith Murray dressed in Shell toes and kangols. I remember being thrilled to see break dancers again, but also sad at how pop and weak the track was, for 3 such talented and 'hardcore' Mc's. A nod of respect to Hip Hop I thought, or rather a calculated way to sell out without being branded pop while cashing in on the recent success of Jason Nevins' remix of Run Dmc's 'It's like that'? Who's own video also featured old Adidas and break dancers. But when did Run Dmc ever feature breakdancers? They were the arguably the first hardcore rap group and one foot in the grave for Hip Hop.

A couple of years later I made my first trip to Hip Hop's birth place, New York in the year 2000. My friend and I travelled from trainer shop to record shop, and were amazed at the scorn that our old skool trainers got. Even though I felt a bit dissed I still bought a pair of dunks for $20 from Athletes foot. New York wasn't interested in the old skool, it had moved on, and the 'Def Squad' track was the cash cow I thought it was. Back at our midtown hotel we tuned into Hot 97. We expected Funkmaster Flex cutting it up, but it just sounded like a radio 1 talk show with a puerto rican accent. The clubs there were
banging out Jay-Z, and one party we went to was a strictly champagne and designer dresses affair. Rap was certainly still thriving, but it was a little older and richer now. Rap's lure is a hard one to resist. By the end of our trip we had made our way to Nike town to upgrade our kicks.

The 21st Century was a rocky time for Rap. The fashion was getting back to the street, as the tailored suits it had used to get into the clubs were no longer needed, as it now ran them. Bling culture was in full effect. An updated and diamond glad version of it's 80's gold rope counterpart. The music too was reminiscent of the 'Golden Era's' programmed beats, but this time they were louder and synthesised with a pop chorus. Time had passed and the face of rap had changed again. Rap was not just happy with being spread worldwide, it now wanted the pop charts. This also caused the 90's generation of rap fans to dig deep and proclaim the likes of 'Mobb Deep' and 'Biggie Smalls' as 'real Hip Hop', further confusing the term and the music.

Now we're a decade into the 21st Century and the confusion about Hip Hop is still with us. 90's rappers are bringing out new albums, on the back of a wave of nostalgia, awash with lyrics that could be straight from episodes of HBO's 'The Wire'. Whilst they grumble about keeping Hip Hop real, from subject matters to fashion. But their simple raw productions are not enough to get them chart exposure, or propel them to the cristal heights of the late 90's. Jay-Z recently gave a disgruntled speech at a MTV awards show. He proclaimed that although he was happy to accept the 'Best Urban Artist' award, he longed for a day when music could just be called music. It seems Jay has seen the error of his ways and luckily for him, he's ready to reinvent himself again on the backs of Artists like Kanye West and Kid Cudi. Two artists that have come under fire from the 'Hip Hop'
community for not being 'real' and for wearing skinny jeans. But it seems the success of an artist like Kanye West can only be put down to the freedom he has to experiment with his image and his sound, while other rappers are trapped in the creative ghetto that rap has landed them in, and Hip Hop always strived to escape. As much as it pains me to say it, I'd consider Kanye West more Hip Hop than say, Raekwon the chef. So as we enter a new phase, I'd proclaim Hip Hop well and truly alive after playing the long game, but Rap sadly dead and left out in the street.

Friday, 23 October 2009

The Naked Truth

He woke up to some muttering, a middle of the road indie song and, as his bleary vision focused, a mid drift and some knickers. Nothing too sexy, just some M&S big black ones.

'Morning' - she said as he sat up in the bed. 'I'm going to be late. I can't believe you don't have work today, if I didn't have this team meeting I'd bunk off like you'. She carried on talking as she flew around the bedroom getting dressed. She wasn't bad he thought. A bit mumsy, but not in a bad way, tall and sturdy with curly brunette hair. He lay back down again to take stock of what was going on. He wasn't sure if he was hung over yet, but he's aversion to the noise and light gave him the idea he was. Her voice seemed distant now, muffled by the pillows and duvet, as if he were immersed in water.

He remembered waking up hours ago, but had fallen back asleep while planning to slip off early. Not that he wanted to avoid her, or to avoid the rest of the world. He quite liked the 'walk of shame'. The way people seemed to smirk knowingly at someone in the same clothes, on a weekday. No, he wanted to shoot off whilst he was still fueled and half drunk from the previous evening, so his head could spin in the privacy of his own room.

He groaned and rubbed his eyes, putting on a bit of a show of it as he did. Not for attention, but so she'd avoid any proper conversation. It worked, as he heard her laugh and say something about sambuca. She then lent over him, still talking. He wasn't sure what she was saying, so he responded with 'mmming' through a closed mouth smile. As she left his view he sat up, her words becoming clear as she headed for the door. 'Don't worry there's no one else here, just make sure the window's closed when you let yourself out. You jammy so and so'. She paused by the bedroom doorway and did the routine check through her bag. 'I'll text you later or something'. He smiled and held up and hand, half way between a sign of recognition and a wave.

Text? He winced. He didn't mind her having his number, she seemed nice enough and last night must have gone well. No, it was the fact that they had exchanged numbers prior to going back to hers. It made him feel a bit uneasy. He'd of preferred an awkward exchange in the morning, or none at all if she didn't want to. It was somehow more honest that way. The fact that she already had his number meant that at some point they both had plans on leaving the bar separately. But for some reason they couldn't and carried on drinking until they left together. He tried to remember the exchange. Was it when they were at the tube or was it when they were waiting for cabs, but decided to share? None of this may of happened, but they were likely scenarios. He shuddered for a moment at the thought that he may of coerced, hounded or begged her to come back after they had swapped numbers. Maybe it was in a cab on their way back? He preferred that thought. But then he grimaced at the thought of an uneasy silence in the back of the cab and an awkward, 'oh you must take my number'.

He stretched, then squashed his eyes into his head with his palms. When the room came back into view, he saw his jeans on her linen basket. He slid out of the bed and put them. As he pulled them up his face came level with the window. He looked for the handle to open the blinds, but noticed that it was broken off the same way his had. Cheap Ikea crap he thought. With his finger and thumb he prized a slat open. It looked like a cold, yet sunny morning. The street below was quite leafy, and a row of Victorian conversions faced him. I must be in South London, he thought. A high spirited group of mainly black girls and boys were on their way to school, and were being given a wide birth by the commuters heading to the tube. At least he hoped they were heading to the tube. He couldn't face a bus journey, let alone work out what bus to take.

Her bedroom door opened out onto a landing. There were stairs down, but only to the front door. Across the landing were the kitchen, bathroom and another bedroom. The living room was to his left. He walked barefoot across the landing, his sweaty feet sticking to the laminate flooring, but they were soon cooled by the tiles on the bathroom floor. He lifted the seat then stood still for what seemed an age, waiting to pee. He always lifted the seat and put it down. He hated it when women complained about men leaving the seat up, then not pulling down the cover themselves when they were done. He wiped some stray piss off the toilet with some tissue, then flushed and washed his hands. The first pee of the day could be hard to control after a heavy night. He splashed some water on his face and looked at himself in the mirror.
He was thinking about grabbing the rest of his clothes and making a move, but he had used wax in his hair the day before and now he looked like he had been dragged through a bush. He tried to smooth it down with his hands to no avail. He thought that If he was in South London, then he might as well pass through town and go to a few shops. But he couldn't face the world looking like this.

He found a clean looking towel, then stepped over the side of the bath to use the shower. He looked around. The corners were heaving with products, but to his annoyance he couldn't see any soap. He never really understood shower gel. It couldn't reach the hard to get to places, and you had to hide what you had in your hand from the water, while putting the bottle back, before applying it to your skin. Then you had to do it all over again, because one lot was never enough! As he worked his way through a sorcerers cupboards worth of elixirs and shampoos, he sighed and took a long squeeze of something that looked expensive. As he worked it into a lather over his body, he could feel the shower revive him and as he closed his eyes to wash his face he got flashes from the previous night.

He had been walking back from the toilets, when he tripped over some bags that were peaking out from a booth. He turned to apologise, and to scan the people occupying the booth. There were 2 girls and a guy. But before he could muster the words for his opening flirt, their gay workmate did it for him and took the words out of his mouth..'She does that on purpose to attract men'...The whole booth laughed, while he beamed the most charismatic smile he could at the bags' owner.

He had the same smile on his face as he turned the water off.

He gathered the rest of his clothes from her bedroom, dressed then sat down on the end of the bed while towel drying his hair. He then stood and styled is hair with his hands in the mirror on her dressing table. The mirror had photographs and postcards surrounding the edges. Some were from holidays and some must have been from university. One was her and a group of girls holding up small green buckets in an exotic looking beach bar, probably Thailand he thought. 'What cunts', he muttered out loud. Then he looked at another and thought, 'I've never been to thailand'.

His trainers were at the foot of her open cupboard. She was quite tidy, which made a change form most of the girls he knew and it endeared her to him. But she had left in a rush, so the cupboard was spilling it's contents out into the room. He looked at the pile of boots and shoes at the bottom, and flicked through some of the hangers. Nothing very flash, but he quite liked her high street style. There was something homely and unpretentious about it. If he were to keep seeing her she'd be easy to impress at Christmas and on birthdays, he thought. He smugly thought about how impressed and thankful she'd be when he introduced her to some of the small boutiques he knew.

In the kitchen he found a glass on the draining board, he rewashed it then after letting the tap run, poured himself a glass of water. He roamed the kitchen as he sipped his drink. It was well stocked with cookery books, but when he opened the fridge there was distinct lack of food to cook with. Just a couple of bottles of white wine at various stages of being drunk, next to some pasta sauces at various stages of being eaten. He closed the fridge, took another sip of water, then walked onto the landing.

The other bedroom door was ajar and seemed to call to him. He looked around, even knowing that he was alone, then gingerly made his way to the door. He opened it fully, but just stood in the doorway.
Thank god he didn't wake up here he thought, as he scanned the room taking in the pile of clothes on the floor and the unmade bed, which had more piles of clothes on it. Her mirror was also covered with pictures. He stepped in the room and cautiously made his way past the mound of clothes as if it were a crime scene. He looked at one picture, and recognised the bar it was taken in. There were three girls in the picture, one was the girl from last night, but he wondered which one of the other two lived in the room. Although all three girls were quite attractive, he guessed it was the 'sexier' looking one. Judging from the clothes, underwear and designer bags laying around the room. 'Why couldn't you have been out last night', he thought to himself. But then he picked her out in the rest of the pictures, and judging from the way she was fighting for attention with the rest of the subjects, he decided he was glad she wasn't. He placed the bar picture back under the lip of the mirror frame and looked at himself. He smiled as he looked at his face. His skin seemed alive again and there wasn't much trace of the toll that the night had taken on him.

In the living room he picked up his coat from the sofa. His wallet was inside, and to his amazement and joy there was still a twenty pound note inside. He looked out onto the street again, it was empty but the weather had turned and it had started to rain. He decided to give it 10 minutes to see if it would stop, as it was only a light shower. So he turned his attention to a shelf of books and DVDs. He could've guessed the contents without looking, he thought to himself. Lost, The Breakfast Club, Dirty Dancing, a '24' box set, Sex in the City and the last series of The Sopranos (which he hadn't seen yet). At the end of the line was a friends box set on VHS. VHS? he thought, how old is this girl, and who buys friends anyway? It's on all the bloody time. He couldn't get his head around friends. He thought mainly is was due to the fact that he shouldn't like it, but did. He hated the way Channel 4 seemed to have friends on some kind of shuffle system. It skipped about series', but you never saw the first or last one. He always thought friends kept you in some kind of stasis when it was on. Time stood still, like it was kind of TV tranquiliser.
He always thought that the friends themselves were quite vile people, who ostracised anyone they didn't know and wouldn't make very good friends anyway. As for Sex in the City, he thought, don't get me started. Four professional women fighting against convention for all those episodes, only to find happiness in traditional women's roles at the end. What heroines they turned out to be.

The rain stopped and he pulled on his coat. He walked to her bedroom and paused in the doorway. He slowly looked around the room, then did the routine check through his pockets. Wallet, keys, oyster card and phone. All present and correct. He didn't want to leave anything behind. He walked to the stairs and paused again looking around. He then took out his phone and walked out the door, whilst writing a text.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Battle for Redchurch Street

Redchurch street used to be the rundown street with the naff bar at the end, and a bit of a short cut to Shoreditch high street. It had a couple of low key galleries, but since the arrival of Shoreditch house and it featuring as one of London's coolest streets in an advertising supplement in Vogue, the street has exploded with a plethora of fashionistas, bars, cafes and art.....

It was a particularly pleasant evening in east London. The usual hustle and bustle of Redchurch street's art community didn't even annoy me as I passed through with my girlfriend. In fact we decided to partake in a spot of gallery scrumping. Dipping in and out of the various private views, grabbing a beer here, a postcard for the fridge there and a couple of cocktails for the hell of it. But as I lent against a stencil daubed wall, sipping on a Bellini, I spotted something that awoke me from my devil may care mood. Across the street a number of gallery goers were leaning on the 'Shoreditch Masjid Trust & Islamic Cultural Education Centre', that stands opposite the 'Gallery in Redchurch Street', supping on stella and even discarding there empty cans on the pavement outside and the buildings window ledges. I'm not a big fan of littering in the first place, but even a white working class Essex boy like myself can see how distasteful and disrespectful consuming alcohol outside of what is basically a mosque, is. Even without an art degree from St.Martins.

With the sun fading and my lack of faith restored in the art worlds common sense, we retreated to my girlfriends apartment (flat doesn't do it justice) on redchurch street, for a spot of supper and TV. After a bit of a boozy doze on the sofa, I awoke to find that there was still a din coming from the street below. I lent against the warehouse conversions badly insulated windows, and looked down on the sea of colourfully dressed people below. It was quite the street party, with music blaring out and reverlers drinking and conversing in the road, sometimes giving way to the odd annoyed car horn. I looked across to notice that the group outside of the Islamic centre had grown, along with the litter. As I shook my head, I saw 4 Asian youths swagger up the street. This should be interesting I thought and kept my watch like James Stewart in 'Rear Window'.

They patrolled up and down outside of the Islamic Centre, before one of them, looked like he quite forcefully asked some people to move. Their cans and crushed plastic glasses being kicked off the pavement behind them. Fair play, I thought as the guys then took turns to sweep the area of unwanted art lovers, after seeing their friend get away with it. I don't know if they were called for by the centre or simply disgruntled members, but part of me, although in agreement with them, wanted to be standing on the pavement. I don't like littering, but can't abide rudeness either, and the arrogance on their faces that comes with fighting a just cause was particularly annoying. I'm sure they probably didn't have any right to police the street, but then I guess I'd be a bit miffed if someone propping up a fixed gear bike, spat on a relatives grave.

After the art fops were safely on their side of the street, no doubt wondering what they had done wrong, the lads strutted out of view and some older gentlemen emerged from the centre to wash the pavement and clear the litter, not just from the pavement, but from the road too. Why weren't the organisers at 'Gallery in Redchurch' taking responsibility I thought? A simple sorry, or an art student with a black plastic bag would've done. I guess I was glancing down on a microcosm of the words troubles. The ignorant, indulgent and individual west, oblivious to the offense they cause their Muslim neighbours.

But there are other battles being fought on the street. A silent militia that creeps out in the early hours of the morning. Long after the chatter and laughter caused by the home counties accents, has all but disappeared into taxis heading for home, after a night at their member only fortresses. The modern day 'rippers' bide their time and prey on the unprotected impostors that litter Redchurch Street.

One almost feels sorry for the people of 'The Urban Angel Gallery'. All they have done is create a space to display 'urban', 'street' art. They are the constant victims of graffiti heads, who take exception to seeing their high jacked culture displayed in what appears to be a 'Foxton's' amongst galleries. I've lost count how many times I've walked past and smirked, as their latest mural has fallen victim to a defiant can of paint. Live by the sword, die by the sword. But it's not just 'Urban Angel' who are targeted, there is no mercy spared for any artist that tries to peddle their wears on Redchurch street. No stencil, sticker or painting can hide from the mighty '10 Foot' and his ilk.

It could be said that 'The Owl & The Pussy Cat' could be caught up in this war of gentrification, but the old building has time and wisdom on it's side (along with being listed). Although the no frills pub has seen a steady decrease from builders staying in lodgings on Bethnal Green Rd. as it's clientele, it's always been a home for artists and has no end of new drinkers willing to pay £15 for a carvery on Sundays. Maybe there very own little victory?

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Welcome to the Futro

Have you ever looked at an old person and thought - how the hell do they get on with DVDs?
It must be a nightmare getting past the page where you have to select your own language, let alone navigating the menu so that they can actually play the damn thing. They probably never get to look at the extras or enjoy the director's commentary. Bloody time. It takes away your friends and now your TV viewing.

But we forget that they've lived through an age where they've seen so many innovative and also sometimes negative changes happen, that one more couldn't possible hurt. From cars, microwaves and junkies - they've seen it all. But do they ever stop to think about when it all changed? What was the year when they noticed that all of a sudden the old ways weren't good enough anymore? That they had a video, could even set the clock and couldn't remember when it all become so natural.

Well I think it's time to take account and look around now for my generation. Our home and work lives have changed so dramatically over the last 15 years, that I think we need to catch our breathes and work out if it's all for the better. The future is happening now!

As a kid I used to love science fiction. 2000 AD, William Gibson, Blade Runner - I couldn't get enough. My head was filled with everything from cybernetics to flying surf boards. But robotic limbs and supersurfers aside, some things from my childhood's imagination and literature are happening now. We may not have robots cleaning our homes, but we do have i-pods, video phones, oyster cards, chip and pin and even sushi in the corner shops! It's the subtle changes that need to be acknowledged. They're the ones that creep up on us, so as we can't remember a time before.

Has the witty banter of the workplace lessened since email and the Internet? What did people do when they were meant to be working? I can personally remember an incident with a work experience boy, a chair and a roll of packing tape (OK I was the boy). Hell even with the Internet as standard, we think back to the dark old days before youtube and social networking sites! These innovations alone mean that, no longer will a young lad have to run the gauntlet of ringing a girls phone and risk speaking to her Dad! Before he knows anything about the young whippersnapper, his pride and joy may be ready for 2nd base before they've even gone to the under 18's night, due to the ASBO Cyrano De Bergerac seducing her through Twitter, MSN chats and texts.

There are billboards on the tube showing moving images now and interactive mirrors in pub toilets, where ads follow your eye line around when you're trying to piss. These quietly resemble the mighty hoardings as seen in Blade Runner and the animated adverts from Judge Dredd for flabb on. Although they're normally for health products now, which when placed in your favourite recreational pass times facilities - ultimately does take the piss.

I can remember wishing that my Quickshot joystick would one day free itself from it's plastic suckers, to allow me the mobility to fight whilst panicked by a particularly tense game of Zaxon. Now my Mum is serving tennis balls at the TV from the dining room via her wii in her slippers, a far cry from Sharon Stones hologram squash instructor in 'Total Recall', but progress no doubt.

But what really interests me is the way we thought some of the technologies would develop. The ones that didn't make it. Every school has email now and the pupils their own log ins and email addresses. I'm sure in 1991, we all thought that by 2009 kids would be sitting in class rooms with massive gaudy plastic virtual reality headsets on, 'flying' through Macbeth's castle whilst attending double English. Probably with their uniform replaced by a jump suit and high tops ala space camp. Philip K Dick's 'Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep' was meant to be set in 1992. He may of been a bit far ahead, but maybe Jordan or Joan Rivers could pass a replicant? I'd love to see an alternatve 2009, filled with the type of tomorrow's world rubbish we thought would happen. A bit like Marty McFly's alternative 1985 from Back to The Future 2'.

Technology aside, culturally some things have become true. Every film or book used to predict a mish mash of fashion and musical styles. It was always mixed together in some psychedelic dress sense with a screaming soundtrack of rock and dance, fused together through some electronic mincer. Too loud and noisy for the establishment to understand, yet ready for the corporations to exploit, who ultimately owned it anyway via their media platforms. Nu Rave anyone? Skins?

These are a few examples, but there are many more out there. How many have you spotted?


Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Barrio Ping Pong

Ironically whilst digging through a draw looking for an i-pod lead, I came across some rather dusty tapes.  One of them was a recording from a 1999 show on the now defunct GLR.  It was called 'Barrio' and was a 'Destination In' special featuring Ross Allen, Charlie Gillett and Ashley Beedle.  The trio of music enthusiasts took it in turns to play records that somehow linked to the previous one, with the loose theme being 'Barrio'.  During the show Luther Ingram's 'If Loving You is Wrong, I don't want to be right', was played and got the three speaking about the link between Country and Soul music.

During the conversation they mentioned Barney Hoskyns' book 'Say it One Time For the Broken hearted'.  I tracked down the book shortly after and must say it's a good read.  Concentrating mainly on the influences of country within black soul music, it also touches on the few black country singers.  It's good at explaining how these two cultural extremes came to be intertwined, which was mainly through working the land side by side and the church.

Allen went on to compile the much acclaimed 'Country Got Soul' compilations, which also lead to an original recording by some of the musicians featured on the compilations.  Produced by southern soul legend Dan Penn, the album 'Testifying - The Country Soul Revue', was a fine slice of southern soul, with heartfelt songs by artists that have experienced life rather than most of today's blinged out soul upstarts.  

Maybe it was bubbling in Ross' brain for a while or maybe the 'Barrio' conversation sparked it all off.  But it's nice to unearth a captured moment in time that's nearly ten years old.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Bunch Of Cuts!

In these times of the ever present 'crunch', one of Soho's more colourful salons had it's doors rudely shut for them recently. But fear not, the resilient barber's have regrouped and relocated.

Cuts was started in the early 80s by the recently deceased style icon, James Lebon and Steve Brooks. It was always known for it's cutting edge (pardon the pun) approach and developed it's fair share of cult styles, from the 'Boxer' cut of the 80's to the 'Buddha' in the 90's. Frequented by the likes of Goldie and Mark Moore, many the mover and shaker has been through cuts' doors for one of their trade mark scissor crops. Although it moved location a few times, it spent most of it's time on Soho's Frith Street.

The atmosphere was somewhat like a camp Desmond's at times, and at others more like an episode of Minder. Musicians and fashion designers would get their hair cut next to shifty geezers, while the salon would share a joke at a staff members expense, and the door would be a turnstile for Soho's panhandlers and eccentrics. Cuts was a refreshing answer to the chain salons with their herbal teas and expensive product ranges (whether the staff wanted it or not).

The sudden move seems apparently due to some bad management, but the staff banded together in record time to relocate and continue Cuts. Their new home is tucked away behind dean street and seems a lot swankier than their last, but minimal walls and stripped wooden beams aside it still seems to have the same chaotic charm as before. So with hopes of making it last and acquiring enough chairs for their clients, I wish them all good luck and urge you to pop along and experience the new Cuts.

Rush Rush to the Yale

I noticed something quite strange in the summer of 2006... house was back.
Maybe I'd been locked away for a a while, but it seemed what for so long was a dirty word and the scourge of every trendy night's musical policy, had suddenly leaped to the forefront of every DJ and faux celeb DJ's playlist! 

It had a few new names and a few new branches to the family tree, but whether dressed up as nu-electro or minimal techno it was house no doubt. The undeniable 4:4 beat was pounding through every East London venue, from skinny jeaned pubs to it's spiritual home in grotty warehouses. I was taken aback. Maybe we can thank people like soulwax for introducing festival goers to the cheap trickery and cheeky delight of banging away to a filtered beat and bass line, or maybe we can thank channel 4's skins for their portrayal of sexy young things lost in the pursuit of hedonism. But as I swigged on a warm can of larger, that I had seen someone hide at a party in a warehouse/work unit/living space, I couldn't help looking out at the 'raving' (another dirty word that's rejoined our vocabulary) hordes with curiosity. How did this happen?

If you go back 10 years to the same locations, you'd be hard pressed to find a flyer touting house, unless it was dressed up in a media friendly way to appease the clued up cool clubbers. To get away with playing house music of any derivative you'd have to first insert an excuse / explanation beforehand. Cue, 'deep', 'jazzy', 'Latin' and 'nu'! Yes these media savvy young things weren't going to get their combat trousers and latest fat Nike Airs dirty for just any musical genre. It had to be the latest (or the most old skoolest) hip hop, breakbeat, drum 'n' bass, eclectic beats out there. House was for the Sharon and Tracys that they'd left behind in the home counties, along with their Mum's chintzy guest room.

A worthy nod of exception goes to the South London swagger of Ross Allen, who delighted in introducing them to some 4:4 delights via the Filter records label. He was also one of the only DJ's at the time who could beat mix a varied box of records together, leaving others' worn out excuses about musical purity looking pretty poor in comparison. But I digress.

Maybe in this homogenised world, where the high street is quick to jump on fashion trends, information leaps around at light speed, people publish their opinions before thinking (ahem), and nothing is given time to grow and develop before it's plastered as yesterdays news on some blog, house is the only music fitting? There's no complicated dance steps, no real need to know about the music or it's rich history, there's not a very committed uniform to follow and it rarely has any social commentary to think about. Do the Secretsundaze and mulletovers owe their success to mediocrity? Where hipsters and suits rub shoulders on the dance floor, looking for a new brand of validation to make their lives seem cool and special, along with a bump of ket to add an edge to their dull antics.

Or maybe people have learnt from their pretensions, and look back in horror at their now irrelevant music collection and fashion mistakes. Maybe the so called Sharon and Tracys had it right all along? Don't get stuck in the kitchen talking about the influence of Coltrane on modern music, hoping you'll seem deep and get a snog. Get out on the dance floor and actually get a snog! House music woke people from their various musical tribes and injected some much needed FUN into their lives, and now it seems to have shaken them alive again!