This week our 7 Questions of Hip Hop Culture is taking a flight across the Atlantic to our brother in the UK, Battle Chasers, who is serving that wicked stout blend. Don’t expect Him to mix words, so, be slow to speak and quick to listen. His love for Hip Hop is pure honey that will transform into venom if you come off fake! No matter where Hip Hop lives you are at home in England with my man right here! Enjoy!
1. What does the Hip Hop culture, and its elements, mean to you, and why is it your passion?
For me, Hip Hop is the way I chose to express how I feel. I mainly chose writing as my main element but started in 1983 with b-boying. [I] moved to writing in 86 which then I stopped in 1995/96 due to life commitments, and the fact I didn’t like where Hip Hop was going (with the whole Biggie Smalls/2pac, guns, gangs , ghetto thing.) I switched to DJing for a short time, and I currently rock stages with local group, Suspekt, who have been going strong since 88. I have also beat-boxed since 89, besides writing; I’m also known for that unspoken 5th element of Hip Hop.
I have recently returned to writing after 15 years away, as there is a better feeling of family amongst writers than there was in the mid 90s. Virtually every old b-boy I know has come back in some form, even though they never really went away. Its something that never leaves you. Its the thing you can do to get those feelings out after a shit day in a 8 till 5 job. If I’m feeling angry, then I can dance, paint, rhyme, or scratch the shit out of records to express how I feel. Its something I understand alot more now in my 27th year as a b-boy.
Remember that scene in Wild Style where Lee takes a red can and starts making angry stabbing motions at the wall while painting the “love” thing? I didn’t get it back in 85 when I first saw it, [but] now I totally understand it. Which other culture enables you to express how you feel in so many different ways?
Also, each element is a multi-million pound industry now. Look at the Battle of the Year event for b-boys; the DMC Finals for DJs; and the Write for Gold comps for writers. Rhyming and beat-boxing have always been on record, which in themselves, sell billions!
2. Describe any memorable experiences that made you fall in love with Hip Hop; made you proud of it; and/or changed your life?
It’s the old school which I have the fondest memories of. The pre- internet days. The pre -mobile phone days. People had to connect face to face which is probably why all the early jams were so packed out. I have had so many experiences which are positive ones, as well as alot of negativity in the mid years due to the whole gangster thing.
Some [of my] stand out moments include meeting Bambaataa in a Berlin airport. He took time to listen to me and gave his thoughts on Hip Hop as a worldwide culture and how we can all contribute. He still believed in the strong electro element which he has always repped when doing DJ sets, which I didnt get at first, but he explained it was just a progression of the DJ parties he was doing in the late 70s.
One moment which made me proud of the culture was when Suspekt were booked in 2008 to do a show in Switzerland, and it was the first time I really got a feel of how much the Britcore sound was supported in Europe. The early 1990s angry sound of the UK still strikes a cord with alot of the European hip hoppers, and it will probably go down as not only one of my fave shows as a performer, but as a b-boy as a whole as the whole trip was an amazing event. It showed me that you can travel out of your country and connect immediately with someone you had never met before in your life, as you had Hip Hop in common. You could strike up conversations about thoughts on tracks or artists or writers or whatever. Plus they love it as much as you is a big bonus!
3. Who has been a major influence or inspiration to you in the Hip Hop culture and why?
So many people. I could list hundreds of writers, b-boys, DJs, and MCs who I look up to. There’s so many in each element.
The main inspiration for me has been Biz Markie; not only as a beat-boxer, but as a person. He takes the music and just has fun with it! He’s himself. He loves a good laugh, and He doesn’t care as He does it for himself. He captures the true essence of Hip Hop for me, cos if you take the personality and fun out of it, whats left? I met Biz last year in Vegas at Caesars Palace, and He was just as I imagined as a person.
As a beat-boxer I always looked up to Him, more so that Rahzel or any other modern beat-boxer, as He can hold a beat for over 30 minutes, and it still sounds the same as when he started. Most beat-boxers try to cram as many sound effects into 4 bars as possible and have no breath control when it comes to the main point of beat-boxing: providing a soundtrack on the streets for an MC. I try to keep the sound old school, and keep it going as long as possible, as I have been to loads of jams where cyphers continue in the street and MCs jump into sessions without notice!
4. What are some of your most memorable experiences where you believe you made an impression in the culture and its elements, or how you touched people’s lives?
Virtually, all of my most memorable experiences have been while writing, due to whats required to get you name out there. Go rob the equipment; sneak out of the house at midnight while living with your mum; go bomb; get chased; and sneak back in; then go to school; and see your work the next day going there!
I believe I’m making my biggest dent on the culture at the moment. It feels like I have been teleported back to 89, as I’m totally living it each day. There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t touch my 1210s, pick up a pencil, and sketch or create a canvas. The weekends are spent at events or visiting friends who I paint with; or even visit the studio and jam out with other members of Suspekt; or even do parties or events with them.
I remember back in the late 80s I used to do a homemade graffiti magazine called Passions. It was just a black n white, cut n paste effort consisting of photos and sketches. I used to swap photos with writers from all over the world, and I still have some of the letters from some of the most famous ones which I kept. I remember at the magazines peak I was sending out 30 letters a day, while receiving letters from Australia, LA, NYC, Berlin, Copenhagen, and even from some places in the UK I didn’t even know that existed! The magazine was global. Not bad to say it was all done by post, and there was no internet!
5. How should the Hip Hop culture be imparted or passed down to the next generation?
The internet is a curse and a blessing at the same time. It’s bred a generation of lazy b-boys. Writers no longer have to go out and steal supplies and sneak out; cos they can buy their paint online and paint legally at special events only for writers. This wasn’t the way in 88, believe me. The same goes for all the elements.
It’s all too easy to access and disposable. How many of today’s writers have spent a full day at a writers bench looking at trains come in just to capture 1 piece on a train? Nowadays they just go find it on the net.
The whole idea of Hip Hop is to create a sense of family and mutual understanding and respect for each other which you can only do face to face. How you gonna battle a b-boy over the internet? Digital Power moves?
6. Where does Hip Hop need improvement or change, and/or how should it evolve from your perspective?
All elements need to come back to the original essence. I feel hardly any of the elements pay dues to the old school, and by old school I mean 1970-78 for the USA and 82 onwards for the UK. Ask any UK b-boy to name 5 old school b-boy crews from 82 upwards and most will shrug their shoulders.
I personally don’t like the way alot of the elements are progressing. In writing , its become fashionable to look like a toy. Look at some of the styles on the blogs ….yuk! What happened to old school NYC flat letters? I didn’t start writing to produce 3D letters.
Rhyming also became about how many words can either fit into a sentence and rhyme; or become just about how words can rhyme in 2 sentences. Bring back that Jurassic 5 or Rakim’s first LP style of rhymes! Bring back [the] drum break in tracks like Ugly Duckling.
B-Boying is all about power moves. When [was] the last time you saw a b-boy throwdown like Frosty Freeze? Bring old school b-boy style back before it gets too wack!
Simple styles with skill and finesse in all elements is [the] reason why I fell in love with Hip Hop in the first place! It was accesible. Get too elitist in the elements and you’re not only alienating a shitload of people, but [also] not making [it] look like YOU can try these things out! Nowadays there are b-boys which are more fitter than professional athletes.
I’m all for the culture evolving, but don’t let it get too far away from what it originally was, before it looses its way, and doesn’t realise where it came from.
7. What special projects are you doing today you would like the world to know about?
I’m involved in alot of projects, and they all keep me busy.
I run a blog which is The Underground Strikes Back.
The main aim of the blog was to upload my podcasts when I use to do a radio show on Global Funk Radio. Its an internet based radio station which transmits 24hours a day and specializes in the old school, electro, breaks n funk. I stopped the show around 2.5 years ago, but my man Lennie from Suspekt has taken up the challenge and now mans the show. The show goes out every Friday from 20:00 to 22:00GMT, and has a live chat room if you want to drop in and say hello. The address is clickable here at Global Funk Radio.
If you miss the show for any reason, the Friday show is normally available for download the following Monday at the latest.
I have been running the blog for about 3 years, and besides the radio show podcasts, it tries to cover all the elements with DVD rips, TV rips, and online videos of some of the rarer Hip Hop videos. Also, there are mixes, LPs, DJ sets, and loads of other things I try to keep original to the site. I also do requests, so if there’s something you’re after, ask in the chat box, and I will see what I can do.
I also run a photo blog, which is a bit of fun; just a collection of pictures from my internet journeys or travels around the world: Dead Men Walking Photol Blog.
Finally, fans of the early UK hip hop sound may want to check out the Suspekt MySpace pages, where they can get in touch with us as well as check out some free tunes for download. LPs , clothing, and early rare vinyls from 93 are available to buy also.
I’m also on the usual social things like Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr, so if you know me you can add me. If [you] want to hear my history or views in [another] interview, check this post out: Disco Scratch Radio Interview With Yours Truly.
Peace to all true hip hop heads, and [to] all those I have met during my stay on planet Hip Hop over the last 27 years so far…from pioneers to progressors.
Battle.Chasers aka Zillatron3030 aka Mr. All Elements