By Yuriy Andriyashchuk
Hip-HopVibe.com Staff Writer
Culture is a word that’s often thrown around, because this is what the essence of people is. But, one culture has managed to penetrate nearly every inch of society. As much as some hate to admit it, hip hop is that universal language.
While hip hop was born in The Bronx, it spread throughout America, inspiring rappers from all cities. But, America wasn’t immune, as rappers are coming from all over the world. The UK scene, in particular, has produced many artists.
Versatyl and Pilgrim rank among these artists, as they are currently working on Love Manifest, their newest album. The two are rising artists making some noise. However, they have gone nearly seven years without a new release, and they explained to Hip-HopVibe.com about just why.
Read the entire interview below:
You guys represent an era of hip hop that’s considered a part of the past. Do you find that to be a challenge in the current hip hop landscape? Among other things, we were initially attracted to hip hop by the diversity, quality and innovation shown by golden age and 90’s hip hop. Without a doubt, hip hop (and music generally) from these eras have greatly influenced our style and art form. Golden age hip hop had elements of Afrocentrism, political militancy, experimental sampling, jazz influence and lyrics that made sense. Hip hop in the 90’s was able to build on these foundations and create sub-genres that took the world by storm and created the music that we all know and love today. Our mutual appreciation of these facts and the acts from these eras brought us together and have been instrumental in creating our sound.
However, times change and we know as artists we have to adapt and evolve in line with the times to be relevant. We believe we can do this whilst staying true to our core. It can be challenging at times and we have been told several times to make “mumble rap” or music generally that does not reflect our values to sell more records but we feel staying true is a cross that we’ll have to bear.
As natives of the UK, why do you think there hasn’t been a hip hop act to cross over into North America, as of yet? Some British-born hip hop artists who have moved to the US are quite well known — for example Monie Love, Slick Rick, Young MC and MF Doom. It is true that we haven’t really seen major success in the way you are describing, this could be due to a variety of factors. Apart from the physical distance, and the difficulties that this poses, there is also the minor problem of cultural distance. And the accent.
Us Brits and North Americans do have a lot of similarities, though, and so we don’t think this will be a problem for too long. We’ve recently seen British acts being co-signed by some of the biggest artists in North America and expect to see a lot more crossover success in the near future. North American acts always have success here in the UK and across Europe.
Pilgrim: The best artist I’ve ever seen has been GZA of the Wu-Tang clan when he was performing in Birmingham in 2012 for instance and the fact that we’re having this interview with Hip-HopVibe.com is evidence that the UK/North American alliance is mutually desired.
Do you two believe you all will be the rap acts to officially break that barrier? Yes, we feel we can break that barrier and we are working towards that as evidenced by our latest projects in the Wu-Invasion mixtapes and this interview with Hip-HopVibe.com. But, it isn’t just North America we are focused on because we believe music is universal. We both have African roots too and this shows in our music. You can clearly feel the Yoruba (Nigerian) and Ghanaian influence in our upcoming album Love Manifest. We are very holistic in our approach and we are looking to touch the world with our art.
Six years ago, you all dropped your debut project, Smart Is The New Gangsta, is that something you guys live by? Yes, definitely.
The being “gangsta” is often depicted as cool or and as an image of success in hip hop music. With Smart Is The New Gangsta, we were saying that being smart is the way to be successful these days, and that wisdom is key. And by smart we don’t just mean academic smarts, it’s about applying yourself and making the best out of your situation. It’s about analyzing the systems in place and optimizing your chances for success in whatever you’re trying to do. It’s about reading the plays that are going on and capitalizing on the opportunities.
That being said, Versatyl holds a Master’s in Computer Science and Pilgrim has a PhD in Economics, is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and is as a lecturer in Economics at a UK university so academic smarts are good too.
Pilgrim, specifically, for those who do not know, can you tell us what a B-Boy is, and the significance of a B-Boy in hip hop? The term B-Boy or B-Girl for females comes from the the words ‘Break Boy and Break Girl.’ It originated in the early 70’s in the Bronx when DJ Kool Herc would play the ‘breaks’ of songs. Specifically, he would only play parts of the songs with beats and no lyrics. Boys and girls who danced to these ‘breaks’ were called ‘Break Boys and Break Girls’ now called ‘B-Boys and B-Girls’ in short. The Godfather of B-Boying is usually considered as James Brown because apart from the fact that we use his breaks a lot in our dance, when on stage, James Brown would dance around with energy and acrobatic moves. B-Boying has several elements, i.e. top-rock, footwork, freezes, abstract, blow-up and power moves. B-Boys have also incorporated martial art stunts into the art form to wow the crowds.
B-boys are very important to hip hop culture. The iconic dance is easily recognizable worldwide, and I see it as a fitness side of hip hop. Remember that Einstein called dancers “the athletes of God” and B-boys typify this expression. B-boying drew me into the culture as a kid and I have seen B-boying change the lives of people by drawing them away from crime and giving them something meaningful to do. I also feel that B-boying is that last pure stance of hip hop because unlike the other parts of hip hop that have been defiled, B-boys and B-girls have stayed true to the original message of hip hop.
When will you guys be releasing your next project? We are looking to release our next project “Love Manifest” around summer 2019. We could push this to 2020 depending on how things work out. We have released some singles, “Love Manifest,” “When Love Turns to Hate” and “Eve of the Crucifix.”
What are your overall goals for 2019? Apart from releasing our next project, we are looking to collaborate more and promote the culture especially as through underground hip hop.
Where can fans connect with you on social media?
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