“If you listen to a lot of London hip-hop it all sounds the same. “ DJ Kenny Hectyc is saddened to admit, “It’s a shame we have a culture in hip-hop worldwide where it’s OK to bite other people’s styles.” However, Hectyc is actually an authority on breaking copycat culture, as few are challenging hip-hop conventions in the same way as his group, The Scribes. With their honest and incredibly grounded lyricisms being a far cry from the typically braggadocios genre, they’re are exactly what hip-hop needs right now, and The Scribes are not afraid to let the world aware of this.
For the four piece, origins were humble; “The Scribes came together through school mates Shaun (Amos) & myself combining our heavyweight rap abilities, learned from mimicking MC Hammer and Will Smith,” explains one half of the formidable leading lyricist, Jonny Steele; “Together these lyricists joined up the Samson-esque long haired beatboxing lothario Lacey and eventually meeting up with long suffering DJ the almighty Kenny Hectyc.” They first found their way onto the recorded format back in 2005, ‘The Evolution EP’, followed by a polished version of their unique sound on debut LP ‘The Sky Is Falling’, demonstrating how they defiantly disobeying hip-hop genre conventions.
Shaun Amos (Ill Literate, the other half of the formidable leading lyricist) speaks of his influences far removed from hip-hop; “my personal influences are as much britpop and rock, things like Blur, as they are hip hop”. This is certainly a factor in the groups tradition-defying sound, where guitars and strings are as prominent as the beat, Amos believes this “allows our music to progress and be dynamic in a way that sampling may not allow for.” However, he refused to forget their beginnings, “equally though, we’ve still got our roots in hip-hop, especially in terms of beats.”
The Scribes have recently found a home on Kamikaze Airlines Records, and by their generous gift of ‘The Sky Is Falling’ in fall, there’s a sense that the signing thrills The Scribes. Hectyc hopes of “a world tour and an album release and a $1million advance” may be unlikely for now, but Amos knows that The Scribes will receive; “more exposure, especially abroad. As the label’s ran by Dizzy from Ugly Duckling we know we’re in good hands.”
They have supported a plethora of notable acts in their time; “Some of the people we’ve supported I still sort of struggle to believe, people like GZA, De La Soul and MF Doom, all bonafide hip hop legends. It’s just a privilege to share the stage with,” Amos gushes. They’ve also supported numerous pop-rappers, which they honestly should be headlining over, as The Scribes acclaimed live show is, in fact, a truly thrilling prospect, with a masterful grasp of flow, freestyle and frenetic energy. They all agree that this is predominantly a result of their camaraderie, “being genuine friends outside of the music allows us to have a laugh on stage, which I really think helps bond and interact with any audience, no matter their musical preference.” Amos also recognises the advantage of experience, “the years on the road doing this means we’ve now got the confidence to try new things and keep what works, it’s a never ending process of perfecting what we do.”
Like all great collectives before them, it’s the individual personalities that cause The Scribes to be engrossing, not one member could be removed without a drastic change. “We’re greedy and we get the best of having everyone’s input.” Steele proudly states, while Amos see’s the advantage on a technical level “It helps us with everything from the different influences we can bring to our music, to being able to bounce off each other for live performances.”
As the love affair between hip-hop and the Internet continues to increase, all acts are feeling the benefits, including these four, having just ‘done a Radiohead’ by releasing ‘The Death of Loki’ in the ‘pay what you want format’. Steele also recognises the ever-changing world of hip-hop needs the Internet; ”I don’t think any artist would’ve been able to survive without the connections and fans you can obtain through social media. It’s great to see UK hip hop on the rise again, it’s exciting to hear what people are creating from nothing.”
Ambitious in sound, ambitious in goals. Amos may have a more sincere desire; “just to be able to do what we love and get a response from people for it,” but Steele is refusing to settle for modest success, he absolutely wants to be known as either “everyday hip-hop heroes or rap gods, but nothing in between.”
Words By Connor Cass