London Posse – Gangster Chronicle. Re-issue.

17 Jun

London 1990, I was in the last year of Secondary school. Roxette and MC Hammer were climbing the charts – I was climbing the walls. The music of the day meant fuck all to me. “Stop… Hammer time” was the shout in the playground at every break. I needed something else. Something I could relate to. “It Must Have Been Love” – Try telling that to a kid growing up on a council estate in London. It just wasn’t happening in the charts, for me and many others.

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Thankfully UK Hip Hop was poetry to my increasingly discerning ears. My teens had been drenched with US rap that came in waves from the likes Boogie Down Productions, Eric B and Rakim, The Sugar Hill Gang and also the Street Sounds compilations that were the bench mark of 80’s rap/electro. The US was where it was at, or so it seemed.

As much as I cherished these artists, there was still something missing. The key ingredient I needed in this mix was anglocentric. I needed something that spoke about life on these shores and was close to home and in every sense. Something was brewing; I just didn’t know it…Yet.

Back in the day, it was Tim Westwood that had a hand in what a lot of UK rap fans were waiting for. The London Posse (Sipho, Bionic and Rodney P and DJ Biznizz) were unleashed on an un-expecting public and to say they created a storm, is like comparing a draft to a tsunami.

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The band’s first Single London Posse produced by Westwood (and with copious amounts of air play) stayed in the Indie chart for 11 weeks and blew the doors wide open for The London Posse to move their goods into the threadbare UK Hip Hop scene.

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After touring with big Audio Dynamite and having the first ever UK Hip Hop record with just (London Posse founding member Sipho) beat boxing as a backing track, the London Posse had arrived.

Signed to Westwood’s Justice label, The London Posse released what is now regarded as the most important UK rap record ever.

Money Mad smashed you in the face from the opening bars. The track was just over 6 minutes of lyrics and music that you just knew was from fresh the UK. There were no fake American accents, no posturing and there was nothing that you could mindlessly sing along to. This was the real fucking deal – Street music for people on the streets.

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Money Mad was UK street life running from your speakers whilst a reggae selections and samples rang out behind a hail of piano and massive drum beats. Pure poetry and true grit carried the track from start to finish and with Westwood’s clear but in your face production, the London Posse jumped to the front of the queue of UK Hip Hop. The first time I heard the track it was one of those moments that stayed with me forever – I had finally found MY band.

1990 also saw the band’s debut album Gangster Chronicles hit the shelves. A trip to Our Price records was where I picked up the cassette album. I remember looking over the cover, reading the blurb inside and feeling the suspense at getting home and putting it in the stereo. (Yes kids, we had to wait until we got home to hear our music. No instant downloads back in the day).

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Gangster Chronicles opened with Money Mad, which was best way to set the album stall out. Any doubts as to whether the band could produce an album’s worth of strong material were put happily to bed for anyone hearing the album for fully the first time.

Tracks like Original London Style, Live Like the Other Half Do and Gangster Chronicle still sound like nothing that ever went before or after them. Dealing with issues such as unemployment, drugs, girls, money and life on the streets of London, the London Posse won fans all around the country and UK Hip Hop had finally had a voice of its own. I am not saying there were not others around at the time but for me personally, the London Posse gave us Britishness, something that UK Hip Hop was crying out for.

Gangster Chronicles fused rap, Reggae Mc-ing, straight up Hip Hop and youthful urgency in abundance. The album was recorded in a matter of weeks and the ideas buzzing around in the young heads of the London Posse still retain that spark to this day.

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In retrospect, Gangster Chronicles isn’t flawless but the album is testament to passion and belief that these young rappers from the UK could achieve the greatness that there US counterparts gained in the Hip Hop hall of fame. The London Posse were not perfect and that is the appeal but to quote Iggy Pop when I think of the small legacy The London Posse left, their music was/is, “music that takes up the energies and the bodies and the hearts and the souls and the time and the minds of young men who give what they have to it and give everything they have to it…” and that was what Gangster Chronicles was all about.

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The album is re-issued through Tru-Thoughts on 17th June 2013.

http://www.tru-thoughts.co.uk/releases/London-Posse/gangster-chronicles-the-definitive-collection

The re-issue comes with bonus tracks, remixes and more.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Sipho the human beat-box. RIP.

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