Derby Hip Hop Nights

What I loved is that there was a scene in Derby. People often get narrow minded. I know people in America think ‘What you lot do hip hop in the UK?!’ and get a bit culture shocked by that. But I’ve always been exposed to what goes on in the little towns all through England. Derby was holding it down…” (Skinnyman).

Baby J.

There was a nightclub called 20th Century…we used to get coaches coming up from London, Birmingham, and Manchester. That was how much of a destination it was. Derek B the first commercially successful UK hip hop artist and London Posse played there.I was around 13/14 at the time (1986/7). I had a friend who worked in the cloakrooms, so we could kind of get in. There was a dance floor, bar and mini cinema showing silent films. One of the first hip hop crews in Derby was called Posse & Effect. I used to sneak in and see them in there with Kangols and leather coats. I’d be like ‘wow they look like the guys I’ve seen on TV or on a album cover and now they’re in Derby’. It was so much more powerful seeing something locally…

The first place that had a regular hip hop slot was the Blue Note. It had two floors with different music, back then it would be split an hour of indie then an hour of hip hop. That night went on for ages. The indie scene was quite small back then….But we all had a mutual respect for each other, as we would all see each other around town and respect that we both had our different scenes…(Baby J).

I’m originally a DJ from London. When I arrived in Derby in 1994/5 we took over this building behind us called it The Gatehouse. For me it was my first touch of Derby and Derby Hip Hop culture. Coming from London I didn’t think there was any hip hop here so I took it on myself to bring it up. But when I got here it was already here fortunately. I met some really good people through this scene… the ‘Off The Hook’ crew who were a collective of DJs who loved the scene and the music… and they were the basis of it all and they were doing stuff round the corner at Union One.. They were bringing London acts and some UK acts like Rodney P, Klashnekoff, Skinnyman, whoever was about at the time. Interestingly they were also bringing some US acts as well which was brilliant… a lot of people they brought through and some really classic stuff too which was perfect. (BFG.)

I came to Derby in 2000 there was already an established monthly night known as ‘Off The Hook’ at Union One which is now flattened and used as parking for Derby College. This would feature some of the premier Hip Hop acts of the time. I always remember the break dancing circle featuring Trinity Warriors and just good times, good music, and a fantastic night…

When they finished there wasn’t really much going on so that’s when we decided to put on a night at the Five Lamps (pub). My good friend Mistah Crowe did the first one and then we got on it together. We would have people doing graffiti, break dancing, DJ’ing and open mic which always went down well…with an emphasis on local talent…including live graffiti which was something different that stood out for the night. The hip hop scene in Derby back then was really good, there was good venues – Union 1, The Gatehouse, and big artists – Scratch Perverts, Skinnyman, Task Force, Rodney P who came to Derby to perform…(Kyalo).

What can you remember about when you performed in Derby?

What I loved is that there was a scene in Derby people often people get narrow minded. I know people in America think ‘what you lot do Hip Hop in the UK?!’ and get a bit culture shocked by that. You always hear about the major cities, but I’ve always been exposed to what goes on in the little towns all through England. The fact that Derby was holding it down and having open mic sessions and Hip Hop nights that were rammed. Not only that but Derby has always had a scene for sub culture genres… If you look Derby has always had a diverse non prejudiced music scene welcome to all kinds of music. For me it’s not been a surprise that Derby has been holding it down and has been for a long time…

There was a rap battle back in 1991 that you came down for. (Skinnyman lost this battle). What was the mood like in the minibus back to London?
I think everyone was a winner. For anyone to freestyle on the spot and battle for the wits of the mind takes courage. May the best lyricist prevail. The only thing that can get hurt is your pride and your ego. Swallow your pride and don’t let your ego grow…Back then we were all battling because we had no other outlet. There was no two track PA the only way to get on the mic was to go ‘OK then I’ll battle’. I’m not the kind of person to hold malice or loose badly…I’m very flattered to think that back then I was entering a lot of open mic sessions and nobody could beat me at the time. The fact that that night I didn’t come back a winner, every now and then you got to loose to keep you grounded…(Skinnyman).