Derby Hip Hop Roots & Youth Clubs

Hip hop begun for me around 1984 with the influx of the new craze break dancing… Through the influence of robotics, electro pop, and blues nights the small subculture had begun to take root in the youth of Derby. During the early years it was predominantly b-boys that harnessed the movement… alot of b-boys became bedroom dj’s and turned their hands to scratching and mixing music. So the scene now had expanded to b-boys and dj’s, it wasn’t long after this b-boys started to rap and this became the springboard for expression. It soon became a theme in youth clubs… (Daz The Graff Man).

I worked at the Mandela Centre in Normanton (Derby)…I was one of the full time youth workers and Baby J, Ragga T, Frank, and lots of others like Yogi used to come down there. They used to come down and play pool, some of them would do break dancing in the back room…we’d have discussions and there would always be music playing. Baby J used to come and was always into his music, when he and the others got a bit older they used to go out DJ’ing at local parties, blues dances, and local clubs. At the time it was hard for them to find places to do it. They would always come down and DJ at the youth club sessions. (Wesley Davison)

Back then there was youth clubs in every area I was from West End and I would travel across the city to go to the Mandela Centre (Derby) because there was going to be hip hop played, there was going to be reggae played, and that was where the cultural influences were… back then it was predominantly West Indian, Pakistani and Indian. The other thing that was really important in early Derby hip hop culture was blues. Blues would be at a house, someone would bring alcohol and then someone would bring a large sound system that would start at 10/11 at night till 3/4 in the morning…We started to get the older reggae guys to let us have a section of the night where we could play hip hop. To me that was the first kind of nightclub type place where we could go and play our own music. The older heads would be like ‘What is this noise?!’ but the youth who could get into blues would be like ‘Yes this is what we want to hear’. (Baby J).

I remember saving my pocket money and selling my packed lunch at school everyday packed lunchand going hungry so I could go to the studio at the Madeley Centre (Derby). There was an engineer…he was brilliant he would mix your track down whilst you were spitting out bars, the guy was off the hook. So every Friday night I’d be down there with my lunch money. (Will/JD).