Skinnyman is a rapper from Leeds and London. He worked with Derby based producer Baby J and traveled to Derby to perform….

Can you tell us about when you started working with Baby J and making ‘Council Estate of Mind?
At a time when there was interest from labels to know what was going in the UK urban rap scene. Record labels had been offering me a deal I had a supportive team of friends that I had known over the years such as Baby J. He has been very encouraging and inspirational to me and he gave me the push that I needed and kept sending tracks on CDs. When I had time to myself without distractions to reflect on what I could write I felt that I had missed my chance and it was too late to be known as an MC – so it made me think what would I have said if I hadn’t missed the chance. What happened then was the album Council Estate of Mind (2004). I must thank Baby J for making sure I had the right material, music, and beats to help me reflect the kind of things I wanted to rap about. If I wanted to rap about hard times and suffering Baby J would send me a soul feeling beat that helped me express that emotion. If I was feeling hyped up and charged about something he would send me that kind of up tempo beat. He basically had a beat for whatever emotion I was feeling. Thanks to Baby J and the team as it was hard to do back then coming from a lower working class background. To get something out was important at that time as a lot of people agreed with what I had to say.

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. I like that there’s a space in Derby for niche, soul, reggae, jungle and hip hop. 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.

When I was coming down in a minibus everyone else didn’t know what they were letting themselves in for but I did I’ve been down here for a cheesy RnB night so I knew what to expect. Derby needs to stand up, MC’s from Derby need to let people know what’s going on in Derby let the world know and represent as there’s people who don’t know about Derby so you need to let them know.

There was a Critical Beatdown night back in 1991 that you came down for. I (daz)and others think you should have won the (Rap) battle with Potion? 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. Ego can be destruction of man. You often have times when opinions differ on who the winner should be.

Back then we in the generation when we all battling because we had no other outlet. There was no 2 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 lose badly. If you’re seen as a champion in your sport people often route for the underdog and 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 lose to keep you grounded to keep you humble don’t get too big headed.

If you could put a message out to upcoming MC’c, DJ’s, break dancers, graffiti artist and producers what would it be?
I would like to think that people who put a life time contribution to this culture should get enough to have a pension off it. Hip Hop pension hahaha. What I mean is I would like to see the artist coming up getting paid not them getting exploited by the industry and the industry getting paid. I want the upcoming generation of artists to be the benefactors of the culture.