This week's Rap Rundown looks at the 2017 'Rated Awards', Avelino's 'No Bullshit' and Dave's collaboration with Joey Bada$$...
In this week’s Rap Rundown, I look at the 2017 'Rated Awards' now the dust has settled, Avelino’s new ‘NO BULLSHIT’ playlist and his London launch party, and south London’s Dave collaborating with New York rapper Joey Bada$$.
Previously, institutions like the MOBOs arguably stood alone when it came to celebrating music of black origin, while others have stolen from it, packaged its influences and profited from it without giving credit where credit's due. In response to this, in 2014, GRM Daily and KA Drinks hosted their inaugural Rated Awards, taking it upon themselves to champion this powerful microcosm of the UK's music industry which has been notoriously misrepresented in the mainstream. Three years later, on October 24, 2017 - as we come to the end of a year which has seen grime and UK rap continue on an upward trajectory, with its scope of influence spanning across the Atlantic - they returned to Camden’s Roundhouse for their third ceremony.
I was fortunate enough to be invited down to the first Rated Awards in 2014, and subsequently both ceremonies since, and the growth I’ve seen is unfathomable. Don’t get me wrong, there are still logistical teething problems and things that could be done better. But in terms of creating an unapologetic celebration of grime, UK rap, underground music and essentially black British music, it’s done pretty well. For example, Lethal Bizzle, who opened doors for commercially successful grime stars like Stormzy, was this year presented with the coveted Legacy Award, which not only recognised his influence on grime and UK rap, but also his impact on popular culture. BBC Radio 1’s MistaJam presented the award and described Bizzle’s journey, which has run parallel to the progression of grime, explaining how, when people didn’t understand or accept grime as a genre, Bizzle had ‘literally stood on stage while the crowd were raining down bottles of piss on him’. He also used the opportunity to address Bizzle’s recent rights dispute with Love Island’s Chris and Kem - who essentially ripped off his sound, parodied it and sold it – calling them ‘culture vultures’ and a ‘bunch of dickheads’. UK-rapper-turned-Hollywood-prospect Bashy was also among this year’s presenters and commented on how the scene has developed in the ten years since he released his single ‘Black Boys’ and how he is encouraged by the success of young black people in the entertainment industry. As you would expect, Stormzy was also honoured at this year’s ceremony, taking home the Best Video award as well as Artist of the Year in what GRM Daily described as the ‘closest and most competitive year yet’. The south London rapper used the stage to congratulate the British artists in the audience and to tell their American competitors to ‘suck our dicks’.
The Roundhouse’s stage also hosted performances from the likes of Stefflon Don, Kojo Funds, Dave, Hardy Caprio, Tion Wayne, MoStack, MIST and AJ Tracey and, despite what it may have looked like on the live stream, the atmosphere was alright. However, I definitely agree with a few of the critics who complained about the lack of movement in the crowd, that if there were a few more genuine music fans, rather than just industry faces, it could have lifted things a little bit. It would also have prevented the keyboard warriors (who were at the ready as soon as the stream went live) from attempting to question the entire ceremony’s integrity as soon as they had the opportunity.
One criticism I did have, which I was made aware of when flicking through this year’s nominations, was the lack of females included. Despite the success of artists like Nadia Rose, Jorja Smith, Mabel, Ray BLK, Ms Banks etc. (I could go on), the majority of the major categories had no female artists nominated. This might be to do with the fact that the winners are voted for by fans (and GRM’s fan base is predominantly male), but, in future ceremonies, I’d like to see more of the scene’s women recognised.
All in all though, I take my hat off to the GRM and KA teams because, although there may be a way to go until the Rated Awards are up there on prime time TV, competing with ceremony’s like the BRITs, they’re definitely going in the right direction and are playing an important role in giving black British music the credit it deserves.
Last Friday saw the release of Avelino’s latest body of work, ‘NO BULLSHIT’, and on Wednesday, ahead of the drop, the Tottenham rapper invited a few friends (including Wretch 32, Stormzy, Maya Jama, TE Dness, Mahalia and Etta Bond) to Omeara, London Bridge, to preview the project with an exclusive listening session and live performance. After a brief introduction from DJ Semtex, who conducts an interview with Avelino which features on the project, we got started with ‘Greatness Intro’. This not only gave us an idea of what to expect from what Avelino described as his latest ‘playlist’ (rather than EP, mixtape or album), it helped us to understand him as an artist through a deep, introspective monologue. We then got a live performance of ‘U Can Stand Up/Royal’ – one of the project’s stand out tracks in my opinion – before Av and DJ Rlo let a few more of the tracks run for the guests to experience in full.
On the ‘playlist’, when discussing the idea of genre and style, Avelino talks about the idea of versatility and explains how he wouldn’t describe himself as ‘versatile’ anymore because the word suggests that you’re experimenting with a variety of sounds to prove that you can. Instead, he explains how he explores and creates different types of music because he needs to as a form of expression and therefore can’t limit himself within the guidelines of any genre or category. In my opinion, this sums up the nature of ‘NO BULLSHIT’ as well as Avelino as a musician. When people ask me who I think is the most talented rapper in the UK, Avelino’s name is always part of the conversation. But, when people ask me to compare him to any other artist, or categorise him, I struggle. And after listening to ‘NO BULLSHIT’, seeing some of it performed live and hearing what Av had to say about it, it makes a bit more sense. Rather than limit himself to grime, UK rap, afro-bashment, hip-hop, drill etc., he creates the music that comes to him naturally at the time and doesn’t necessarily subscribe to genre-specific parameters.
The project features the type of mind-bending wordplay associated with Avelino’s mentor Wretch 32, as well as the more sensitive, melodic sounds of the UK’s prominent afro-bashment scene. And because of this variety and the project’s lack of limitation, it doesn’t quite feel like a mixtape, EP or an album, which leads me to understand why he describes it as a ‘playlist’. It seems as if it allows him to explore unbounded musical territory and create a project which is a genuine extension of his own taste and expression. Anyway, rather than watch me try and deconstruct the whole concept of the project, grab your copy here and have a listen for yourself.
Lastly, although the UK rapper involved might not actually be rapping, I had to mention Dave’s collaboration with Joey Bada$$ on their BBC Radio 1 Piano Session. For me the Streatham musician positively represents the creativity of the UK rap scene and the unprecedented talent it contains and watching a clip of him playing the piano while Joey Bada$$ spat a verse from one my favourite tracks from ‘All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$’, had to be one of my highlights from last week.
If you haven’t watched it already, take a look at the live session below.
Words: Patrick Fennelly
Online Edit: Zardine Collins