As Cypress Hill once so memorably intoned: "My oven's on high when I roast the quail." And I'm sure housewives everywhere would agree with the monged rappers on that point. Similarly, what I have attempted to do with this and subsequent columns is to find out what, if anything, in today's music scene 'roasts the quail' of our nation's youth. Because whiteboy indie swing is all very well, but there's more to pop than the Will Oldham back catalogue. I knew a mission when I smelt one, it was time for me to get out there. Time to investigate and infiltrate the sounds of our young people like some kind of chart-fixated Mike Hammer. Being based in SW9, breeding ground for underground musical movements and terrible British films, I'd been aware of garage "crews" and their burgeoning profile for a while. However, I'd never realised the huge influence they asserted over contemporary ideology until I noticed a pubescent girl clipping a mugshot of Skat D from the Evening Standard one evening in early 2002. From that point on I was inspired to delve into the history of the movement, learning that this sub-genre of dance was called 'garage' because it's pioneers had been trying to replicate the noises made when fixing the carburettor of a Ford Mondeo. I also found out that Skat was an individual from the foremost progenators of the sound, a posse of twenty-nine brothers and one sister known
Keeping my ear attuned to the streets for the next few weeks, word soon reached me the group would be holding auditions for MCs inside an abandoned BR waiting room in Dulwich. One monosyllabic phone call later and we were in, myself (So Solid name: Big Al) and my associate Matthew (So Solid Name: Nutsac). We shuffled along one chilly February evening full of optimism and spunk to see if we could become black London's newest pin-ups.
There was no thought in my mind it could go wrong, Nutsac had been well-briefed in advance; advised it was necessary to pretend he'd grown up in a South London tower block, owned a cache of munitions and knew that all were jealous of his "flow", but was far too cool to let it bother him. Like I say, we were well prepared.
After three short knocks and two long ones we gained admittance to the bunker-like building and were frisked briefly, Megaman quickly discovering the broken air pistol I'd brought along to pose with if anyone doubted how hard I was. Inside the waiting room it was like the Hearsay audition but with a slightly greater threat of violence. We were shown to chairs before a desk, seated on or around which was an interview panel consisting of several members of the crew. Asher D I recognised from the McCain chips commercial and he proceeded to introduce the rest. TW7, who named himself after a fictional aeroplane, was there, as was Oxide - the spitting image of a pre-scalping Brian Harvey - along with Sniper, on his cellphone to a journalist denying the collective's worldview glorified guns.
Eventually TW7 asked us to describe what we believed needed bringing to So Solid and nodded slowly when I talked of my verbal dexterity and how we could help them access that lucrative middle class audience which had so far eluded the Crew. Then Sniper asked what we knew about the conflict currently taking place on the streets, and how we would cope with everyone wanting a piece of us after we became famous. I was just about to describe recent incidences whereupon I'd been saddened to see brothers killing brothers in my hood, when Nutsac piped up regarding how many "glats and gocks" he'd got at home and the intense rivalry experienced on his last golf tour of the Channel Islands. I believe it was at this point things started to slip away from us. After seeing the look on Asher D's face I decided to break the silence and, in my panic for something to say, began to burble about the fisticuffs that used to break out between white niggas from the North and South coasts of Devon back in the day.
Another long pause elapsed before Oxide told us to kickstart our lyrical flow. First up was my associate and, although most people's voices seem to inflect an American accent when they start trying to rap, for some reason his words come out Cornish. Nutsac sounded like a cross between one of the Wurzels and Morris Minor. After a couple of verses of this ("Oi've got a bazooka oi'm gonna foi-re, Bling bling you boggers!") he was silenced by TW7 banging his head against the wall. Sensing things weren't going quite to plan I metaphorically grabbed the mike and begin my own unique MCing style, a flow which isn't afraid to be both
I started strong, rhyming "munificent" with "can't pay da rent" then using words like "paradigm" and "extrapolatory" in my rap before ending with a whole verse ambitiously built around the word "orange". Oxide looked astonished and when Nutsac patted me on the shoulder I thought I might just have saved the situation. We were told they'd let us know and shown the door, but when we didn't hear anything for a couple of weeks I began to get downhearted. That is, until Nutsac called me up with the news that several of the founder members of the crew had been sent down, the courts refusing to accept their lawyer's defence that the shooting of several people in the leg was necessary because the victims were maliciously "hatin' playas". We decided to take up these spare places and join the collective anyway, whether they wanted us to or not. Fortunately there's so many floating members we don't get noticed very often, and when we do most of So Solid think we're roadies. Nutsac bought us nautical outfits to solve what he calls "our image problem", so look out for us in future photo shoots and TV appearances standing at the back looking shifty in sailors' hats.
All in all I find the two of us get on quite well with others on 'the scene'. Producer Mr. Morgan (the major's son) is extremely amenable, and Tiger S strikes me as quite an interesting vocalist despite being very feral. Only Lisa Maffia looks down her nose at us which might be because Nutsac mistook her for a children's TV presenter and asked if she'd ever witnessed Jamie Theakston get himself into a compromising position with some whores.
In fact it turns out we're not the only imposters in the group. Minor celebrity Gary Wilmot also tags along, pretending to be a garage innovator and throwing shapes to the hot garage sound at gigs. You'd think someone would notice that 'Crazee-face' (as he calls himself) looks like the rest of the Crew's dad, but apparently not. Gary pleaded with me not to reveal his secret, trying to appeal to my humanity by describing the hell he'd have to go back to in panto if the media ever found him out, but I've told you about him now so fuck it.
This column was originally published on the late, lamented aplanetofsound.com in April 2002. It reappears here by popular demand (hopefully you'll be quiet now Nutsac).