Featured Artist: II Tone Committee (October 2019)

For a number of people, the idea of Scottish hip-hop would likely bring derision or denial. Some others might be aware of the Great Hip-Hop Hoax and the story of Silibil n Brains, but that would certainly not be a good advert for hip-hop in Scotland. What most people don’t realise is that Scottish rappers have been making records for almost as long as hip-hop has existed in the UK and amongst the earliest performers were the group II Tone Committee.

Hailing from Glasgow’s south side in the late 1980s, the group consisted of Mistah Bohze, Defy, Sace and DJ Krash Slaughta. The four members came up through the city’s established breaking scene in the mid-1980s before moving into music, initially in separate projects before coming together as II Tone Committee. The group emerged with a heavy, in your face sound based on the britcore style coming out of London at the time through the likes of Hardnoise and Hijack. Having established enough of a reputation locally to sign for the 23rd Precinct record label, no mean feat in itself for a hip-hop group from Glasgow in the 1980s, they released their debut record Beings from a Word Struck Surface in 1991. The 12” would be one of the first three hip-hop vinyl releases in Scotland, alongside Sugar Bullet’s World Peace and Dope Inc’s The Frontal Attack\Born with a Dope Affliction, and contained the seminal track Hangman, a classic hardcore hip-hop record.

It would be another seven years before the group would release their second EP Submission in 1998. In the years between, however, they toured across mainland Europe where their popularity was much greater than in the UK. This was a common theme with britcore groups and II Tone Committee were no exception. Despite being critically acclaimed and held in high regard by their peers, this never reflected in sales in the UK with the music industry often ignoring UK hip-hop. Nevertheless, the group were able to sell over 30,000 copies of their material, which considering the obstacles against UK hip-hop performers at the time was a significant amount to sell. It wouldn't be long after this that the members of the group would choose to focus on other projects and gradually move away from II Tone Committee with just one more single release, One, in 2002 despite there being rumours of another album in the pipeline.

After ending II Tone Committee, three of the four members would continue to make music in different projects. Defy has worked on a number of projects, as has Krash Slaughta as well as releasing a series of EPs. The most prolific, however, has definitely been Mistah Bohze who formed The Sentinalez not long after and produced two albums on his label Southside Deluxe. Next came the debut solo album bLASToid MacgONagle released in 2012, followed by the EP Astrometricks and two more albums The Bottom Left Corner Absolute and Top Left: Skeleton Staff all of which have been well received in UK hip-hop circles.

Although they had quite a small recording output and being better supported in mainland Europe, II Tone Committee are very much a significant group. As part of Scottish hip-hop, they were able to show that hip-hop existed north of the border and wasn't just restricted to England and that accent was no restriction shown by their successes in mainland Europe as a britcore act.