Featured Artist: New Flesh (February 2020)
For a group like New Flesh, pinning them to a specific town or city is almost impossible. Formed as a loose collective of hip-hop performers that crossed across England and with lyrics that often reach beyond our planet and into the stars, their focus has always been on topics much broader. Coming to the fore in the early-2000s, the group are often considered one of the key UK hip-hop artists of that era. Particularly thanks to their association with one of the most influential labels at the time, Big Dada, also home to other highly respected UK hip-hop performers like Roots Manuva and Ty.
Named after a line in David Cronenbourg's film Videodrome, the collective formed in 1990 as New Flesh for Old. The group was the brainchild of York native Part 2, a reknowned graffiti writer who would take on production duties. Initially the group consisted of Part 2 with Grenedan born, Middlesbrough raised Toastie Taylor, Horny Baker and Out of Order taking on vocal responsibilities. This iteration would release their first single in 1995 with the track This is the Space Age on their own New Flesh Music label. A year later the group dropped their second single Mesopotamia, which earned them recognition and critical praise. It would be at this time that the group would start their long association with the label Big Dada as well as changing line up to the trio of Part 2, Toastie Taylor and Birmingham native Juice Aleem. Juice would appear on the first release to come out of Big Dada in 1997 as Alpha Prhyme alongside Luke Vibert and the first EP from New Flesh for Old, Electronic Bombardment, wasn't far behind that same year.
1999 would be the year they finally released their debut album after almost a decade of existence. Equilibrium was a dark, almost brooding album, full of bass heavy beats and with a more hardcore feel. The lyrics and soundscapes they were creating were ahead of their time and it caught the attention of UK hip-hop fans and further strengthened their growing reputation as hip-hop performers. At this time, Juice Aleem would also join the Birmingham\London group Gamma who released their only album Permanament in 2000.
By the time of their second album, Understanding, in 2002, the group had shortened their name to New Flesh and had been able to use their increased standing to attract some strong collaborations with the likes of Ramm:Ell:Zee, Beans from Anti-Pop Consortium and Gift of Gab of Blackalicious. Understanding is widely considered to be a classic of UK hip-hop, particularly for that early-2000s period when there was a revival and resurgence in the amount and quality of hip-hop performers emerging across the UK. Once again, New Flesh were ahead of their time. Lyrically, they ranged in topics from hip-hop culture to politics to sci-fi, space age Afrofuturism. Musically, there were elements of soul, reggae and soca mixed in with bashment, funk and hip-hop that created an amalgam of sounds that appeared unique and innovative at the time. The album was critically successful and highly commended and is a big reason why the group are still so well respected in UK hip-hop circles.
The next four years would be pretty quiet for the group, but the members would still be active, with Part 2 releasing Live from the Breadline and both Juice Aleem and Toastie Taylor collaborating with the likes of Evil Nine and Adam Freeland. A third and, so far, final album would appear in 2006 with Universally Dirty. Although not as commercially or critically successful as its predecessor, the album would continue their pioneering blend of styles, including bashment, dancehall and hip-hop, and futurist lyrics.
Since 2006, the members of New Flesh have been active in music as well as other areas. Part 2 released another album in 2015 called Chaoid Systems and has collaborated with a variety of hip-hop artists. Juice Aleem released his debut solo album Jerusalaam Come in 2009 to critical acclaim and followed that up with additional collaborations. He has also written books on Afrofuturism and gives talks on this same theme.