Featured Artist: Giggs (June 2020)
If there is one MC who has had a significant impact on a number of contemporary rappers it is Giggs. A founder of the road rap style that has developed into what is now known as UK rap, his slow delivery in a low voice is instantly recognisable on record and is something that immediately sets him apart from others on the scene. He has been able to establish strong cross-Atlantic connections, most notably with Canadian rapper Drake, despite not being able to tour there due to a previous conviction. Giggs has firmly placed himself at the top table of UK rappers.
The rapper was raised in Peckham, south London, taking on the moniker Giggs as a cut version of his nickname Giggler because of his tendency to laugh even in the most inappropriate situations. Giggs started off as a DJ, playing a mixture of reggae, ragga and bashment, with his own radio station called Spare No One FM. In 2003, he was incarcerated in prison for two years for gun possession and on his release decided to pursue a career as a rapper. Over the next couple of years he brought out a series of mixtapes, including Hollowman Meets Blade with Blade Brown, Welcome to Boomzville, Best of Giggs 1, 2 and 3 and Ard Bodied. These mixtapes helped to spread his popularity beyond Peckham, with the rapper reportedly selling more than 100,000 units.
Giggs' big impact came with the release of the track Talking da Hardest in 2007, which featured him rapping over the Dr Dre produced instrumental for Stat Quo's Here We Go but had a very British feel in content. The street anthem was later certified silver and greatly increased the rapper's notoriety across the UK. The next year he would independently release his debut album Walk In Da Park on his own SN1 label. The album was very successful, selling a large number of units in the first few days of release. As well as the two solid singles in Uummm!! and You Raised Me/Open Up, the album provided a stark introduction to life on the streets in South London and brought the SN1 (Spare No One) unit, containing the likes of his brother Joe Grind, Spender, YG (Young Giggs) and Gunna D as well as Kyze and Tiny Boost, further to the public's attention. On the back of the album he would be nominated for and won the BET Award for Best Hip-Hop Act: UK, beating off the challenge of more established acts at the time.
By 2009, Giggs had got his major label deal signing to XL Recordings despite interference by the Metropolitan Police who had advised the label against signing the rapper. This was not the first time the rapper had been specifically targeted by the police, having had events cancelled at short notice and being pulled as support for Lil Wayne in 2006 without explanation. Nevertheless, XL signed him and he released his second album, Let Em Ave It, shortly after. The singles, Slow Songs with Mike Skinner, Look What the Cat Dragged In and Don't Go There with American rapper B.O.B., all fared well and the album sold strongly despite the cancellation of a planned 2010 tour due to police warnings and pressure on venues. The album would lead to a nomination at the MOBO awards in the Best UK Hip Hop/Grime category and an appearance at the Reading and Leeds festival.
Giggs' run ins with the police would continue, however, and in 2012 he was remanded in custody for six months on an illegal firearms charge having been a passenger in the car the weapon was found. He was eventually acquitted of the charges and went on to release the album When Will it Stop in 2013. The album would show Giggs' continual rise as it peaked at number 21 on the UK albums chart, no doubt helped by high-profile collaborations with the likes of Ed Sheeran, on Play it Loud, and Styles P, on What it Gets Like. This would be followed by his most successful album to date in 2016's Landlord that peaked at number 2 in the albums chart. Once again this album was released on his own SN1 imprint, showing Giggs' standing in hip-hop that he could release the album independently and still be so successful. The album would receive very favourable reviews by critics and fans alike and would eventually be certified silver, with the single Lock Doh going one better selling enough to be certified gold. Collaborations with the likes of Stormzy, Rico Love and Dona'e as well as some of the new generation of UK rappers like Aystar, showed a rapper that could cross the boundaries between commercial and underground seemlessly and his lyrical content on the album displayed a much more fully rounded MC who had grown into his standing as a leading UK rapper. He would also finally win a MOBO award thanks to the success of the album.
The rapper's growing international reputation would lead to regular collaborations with Canadian rapper Drake, particularly on the tracks No Long Talk and KMT that would reach number 17 and number 9 respectively on the UK singles charts. 2017 would also see a new release from the rapper himself with the mixtape Wamp 2 Dem. Despite also being offered as a free download, the mixtape sold enough to reach number 2 in the albums chart, further showing just how successful his brand of rap had become. This continued into his most recent album, 2019's Big Bad, with the themes of life on the streets of South London a regular presence as with his previous albums. Giggs has fully placed himself among the list of leading UK rappers with his unique unhurried baritone delivery a key element that has set him apart from many contemporaries and predecessors. He has also manged to sustain and even increase his popularity as his career has progressed despite not turning down the routes of pop or whatever trend is popular at the time, which has shown a level of perseverance that helps to keep him ahead.