Featured Artist: Cookie Crew (December 2018)

At one point, Cookie Crew were easily one of the most successful British hip-hop groups to pick up the microphone. Formed in 1983 in Clapham, South London initially as a 13-piece collective called Warm Milk and the Cookie Crew the group are better known as the duo comprising of MC Remedee and Susie Q. In a world of very few female rappers on either side of the Atlantic, the group’s conscious lyrics and positive messages gained respect of fans not just in Britain, but other countries as well. Their distinctive style fused American hip-hop vernacular with a London accent over a hip-hop-house hybrid beat that allowed them to cross into the mainstream and achieve a level of chart success that had eluded the vast majority of other rappers in the UK.

Their career took off after winning a national rap championship and subsequently recording two sessions for the John Peel BBC Radio 1 show. Through this, they earned a recording contract from the UK dance record label Rhythm King Records and were put in the studio with the production trio Beatmasters, who put them in a house music direction. This resulted in what became the first ever hip-house record with the single Rok Da House in July 1987. While popular in clubs, it was only once a remix was released in December 1987 on the back of an appearance on a Ribena advert and the television programme No Limits that the track truly became a hit reaching the top 5 in the UK Singles Chart by February 1988.

This success inevitably attracted major label interest, and by the end of the year the duo had moved to the London Records offshoot FFRR. Over the course of 1989 they enjoyed hits with Born This Way, Got to Keep On and Come and Get Some, with the size of the group fluctuating as collaborators such as DJs Maxine and Dazzle and Dutch human beatboxer-singer MC Peggy Lee appearing on various tracks. That year also saw the release of the group’s debut album Born This Way, which reached number 24 in the UK Albums Chart and further enhanced the duo’s reputation on both sides of the Atlantic.

This attention allowed the group to recruit a series of well-established American hip-hop producers for their second album, Fade to Black. For that 1991 album they collaborated with the likes of Black Sheep, DJ Premier of Gangstarr, Daddy-O of Stetsasonic and Davey D and were able to support Public Enemy, De La Soul and Bobby Brown among others. However, within a year the group had disbanded and the two rappers moved on to other things. The major reason for this was a dispute with the record label over the direction of their musical output, with the duo wanting to go down a more conventional hip-hop sound while the label wanted them to follow a more pop-oriented route. This resulted in the compromise of releasing two singles in the summer of 1992, with the hip-house pop tune Like Brother, Like Sister released simultaneously with the more hip-hop Crew’s Gone Mad in a bid to decide the future direction of the group. This experiment, however, proved to be a failure and the group swiftly disbanded.

Despite the short lifespan of Cookie Crew, the group’s commercial successes mean that they are recognised as a significant and influential group in the early years of UK hip-hop. At a time when the hip-hop scene at home was still finding its feet, the duo were touring on both sides of the Atlantic and collaborating with established American producers. In addition, being a visible female presence in a genre that was even more dominated by men than it is now meant they were very influential, alongside other groups such as the Wee Papa Girl Rappers and She Rockers, in encouraging more women to pick up a microphone. As well as their music, the group were also prominent as part of the Black Rhyme Organisation To Help Equal Rights (B.R.O.T.H.E.R.) along with Overlord X, Demon Boyz, She Rockers, and many other black hip-hop acts in the UK.

Both members of Cookie Crew are still involved in the music industry with MC Remedee now running a Marketing and PR company that has worked with the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Missy Elliott and Rakim as well as UK rapper Akala.