Featured Artist: London Posse (January 2019)

For those who don’t know London Posse, their status at the top table of UK hip-hop can perhaps be seen as confusing given an output of one album and a series of 12” singles. However, their significance comes from much more than just their recorded output. Alongside the likes of Demon Boyz they were one of the first groups to make an impact by rapping in their London accents rather than imitating American rappers. When you think about it now that doesn’t sound like such a big thing, when every British rapper performs in their natural accent and would be derided if they even attempted to put on a fake American accent on record. Back in the 1980’s, however, things were much different. This was a time where to imitate was the norm in British hip-hop, where if the music (and accent) didn’t sound like it was from New York it wasn’t authentic and therefore wasn’t hip-hop.

London Posse emerged out of Lewisham in South London in 1986, originally consisting of rappers Rodney P (known at the time as MC Rodie Rock) and Bionic, DJ Biznizz and Sipho the Human Beatbox. Initially the group were thrown together for the US tour of Big Audio Dynamite, containing former Clash member Mick Jones, after Sipho had been asked to support the band and bring some friends. Members of the group had previously worked together, with Sipho and Bionic supporting Schooly D as a duo and both Bionic and Rodney P having performed on reggae sound systems in South London. However, this was the first time all four had collaborated together. At the beginning of the tour the group didn’t even have a name, but when playing in New York they were constantly referred to as the ‘London Posse’, due to their home town, and the name stuck.

The group’s first single came in 1987 with the Tim Westwood produced London Posse detailing their experiences in US, which reached number eleven in the UK Independent Singles Chart. Incidentally, the B-side to this, My Beatbox Reggae Style was the first UK track to consist solely of a beatboxer providing the backing. After the release of the first single, however, the quartet became a duo with Sipho leaving to work with Derek B and DJ Biznizz working on Tim Westwood’s radio show. Nevertheless, Bionic and Rodney P continued and released Money Mad in 1988, a track fusing elements of hip-hop and reggae to great effect, that gained significant traction on the radio including being played on the John Peel show and making the UK Singles Chart.

By the following year, the group had moved to Island Records subsidiary Mango where they released the classic Live like the Other Half Do off the back of which Island requested an album. From this came the seminal Gangster Chronicle, released in 1990. The album cemented London Posse’s reputation as one of the most talented groups in UK hip-hop, with their hip-hop-reggae hybrid sound a refreshing change from the predominantly hardcore focused output of contemporary groups such as Gunshot and Hijack. That’s not to say that London Posse separated themselves from these groups, they were all members of the anti-apartheid collective B.R.O.T.H.E.R. alongside the likes of Demon Boyz, MC Mell'O, Cookie Crew, She Rockers, London Rhyme Syndicate, Katch-22, The Icepick and Overlord X. As well as being musically different, lyrically the tracks spoke to many youths across the UK. Sounding like they were coming straight off the streets, mainly because they were with Rodney P saying ‘if something happened on Saturday, Monday we was in the studio writing it’, they captured a vivid depiction of life in London at the time.

Unfortunately London Posse were not able to take advantage of their growing popularity. After releasing two more singles after the release of their debut album, Island records closed down their Mango offshoot. The group moved on to Bullitt Records, run by their manager at the time, where they set about trying to record a second album (preliminary titled Ladies Love Roughnecks). However, various financial setbacks that came with running a label meant they could not afford to release the album and it was permanently shelved in 1992. Instead, they released a series of singles in 1993 and 1994 including the likes of How’s Life in London, Here Comes the Rugged One, Funky Rhyme, Funky Style and Pass the Rizla.

Eventually, the group separated in 1995 with both rappers moving in different directions. Bionic moved into drum and bass, collaborating regularly with Stevie Hyper D, while Rodney P stayed with hip-hop. Despite a brief reunion in 1996 to release the single Style, the rappers maintained their solo directions with Bionic going on to work with Tricky under the name Mad Dog and Rodney P releasing the much anticipated album The Future in 2004 as well as collaborating with the likes of Dub Pistols, The Nextmen, Freq Nasty, Skinnyman, Roots Manuva and Roni Size.

Despite this, London Posse have not been forgotten. Gangster Chronicle is regularly rated as one of the best ever UK hip-hop albums and the reaction and demand to their 2017 reunion tour shows just how highly regarded they still are amongst UK hip-hop heads. Who knows, maybe that second album may yet emerge...