UK hip hop and commercial success

Tuesday 13th August 2013 | Daniel

As someone who chooses to occupy himself with the immutable progression of UK hip hop; in a scene that is almost entirely dominated by mediums of the web, there is only one commercial observation I can make with any confidence: there is little room in the UK charts for home-grown rap artists and even scarcer are the opportunities for artists with any underground credibility.

Basically in a commercial sense, with Tinie Tempah the only artist making any leeway over the pond, my gleeful visions of reading a credible UK rapper has reached the pinnacle of the Billboard 200 remains one of my more wishful images. (Up there with my longing to see Hendrix headline another Woodstock).

Other than the blatant lack of an audience that exists in the UK outside of the youth, I can’t help but consider other elements within the UK scene that contribute towards its lack of commercial success. What most of us consider the foremost endearing quality of the scene is also its greatest drawback in respects to its commercial performance: that it’s almost entirely based upon video freestyles.

With the success of the phenomenon that is SBTV, the video freestyle has reached a point where it’s essentially inherent to the scene. Now, while this has given birth to a hip hop community that’s enticingly intimate and that does an exceptional role in exposing the audience to the vast amounts of raw talent that’s out there, it’s also created a scene that’s unfortunately disposable. With an almost unlimited number of awe-striking freestyle videos that exist on SBTV alone, the appreciation of the audience is usually confined exclusively to that freestyle.If the UK scene is to break this bleak situation and achieve commercially without sacrificing artistic credibility, then rappers need to pour more energy into the greatest medium any musical artist possesses: Albums. If we ever wish to compete with the Reasonable Doubt’s and The Chronis’s of our American counterparts then for a start there simply has to be more released of a remarkable standard.

Enter Krept and Konan, a duo that have been steadily on the rise for the past two years, the notable catalyst for their popularity stemming from a cover of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Otis, which famously achieved way over a million hits on YouTube without being released through SBTV. Last week they released a video to a new song entitled “My Story”, the song commendably captures their growth as artists; demonstrating distinctive flows, a coherently engrossing narrative and also a tasteful use of auto tune. Whilst numbers aren’t even necessary as affirmation in this instance, the tune undoubtedly holds commercial appeal. The video has racked up over 350,000 views in just over a week, once again a creditable achievement with the release being through their own Play Dirty YouTube account.

With the album/mixtape Young Kings set to be released in early September (which is available for pre-order now), hopefully Krept and Konan will achieve what is yet to be done in the UK: release a classic album with some commercial viability.      


Daniel Zartz