Sunday, July 24, 2005

Bullet From A Gun

I give you the Toli Remix of Derek B's Bullet From a Gun, a hip-hop photo essay in the vein of South London's vibe. Part II of the London's Got Soul Trilogy.

South London Brew

I lived in North London for 5 years in the late 80s and early 90s joining my mother during her 18 year stretch of exile from the insanity of Jerry Rawlings' Ghana. More precisely we lived in the "civilized" part of London, that's the Hampstead, Golders Green, Hendon and Brent Cross Axis of Civility. Throughout that time, I only made occasional forays into South and East London. It all seemed strangely alien to me: all hustle and bustle, poorly served by public transport, schools and local governments in disarray etc. Certain parts seemed more like Accra, Karachi or Lagos, in a word: messy. As an example, in all my time in North London I never walked into an argy-bargy (pub brawl) or got harassed by roving youths at night. Since I've left though, I've come to think of those parts of London as more interesting and certainly more vibrant even if they are indeed more difficult to live in. A lot of the cultural energy of the city comes from these less telegenic parts.

Thus I give you a photo essay on South London, This time however, your narrator will be Derek B who was there at the False Dawn of UK Hip Hop in the 1980s. Derek B truly is a Bad Young Brother with braggadocio and inventiveness to spare as you'll see from his wordplay. As a rapper he had impeccable taste, for example sampling the Oh Yeah bit from Prince's Sign O' the Times recognizing its importance long before others. The music scene in England at that time had a lot of soul (artists like Mica Paris, Omar, Neneh Cherry, Soul II Soul and Loose Ends), jazz funk and rare groove (Paul Laurence, Courtney Pine) from which the Acid Jazz movement emerged, as well as the beginnings the house and rave scene. DJs like Pete Tong and Westwood kept things moving. There was a lot of cross-pollination and the music produced had a multi-faceted sensibility. Other notables on the hip-hop side of things include Monie Love (Monie in the Middle and It's a Shame being the standouts) and the much-overlooked Cookie Crew who really put it on the line with I Got To Keep On, that hyperactive Old School joint.
Give them the proof that
We're down by the South Side
So you can confide
In the Cookie Crew

I got to keep on
I can't sleep on
Gaining respect
With a cool british dialect
Bad Young Brother is Derek B's most popular song, a fiercesome groove as befits the title; it even crossed over to this side of the Atlantic. For me however, Bullet From a Gun, the title track of his debut album, made a greater impression. It is a song firmly in the vein of Kool Moe Dee's Wild Wild West or great posse cuts like The Juice Crew's The Symphony. Its lyrics threw down a witty and theatrical challenge to the rest of the world affirming the existence of a soulful vibe in London. There is a direct line from Derek B to influential groups like Massive Attack or Portishead and latter-day poets like The Streets and Dizzee Rascal. He speaks to a youth culture that continues to make London the most exciting city in Europe. Although he is an East Londoner, we'll relocate him to Catford for the purposes of this post.

[Update May 2020, I've made video version you can find on Youtube]

For the musically inclined, you can sample the song here. I'll leave the mp3 up for a few days before slipping it back into the Long Tail of music and file sharing networks. Allow me then to do what the Cookie Crew suggested and
Grab the mic tightly
Serve the crowd rightly
Cause we were born
To keep it on
South London style.

Bullet From A Gun

Narrator: First There Was A Dream...

Narrator: Now there is reality...
elephant and castle
[Sound Of Footsteps]
Deptford Yoruba Community Center

"My Name Is Q. Easy Q"
"Who is Number One?"
"I Am Number One"

[snippet of James Bond theme, Bullets fire and ominous break beat begins]
James Bond 007
Licensed to kill
Easy Q, Derek B
Licensed to ill
On Her Majesty's Secret Service of rap
America, you're under attack
From the Crown Prince of poetry
The Man With The Golden Mic is me
kew gardens
You thought you'd never hear
Anybody with the gall
But Easy Q and Derek B
Got Thunderballs
I'll Never Say
Never Say Never Again
I'm not Russia With Love
You see I'm from England
london loot collage
I'll Live And Let You Die
Your soul will get cold
Your body paralyzed
As my rhyme unfolds
A billion dollar brain
Ticking inside my head
Like Diamonds are Forever
And I've got street cred
From the East End
Always say it loud
Def B-Boy
Black and proud
catford black beauty
I'm a warrior
Like Attila the Hun
That's why my posse call me
Bullet From A Gun
Derek B Bullet From A Gun
(South London Chorus)
"Who's Number One?"
"Bullet From A Gun"
"My Posse Having Fun?"
"Yeah Bullet From A Gun"
"You're Sure Gonna Get Some"
ebo pose
East London Posse
Raving all over town
Not invited to the party
We break the door down
Here comes trouble
Cooling with my homeboys
To a real lame beat
As the girlies stand around
About to fall asleep
little yuppie eaterie
16 Strong, my posse takes over
D on the decks, Easy Q mic controller
All of the sudden the party starts to rock
To the def beats and sounds of my hip-hop
Jazz Cafe African Jazz Funk
The volume increases
Your ears wanna bleed
B-boys going crazy
Suckers doing speed
Fight breaks out
Place gets wrecked
Don't bother me boy
You'll only get decked
Catford bridge fight police doing their thing
at the speed of light
We came to party
Not to fight
So the fridge gets raided
Brew and Tennent's gone.
Doner Kebab joint owner
The quiet start rocking
The sensi smells strong
Catford Copperfield Pub
Shuffling and shaking
Speakers start to pump
The amps overload
The party's gotta stop
A roar from the posse
With the gold around the neck
Each one against the wall
With the girlie in check
The game's over and won
We're out of here
Like a Bullet From A Gun
South London Chorus (x2)
"Who's Number One?"
"Bullet From A Gun"
"My posse having fun?"
"Yeah Bullet From A Gun"
"You're sure gonna get some"

Catford cricket
Take a trip through a park
To see an mc battle
Hot sunny day
Skeezers like cattle
The E.L. Posse
All over the place
Like government agents
No time to waste
Catford dodgy bricklayers
Standing in the corner
With my arms crossed
Laughing at the rapper
Who just lost
Sucker taken out
And I guess it's kind of funny
'Cos he's rapping for nothing
While I'm making the money
Queen Portia
Now he comes over and asks me what
He has to do to get all the way to the top
I said, "I'm a funky junky of the hip hop sound
I take this shit serious, no messing around"
east london
"My rhyme's like a bull
And oh so strong
I wear the freshest clothes
Like Louis Vuitton"
"I get to jams early,
You get there late.
Then set up cold ambush
On the 808"
big ben
"I'm a Pro, Bro
And when it's time to go,
I make sure I'll let the people
Know who's running the show"
Peckham market
"When out on the mic
I make sure I rock the night"
"Make the girlies go crazy
Throw their panties on stage"
"One more thing
While you're listening son
Make sure the rap's delivered
Like a bullet from a gun"
"Who's Number One?"
"Bullet From A Gun"
"My posse having fun?"
"Yeah Bullet From A Gun"
"You're sure gonna get some".
Jazz Cafe - African Jazz Funk
That's right I am Number One
And I'm here to stay.
I ain't going no place no way

One more time

South London Chorus
"Who's Number One?"
"Bullet From A Gun"
"My posse having fun?"
"Yeah Bullet From A Gun"
"You're sure gonna get some"
That sounds right to me. You like that?
OK let's chill
[bullet fires]

Fade out with breakbeat.

See also: Catford Bridge and London's Got Soul.

Bullet From A Gun - photoset

Derek B - Bullet From A Gun on Youtube

My man Derek B passed away in 2009. I am priviledged to know that he approved of my toli tribute. Rest in peace, soul brother

File under: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Anonymous said...

You outdid yourself this time. That rocked my day. Ya'll, for an old school nostalgia trip, it's well worth downloading the song and playing it while you scroll through the images.


Anonymous said...

LOVED this!!

Anonymous said...

That was great! Thanks for bringing the word of Derek B to the masses with some cool photos.

Alan Barton said...

I was a white teenager growing up in Liverpool in the 80's listening to Rock Music (and nothing else), somehow Derek B managed to capture my imagination like no other artist from another genre had managed to do at that time.

He was a genius artist and 20 years on I still remember every word to "Bad Young Brother".

Thanks for sharing your memories.

Anonymous said...

That was possibly the best set of pictures ive ever seen-based on the song "bad young brother"by derek b.the song basically was the soundtrack to my formative summed up what growing up was all about.ok, so i come from a sleepy north wales town, but i can still imagine what it must be like down that big city..with people who wear "fresh fly adidas" and suchlike.god bless this rapper for bringing the street to the country.i, for one, will be eternally grateful.word.

Anonymous said...

Koranteng - great words - is any chance you can re-iliistrate the Derek B song. He was a good friend of mine who has sadly passed away and I thought it would be nice to post your words on his tribute page on facebook.