Thursday, 22 September 2011

Derek B Interview in Vapors (1989)

These interviews with Derek B appeared in the February 1989 Issue 4 of Vapors - an underground Australian, and probably the first, Hip Hop magazine.  The initial interview was conducted prior to touring Australia, and the latter during the tour.

"In some ways, losing Derek is like taking Koh-I-Nor away from the Crown Jewel, and yet in another way it's like releasing a young lion from captivity." - Chris France, Music of Life

Take 1:  And Derek B is about to take a shower in a hotel room in Belgium, having spent 12 hours on road and sea travelling from London to the next gig on the mainland of Europe.  But ever glad to talk about himself and Hip Hop, he puts the soap and shampoo down to take the phone call.

The Human Time Bomb, Bad Young Brother and Crown Prince of Poetry is soon asking about what the weather will be like, are there any decent soccer teams down here, and how big are the venues.

As part of a tour which includes Public Enemy, Run DMC and EPMD, the crew called in on the UK and are spreading the gospel of rap in Belgium, Holland, Germany, Scandinavia and Italy.

"English crowds have been good to me - everywhere except in London, that is, 'cos they've known me since I started , and are jealous of what I've done.  The East London Posse still follow me round the country, but I've grown up and away from the gang situation, so they have to understand that I must concentrate on new projects and can't afford to hang around with posse all day.

"This tour is important, so all my efforts are going into it - I've stopped DJ'ing at the Wag Club and cooled off on the record label (Tuff Audio) for the time being.  Audiences have been good, ranging from ten year old kids with their parents right through to adults - and a mix of black and white aswell.

What's the truth behind reports of Hip Hop gigs attracting violence?

"As in everything these days, there's always a minority of idiots trying to spoil it for the mamority, but in the UK there's more trouble at football matches than at gigs.  It's the gutter press blowing things out of proportion just to create a publicity stunt.  It's well over the top - like the story of Bros being heroin addicts!  I enjoyed 'Colors', but you've got to be careful not to glamourise it, as people get the wrong idea.

On his debut album 'Bulet From a Gun' - in one of the rhymes, 'Success', Derek raps: "I've been cut by people for the color of my skin - been rejected from doors who wouldn't let my ass in."  Racism reared it's ugly head this year at the annual Hip Hop event "UK Fresh '88", which wasn't allowed to go ahead due to complaint from local residents around Wembley Arena - the case is being investigated by the Race Relations Committee.

"I'm not in this only for the money, but to make a social comment to the next generation, to say that we can change things and it doesn't have to be violent.  We need more recognition for black people - more black politicians and so on.

Derek had done his apprenticeship in the business of music - starting up the Music of Life label with Simon Harris and acting as A&R man.  But he was to outgrow that job and establish himself as an artist in his own right.  Recognition arrived in the shape of signing to Russell Simmons' Rush Management, and a deal with Phonogram Records.

"Of course I want to break it in the USA, and I know it's hard, but Rush will give me more of  chance there, and all the rap crews help each other out.  It's like a big family, 'cos everyone's in it together - that's why everyone gets credits on album sleeves.  I'm not afraid of commercial success if it comes along - I'm working my ass off for it anyway.
"Hip Hop is still underground - still growing up, and is at last being accepted as a musical form, not just a fashion.

In rhymes like 'Powermove' and 'Alright Now' Derek remains cynical about signing contracts - where Adidas boots meet men in suits - and playing the system, "you've got to play cos you can't beat it."  But he remains firmly with his feet on the ground, and hungry for bigger and better.  London's Number One making the world Get Down signs off from the Northern Hemisphere, and into the waiting shower.

Take 2: And Rap's Next Generation, Easy Q or just plain Derek Boland is in Terra Australis, on a balcony in Pitt Street, Sydney, rapping on the mike with Run DMC, and DJ Scratch on the turntables.

Their three days here took the tour to Melbourne and Sydney, with Derek having a ball - "you've got to understand these guys (Run DMC) are among my heroes, so I'm privileged to be here.

How was the rest of the European trip?

"We got good reactions everywhere.  Public Enemy are cool guys - friendly - the press has exaggerated their lyrics too much.  Pop Will Eat Itself were supporting as well, but they got canned off the stage, which was a shame 'cos audiences should be more open-minded.  I was impressed that thre was no aggrevation at the concerts here - they were just into it and getting down.  [He obviously didn't see the reaction to Mighty Big Crime when they supported Velore & Double O.]  Australia is kicking it!  You're in an enviable position living here, and you should know that you're lucky to live out here.

What's the word on the new album?

"Hopefully you'll see it next March/April.  I'm working with DJ Scratch this time - on 'Bullet' I did all the scratching and sampling myself - but this guy's from some other planet, so we'll be coming up with new ideas and everyone's gonna have to watch out!

"There's a chance that Chuck D and Run might produce a track each.  The next single is called 'Who Dares Wins' (at which point Derek gives us an unaccompanied rap along with improvised scratching sounds).  It's about defending myself, 'cos I still get dissed and I want to show that I'm doing alright and getting somewhere.  Who knows, we might even get sponsored by Adidas.

Watching cartoons in his hotel room inspires Derek to make up a rap about The Flinstones to the tune of the Enemy's 'Rebel Without a Pause' - The Wilma, The Pebbles - they live next door to the Rubbles!  The crew take a car down to Bondi Beach, and Derek's out looking for a surfboard to hire, or he's back in the the hotel lobby tagging on the noticeboard!

"When I get home I might be working with the Cookie Crew, and producing with the She Rockers and Saimon Harris.  I'll be working on Tuff Audio, and there's the album to work on.  We had a good trip here, and it's good to see people are into Hip Hop; I'll be back for sure.

Back to a London winter and leaving behind his first tour of Australia, we should be glad the initial ice has been broken, and must look forward to more tours and more music.

Download the whole magazine here

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