A good article on Derek:
In the mid-1980s, hip-hop was still an underground phenomenon in
Britain, mostly heard on pirate radio stations and the occasional
specialist show. Before Hip-Hop Connection magazine, before MTV Base,
before 1Xtra, Derek B, who has died of a heart attack, was a pioneer of
British hip-hop, the first homegrown rapper to score a Top 20 pop hit,
with "Good Groove" in February 1988, the first to appear on Top of the
Pops, and the first to have an album – Bullet from a Gun, with a guest
appearance from Public Enemy – on the UK charts for over two months.
In an impressive series of firsts, Derek B also became the first
British rapper to feature in the teen bible Smash Hits, the first to
appear at Wembley Stadium – after Salt-N-Pepa and before Stevie Wonder,
at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday concert in June 1988 – and the first
to secure a management deal with a US company, Rush Artist Management,
run by the rap mogul Russell Simmons of Def Jam fame.
Hip-hop was very much seen as a novelty genre at the time, and,
despite supporting West Ham, Derek B co-wrote "Anfield Rap (Red Machine
in Full Effect)", released by Liverpool FC before the FA Cup final they
lost to Wimbledon in May 1988. Co-written by Craig Johnston, the Top 3
single featured John Aldridge and Steve McMahon, the only two Scousers,
making fun of the accents of team-mates Jim Beglin, Bruce Grobelaar and
Alan Hansen as well as John Barnes, who seemed to benefit the most from
Derek B's coaching, since he rapped again on the chart-topping "World in
Motion", the official England team song for the 1990 World Cup,
recorded with New Order.
Born Derek Boland in 1965, Derek B was the son of Jenny Boland, a
Trinidadian nurse who became a nurse tutor. He grew up in Woodford,
north-east London. The Bolands went back to the West Indies for a couple
of years but returned to Britain in 1978. At the time, the young Derek
loved rock groups like The Who as much as the soul music of Al Green and
Aretha Franklin and the reggae of Bob Marley. By the early 1980s he was
a mobile DJ, learning to mix with DJ Froggy (who died in 2008), making
regular appearances at Bentleys in Canning Town, the Wag in Soho and on
the pirate radio station Kiss FM, where he played soul, funk and rap on
his Good Groove show, before running his own makeshift station, WBLS.
Such was his knowledge and feel for American hip-hop that in 1986 he
was hired by Simon Harris to help license US material and compile the
Def Beats 1 collection for the Music of Life label. Short of one track,
Boland – combining the personas of Derek B, his DJ alias, and EZQ, his
MC alter ego – made "Rock the Beat" with Harris and kicked off British
hip-hop. Issued as a 12in single in 1987, "Rock the Beat" was championed
by Dave Pearce on BBC Radio London and Tim Westwood on Capital Radio,
and Derek B developed a following as a rapper and for his productions
and remixes, most notably for Erik B. & Rakim, Curiosity Killed the
Cat and Was/Not Was.
He recorded more tracks for Music of Life, including "Get Down", and
eventually made the Top 20 with "Good Groove". He was offered a deal by
Phonogram, one of the Polygram companies, and the major gave him his own
Tuff Audio label for "Bad Young Brother" – his second Top 20 single –
and "We've Got The Juice" – his third chart entry – and the Bullet from
a Gun album. "Never take on something you ain't got the shoulders for,"
he said at the time.
Following his appearance at the Mandela concert in 1988, Boland and
his mother served as the leitmotiv in a World in Action television
documentary looking at the challenges the British-born children of black
immigrants faced. The revelation that police in London regularly
stopped Boland at the wheel of his Porsche demonstrated how little
attitudes had changed. Indeed, the rapper said he had sold the car
rather than deal with the hassle on an almost daily basis. He came
across as articulate, and convincingly argued the need for positive role
models within the black British community.
"We're black people in a white society that can see no way of getting
on," he said. "No one is there to speak for us. The importance of
political rap music is that is gives pride to kids that have no other
medium to give it to them. They need to get positive messages about
their race, their colour, their creed."
Thanks to the tie-up with Simmons, Derek B toured the world with
Public Enemy and Run DMC in the autumn of 1988, and saw his album
released on Profile in the US. He could fall back on the same clichés as
his US counterparts, boasting in "Get Down":
"We kept on goin' for hours and hours,
Straight after to the bathroom for a shower,
Just after leaving she held me close and said,
I think you're the greatest thing in bed... "
But despite piling on the references to the King's Road, Norman Jay,
Westwood, The Prisoner and James Bond on the album, he was criticised
for his American-style delivery and failed to develop enough of a
British identity to sustain interest. Indeed, "You've Got to Look Up",
his last single for Tuff Audio, issued in 1990, failed to make even the
lower reaches of the charts.
He subsequently concentrated on production work with the British girl
rappers The Cookie Crew and blue-eyed soul duo Bell Curtis but had
seldom been in the public eye in recent years. However, it is undeniable
that Derek B, the She Rockers featuring Betty Boo and Wee Papa Girl
Rappers paved the way for the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Sway, Wiley,
Estelle and Ty.