“If people are telling the story of hip hop in the UK, that means that my name has to get called up, and that has been good for me, as a lot of people have been trying to tell the story this year
Hip Hop certainly is in vogue with a number of Hip Hop inspired TV projects this summer by Channel 4 including ‘How Hip Hop Changed The World‘ with Idris Elba and most notably ‘Life Of Rhyme‘ hosted by Akala, which would not have been complete with out the inclusion of the man referred to as ‘the godfather of UK Hip Hop’. From those seminal heady days of the late 80’s, early 90’s and London Posse to the many current projects that he continues to turn his hand to, Rodney P is ever ready to remind us why he is considered, in a British context, to be amongst the pioneers of the UK hip hop game.
It is then not surprising that when wanting to fuse the worlds of British hip hop, state of the art gadgetry, and humour, packaged into a high profile ad campaign for Toyota Yaris – there was really only one man for the job.
With the launch of what has been described as music video inspired advert for the car manufacturing giant in which Rodney P, well OK his voice, takes the lead, I caught up with the South London native, literally as he was on the road (via hands free of course) to discuss monster trucks vs. hatch backs, the art of parking, inspiring the next generation and of course all things British hip hop.
Rodney P is no stranger to the road; with his first ever tour having being alongside Big Audio Dynamite back with the London Posse days. Fast forward several decades, 2011 has been a non stop year for the man they call the Riddim Killa, packed with recording new material, TV projects and live performances, “I have been on tour for like 10 years, that is really my bread and butter. That is pretty much how I make a living really. Obviously I do a lot of other stuff, and I am doing a lot of youth work at the minute. In terms of music it is pretty much on the road. I earn a lot more from touring than I do from records”.
This is a familiar story for many artists in the music game, which has seen a real resurgence of old skool particularly hip hop names, taking to many world stages in recent years. Rodney P is however in the position musically, to do pretty as he pleases including involving himself in projects that may seem unlikely such as the Toyota Yaris ad campaign. “That is a great position to be in, and to be honest, I’ve always done that. Like London Posse, we didn’t make music for the audience, we made the music that we wanted to make, and since I have been doing my own thing, it’s the same. I am a music fan, and that’s why I make a lot of different types of music, and you will find me on a lot of different types of records. Now with a Rodney P record, you know what you are going to get, it is going to be a hip hop, reggae thing, as that is my foundation”.
What I really wanted to know is how one of UK hip hop’s heavy weights ends up working with a Japanese car manufacturing giant as the lead in one of a series of animated, music inspired edgy advertising campaigns, promoting Toyota’s ‘Touch & Go’ system found in new models of the Yaris, which apparently can not only find you the nearest restaurant, but also empty parking space? “I was asked you know. I think it is good that they are involving so much music in it, music is quite pivotal in the whole campaign. There are three different ads and the one I have done is pretty cool. It is not the most hardcore or complex of emceeing on there, but it is definitely a hip hop flavoured advert no doubt”.
“I am not actually in the advert, it is just my voice. The one I did is about a Monster truck vs. the Toyota Yaris for a packing space. The thing about the Yaris is the technology in it – it is pretty high tech”.
The high tech piece of kit can not only finding you an empty parking space, but with reverse parking sensors and cameras, it pretty much eliminates the whole agony of parking, would apparently get the thumbs up from the Riddim Killa’s mum. “My mum would love it, my mum hates to reverse park it is the perfect car for sure. I don’t have that problem, but I am a bit of a show off and a bit flash, so I like to have all of that gadgetry in my car anyway”.
As we chatted as he made his way to Oxford, I could just imagine the number of toys that his wheels are kitted out with. This time however he was not heading to a sold out music venue, but in fact to a youth project, housed in one of Europe’s largest housing estates, where he has been based for much of the summer working with the project’s young people to facilitate workshops with a little help from some musical friends, and even developed a script for a short film. “We have done all kind of stuff. I think that is important that we give these young people something different to look at. It is not about going in and staying I am going to change your life, or that I am coming in as your saviour or some shit, it is just about giving them more options, and letting them know that there is more out there than just what you see in front of your face. That there are people who have come from where you come from and have taken paths that you can take, so it just that really”.
As someone always ready to get involved particularly when it comes to empowering young people or raising awareness of issues and causes for kids, it is no coincidence that, back in January Rodney was the hosts of a night that saw the UK hip hop fraternity come out in forces in the name of raising awareness for autism. Zain’s Autism Network (ZAN), is the brain child of film maker and father Matt Robinson. The charity event, only the seconds of its kind, saw the likes of Skitz, Roots Manuva, Skinnyman, Klashnekoff, MC D and Blak Twang take to the prestigious Jazz Café.
Like the Jazz café line up, that underground, edgy feel has pretty much always been the name of the game for Rodney P. It may therefore surprise many that not only does he not have a problem with commercial hip hop, in some ways it could be said he even celebrates it. “I haven’t got a problem with commercial hip hop, I give thanks for commercial hip hop and the success that it is having. For me is not in the guys that are making commercial hip hop [that I have a problem with], it is the fact that the outlets stop at commercial hip hop, and we are not getting to hear any other kinds of hip hop. There isn’t just one form, it exists in many forms”.
“I think that a lot of these newer artists don’t actually like the music that they make, they just make it for their audience, and don’t think about the music that they make and being creative for themselves. At the same time, like I said, I am thankful for commercial rap. In terms of the trickle down theory, it works better in hip hop than it does in our capitalist life”.
It is this savvy and ability to embrace the musical genre in all its forms that has seen his career span from the recording to the radio and even TV studio, but what is next for Rodney P? “First and foremost I have some new music coming out on Tru Thoughts; the first thing coming out will be the ‘Sleeping Giants’ project with Z-Bias and Fallacy. It is kind of a dub step, drum and bass, grime, hip hop kind of mash up at tempos that people aren’t used to hearing me at – its boom though. This is me patting myself on the back but, I think it is amazing, I think that we have made an amazing record”.
“Obviously I have signed on to do my album there, and that is coming on nicely, that is well on the way now and that will be for the New Year. In between that we are looking to do a London Posse album, with all the original bits, all the original parts, the original two inch tapes, so we are going to go in and do a remix album of that for Tru Thoughts as well. We are going to get some of the hot boys out there at the minute and some of the boys that grew up listening to that London Posse albums that have been influenced by the stuff that we were doing back then and kind of get some fresh takes on the tunes and see what people come up with – so that is definitely in the pipe line”.
“I forgot to mention as well, the Dub Pistols new album, that is coming out as well and I have got a few tunes on there, some really good tunes. So if you know the Dub Pistols sound, a different kind of sound for me, we have got some wicked music on there – that is me on a devise flex”.
The boy from Battersea, said to have been spotted by none other than Mick Jones of The Clash at 15, has certainly come a long way. With musical credentials and a back catalogue said to be worthy of ‘any rap crown’, the story of UK hip hop and Rodney P will forever be intertwined. His continued readiness to embrace and experiment with many musical forms (as a true music fan), or as he so eloquently puts it ‘that is me on a diverse flex’, his music and the larger than life personality attached, continues to remain innovative, relevant and at the forefront of the game.
Unafraid and welcoming of collaborations with who he calls the “hot boys” at the moment, Rodney P may well be a name synonymous with UK Hip Hops history but it is also a name set to be synonymous with its future and legacy. When asked, which one of your lyrics would you most like to be your lasting legacy after the Riddim Killa has passed on? Aside from, ‘flipping hell’, this is what the Riddim Killa had to say. “I wouldn’t say a single lyric, I would say the song ‘I Believe’ I guess. I like that song and the lyrics – they are honest lyrics. I am being quite honest and quite straight on that tune, without being too hip hop or boastie; it is quiet a straight tune, so yeah I like that…”.
By: Thuto Mali