The Defenders Of Style is a six man crew from Leeds who have their The Thoughts of the Nameless mixtape out right now. Despite a whole heap of setbacks the crew have formed a stronger bond and persevered. The crew’s house was robbed last year and they lost their equipment and beats. I met up with the guys to find out how they dealt with that, amongst other things…
So guys, first of all, why don’t you tell us a bit about who you are and how you got together.
Tongue Tied: The crew consists of myself, Jack Danz, Prys, Jay Snow aka Lip, DJ Night and our singer, Chenai. We are a Leeds-based crew and have been together as DS since 2001.
Jack Danz: Me, Tongue Tied and Lip went to school together… Lawnswood wot!… where we got into battling and hip hop culture. I met Prys through working as a kitchen porter at a shit restaurant that we were both fired from. The crew became stronger through graffiti writing and cipher sessions but nothing more serious at first.
Prys: When we became a little older, we began putting tracks down at numerous studios and producers bedrooms. We kept this early stuff for our ears only. When we became more satisfied with the recordings, we decided to put something together and here we are now.
So “The Thoughts of the Nameless” has been a long time in the making. “Stronger” details a few of the setbacks that you have faced. Sounds like it’s been a pretty bumpy ride to get to this stage?
Jay Snow: Cannabis, getting all our beats robbed, Worms World Party. These are just a few of the setbacks!
Prys: Yeah it has been a long time! All we’ve had is; “Yo, when’s this shit dropping man?” All we’ve been able to say is “soon”. We’ve definitely had a few setbacks: Last year we all went out for a mates birthday and came back to find our house had been burgled. Pretty much all our studio had gone. Three years’ worth of beats, rhymes and tracks. I’d just invested into an MPC 1000 too. Gutted really, but that’s where the track came from.
You lost a lot of beats as well as equipment in the robbery. Strictly speaking, that could have potentially ended DS if you couldn’t have replaced the equipment. How did you manage to stay motivated through all the drama?
Jay Snow: Drama, a lot of the time, is our motivation. If you’re pissed off about something or just got some stuff on your mind, music’s the best way of expressing yourself and getting your point across.
Tongue Tied: I don’t think it was ever a option of splitting. It was more the feeling of; “Right, let’s make something more burning. Fuck ‘em. Ain’t no stopping us”. That was more of a trigger to us getting some serious work down to make up for lost time and tracks.
Are you bitter about the robbery? And did you develop any resentment towards Leeds as a result?
Prys: Nah never towards Leeds. You’re going to get burgled wherever you live. I just hope it wasn’t anyone we know. For all I know it could have been Tongue Tied on a sly one!
Obviously these incidents influenced you lyrically, but how do you think they affected you as MC’s?
Prys: Well when I got told the next day I was gutted! But the first thing I did was whack on a beat and write. Later that day I spat what I had with Jack Danz and the track was finished! You can either sit around and beef about the stuff you’ve lost or put a line under it and move on.
Jack Danz: Back your shit up!
Despite the setbacks with the mixtape, you persevered with releasing it independently, choosing to fund it yourselves. I hear you did your bit for the local kids to help raise some funds. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Tongue Tied: Yeah well we were working in South Leeds High School doing workshops to try get more participation from the youth in hip hop. They are the future of hip hop at the end of the day. If the next potential generation of MC’s never get the exposure to spitting, then you have no scene. Just the same vets banging out the same sound that was around in their time. Plus the teachers buzz because we relate to that cheeky kid in the back, but can teach them English literature in a way that a standard teacher never could.
Prys: If was pretty jokes really. They made us battle and everything! We also did some graffiti art workshops too. Everyone enjoyed it and if just one of the kids went away inspired and interested, we did our job! Plus it paid for a lot of our release. So that was alright!
So obviously you are concerned about the future for today’s youth. What’s your view of the society that they are growing up in?
Tongue Tied: I reckon there isn’t enough politicians or parties that people can believe in. And that correlates with the lack of votes from the working class.
Prys: All we here on the news is bad news. Its all negative: murders, gangs, hoodies. All that shit! The more the media, in a sense, glamorize it, the worse it gets. Where are the happy stories at man?
Jay Snow: The mainstream media creates fear through propaganda in order to justify tightening up on our human rights. Soon we’ll live in a big brother state.
Jack Danz: Fuck nick griffin!
How do you think this affects the music that comes out of the UK hip hop scene?
Jay Snow: It defiantly adds an energy to the scene and makes a lot of MC’s content a lot deeper than cars and bling.
Tongue Tied: I think that there is a lack of interest in the UK hip hop scene, which is making people who may have made some good hip hop tracks switch up to the ever-growing grime, electro, indie and pop genres. I think it’s time to bring boom-bap back. The state of England gives us a playing field where our points of views will relate to a bigger demographic but needs more support and backing.
Prys: Only accept grade and support local hip hop!
At points on the mixtape, you are somewhat critical of our neighbours across the Atlantic. What is your perception of the American hip hop scene?
Prys: Well we’ve got a track on the mixtape called “User”, which is about certain US rappers who just chat shit and only talk about how many cars they got. Or how big their latest gun is. I love American hip hop just not stuff like that. It doesn’t relate to me in the slightest… Only when I’m playing GTA.
Tongue Tied: Definitely. But I also reckon its half to do with the industry itself focusing on the things that they know sells. It’s fair enough as a business. But I’m about good music that’s real to me.
So back to the UK, what’s the plan for DS’ near future?
Prys: Selling these CD’s! We’re also just starting work on the new album. We’ve been gigging a lot recently too. We’re supporting Masta Ace on the 28th at The Elbow Rooms in Leeds.
Tongue Tied: Promotion, promotion, promotion. Plus making a hip hop scene that has credibility and people who make the effort to come and see acts that are really worth watching.
Jay Snow: Constantly writing more and more tracks. And we’re always on the look out to collab with other artists.
Ok, finally, for the people out there who haven’t heard the mixtape yet, how would you describe the Defenders of Style’s sound?
Tongue Tied: I wouldn’t say DS have a particular sound. I would say “The Thoughts of the Nameless Mixtape” reflects the times we were going through in that period. Our style is adaptable and for the next DS album, there will be a bigger switch up, with some exciting plans to be made. But you’ll have to wait for that one.
Jack Danz: The style is definitely heavily influenced by mid-90’s east coast hip-hop in terms of beats and lyrical delivery… There are too many artists to shout out… However, we bring the UK slant to our music with raw accents and samples creating that New-Yorkshire swagger. Bless.
By: Phil Clark