Rizzle Kicks, Hip-Hop and Cultural Significance

Rizzle Kicks are a laugh aren’t they? A bit dumb, but fun, clappy and happy: the perfect kids party soundtrack. Singing and rapping about such inane nonsense as ‘Mama doing the hump‘ and ‘getting down with the trumpets‘ they’re not going to be nominated for the Mercury Music prize any time soon – but who cares, they serve a purpose right? And despite calling themselves a hip-hop duo, we know they’re not really hip-hop. Not real culturally significant hip-hop anyway. Not like The Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Lion [previously Dogg], Kanye West or Dre who write about proper stuff like murder, money and sex with women.

The duo that is Jordan Stephens and Harvey Alexander-Sule found their sound while attending rap and performance workshops with Brighton charity AudioActive in 2006. After graduating from the Brit School and gaining a YouTube following with their covers of tracks by Lily Allen, White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys and M.I.A., they signed a record deal and released their debut album Stereo Typical in 2011. The album was the second most illegally downloaded in the UK last year (only behind Ed Sheeran’s +), has since been certified platinum and sold over 350,000 copies.

Anyway, back to hip-hop. Snoop Lion is cool isn’t he? Like real cool. He’s one of those artists who can say whatever he wants because he’s a proper musical legend. Penning lyrics like ‘you’ve got to put that bitch in her place/even if it’s slapping her in her face,’ from that song Can You Control Yo Hoe? aren’t supposed to be taken seriously! And how about Mr. West? Some of his words are admittedly a little risque. ‘I was fucking parts of your pussy I’d never fucked before,’ it says in Blame Game. Christ alive! Proper gangster rap.

Rizzle’s are different though, they don’t talk about serious stuff like that. However, songs from their second album Roaring 20s (out today) do centre on life for twenty-year-olds – popular culture, love and social commentary, but it’s still generally positive and upbeat. There are some excellent messages in there too. Lines like: ‘I don’t want a bad bitch, I want a girl that will slap up a guy that calls her a bad bitch’, ‘bright and brilliant – kind of like I like my women’ and ‘what’s wrong if a girl likes sex? It’s only wrong if it’s not with you son so maybe you should get better in bed,’ are probably quite good for the young popular music consumer to hear.

Still not hip-hop though. See, according to Urban Dictionary, “today hip-hop, (defined as a style of popular music of US black and Hispanic origin, featuring rap with an electronic backing) is considered to be dead in the mainstream. The stuff on MTV and the radio can’t be called hip-hop because the lyrics don’t have any meaning or self expression.” Fellow artist and ‘Godfather of grime’ 34-year-old Wiley knows it. The duo’s “jokes are stupid” and they “could sell 10 million in a week and would not be accepted in credible urban life,” he said on Twitter recently.

Anyway, I did an interview for Music Week magazine with Rizzle Kicks. We talk about misogyny, credibility and why the Mercury Prize judges could have listened to their debut a little more closely. You can read it here.