Book: Sounds Northern
Chapter: 8. From Broken Glass to Ruf Diamonds: Manchester Hip Hop
When one considers music culture in Manchester during the 1980s and 1990s, Hip Hop is not an obvious cultural arena for discussion. However, amidst the spectacle of The Haçienda, the pop boom of Factory Records and the evolution of rave subculture and form of dance music which produced the pop cultural phenomenon of Madchester; in the space of music between The Fall and The Charlatans where brief stardom was found by Inspiral Carpets, Northside and Candyflip, Mancunian Hip Hop was also evolving a cultural position of its own.
During the decade between 1984 and 1994, the year The Stone Roses formed and the year Definitely Maybe by Oasis was released, Hip Hop in Manchester established itself as an organic counter-narrative to two cultural positions- firstly the very local yet nationally explosive position of The Haçienda and Madchester and secondly the position of Hip Hop in London which was growing an international presence with seriousness, professionalism and rigour. To the rest of the UK, the Manchester indie scene and the London Hip Hop scene overshadowed Mancunian Hip Hop via the contemporary music press and media coverage of the time. London Hip Hop groups were gathering momentum as challengers to American Hip Hop crews, and the buzz surrounding artists such as London Posse, Demon Boyz and Hijack was reaching a feverous state in the UK, and also made solid impact stateside. Concurrently The Haçienda, Madchester and rave subculture seduced a generation, but what of Mancunian Hip Hop?
This chapter investigates the key developments in Hip Hop in Manchester and starting in 1984 with Broken Glass, a Mancunian breakdancing crew, and concluding with Ruf Beats and the Jeep Beat Collective in 1994, explores the cultural triggers responsible for underground Hip Hop in the locale and wider territories. Three interrelated questions are framed and examined within this chapter: To what extent did the evolution of Mancunian Hip Hop coexist, compliment or oppose the cultural dynamics of The Haçienda, Madchester and rave subculture? What was the relationship between Hip Hop in Manchester and London in terms of cultural representation, identity and value; and finally, is there a particular honesty in Mancunian Hip Hop that differentiates it from the gravity of London Hip Hop and the spectacle of Madchester?
In order to support the interrogation of these questions, this chapter draws on interviews with Broken Glass, MC Lady Tame, Krispy 3 and Dave Ruf. Broken Glass are important as the first established Manchester crew who released their only record on Morgan Khan’s London based Streetwave label (Style of the Street, 1984), and additionally MC Lady Tame and Krispy 3 also had deals with well-regarded London independent labels Music Of Life (1990) and Kold Sweat (1993-94) respectively, but subsequently their debut records being released on Manchester based private presses. Finally, Dave Ruf’s later contribution during the early to mid-1990s extends past the artist vinyl release, and under the guise of Jeep Beat Collective and Ruf Beats released compilation albums, mixtapes, held club nights and mini-festivals and ran a mail order record shop. These interviews are framed within a theoretical context by means of Pierre Bourdieu’s exploration of cultural consumption (Distinction, 2010 edition). Bourdieu critiques the notion of value, taste and practice, primarily through the lens of the bourgeoisie, and it is these concepts that ground the exploration of the questions posed here. In conclusion, this chapter affirms the position that whilst Mancunian Hip Hop culture did not achieve the reverence of its counter-part in London or the financial success of Madchester, it bred a rich culture of artists, practitioners, producers and consumers that has led to a regional stability and sustainability of Hip Hop culture.