May 2010, Soundcontrol Manchester
Talking with a friend, in theoretical terms about Hip Hop whilst gripping a Grey Goose is possibly not a typical Thursday night (despite my best efforts). But I’m willing to run with ‘atypical’ because it’s a Murkage night; a night whose reputation has swelled through Manchester like an unlikely, insurance-beating, northern earthquake. In this case it seems that ‘atypical’ signifies ‘success’ as the Cartel; outgrowing their comfortable home at One Central, have adapted the ‘Murkage’ to include a string of poster worthy names- tonight is BBK and my friend and I are chatting through nerves and excitement, rattling around his apartment like ice cubes in a cylindrical glass. Small talk has been set alight and now a thesis blazes in his front room- his dissertation. Bless him for writing a dissertation on Hip Hop- he argues that UK grime is plowing through a delicate parallel of us hip hop At the start of the nineties- note the thematic similarities of LL Cool J’s ‘Illegal Search’ and Mitchell Brother’s ‘Routine Check’ for an example.
Later, stamps on hands and the night swells like its reputation throughout the temporary venue. The skilled DJs seem to yet improve with every mix dropping and lofting genres like a scenester; but maintaining a loyalty to top quality and most importantly reflecting a passion for music from the people on the floor. Old classics smack as hard as new remixes, the elusive Murkage ‘hype’ spreads wall to wall with invaluable MC encouragement as well as a dude with an air horn instead of a t-shirt. Together they provoke this idea of unifying a crowd, which leads to an atmosphere without attitude: I feel safe and unthreatened as I indulge my inner wannabe MC gunshotting shoulder to shoulder with mostly men, and this in particular solidifies the feeling that the ‘many men’ are not here for any other major reason than to enjoy themselves.
The live show around 1am is real experience- minor technical glitches, surprise guests (Wiley) and crowd interaction make you feel this could only exist in this space on this night. The ‘hype’ peaks higher than anyone expected and glancing momentarily at my mate I’m reminded of our earlier discussion drawing parallels between the development of US Hip Hop early nineties and what we felt we were witnessing now, and the thought that a movement like this has happened in the near past now felt slightly patronizing and defeatist. Saying that, I still believe there’s a taste of the sharp citrus of truth- Murkage and UK grime/Hip Hop in general seems to be working on balancing commercial success with credibility, a reputation for fun, and an emphasis on a burning passion for exciting and ever-developing music. We’re looking forward to more- and I guess that’s the driving spirit behind both the UK now and US then- looking forward.