Yo, waddup, peace and all those other frivolous things to say on the street! I present to you, Burton’s premier (code for ‘only’) hip hop act and co-owner of the best beard in the genre with Scroobius Pip, GREAT SCOTT!
Jacob ‘Jaws’ Wilshaw and Christoper ‘Young Criss’ Nicol form what they describe as “White boys + Hip Hop + Back to the Future references.” Simple yet effective and that’s how I’d personally describe Great Scott. A duo that don’t seem much at first glance, but have the charisma and, dare I say it, swagger to pull off an entertaining and flowing set that can get the crowd jumping, bumping, crumping or all of the above (oh the spines that have been broken attempting to do so!)
It’s the typical old school hip hop drill with record samples and scratches but with a Burton spin. I don’t know how most hip hop purists would take that, but it’s my blog and I’m sticking with it!
The story of “This is Heavy” starts with a young lad from the Midlands raised by the sounds of the street and…his parents I’d assume, Jacob Wilshaw. From the age of 15, he was already recording mixtapes and performing at small gigs and open mic nights which is very much an anomaly in Burton on Trent since the majority of the music being recorded and performed there was rock while rap was incredibly scarce. Despite this, Jaws pushed on and did the regular gig pattern as all other local acts do and gained a following with some competition among the way. Some bitter, senseless, angry competition!
Although I’m less offended by the production and rapping than I am by the Microsoft Publisher job on this backdrop!
Just to remedy this, here’s a bit of Jaws’ early freestyle work with a small cameo from MC Dogwalker!
But where does the other half come in? Well Young Criss came into the picture in a similar fashion to Jaws, writing poems which then graduated into rap songs. In a way it still is isn’t it? It’s just got a beat and some obscure as hell record samples now! The two met in 2009 through watching each others performances and a mutual love of hip hop which spurred them to pool their talents together and start collaborating on each others work.
However they did need a beat maker, a DJ that would be able to create the beats and sound they needed to make fully fledged rap numbers out of their words to a simple beat. That man, originally was ‘Kid’ Keith Barlow, a Burton college tutor who was quite proficient on the decks and could make the instrumentals that the two MCs needed. Thus, “1.21 GIGAWATTS?!” had officially begun to make some noise!
And make some noise they did! These three refused to be pigeonholed into just being a novelty act but at the same time aimed to keep it real because by Criss’ own admission in a Burton Mail interview: “I’m a geeky guy with thick glasses and a bad haircut and I’m not trying to be something I’m not.” That and a kickass beard which probably would explain their rise to prominence in Burton music!
Since their start in 2010, “Why don’t you make a like a tree?” released their first EP No Strings in November 2011, have set out on national tours spreading from Derby to London, have performed on stage at big UK festivals such as Strawberry Fields, Y Not and Glastonbudget and have had their work promoted on BBC Radio Nottingham, Radio 1 and 1Xtra, being praised by Professor Green of all people and being able to meet Fearne Cotton while they were at it!
Hear their side of the story between their acoustic performances on BBC’s The Beat
But even in 2013 will all of this hype and release of upcoming single Back To the Boom Bap, the members of “Buttheads!” each have their side projects. Jaws has another rap project which is a collaboration with fellow MC Skrufayce and DJ Joe Bird Raptorial. Formed in 2010, a big highlight that comes from this collaborative effort includes a rap remix of the Rush classic Tom Sawyer which I don’t know what many rock purists out there will make of it but I’d recommend at least one listen.
Young Criss has another project, but not a musical project, at least not primarily. An independent clothing brand no less! Young Criss co-founded Rhymesquare with Jon Paul-Kaiser in 2012 as a way of taking the artwork that the two had done for years on the music covers of “88mph” and put them onto T-shirts for a way to help fund the band. The brand itself is represented by it’s mascot: A friendly little bear!
Rhymesquare is also a collaborative effort with other local rappers, MCs and R&B artists to help gain exposure for other lesser known acts who want a push towards greater things. The most recent effort being a free download compilation album RhymeSquare Volume Four – Bridging The Gap which feature “We don’t need roads” themselves as well as Derby based Ska band Alex Blood and the DIggers and R&B and soul singer Jamie Joseph.
This year, the role of DJ has been re-branded from ‘Kid’ Keith to ‘Sixth Letter’ Fletch whose own work has been heard not just in the UK, but in Japan too! The debut single was the original 7” vinyl version of Heavy Stepper, released by 7 Hills Records, the second being a single called Masquerade under the pseudonym Mr.F on Curli-que Records and the third was the EP Feather Your Nest, released and distributed in Japan by Tokyo based Chateaudisc. Heavy Stepper was also playlisted by the legendary John Peel back in 2003!
But we come to the time again when we look past the history and look at them as an act. I can definitely see from their live performances and manner that they don’t take themselves seriously, but they take what they DO seriously which is an important mind-set for many different types of performance.
Even as one of the few hip hop acts from Burton, they do hold their own amongst the many rock acts in terms of production, performance and song-writing ability. Jaws’ sharp flow and cheeky delivery sets him up as the diminuitive smack-talker of the pair whereas Young Criss’ straight-forward approach makes him the stalwart of the two.
Their songs range from a one night fling and the clingy aftermath (No Strings Attached Pt 1 and 2), frustration with a nightclub not playing the music you want to hear (Indie Rock and Jagerbombs) and being so poor you’ll proclaim to the world that you’d rather go to your Mummy’s for a curry…hell yeah! (I Need Some Money).
Two songs I like in particular though are Grapevine and Miss Music. The first being their own hip hop version of the Marvin Gaye classic Heard It Through the Grapevine complete with a sample from said classic. It treads similar ground of the original with it’s themes of discovering a partner’s cheating ways but is delivered with fury from both Jaws and Young Criss. It does take a turn in the third verse though, with Jaws revealing that he is no better than the woman/women who’ve cheated on him before.
“I ain’t gonna lie I’ve done the same,
felt fly and decided to run my game.
Man I messed up and it wasn’t even worth it
But I guess that I deserved it!”
This contrast of morals is a welcome change and spin on the original song and addresses both sex’s casual attitudes towards adultery.
The second song Miss Music is a much more positive song with a slightly more complex production than the mix and sample routine of some of the previous numbers. Despite having a sample of Barefoot Jerry’s “Smokies”, drums, bass and saxophone are added to the mix from Lee Gilbert, Robert Makin and Gemma Bower respectively. The metaphor of being in love with music is obvious when you listen to the lyrics:
“The first time she could tell I was nervous
A virgin when it came to spraying my verses
I introduced myself like “Yes, Mic Check”
Ever since right then she’s been stuck in my head”
But both Jaws and Criss deliver the metaphor with style and a touching honesty which in a way, shows a commitment and a drive towards doing the best for their craft, but before I make this analysis too cheesy, I’ll also state that the production is just as smooth with great deck work from Fletch and the guest instrumentalists who blend right in to the “Do we become assholes or something?” mix.
Despite at first seeming like a bunch of goofy white guys trying too hard to stand out from the crowd, Great Scott (Yes, I’ve exhausted my Back To The Future quotes!) have become one of the most popular acts in Burton on Trent beyond their initial appeal as rappers amongst rockers. As a source of variety, they prove themselves a welcome, confident pair (trio if you count the DJ) with scene cred as well as street cred. Before I become any less cooler trying to sound cool, I’ll just say this has been Brew Town Music serving you another fine brew of Midlands tunes.
Great Scott’s stuff and other tidbits
Raptorial Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/rap-torial
The Sixth Letter: http://www.thesixthletter.co.uk/