Cold Roads: the best mixtapes from the early days of road rap
For almost as long as hip-hop has been around as a concept, the UK has had its own iteration. For a while, that meant emulating what we saw on MTV, putting on American accents and emulating style and swagger. Gradually, however, particularly in the wake of London Posse, rappers began to reject this – artists began to look inward and tap into the diaspora right here in Britain. Elements of American rap were still present, but now the beats and flows were starting to reflect the culture more, especially in forgotten corners of the country with teams like Birmingham’s Moorish Delta 7.
In the early 2000s, alongside the rise of grime, a slew of crews and individuals were springing up, mostly in Brixton and Peckham (although east London team Choong Family resisted to this trend). Among South Londoners, Brixton’s PDC, aka Poverty Driven Children, was a frontrunner and its darker, no-frills approach was a complete game-changer. This is when the flows slowed down, the subject darkened, and the signifiers really took hold. Interestingly, although many of these elements are now unmistakably British, they still have their roots in the United States. Slow flow, for example, isn’t a million miles from the early days of Gucci Mane and Jeezy, and let’s not forget that the beat for “Talkin Da Hardest” was a Dr. Dre beat made exclusively for Shady/ Aftermath’s Stat Quo. So while the influence of America will always be there to some extent, this era has transformed British rap forever, taking those influences, stripping them down and carving them into something completely our own.
It was also during this time in the mid-2000s that grime exploded in popularity. This scene had made stars of Dizzee, Wiley, Tinchy and more in the years that followed, but when it happened, many felt that grime was no longer the voice of the streets. Instead, the raw, often sketchy presentation of the rap sounded much more honest and relatable. It was this era that we chose as our starting point because, in 2007, it felt like British hip-hop had not only found its voice under the “road rap” banner, but was really starting to pull out a few tubes. It’s also a time when we’ve seen a lot of today’s stars blossom. Giggs was now in full swing, leading his empire and preparing to ditch the national anthem, Blade Brown had just returned to the game after a brief hiatus, Youngs Teflon had ditched grime and was launching a stupendous series of bands, and a young, fresh-faced duo called Krept & Konan were set to rock some plays.
Most of the legends we’ve listed below are stronger than ever and have even started influencing things in the United States. The legacy of road rap is also felt in modern stars like Potter Payper and Nines who are still brutally raw, but are now armed with high production values and, in the latter’s case, support from the UK branch. of a hip hop. Establishment: 0207 Def Jam. You can also hear it in today’s drill stars, whose dark, brutal roots echo the scuffed tenacity of 2000s rap. The appeal of the mainstream and the current (and concerning) controversy over sampling may have given us some watered down iterations, but the towering influence of Giggs, Youngs Teflon, Fekky, Young Spray, K Koke et al. after the last UK garage sample was bludgeoned to death.
Giving flowers to a pioneering era and the artists behind it, here are the 20 best mixtapes from early road rap.