History Sessions: Britcore (1988 – 1991)

It must be frustrating for UK Hip-Hop. Every time it’s about to break through, it gets eclipsed by another scene that comes along to steal the moment. In the early noughties it was dubstep and grime. Back in the late 80’s to early 90’s it was the rave scene.

As Hip-Hop from the U.S. was moving towards the more laid back gangsta G-funk sound, the UK was upping the tempo into a blood-pumping angst with its sights set on white middle-class England. The result became referred to as ‘Britcore’ and is epitomised by groups like Hijack, Hardnoise, and Gunshot.

Britcore was characterised by rough beats and aggressive hard-hitting raps that were fuelled by a climate of inequality and racism which had left many inner city kids feeling fucked off with the idea of being a British citizen. However, at the same time another hi-tempo sub-culture resonating with a young inner-city crowd was also on the rise: Acid House.

Britcore and Acid House shared a similar anarchic punk-rock ethic, with their DIY protagonists both rebelling against the mainstream (albeit with contrasting messages of pessimism and optimism). As the two scenes grew, it was inevitable that their common themes would cross-pollinate and ultimately begin to create something new.

From around ’89 onwards, the practice of fusing East-end raps and breakbeats with House music became ever more popular. The resulting combination gave birth to something very special indeed: The UK rave scene.

The rave scene was a completely new and unexplored terrain where artists where free to be as progressive or experimental as they pleased. Many Britcore artists who were possibly fed up with the static nature of Hip Hop emigrated over to the rave scene: The Criminal Minds went on to produce Hardcore and Jungle until the mid 90’s, Rebel MC ditched the rap in order to embark on his Congo Natty/X Project venture, and MC Duke went on to produce Hardcore under a number of pseudonyms including E Kude and Double H Productions.

I have tried to reflect this transition from the skate-park to the rave in the mix below, as the tracks become less London Posse and more Blapps Posse. The Britcore scene would continue to have a huge influence on the burgeoning Hardcore scene with numerous breaks and samples being chopped up and recycled for many years to come. Hijack’s ‘Badman Is Robbin’ is surely a contender for the most sampled tune in Hardcore ever!

Sadly, considering its fundamental importance in providing a bridge from Hip-Hop into the Rave scene (and ultimately Jungle/Drum & Bass etc…), Britcore seems to have been a largely forgotten sub-genre. It doesn’t even have an entry on Wikipedia. There are rumours of a book celebrating the top 50 Britcore tunes which is currently scheduled for release in 2017. Well worth keeping an eye out for…

Whatever happens, here’s hoping that one day British Hip-Hop finally gets the recognition it richly deserves.

Download “Britcore”

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