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Beatnik introduces you to new formidable duo, Prose
In a scene that has been struggling with saturation, it’s often hard to get excited about new music. But there is a duo whose dusty beats and infectious lyrics that are set to bring back the foundations on which hip-hop was built.Prose: All Rise
With love coming from all areas of the country after a string of brilliant EP’s and their superb debut album Force of Habit resurrecting hip hop lovers from the depths of despair, Beatnik thought it was about time you were introduced to the Boom-Bap Professionals, PROSE, made up of beat supreme Steady and lyrical genius Efeks.
Having met through a mutual friend, DJ Philly, many years ago their friendship was galvanized by a mutual, unquenchable love for hip hop. “Ha, Love blossomed!” Steady chuckles remembering the pair’s first encounter.
“I went to music college then dropped out of school and had been making beats quite a long time before meeting Efeks. I hadn’t really been the type of person to push myself out there as a producer, the type of person to hassle MC’s. I was kinda happy doing my own thing. Efeks was the same. He’d worked with a few people but nothing really came of it. There wasn’t that chemistry,” Steady recalls.
Efeks injects: “I had it in my mind that I would kinda just go on the solo tip. I had bought like an MPC and I was determined I was gonna do it on my own, I met steady and never touched the damn thing! ”
Steady: “Unlike a lot of MC’s who tell you ‘I know what I’m doing’, Efeks would listen to my advice. He doesn’t get offended if I’m like this or that might sound better and he’s the same with me. ‘Originate’ was one of the first beats we made. ‘Born Invincible’ was another. We kinda just gelled, I suppose.”
Efeks: “I had stuff that I had written in the past. As soon as we met up he’d be playing me stuff, yeah that’s the beat I was thinking off. It was nice just to finally unify.”
The unison is one of the most exciting UK hip hop has seen, reminiscent of those great hip-hop partnerships like Pete Rock and CL Smooth, DJ Premier and Guru, EPMD that we all — including Steady and Efeks — grew up listening to. Ask the duo to cite their biggest musical influences and it’s pretty plain and simple.
S: “Being in school people like LL Cool J, Radio, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Eric B & Rakim really caught my attention.”
E: “Hip-hop wise same lines as Steady. That sort of school, LL, Big Daddy Kane, the good stuff. My mum use to play her Motown stuff, my dad played his Italian music. So it’s like a blend of different stuff. Then my older brother sort of got me into hip-hop.”
Early Tim Westwood’s hip-hop show on Capital radio was also something of a religion. Showcasing the latest transatlantic tunes, he also was a pioneer in playing the best homegrown hip-hop, which inspired the duo especially.
E: “We always use to listen to the Westwood show and he’d always have like the UK segment at the end. You’d always wait till the end of the show to hear that heavy little piece. I mean that was standard back in the day. I don’t really know anyone who wasn’t into hip-hop that didn’t use to listen to the show. That was the highlight of the weekend. Getting that tape ready, ha!”
Now of course, they have their own tape. Well, we’re talking a CD and digital release — but the symbolism is just as strong. A deep, introspective beauty that has taken a lifetime to make, the record is one of the most honest and intelligent hip-hop records you will ever see from the UK scene, boasting enough respectability and positivity to reach even the furthest lovers of the culture.
E: “It’s really the joy and pain of the last 5 years.”
S: “We’ve always described our sound as Boom Bap, that’s why we’re the Boom Bap Professionals, but we don’t want to be associated with the return of the back pack. Yeah ‘94 is where we come from, but I like fuck hip-hop as much as Talib hip hop. We argue about what we think is good or wack all the time. That’s what hip hop is about.”
Prose have succeeded in just that. Soaked in that golden nostalgia of the early nineties Force of Habit is not a throwback album, but an updated piece of music for our time that takes influences from the genres most prolific time.
E: “We don’t really make no apologises for the music we make. It is what it is. It is hip-hop and we ain’t ashamed to call it that. It’s always difficult for you to kinda comment on your own sound. To define it. I think we do what comes naturally. Our sound is our representation of the sound we enjoy. It’s in the mould of the golden era of hip-hop, early to mid 90’s. Its music we believe in.”
Production-wise, Force of Habit is a product of The Boom Bap Bunker, a makeshift home studio from Steady’s postcode.
S: “I’m a crate digger and I got into MPC’s back in 97/98. Instead of blowing my student loan on drugs, beer or books I bought my first MPC. I collect and cut records so the MPC plays a big part in my beat making.”
There in The Boom Bap Bunker, Steady creates a dusty canvas of infectious looping bests for Efeks’ autobiographical poetry. Armed with tight metaphors and simple similes, Efeks paints the most gripping and complex of pictures in a tangible and heartfelt way. Tackling issues like religion, debt, becoming a father and battling depression Efeks has truly proven to be one of the most important lyricists of our times.
The uplifting ‘My Baby’, which Efeks dedicates to his first born child, will surely form a lump in your throat. It’s this ability to generate emotions in the listener from but a string of words that makes Efeks’ imagery so powerful. As he so eloquently puts it on ‘For the Love’ this talented duo are here to stay.“PROSE be them two dope boys without the Cadillac/doing this for ally cats/road dogs and anoraks/b-boys and beatniks sitting in front of Apple Macs.”Prose: My Baby
Through many of PROSE’s tracks you also get a real sense of the sacrifice they have both had to make to arrive at this point. The brilliant ‘Wasted Talent’ on their first EP is a prime example.
E: “It was also aimed at a lot of other people steady and myself grew up around. There was a lot of wasted talent. It was round a time we had both lost people close to us and we were at a period of our time when we were quite introspective and I guess the track was an honest reflection of that.
I have kids, two daughters you know. So it was always that thing when I had my first child: ‘argh this is it now, you’re not gonna be able to do the music anymore.’ It all depends on your perspective on life though and I kind of used that as a catalyst really to be more productive. I don’t see things I do as a sacrifice. Before I was sitting on my laurels, but I feel the pressure of time more now.”
S: “I grew up in the north, were Skinnyman was from, were Low Life Records started and I remember when Braintax was two people. I know a lot of those people from the Leeds scene growing up. The funny thing is I spent a lot of my life sort of having to defend hip-hop. Getting beaten up after school and being called a wigga for loving hip-hop. It’s so ironic now though ‘cos you look at TV today and hip-hop is part of popular culture. I hope someone out there is debating our music, through the love of music and has tuned on to it by someone else. Many fans of UK hip-hop can relate to having to defend our love for hip-hop.”
Unfortunately UK artists, like so many other international hip-hop artists, for so many years have been lumbered with the curse of comparisons to their bigger American cousins, constantly being dismissed as the poorer imitation. It’s an unfair reality that has meant many artists have never truly reaped the rewards of their art and consequently have had to maintain another career outside of music. Indeed only but a handful have had a fruitful career touring Europe and beyond. But helped by today’s digital music platform, places as far as Japan are reachable for diligent artists, and what was once frowned upon — even by hip-hop fans in the UK — is now independent music of worth, regardless of country.
Prose understand all too well the sparse currency their genre is built on in the UK. But when you are not motivated by money but an unquenchable need to be creative the concern — almost — becomes void.
E: “I don’t think we are under any kind of illusion that Russell Simmons is gonna come along and give us a check and a record deal. It’s not really gonna happen like that. We do it because we love doing it. It’s an escape from our 9-5’s. With the hope of that something could come of it.”
S: “We do what we have to do to support our family. We’ve been in hip-hop for years so just to put something down and release it is an achievement for us in itself.”
E: “It’s good to have expectations and ambition but at the same time I think you have to approach it with a certain realism and in that way your world’s not gonna be shattered. It’s like when you hear some people saying that if you get to a certain age and if it’s not happening then I’ll knock in on the head. You can’t have those kinds of expectations. I can’t ever imagine me not writing. That’s a part of me, whether I’m 50, 60. I’m still gonna do it I’m never gonna think I’m too old to do this, I’m never gonna stop. I need to do it. And we enjoy our friendship too much. So we’re always gonna do this. I’m still gonna have to put up with him one way or another.”
Leaving Prose is difficult. I’ve had an educating afternoon getting to know these two hugely talented musicians. I leave humbled by their committed work ethic and passion for a shared love. It’s not often you see such devotion for creating music. As I leave I ask Efeks for a few last words.
“I mean another one man’s broth is another man’s poison. We make music that inspires us and we believe is great. Hopefully like-minded people out there will love it too.”
—————-Prose: Wasted Talent