Not only do I have no idea, but I hadn’t heard to the Mighty Ethnicz until you said this. Fifteen minutes on youtube rectified this, and gave me a sense of why you’d feel upset that people hadn’t heard of them.
And a little research makes the question an interesting question to be probed in depth by a cultural historian.
I’m not exactly much of a cultural historian, but I’ll do my best.
What we’re looking at here is some early 90s UK hip hop, a crew from Ladbroke Grove, who originated in the graf scene and pressed a few records, made a video etc.
Now the thing that strikes checking out those tracks above is that actually, this music was both of it’s time and ahead of it. The rhythm and melody of the rhymes are very, very early 90s. But the backing track is sparser than that. The samples are classy (I’m kinda shocked I’ve never heard Watermelon man sampled before, and it’s done well).
It’s good hip hop, pure and simple.
Now I guess it was coming out at a time when Hip Hop was getting big. Going mainstream etc. MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice. On the more credible front, Wu Tang Clan were releasing Enter the 36 Chambers (probably my favourite hip hop record of all time), Snoop was doing Doggy Style, and Dre was Chronic.
It was a busy time.
All those acts are American. I suspect the industry here just wasn’t ready for it. The independent labels either too small or too focussed. The big labels just happy to re-distribute the major US artists (which were a guaranteed success, due to the raft of publicity available).
UK Hip hop, after some successful 80s acts that immediately moved to America, was essentially still getting off the ground. I find it interesting that it was kind of already on it’s way. And some of the sounds (the jazzness, the soulness) that would define aspects of it when it did breakthrough, were already there.
But then, my hip hop history is dreadful.
I suspect lots of it just comes down the historiography of pop culture. I get somewhat creeped out by the increasing number of TV shows telling the story of the 90s as some monolithic entity. It’s this kind of understanding (‘oh yeah, the nineties, we all wore shell suits and listening to MC Hammer and Britpop’ – I should probably make it clear that that’s a fairly accurate understanding of the 90s for me – I also don’t think shell suits were a symbol of the early nineties to anyone but me) that leads to huge swathes of sub culture being brushed aside and ignored. And I loathe myself for that sub.
All culture is culture. Nothing should be replaced by some simplified understanding of it. It’s creating a dominant notion or understanding of a period that essentially re-opresses stories that were probably already quietened.
Fuck that kind of history. Listen to Mighty Ethnicz, you won’t regret it.
Illustration by Lucy.