I’ve been listening to hip-hop now, technically, for 24 years, although in all honesty in 2004 I got tired of being threatened by members of Roots Manuva’s retinue and unbelievably obscure Battersea rap collectives and so stopped listening to anything that didn’t have Celph Titled on it. It has been a time of wonder – in those years, I have interviewed Ol’ Dirty Bastard perched on the edge of a bed where Buddah Monk was having a nap; I’ve got drunk and embarrassed myself in front of Styles Of Beyond; I’ve even gone into a toilet directly after Cage had a shit in it and been led to wonder about what must be in his diet. But the one frustrating thing that has bedevilled me in those 24 years is something I’m sure most UK hip-hoppers have suffered from time to time – not quite getting the MC’s references.
American MCs, of course, don’t construct their verses with the UK in mind, and so they are bound to be peppered with references to cultural ephemera that we’re not going to get. I’m sure that my man Drew Bangers and my brother from another Hampton Dom Grande got every last one of them, but I had to spend many an hour wondering what it means to form like Voltron, or what a Chlorox box might contain. In the days before Wikipedia, how was I to know that Allen Funt was the creator of Candid Camera, or that Bob Saget was the host of America’s Funniest Home Videos? How could I have possibly imagined that Chips Ahoy are actually chocolate chip cookies and not the potato crisps that I smugly assumed them to be? Or that Smuckers actually exist and make jam, rather than being solely a rap construct designed to rhyme with “motherfuckers”?
In order to fully, 100%, understand US hip-hop you need an exhaustive knowledge of, at a pinch, daytime television, snack foods, alcoholic drinks brands, household cleaning products, sports icons, WWF-era wrestlers, clothing brands, advertising slogans, US-specific fast food outlets… The list goes on and on. I mention all this partly because we stand on the cusp of seeing a uniquely British, uniquely awful act in the shape of N-Dubz “breaking the States”, and the simple fact that N-Dubz can go out there and not be gawped at in blank, frog-eyed incomprehension has given me an idea.
Team Fat Lace has often toyed with the idea of getting into the recording arts – pretty much everyone in the extended squidod is a frustrated DJ or MC (indeed, not especially frustrated in Dan Largiano’s case) so I’m proposing the team construction of a track that Americans simply will not get on any level, on account of references to Eastenders, darts, mid-level Premiership footballers, Countdown, Terrahawks, Ealing Comedy, 1980s sitcoms and World Of Sport. We want at least one totally yank-baffling allusion in every couplet. Then, when we feel like we have enough quality couplets, we’ll chuck them all together, Large can lace up a beat, and then we’ll get one of the top promising rap troupes of the day to perform it. I don’t know, Collapsed Lung or somebody like that. And then we can sell it to Coca-Cola for the 2012 Olympics or some shit.
My opening gambit is
We’re like Bruce Forsythe when we pull cards of dullards
Leave you more injury-prone than Jimmy Bullard.
But I’m sure you can do better. So come on. Write rhymes. Write rhymes FOR BRITAIN.
Words by Johnny Depth