Interview: Jed, AGB Live – Brighton’s grassroots hip hop scene is growing, and you need to pay attention

In venue basements and bedroom studios, Brighton’s grassroots hip hop scene is growing.

Brighton is becoming a growing name in the UK hip hop scene. An inclusive, community-led DIY ethos is helping nurture a new wave of diverse talent. With no rule book, no genre restrictions, and unlimited enthusiasm, something is growing by the sea. We got into it with Jed, rapper and founder of AGB promotions to get the low down on the south coast scene.

What’s your take on the Brighton scene?

I think it is a really interesting time right now. You’ve obviously had Ardee blowing up last year, gone crazy on an international level. And whenever you have that in a city, there are more artists popping up in that city in general.

Something I was thinking of earlier today – if you look at Atlanta GA in the 90s and 00s, there wasn’t that much of a national focus on the place in terms big hip hop coming out besides obviously OutKast. But then you later have Gucci Mane come out bringing this new style and sound, then everyone started paying attention, artists popped up and now you could argue its the biggest city for hip hop in the world. 

Obviously Brighton isn’t Atlanta, but I think with Brighton there is a feeling, this inevitability that there is going to be more coming from Brighton following Ardee – especially as he came out with something new. Some people love him, some hate him, it wasn’t trying to be hard or street or whatever, but that then creates this idea of Brighton hip hop as a place where people are being themselves and doing something new.

Everyone’s looking at each other now and thinking “Who’s gonna be next?”

As a result there are so many shows happening right now for underground artists, and in each one you get different smaller communities and styles.

In some other places, like London for example, you seem to get one or two genres that are really really popular, and that’s where the majority of the artists are, be it grime or drill.

But in Brighton, the hip hop scene feels really diverse, and I think that’s a reflection of the diversity of the city itself. Anything goes, and no one at a hip hop event here seems like they’re trying to be cool, or fit into a certain genre because they think it’s their big break. There’s always a lot of different genres and people at each show and yeah, it’s good to see.

Technology means people can go full DIY from day dot. How has this impacted things?

Photo by Zero Nation Media

I think this is a real benefit of this social media era, in a way. There are traps of course. But the scene is moving away from the world where being on a big label was the only way you get radio play or traction. Look at Billie Eilish, it’s not hip hop, but what she came out with was edgy, it was different. In the eras where big labels totally dominated, you wouldn’t see her get the success she has.

Being able to record you own music and build your own presence, it doesn’t just gives people the freedom to express themselves, but also encourages them to do it.

Social media is a saturated market, especially in hip hop – so if you’re scrolling past 100 different rappers on social media, you need to be doing something different for people to see you, to listen. You need to stand out in some way. I think that’s a real benefit for the music scene.

How important are grass roots events to this?

I was at an ITM Event at Rossi Bar last week, and even then there were three of us there that all put on events independently. We all put on slightly different shows and dig slightly different types of hip hop, from heavy trap and jump up to drill, garage, and slower RnB. 

Having this breadth of event allows people to do what they want to do and express themselves how they want knowing that to get a show they don’t have to try to impress one single promoter who only likes one single genre.

It’s good to have these smaller promoters looking for smaller artists, not just because money, but because these are people that are passionate about the grassroots scene here in Brighton and they want to support it.

You can see in smaller artists that they are wanting to prove themselves, they are working for their come up. You can see that every performance means a lot to them. They’re rapping for their lives, rapping to impress everyone in that room.

It is a different feeling going to a show and you know the artist is doing this same set every night and they’re just banging them out for a paycheck.

What’s turnout like, is the scene live?

The shows are all well supported for sure, which is good to see. Promoters here are really putting the work, and with each show that people put on it builds the community even more. With every new act someone books new people turn up, they see what it’s about, they feel that community and you then see people coming again.

The more the events grow, the more the community grows, and the more the whole scene grows.

Image by Alex Tikhomirov

Is it hard to reach people?

There is a big enough audience here for sure, but reaching people can be difficult. With social media people can get so locked into what is on their feed that it’s hard to break into that, and it’s hard for people to find new shows and new artists.

I have found that in-person flyering, and especially going to other events and getting to know people is so much more effective. It takes a bit more time, but it is so much more effective that say, spending £30 on some social media advertising for people to scroll past.

What got you into events?

I am primarily an artist, but I wanted to get more involved in the Brighton hip hop scene. I think that is so important for any artist – to build a community, reach people, collaborate.

It started as an idea to shoot cyphers with other artists – make videos of different artists doing different freestyles. I saw a bit of a gap in the market for that specific focus on the Brighton community and the Brighton artists.

So what’s coming on the AGB show at Komedia?

We’ve got a real variety of artists which should be sick. That’s how I like my events to be – I have a pretty short attention span so I love seeing an indie artist, a rapper, a garage act or whatever.

I am keeping it all under the hip hop umbrella but got a lot of different artists. We’ve got Purple City Mobb, who are a real jump up, mosh pit trap stuff, a couple drill artists coming, Louie Le Vack who is a proper older school hip hop head, then other garage stuff and yeah, it’s such a mix of different genres. Everyone is gonna be bringing such a different energy to the stage.

Do you feel like the events become more than just gigs, and become a real community thing?

It is all about building this group of creative people to push Brighton further. The more you meet and the more that it’s natural the more you’ll link, the more you’ll collab, and the more it all pushes forward.

It does feel like more than the music, more than the event when you’re there, it feels like a community, feels like a movement, as cheesy as that sounds.

What’s next for the scene?

There are lot of people making some really good music here, and I think there are more and more people looking at Brighton to see who is coming next. I think in the next year you will see someone pop up at the national level, which will be good for everyone in the community in general.

A lot of the new events and communities are growing, and a lot have only really kicked off post-lockdown, so by the end of the year I think it will be in a really good place, with really good people. It’s exciting for sure.

Undercurrent: To get the lowdown on the BTN grassroots hip hop scene we suggest you follow these IG accounts.

Promoters:

Artists:

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