Enlish All Day...

After upping sticks from the south west, Enlish made something of a name for himself in Boogie Down Brighton's rich yet localised hip hop scene. Having since moved to the capital, the man who also goes by the name Big Dave now has a new double single set for release this month. Sit back and read as UK All Day gets to probing.

Tell the people who you are.

Greetings all. I'm Enlish, aka Big Dave LO, The Charlie Sheen Of The UK hip hop scene. I'm an active MC/DJ/writer/intoxicant abuser repping Team Hate, F.U. Music, DNS, Genius Squad, LRLC and a whole bunch of other crews that I've already forgotten about.

Brighton has historically had a strong hip hop scene. What's it like today?

I no longer live in Brighton, but I still visit on a very regular basis. The scene today is far more fragmented than it used to be; I think this is due in part to the general decline in interest towards hip hop from the general masses (in Brighton, the terms fashionable and fickle go hand in hand) and also that over time people have tended to move away, myself included, mainly due to a need to put life before music. However, there are still a lot of talented MCs, DJs, graffers, breakers and producers down there. I still pretty much work exclusively with beatmakers from Brighton. There are still regular hip hop nights that go down well, including the now infamous SlipJam B open mic (ten years and counting) and my man HP is still holding down Rarekind Records and making sure vinyl is still available to the masses. Hip hop ain't dead in Brighton, it just feels like its hibernating at the moment. Be on the lookout, though, there's a lot of sick acts coming out to keep your eyes peeled for. Plus I still consider it my home of sorts, and I'm “winning” right now, haha.

It's good to hear Brighton's still got talent! What makes the city a breeding ground for hip hop and what do you like about the place?

I grew up in Cornwall, born and raised for 21 years. I could see the sea from my attic window. Moving to Brighton for me was a no-brainer - I'd always lived by the sea and spent my summers on the beach. Id also exhausted any and every hip hop opportunity in Cornwall (MCing and DJing), plus I had good friends living in Brighton and the scene was really kicking off back then, with three or four nights a week, battles, cyphers going down every day.. I fell in love with the place on my first visit. Despite the seedy underbelly, essentially it's about as left wing a town as you get in this country and most people seem to have a live-and-let-live attitude. There's over 300 pubs, a massive beach, plenty of parks and general good vibes going all day every day, especially in the summer. Its not so small that you feel too claustrophobic, but not so big that you cant walk from one end of town to the other. The air's clean and the people are nice. What's not to like?

I couldn't agree more. What was the first UK rap track that you ever heard or that made an impression?

Wow. If my memory serves me correctly, which it probably doesn't, it was Alphabetical Response by The Brotherhood. I got into hip hop in '93 aged 11, and if I'm not mistaken that track dropped around 95... After that I went back and did the knowledge on London Posse, Music Of Life, Demon Boyz, Hijack etc. But yeah, from a UK perspective, Alphabetical Response was the first UK joint I heard that really impressed me as much as the US acts I was checking for at the time.

Who's been the biggest influence on your music?

Without sounding contrived or egotistical, I'd say myself. I've obviously been subject to a number of outside influences, namely good friends and mentors of mine such as Hines, Dr Syntax and Stig Of The Dump, not to mention the countless US and UK acts that I'm still a fan of, but I would definitely say myself. Mainly because I always put 100 per cent of myself into my music, whether that's expressing my sense of humour, talking about my mother's death from cancer and my subsequent struggles with mental illness or my ultimate self-belief when it comes to spitting darts in a cypher that are doper than the next rapper's. Ultimately, as long as I'm happy that I've put 110 per cent into my music and feel like I've done the art form justice from my perspective then I'm happy. That may sound big headed, but what I mean by that is that my life experiences have influenced the person I am today, and therefore the music I make reflects those external influences, whether good or bad, positive or negative.

A lot of people say that UK hip hop has fallen off. Is it progressive enough to sustain itself or do you believe it's in good health?

I still think it's in fine health. The sales and business side of it has obviously seen a massive decline since the early 2000s but that is to be expected. The UK “urban” (I hate that term) scene is so progressive; hip hop became garage, garage became grime, grime came back round 360 degrees to the current trend of “road rap”, which has directly influenced the stylings of some of the biggest artists out there, like Tinchy Stryder, Tinie Tempah and Professor Green. You just need to keep an ear to the street and know where to look, and there's a wealth of good quality straight up hip hop out there. It's just nowhere near the spotlight anymore; pop rap has pushed it into the background. But we're still all here doing our thing regardless. "Art over money, love over everything" as a wise man once said.

Wise words. You're active on the battle circuit. What two MCs, dead or alive, would you like to see go head to head?

I'm still active, although “semi retired” would be a better term. I still chuck my hat in the ring for a written battle once in a while (my first solo battle in two years, versus Cruger, will be up 23rd April - the same date that my single drops) and I'm always ready for a freestyle battle at the drop of one. As far as the two MCs I'd choose, first I must say that I am from a background of freestyle cypher battling, as opposed to the written format or the verse-for-verse format (a la Big L, RIP). With that in mind, I would love to see a mid-90s Eminem versus Supernatural, Craig G or Chester P. That would be one for the ages. There's so many ill match-ups to choose from though, so I call a yellow card on that question!

You moved up to London a year ago. Why? What made you move and what's your experience been of London so far as someone trying to get ahead with your music?

Basically, I'd been living in Brighton for six-plus years, just under four of which I spent working in a job that I despised just so that I could continue to enjoy the musical and social benefits of living there. It got to a point where I literally couldn't stand the thought of going back to the glass case of emotion every day to pay my bar tab. Plus I needed a break, so I dropped a couple of stacks I'd been saving for a rainy day and went travelling around the world. Upon my arrival back in the UK, I found myself with no money and no job, but was very generously given the opportunity of free accommodation in London. Plus I knew that if I went back to Brighton I would inevitably end up crawling back to my old job, essentially recreating the cycle that I'd worked so hard to get out of.

In hip hop terms, my experience of London has been great so far. I've been active on the scene for roughly a decade now, although more or less completely in the background, so I have some good friends and comrades that I'm already familiar with. There are more nights, more people to meet and therefore more opportunities to explore, so I'm doing my best right now to get out there and experience as much of it as I can, all the while forging new links and friendships. I already had a leg up because of this, so I kind of had a head start, plus I've been touring with Stig Of The Dump on and off since September 2010 which has obviously taken me to new places and introduced me to new people. I've been in a very privileged position, but I've also worked hard at it. You just needed to be dedicated to your own mission and be a good person, and good people and opportunities should present themselves. You need the skills to pay the bills too as well though, obviously.

Of course, of course. Have you found the fragmented nature of hip hop in the capital, what with all its different forms, and diversity of people's taste a hindrance compared to the unified scene in Brighton?

Not really as, unfortunately, people tend or seem to say in their chosen brackets (myself included) so the lines very rarely cross over. To me, it's all hip hop in its own way, it's just made in a different style. Some of it I like, some of it I don't, but that doesn't mean that I'm hating. Diversity of taste could never be a hindrance. Diversity is one of the best words out there. It's the diverse people that do cross the boundaries... You see kids in goofy glasses, skinny jeans, silver space boots and crazy haircuts coming out to boom bap nights, just as you might see a Rawkus t-shirted backpacker or Lacoste and Clarks sporting “grown-up” rapper attending a pop-grime night surrounded by 18-year-olds. The same goes in Brighton, as it's far from unified... All of hip hop's sub-genres are present in Brighton as well, its just that the city is that much smaller that they mesh together more often, the poetry scene included. It's a shame that there isn't more diversity and people reaching out to each other in the city, but we're yet to hear that one artist who successfully appeals to all of the sub-genres across the board, if that person even exists.

Watch this space. Ok, thanks for dropping in. Now sign off and plug shamelessly.

Peace out to UK All Day, thanks for the interview. To anyone who wants to hear my music visit my Bandcamp for free downloads. From 23rd April my new AA single - Messed Up feat. DJ Manipulate / Arrogance Is Bliss feat. Sean Price, Stig Of The Dump and DJ Manipulate - will be available for purchase exclusively through the site. By purchasing the single you also receive the Rap Ain't Real, My Life Is Real LP for FREE, so go do it! My debut physical LP release, Cold Lazarus, will be out around May/June time, as will The Sunny EP, just in time for BBQ weather. All of my joints are dropping on F.U. Music. I also write a blog, where you can keep up to date with all manner of my exploits and check my BSing on Twitter. You might see Stig and I mashing up a venue near you soon. Peace, one.