As we head upstairs in East London’s Old Blue Last, we are faced with a sparse, almost daunting scene; backs pinned to walls except for the odd adventurer who braves the trip to the bar. Organiser, entrepreneur and upcoming rapper ItsNate is visibly stressed as he scrambles around on his phone checking that acts are alive and en route to the venue. However, this isn’t the scene for long. As every nook and cranny of the obscurely shaped room soon finds itself occupied. When we do venture outside for some fresh air, we are made to join the line to return. We don’t repeat the mistake again.
Slocal began as a lifestyle brand inspired by the model set by brands like Alife. “I want Slocal to be a city institution,” explains Nate. “Straddling music, clothing and consultancy with a distinct attitude that comes from a constant pursuit of progress.” And while he has dabbled in clothing in the past, he’s gone back to the drawing board to emerge later this year with a higher quality product. In the meantime, the brand is mostly known for its musical output. ItNate’s recent mixtape, So Slocal, was one of UK rap’s most cohesive mixtapes released over the past few years, and the nights they organize provide a platform to showcase the local hip hop scene. “I didn’t even want to do this bruv,” he enforces over lunch the following day. “But nobody else was going to, and we needed it.”
The room at The Old Blue Last is full of familiar faces from London’s fast-rising new hip hop scene, beyond the acts performing we can pick out Nate’s fellow Slocal representative and partner in crime CR-Blacks, up-and-coming acts Hawk House, Murkage Dave, Catch’Em and CONFZ, producers JD. Reid and Sumgii, videographer Stay Hvngry. There’s a whole host of other young musicians and creatives providing a refreshing sense of peer support.