In the downstairs canteen of Leeds’ recently refurbished Belgrave music hall, there is a strong rumbling coming through the ceiling, and the 6pm dinner-time customers have started to notice. The volume on Clipse’s minimal classic “Grindin,” begins to creep up over the sound system, but it does little to mask the rattling above. “It sounds like we’re in a spaceship,” comments one customer.
Dark, labyrinthine stairs at the back of the venue also echo with menacing noise–the product of Edinburgh trio Young Fathers’ soundcheck. A collage of rapping, singing, electronically programmed African polyrhythms, and bagpipes (set against anything else that piques their interest), Young Fathers’ music is an adventurous, stark melting pot of genre infidelity. New album Dead sprawls the group’s ambitious vision out over eleven songs and 34 minutes—a runtime that feels far longer in the best way, almost over-stuffed with exciting ideas.
Ally Massaquoi and Kayus Bankhole, both sunk into a brown leather couch in the dressing room, wait for Graham ‘G’ Hastings, who soon joins after overseeing the pre-show din.
So, you guys originally met at the Bongo Club in Edinburgh?
Graham: Under 16’s hip-hop night, happened every two weeks.
How long after that first meeting did you start making music together?
Ally: I think it was straight away in the sense that we met that night and arranged to meet up in Graham’s house and just start recording. Start writing songs and stuff.
G: The guys came to my house and we set up the karaoke machine, I’d made beats on this little shitty thing on my computer, and I put the CD in the karaoke machine because it was the only thing I could figure out that would work. And you just have to play it. So I made the beat like six minutes long so we could all fit in, and just let it play, and everyone would push in to get their shot.
And was it just straight rapping at this stage?
A: No it was songs, from straight away, it wasn’t even really like lets just rap on a beat, it was like lets try and write songs. We never even said “lets write songs,” we just started writing songs.
G: Because there was a lot more people doing it when we were younger, there was a lot more people around that wanted to rap. But the three of us stuck together naturally because we wanted to write songs, we wanted to write structured like, “the chorus comes in there,” and it was hard to record it because you’re doing it live in front of a fucking karaoke mic, but it was good.
And from there you went on to do open mic nights, how was that experience?
Kayus: We never really did it in a traditional way.
G: Everybody would go up 8 Mile style, fucking angry with the hood up, cupping the mic, like anger pure anger. And we’d go up and do like the structured songs and move about on stage and stuff. The girls liked it…
A: Yeah they did! I think we used it for a platform, to get what we were doing across. We’ve done this song, lets see what it sounds like, that was the main thing. It wasn’t like we were angry at the people doing the 8 Mile battle style, it was just like they did that and we did this.
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