“If you’re trying to bring artists through but keep them beneath you, then you’ve fucked it up,” says Lee Scott, the head of hip-hop label Blah Records and a veteran of the UK’s often-underground rap scene.
Despite his veteran status, one earned through his lengthy discography dating back to his days as Mr Wrong in 2006, the 32-year-old is still young enough to be asked to leave a Kilburn casino for not having I.D – just one of the memories of an afternoon spent with him in the area of London he currently calls home. Signed to his label are a talented variety of rappers and producers from all over the country, plus Danny Lover, a Canadian with the smoothest flow under the sun.
For Lee, creating his own label and picking his own artists was always appealing: “The intention was always to do my own thing and do my own label. I was always the kid that liked the video games where you can create your own stuff, like your own wrestlers and your own squads and shit. Sounds weird but, to me, that’s the same mindset.”
Now far removed from that kid playing video games in his native Runcorn, Lee spoke about everything hip-hop for over an hour in a laughably typical greasy spoon near his home. Among the topics were the large fellow sat near him, the weird shit happening on the TV behind me, and his intentions for Blah Records: “I don’t want to bring artists through because I’m saving the world or nothing; I just enjoy doing it. The whole point is finding artists for a different audience or making them bigger in your world. That’s the aim.”
And there’s plenty of artists to be excited about. Public Pressure recently featured Stinkin’ Slumrok and Morriarchi’s new album, and then there’s the likes of Bisk, Black Josh and Sleazy F Baby making a lot of noise and plenty more mixtapes as supergroup The Cult of the Damned. When posed the difficult question of who the biggest young talent is on the label, Lee admitted he “might have to have a little think”, before sitting back in his chair and zoning out temporarily. Finally: “Everyone I’ve brought in has impressed me… Obviously, that’s why I brought them in. When I first heard Black Josh I was like ‘he’s a cocky little bastard, him,’ and he just had something, you know? I guessed his style could use some refining or whatever, but you could tell straight away that he’s definitely dope.”
Josh and Sleazy F Baby make up a Manchester contingent that Lee describes as being “mad-party boys, killing live shows.” The energy they bring to live sets is a sight to behold and one that can be enjoyed through their Instagram stories, as social media provides access to a scene that is typically difficult to discover.
The north-west duo came in for huge praise from Lee, as did London rappers Bisk and Stinkin’ Slumrok – the latter being someone Lee describes as having a classic UK hip-hop sound: “Stinkin’ is crazy. He’s got that London style with the beats he’s on and in his delivery with the wild, high-pitch voice.”
Unexpectedly, Lee flipped the interview on its head and posed me a question:
Lee: “Who else is even doing that style right now?”
Me: *slightly awkward, puzzled look*
Lee: “The answer is no-one…
“…To me, anyway, he has that classic sound. Plus, he doesn’t take himself too seriously either and that’s quite important – it makes him more accessible.”
The long-haired, well-scarfed rapper across the table then turned his thoughts to Bisk – a ‘different kind of artist’ who, Lee explained, “you might not ‘get’ on the first listen, but you go back and you’re like ‘oh shit, I didn’t clock that. I didn’t realise he said that. Shit!’ He’s got serious potential with a whole different audience and his style could be broadened for that nicely.”
Bisk perhaps best embodies the scene of which he’s becoming such a big part. He can be misunderstood and a tad mysterious, only communicating through social media sporadically and, above all, really fucking good at making music. With a host of fresh artists and the new listeners they bring, Blah are at the forefront of Britain’s thriving underground hip-hop scene and independent labels. Or, as Lee puts it; “…it’s exciting shit!”
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