Imagine if you will an urban wasteland
ravaged by high levels of crime
, where gangs
roam the streets and illegal drugs
of all kinds can be readily obtained. Faced with this bleak
environment, a group of disenfranchised
youths have banded together to express themselves through hip hop music
. Unfortunately, this isn't one of the fashionably notorious
inner-city 'hoods like Compton
or the Bronx
we're talking about, but rather Newport
, South Wales
. A place so ridiculously grotty and packed with shellsuit
-clad, pissed-up scallies
that not even its residents can take it seriously. Unsurprisingly, the species of hip-hop
spawned in such a place is irreverent
and triumphantly down-to-earth.
Goldie Lookin' Chain (GLC for short) are Newport's answer to the Wu-Tang Clan, a sprawling collective of MCs who claim to have originally formed in 1983 (although their known recorded work only goes back to around 2000). The GLC crew includes P Xain, Adam Hussain, Billy Webb, Mr. Love-Eggs, One-Step Down, 2-Hats/2000ad, Mystikal, DCI Burnside, Mike Balls and Stress Armstrong, although the line-up and pseudonyms seem to change frequently. The level of rapping ability varies wildly among the GLC's members, with the emphatic and jovial Adam Hussain arguably being the strongest contributor. (Check out the superb dealer's pitch 21 Ounces.) Many GLC tracks feature a high proportion of weak 'freestyle' (or at least, so bad they couldn't have been written more than 30 seconds before rolling the tape) rhymes and awkward delivery, although newer releases wisely reserve most of the microphone time for Hussain, Xain and Eggsie.
The Chain's lyrical content reflects the most important things in Newport life: tracksuits, trainers (Hi-Tec Silver Shadow), glue-sniffing, drinking, fighting, but most prominently, draw (marijuana). Much in the same way that gangsta rappers promote an exaggerated caricature of the gun-toting, forty-drinking pimp, the GLC show us the world of weed-smoking, dole-sponging pikeys who think tracksuits are stylish and regularly eat Sunday lunch at McDonald's. The listener is sometimes left guessing as to how much they're taking the piss out of the truly phenomenal number of Newport residents who genuinely fit this stereotype, and how much is actually self-parody. The track GLC Leisure Wear ("I goes into town for a drink and a fight...", "my tracky's so shiny, my tracky's so good...") is obviously tongue-in-cheek, but other tracks such as Taxi (a tribute to Dragon Taxis, a South Wales minicab company) betray slightly too intimate knowledge of their subject matter. The average GLC LP will feature some rap songs around randomly-chosen themes (sometimes subverting the chorus of an existing record), comedy skits, and the occasional experimental foray into another musical genre (from hair metal to soul crooning).
Although Goldie Lookin' Chain could be accurately described as a novelty act, they inadvertantly raise some interesting points about how best to transpose a musical tradition such as rap (born from a distinct social situation) onto a very different culture. The GLC's use of slang, and the subjects they single out for praise or ridicule are unique to their experience, and feel far more genuine than, for instance, the painfully self-conscious mockney patter of Mike Skinner (a.k.a. The Streets). Conversely, hearing rappers talk about familiar and startlingly ordinary (at least, to someone from South wales) points of reference - shout-outs to Broadmead, Lliswerry, Empress Cars - makes the listener wonder how the average gangsta rap record must sound to residents of New York or L.A.
They are also clearly more relevant and representative as social commentators than the few miserable, persecution-obsessed and wilfully obscure Welsh language pop acts. Although this might really be over-analysing what is, at the end of the day, a bunch of stoned kids having a laugh.
Goldie Lookin' Chain's early output was recorded semi-professionally and saw a very limited distribution, mainly through bootleg tapes and MP3s. With their latest LP (The Manifesto) the Chain have started to get heard outside of Newport. Super Furry Animals are reported to be big fans, and Rollerdisco has apparently managed to secure a little airplay on Radio 1.
- Don't Blame The Chain (2001?)
- Chain's Addiction (2001)
- Volume III (2001)
- The Party Album (2002)
- Adam Hussain: Truth & Slander (2002)
- Rollerdisco EP (2002)
- The Manifesto (2003)