In the past week alone, carnivorous English hip-hop label Blah Records dropped DJ Rasp’s mixtape Cold Sag Athletic and Black Josh’s new single ‘Eczema’. This year so far has seen 4 Bandcamp releases, including Lee Scott’s mucky cult banger Tin Foil Fronts and the return of shouty Scouse veteran Tony Broke with the scathing four track Money In The Bag. Since 2006, Blah has been dishing out some of the most eccentric and original hip-hop that this country has ever produced, and at rapid-fire pace. With the impending Blah début album by Manchester boy wonder Black Josh on the horizon, it seems that expansion is inevitable for this grass-roots label.
The cult has pillaged and conquered even the most far-flung portions of this green and pleasant land – Blah traverses the length, breadth and torso of the country. From Liverpool to London to Runcorn to Manchester and beyond, Blah has put down roots in the underground. The label has close ties with Sleaze & GV Clik in Birmingham and Bad Taste Records in Sheffield and has served up collabs with everyone from Ramson Badbonez to Tame One. Multi-regionality and internationalism is important when considering the overwhelming cultural influence of London in British hip-hop. In the face of English rap’s fixation with the capital and nationwide aping of London slang, Blah Records is at the top of the tree when it comes to offing glib London-centric henchmen.
The compact roster of big characters revolves around the seminal and now defunct crew Children Of The Damned, the nihilistic, intoxicated superheroes whose blunted Fuck-You Rap set a benchmark for UK hip-hop. Their records Tourettes Camp and Brick Pelican were twisted modern boom bap classics, genuine reflections of modern life with an empty fridge in the age of CCTV, white cider and overpriced ten-bags. Survivors of The Damned went on to release solo records and collaborations on Blah including bangers like like King Grubb’s Mega Dumb Free Shit, Lancashire drunken master Bill Shakes’ For Goodness Shakes and the Mcabre Brothers’ barbed, unimpeachable Gonzo Lyricism.
More recent signings in the wake of the Damned include Manchester crew Herrotics, New York’s DarkStar:The Last, Scouse Big Dada boy Bang On! and Kettering prankrappers Dirty Dockerz. Tommy Dockerz’ collaboration with Dan Oddysee on this year’s OddLiT record was one of the most distinctive and interesting of 2014. Tommy’s bouncing cartoon flow over Oddysee’s pristine cloud beats served as an excellent reminder of the power of this label’s eccentric left hook.
New age Runcorn RZA Lee Scott is the evil genius behind Blah, the stoned savant and self-proclaimed Jim Jones of the Blah cult. His staggering sweatshop work ethic has gone unmatched in the past decade and his distinctive brand of paranoid and literate blunted black comedy remains fresh and vital. One half of pioneering Liverpool duo Antiheroes, Mcabre Brother Number 1 and the leader of Children Of The Damned, The Good Doctor Scott has been pulling rugs from under fuckers since ’03 with his dole queue magic realism. Unhealthily preoccupied with David Icke, Hunter S. Thompson and Philip K. Dick, Scott has cultivated a distinct internal landscape and mythology surrounding the label complete with slang, slogans and bucket hats.
His acidic albums under the Mr Wrong moniker include the They Live-sampling Put On The Glasses and the crisp bipolar jazz-funk of the apocalyptic Peppered Moth Soup. His work with the formidable Reklews as Hock Tu Down remains unparalleled in the Blah canon, ‘Prozium Peddlin’ & ‘Something Strange’ standing as the shining examples of Mr Wrong’s ability to ease with precision between manic depressive boom bap and industrial sci fi smackers. Veering between Slick Rick narrative structures, classic “you’re shit” battle bars and lucid social commentary, the versatility displayed here is a force to be reckoned with.
This year’s Tin Foil Fronts sees the peak of a winning streak from Scott following last year’s Illinformed collaboration Stupid Poignant Shit and the Happy Sellout Shit! / Grumpy Underground Comeback Shit! double bill. With sacrificial goats thrown into the mix, the Blah Cult is becoming more of a reality every day. Mr Wrong has rapped about everything from stealing sweeties to invisible octopi, so you can rest assured he can tell you to fuck off more eloquently than any other rapper in England. I threw the Good Doctor some questions to see what’s what and what’s next for Blah Records…
Greetings Dr Scott, what is the ‘Blah Cult’ & how did at all begin?
It was originally just a little label we made in order to put out Children of The Damned and its members’ music. The “Cult” part just came later, it started as a joke really, just me messing around but it started to stick. Now everything is cult as fuck and we have a commune and cult brides and we sacrifice goats.
It’s hard to keep up with the frequency of releases from Blah Records. What motivates your strong work ethic?
Possibly some sort of slight autism. I just love creating shit to be honest, it’s all I do.
Do you detect differences in the hip hop scenes between North & South & do you feel recognition from the UK Underground?
I don’t know man, the concept of a scene is a good and bad thing. On one hand, the whole comradery, everybody supporting everybody and so on, helps a lot of groups get their name out and so on. On the other hand it can be a very close-minded thing, people trying to fit in, almost making music with rules in order to be accepted in the “scene”. We need to think beyond that. There is no hip-hop scene club where everyone goes and meets up and has cups of tea and strokes cats together. There are definitely regional “scenes” which are usually comprised of about 70-100 people from their town, village or city that listen to UK hip-hop rappers, hate Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz because they are “mainstream”. They congregate occasionally when there is a UK hip-hop rap show on to smoke weed outside the club. I’m more someone who goes to artsy jazz clubs with several women dressed in cult attire to sip potions from Freemason hip flasks. I guess some of the differences I and anyone with ears should be able to detect is there’s a bigger variety of accents and less posh-sounding people in the North… (I joke, I joke… no I don’t). So I guess that shows. Everything sort of past the midlands has a London accent doesn’t it? How did that happen? Anyway, rappers are boring people in general, they just smoke weed and drink beer then rap about smoking weed and drinking beer and occasionally chemtrails and vegan food choices.
Which artists & labels do you tip for the future?
Black Josh, Cult Mountain, 419.
I noticed you have used samples from Tom Waits’ album Rain Dogs. Is Waits a major influence? What are your literary and musical influences outside of hip-hop?
Yeah, Tom Waits is a big influence, in a musical and literary sense. His imagery is unparalleled. When I was first making beats I was trying to basically recreate his rhythms and feel but to rap to. I think the sample from Rain Dogs you’re referring to is ‘Singapore’, which I used on ‘Moron Tick’. That was kind of a lazy flip though, just a loop ’cause we needed a beat that fit quick-time. I have flipped other shit too though. ‘Brick Pelican’ got a track with a Waits flip on it and Put On The Glasses is full of them. I tried to have that slow rolling, clunky big clumsy giant step to the majority of the beats on that album. I used a lot of random percussion instruments too, all influenced by Waits, Captain Beefheart and all them. I mean, I have a lot of influences outside of hip-hop writing wise but the biggest would be Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson and probably Philip K. Dick as well to be honest. You can tell when a rapper has only taken influence from a rapper, well in the UK at least, ’cause they be saying shit like THE HARDEST OF DARK RAP SPITTERS. That shit is unacceptable, you get a D minus the whole alphabet equals fuck all writing that type of shit son, what!?!?!
Can you explain the meaning of ‘cold saggin’ and the Brick Pelican concept, the greatest mystery of all?
Well to be honest man, I don’t like to explain it. I think like, if you listen to enough COTD and Blah shit and you can’t figure it out then you know, take some Ritalin and think again. It’s probably more than likely exactly what you think it is though! Brick Pelican is just a name that sounded good. It came from me mishearing something on the news, I was half asleep and thought the news reader said Brick Pelican, it took on many forms. I liked the way it sounded and looked written down. It actually started as a solo thing then turned into me and Tony Broke and Majiclark who is a producer from the Liverpool area. He had some drawings of like, animals crossed with other random animals, I can’t think of any examples but whatever, I felt his whole vibe would fit the theme and his music was kind of mellow. It wasn’t to be though, just because of the pace I work at and me generally being incredibly impatient. Then it turned into me and Salar and Shakes with some early demos, which all bar one or two things got scrapped. Everyone came up to the Wrong House in Liverpool and heard some of the bones of the project that was in the works. Everyone was just completely down with the whole vibe at the time. It was a really hot summer! 20 minute rhymes, first take verses freestyled together, it was a fun album to make.
Which release are you most proud of?
Hard to say really man, I guess the newer stuff, Stupid Poignant Shit! and Tin Foil Fronts, just because I can listen to them start to finish and not immediately feel like I could’ve done it better or whatever. Big up Illinformed and all the heads involved with Tin Foil Fronts, Reklews etc.
Do you still battle & what do you think about the English battle scene?
I do not battle, no. Honestly, I don’t think about the English battle scene or any battle scene, or any scene in general. I’m not big on scenes. My head is in a completely different place. It was even when I was doing it though. For me it’s just about the music. I done a couple of battles and always hated them. I was originally battling on stage, on beats, in packed-out clubs in the night-time, in tournaments when you didn’t know anyone who was battling and there was money to be won when I was like 18-20! This modern day shit, though it probably appeals to more people, just lacks the feel of that. Only reason I kept doing more Youtube acapella battles was because I hated the ones that I had already done and I wanted one I liked, but to be honest I hated them all so I just thought “right, I need to stop self-harming now”. It started with the Mic Assassin thing. I was mad tired, stoned and nervous, standing in the street rapping into thin air. As I had never battled like that before, I felt like a twat, and on top of that, that guy was like the shittest rapper ever. The further you take it away from its roots, the more diluted and gimmicky it gets. The whole ‘anyone can do it’, even an ex teacher or a married couple thing ruins it for me. I get all the arguments for it, i.e. ‘they aren’t taking it so seriously’ and so on, but neither am I. I don’t say any of that as some sort of purist either, I don’t really give a fuck about that type of stuff fundamentally as it’s natural for that stuff to happen but it’s just not for me. On a positive note I did notice a couple of rappers doing some stuff on beats which was kind of cool but yeah, I generally don’t watch shit.
What should Blah heads expect next?
Music-wise, Black Josh got a mixtape #blahblahblackjosh and an album coming soon! I got some mad collaborative projects coming out but they won’t all be on Blah, one of them being an album I made on Dirty Dike production which is one of my favourite solo projects to date, I can’t wait for people to hear it. There is more but I don’t want to say just yet as a lot of it is in early stages.
Along with the addition of Black Josh, is the label currently headhunting any other known MCs?
Not consciously headhunting anyone, if something pops up then maybe. It’s hard work!