Walls had to be broken down for Rodney P's solo album, FEDERICO MONSALVE reports

From Brooklyn to the world, hip-hop has become one of the longest lasting universal soundtracks: the DJ/MC formula is appropriated by artists worldwide, tweaked to fit the regional flavours and pumped out by kids from anywhere between the Hutt Valley to Eastern China.

Rodney P - real surname Panton - who began his musical career touring with Big Audio Dynamite as part of the London Posse (whose LP Gangster Chronicle was both a sudden classic and a one-off wonder) has been crowned as a founding father of British hip-hop.

"It was really the first time anyone did hip-hop in a real English accent, you know?


"We were mixing New York with reggae which was what we were listening to," Rodney says in a sleep-deprived, midday phone call constantly punctuated by yawns and a follow-up "Sorry, mon".

"[In Gangster Chronicle] We were talking about the stuff that was affecting [British] people in a day-to-day way. It was the accent and the subject matter that set us apart from the Americans back then.

"Now, with the influx of Jamaicans coming into the UK the vibe is still relevant, specially now that reggae music is sounding more like hip-hop anyway."

For someone who is constantly crowned as Britain's first hip-hop adapter, converting the inner-city New York accent of the genre into cockney, Rodney P is not keen on musical patriotism.

"There is all this nationalistic vibe in London from people who love local hip-hop just because it's local, but they don't stop to think if the stuff is good or not.

"True, it has helped in that it's made us more self-sufficient, you know, like we can produce our own stuff without depending on the Americans but there is more to the music than where it came from."

That same nationalist vibe has seen the old school rappers enjoy a new bout of popularity.

London Posse's Gangster Chronicle has been re-issued on Wordplay records and Rodney has landed a weekly spot on the BBC featuring rappers and DJs from throughout the country and the West Indies.

"What has really pushed me forward has been my label [Riddim Killa]. I'm looking to sign acts like Roots Manuva and Pesci; he's not known but he'll be at the level of Dizzee Rascal once we get around to launching time."

And it seems a slow tempo is not unfamiliar to Rodney who, after 16 years in the business, is just about to launch his first solo album, The Future.

"Man, there were so many headaches and walls that had to be broken down with this album. Sample clearances, partners in the label not pulling their weight, people not collaborating when they should. But it's there, ready to be mastered and let out. It is definitely a more mature sound, not in a grey way, but you can feel the vibes as opposed to just sit and listen to it, and it also works in the clubs."

As for what he thinks will work in the New Zealand clubs? "I keep hearing the scene in there is more dubsy, which hey, it will definitely work for me."


*What: Rodney P & Skitz

*When and where: Tonight, Sandwiches (Wellington) with Fried Chicken Sound System. Tomorrow, Galatos Main Room (Auckland) with local support from MC Lucia, Slave and Stinky Jim

*Tickets: Wellington, $25; Auckland $34