Thursday, 31 August 2017

Breaking in Scotland: Chaz B introduces the scene on BBC The Social


It's that time of the month: SSU editor Jonathan Rimmer returns with another video short for BBC The Social. This time around, he chats to Chaz B after the latest Resurgence event in Glasgow. He breaks down the moves involved and why you should consider giving it a go yourself.

If you're new to the breaking scene and want to read more, he also recently chatted to Sideshow Maule of the Flyin' Jalapenos crew for the Sunday Herald

Monday, 28 August 2017

Introducing... Urban Scot Magazine - Autumn 2017

Scotland Stand Up editor Jonathan Rimmer is happy to unveil an exciting new project: Urban Scot Magazine, a 16-page print style publication with a range of articles on Scottish hip hop music and culture. The magazine contains a mix of credited articles published by the likes of the Sunday Herald, The Scotsman, Bella Caledonia and others, content published on Scotland Stand Up and original content for the mag. Pieces include:

  • An interview with Griogair, architect of the world's first Scottish Gaelic rap album
  • A long read with Loki on his new album 'Trigger Warning'
  • Graffiti artists calling for a legal space to operate in Glasgow
  • A look at how breaking is changing the lives of young people
  • A chat with folk-rap artists about playing Oban Live Festival in the summer
  • Multiple album reviews and live reviews with contributions from Hannah Westwater and Stephen Butchard. 
The publication was produced, designed and edited by Jonathan for academic purposes, but he is interested in working on and possibly distributing future editions. Anyone interested in working on such a project can get in touch at scotlandstandup@gmail.com. All articles published elsewhere have been credited as such and images have been credited with permission or used under the guidelines of creative commons. No income is being derived from this project. (The publication is also not associated with events promoter who went by the Urbanscot pseudonym. This wasn't intended! Shout out to Chris McDougall).

With that all said, read in full below:




Monday, 7 August 2017

Live Report: Scottish Beatbox Battles @ Nice N Sleazy

Above: Bigg Taj chats about the state of the beatbox scene

Scotland's best noisemakers gathered a fortnight ago for the first major Scottish beatbox battle event of 2017 at Glasgow pub Nice N Sleazy. The free event attracted a loud and enthusiastic crowd, comprising a mix of hip hop heads and casual passers by.

Hosts Bigg Taj and Spee Six Nine kept things moving with a brief live set while up-and-coming acts Ashtronomik, Red King and nine-man collective Togo Fam were on hand to play tracks from their new respective projects.

But the real showcase was the battles, which were hosted by UK beatbox champion ABH. The eight man tournament showcased beatboxers with a range of skills, from the more technically gifted to the more musically inclined.

The full results were as follows: in the first round, Boycebox beat Napoleon, Styx beat Ionix, Maciek beat L, and 5th Element beat Biscuit Beats due to a no-show. Boycebeats took the semi final over Styx while Maciek knocked out Fifth Element.


Maciek's versatile style, which combined hip hop and drum and bass styles, was enough to overcome Boycebeats in the final.

He told SSU he was thrilled with the win: "It feels good. It was a tough competition, but I was very confident going into the final because I felt like the other semi final wasn't correctly decided. But everybody did their best and got what they deserved I think.

"Improvising and trying out new sounds has been the most influential thing for me. I like to stand in front of the mirror, trying to make the silliest faces and sounds ever, and then develop them.

"It was a big pressure to perform in front of someone like Bigg Taj. I've been watching his videos for a long time and I was inspired by a few of his sounds. He uses his voice to perfection."

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Living Hip Hop: Ashtronomik talks about his hip hop youth work in Glasgow

In his new series for BBC The Social, Jonathan Rimmer speaks to artists using hip hop in positive ways to empower their local communities. First up is Ashkan Farzan aka Ashtronomik, a rapper and producer who works with teenagers in the south of Glasgow...




Can you introduce yourself? 

My name is Ash aka Ashtronomik. I do rap music. I'm a producer, I'm a writer. I've been recently putting some videos together as well. Other than that, I'm a project worker with YCSA, where I've had the opportunity to work with young people. It's been great for me to help some guys get into hip hop in different ways.


You obviously moved from Iran many years ago. When did you first get into rapping? 

I came from Iran when I was 10 years old, but have lived in Glasgow since then. When I heard my first rap song I couldn't even speak English yet! It was like, 'Whoa, this is crazy.' But I actually got into rapping through breakdancing. I used to breakdance myself when I lived in Sighthill back in the days. I fell in love with it. I used to do it in my living room. But it became difficult because I went through surgery at one point. I was also really into my music, though, so I decided to focus on the music. Dancing was good for me but I couldn't progress as much as I could with the music.

When I first met you were involved with Volition, a community project was set up by Loki several years ago. How did you first get into that? 


I saw a post online by Darren [Loki] McGarvey. He was organising a meeting so a bunch of guys could get together and try and get a movement going. That became Volition. We were
guys doing hip hop and we just needed a place where we could do our stuff and talk to others and relate to each other. I quickly became friends with everybody there and learned a whole lot of stuff.

So when did you take more of a teaching role in this area?


I did have the opportunity to take part in open workshops at Volition. Through that, I did my first co-facilitating rap workshop with my man Tesko. He was a breakdancer at the time - in
fact, he still is. Then, I just started doing workshops by myself and teaching with different community organisations in different youth centres and so on around the city.

Can you tell me a little more about your role now?


I run a workshop with YCSA called Represent. It’s short for Represent Media because the young people here manage their own YouTube channel. Working with the young guys here in Pollokshields - and we also have some over from Govanhill - we give a voice to the most marginalised. You know, guys from Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic and all sorts of ethnicities. That’s kind of what I’m doing here in YCSA at the moment.

What sort of stuff do you do in the workshops?

Ashtronomik's upcoming Fragments EP. 
It kind of started as just rap, where I was just kind of getting them to learn the beats and how to rhyme better. But eventually the guys enjoyed it and they told their friends to come over and we built a little team. It’s turned into more of a production, making beats as well as rapping, as well as getting videos done. It’s a whole set of activities to try and give them a genuine artist’s experience.

Why do you think workshops like these are so important for these young people?

I think it’s very important. First of all, speaking about myself, it’s changed my life because I’ve learned so much, met so many great people. I was one of these young guys. From what I’ve witnessed - I’ve worked with a bunch of guys - their confidence levels have just totally changed massively. Their language has improved a lot and it’s raised their aspirations. You have guys and girls that maybe socially isolated and by putting their energy into something artistic they’re able to have a new level of understanding about themselves. They want to different things and it’ll affect their careers in a good way too. It’s a start for them, a way for them to be empowered and do something.

Why do you think hip hop in particular is such a positive force?


I think hip hop from how I’ve experienced it, it instantly breaks down all barriers between different races and classes and whatever, and it just brings everybody together. You just feel the music and the culture and the elements to it. It’s life changing for a lot of people. And it’s fun obviously!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Album Review: Ciaran Mac - Rainy Daze

Ciaran Mac has been an SSU favourite for a while, but he hasn't released a full project since his 2014 EP Took Your Time. Hannah Westwater checks out the long awaited follow-up...

Ciaran Mac - Rainy Daze
Buy/Listen Here

You’d be forgiven for thinking this can’t possibly be Ciaran Mac’s solo full length debut – a few blinks around Scottish hip hop and he’s everywhere. Whether it’s his work with Rory O’B, hyped live shows or word on the street that he’s the Glasgow hip hop's freshest voice, Ciaran has earned his place at the heart of the community. Having made his name on the circuit, 'Rainy Daze' serves as a reminder why all eyes should be on him.

Ciaran’s flows are the focal point of this release and he isn't stopping for breath. On opener Gimme a Second, he unapologetically takes shots at the “parasitic fantasists” of Scottish hip hop over an old school beat. Impressively, he strikes a balance between boom bap bravado and a quiet confidence that he can back it up.

'Rainy Daze' is a playground for Ciaran’s often relentless flow, demonstrating a real affinity for rhythm which, no, isn’t a rap inevitability. At times it risks being to the detriment of his lyrical skill – he really runs rings around many of his peers with metaphors and smart rhymes, but some of his best moments as a wordsmith struggle for air beneath flows so uncompromising. With a little development, though, it’s clear that he’ll easily establish a middle ground which allows equal spotlight for all of his skills as an emcee. And there are definitely shades of that on the album, with Let Em Be a well-judged moment of calm that adds valuable dimension to the release.

Most of the beats are sophisticated but fairly straightforward (a scan down the tracklist reveals a handful of the scene’s production gems) and the record is all the better for it. Ciaran’s no-nonsense strain of rap is well suited to tracks that compliment but don’t distract. But make no mistake: there’s no lack of ambition here, and this effort sonically demonstrates Ciaran won’t be restrained by a scene that can be difficult to step out of.

Munity, featuring words and production from Big Shamu, is a particular highlight. A sitar-like motif swirls throughout as both emcees go back and forth, making for one of the album's most addictive moments. But track two, Bag of Rations, is Ciaran’s mission statement. He's not kidding when he drops rhymes like “I like to spit so when I’m coming up with something sick I’m making sure that every word is hitting like a tonne of bricks”. He shouts out the hip hop community, a heartfelt moment of gratitude which may have seemed out of place coming out the mouths of other rappers – but there’s an authenticity to the entirety of the album that helps it fit right in.

To many it was inevitable Ciaran Mac’s first full length would be one of, if not the, best of the year thus far, but that doesn’t detract from his achievement. On 'Rainy Daze', he erodes any doubts left kicking around and does a good job of making sure you believe every word he says.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Album Review: G-Mo - Cause I Can

Coatbridge rapper G-Mo is best known for his off-the wall battle performances. But Jonathan Rimmer finds he's got more in his locker than one might expect...

G-Mo - Cause I Can EP
Listen/Buy Here 

Even though Coatbridge's G-Mo is relatively new to hip hop, anyone with even a passing interest in the Scottish scene will have inevitably encountered him over the past few years. He's a conspicuous presence at gigs and battle events, always on hand to jump in and freestyle at any given open mic or cypher.

The loud-mouthed emcee's erratic battle performances at Breaking the Barrier have made it difficult to gauge his potential. When G-Mo's on he's on, full of clever rhymes and witty punchlines, but he's the first to admit maintaining a drunkenly boisterous persona has its obvious side effects.


It's therefore a surprise to hear G-Mo so poised on 'Cause I Can', the most thorough collection of tracks he's put out. He's just as blunt and funny as you'd expect, but anyone expecting Ol' Dirty Bastard-esque theatrics will be taken aback. Whereas he has a tendency to slur and sound disjointed in a live environment, G-Mo brings a degree of professionalism to the EP.

This manifests itself most obviously on opening track DSF, which is also the clear highlight. He bounces around comfortably on an Ill-Az beat, switching up flows and varying his rhyming patterns. Even the vocal hook ("drink til' it's done / smoke til' my lips burn / fuck til' my hips hurt / that's the life that I live") is delivered with clarity.


Okay, so the subjects he tackles are hardly groundbreaking, but G-Mo proves himself a solid rapper throughout. From the jazz-inflected You Like This Shit to group cut Woman, his bars are tightly structured and technically sound. He also has an intrinsic understanding of how to spit his material, using cadence to better communicate the message of each track.

Keeping in mind the title, the EP's main deficiencies derive from trying too much if anything. 'Cause I Can' feels more like a mixtape due to the sheer number of styles and samples on show. Gaze takes snippets from Daughter's Amsterdam, Fuck G-Mo uses AC/DC's Back in Black, and Yellow features an annoying hook about traffic lights. Most confusingly, Here To Stay essentially starts with 30 seconds from a classical piano piece for no discernible reason.

There are other issues that perhaps stem from lack of experience: he overuses ad-libs a tad, the vocal mixing isn't as strong on the tail end of the project, and though Butterflies' sentiment is nice, the ode to his girlfriend only proves he can't sing well. 


These odd moments tend to come over as endearing rather than irritating, though. G-Mo possesses a natural charisma that is too often missing from the Scottish scene. While he's slightly scatterbrained in the songwriting department, he clearly has a strong grasp of what makes for a good hip hop track. His trademark antics make for an entertaining spectacle live, but 'Cause I Can' shows he has the potential to be far more consistent.