Saturday, 15 October 2016

Hector Bizerk: Scottish Hip Hop Pays Tribute

Hector Bizerk played their final show last night at The Art School, capping off five years of sensational releases and thunderous live shows. Initially composed of Glasgow rap veteran Louie and drummer Audrey Tait, the band have evolved into a formidable act that have turned heads pretty much everywhere they've played.

For those of us that invest time into promoting and supporting Scottish hip hop, it's hard to put into words just how important Hector Bizerk have been for our wee scene. Along with a handful of others, they've changed people's perceptions of hip hop in this country. Loki said to me in an interview a couple of years ago that he worried "parodies of Scottish hip hop are more popular than Scottish hip hop itself". The biggest compliment I can pay Hector Bizerk is that they've proved an exception and never shied away from being themselves.

If you've been following Scottish hip hop for a few years then you'll already know what an incredibly gifted emcee Louie is and has been for a long time. It's to his credit that he's constantly evolved as a lyricist and songwriter. Hector Bizerk managed to do what very few hip hop artists have managed in Scotland: speak to people regardless of their musical inclination. Taking influences from punk, indie rock and slam poetry, their tenacious sound has been entirely their own.

As for their performances, I've yet to meet someone who doesn't think they're a phenomenal live act. I've seen many publications describe them as a 'cult band', but I think that somehow suggests that only certain people 'get' what they're really about. Louie and co. managed to captivate audiences wherever they played, whenever they played, and even grabbed the attention of journalists and tastemakers who don't tend to have hip hop on their radar.

Tenement TV have already served up a long, fitting tribute to the band so I've kept this brief, but it feels right that those of us in the hip hop scene share our own reflections. Here are a handful of voices - I'll also happily update this blog with more tributes if anyone wants to get in touch.

"The impact that Hector Bizerk have made on Scottish hip-hop and the wider Scottish music scene is huge. From Louie’s outstanding fire-in-the-belly lyricism to Audrey’s powerhouse percussion and production their records have been insightful, boundary-pushing and culturally important. Live, their full show including Pearl’s amazing live art, expanded band and breaking was a masterclass in musicianship and hip-hop culture. Their musical legacy will stand for a long time to come and as sorry as I am to hear the band are no more I look forward to what music, magic and mayhem its members go on to create in the future." Dave 'Solareye' Hook (emcee - Stanley Odd).

"Hector Bizerk were more than a band, and more than a vehicle for a rapper. They were an energetic powerhouse, incredible to see live and the culmination of years of graft from each equally talented member. From the frontman Louis to the drummer Audrey the whole outfit had energy and passion in spades.

The mix of socio political commentary and music designed to get the crowd moving evoked the feel of early punk, without the anger - their gigs were a celebration of individuality, their breakup is all of Scotland's loss." Chris Megamegaman Stephens (Emcee, designer).

"Last night's sold out Glasgow show seemed a fitting end for one of the country's most influential acts. They have paved the way for so many others, and left a trail of great music for others to discover. Waltz of Modern Psychiatry showed just how good Louie, Audrey and Co were. They will definitely be missed." Stefan Schmid (Journalist - The National etc).

"True pioneers of the countries music scene, not to mention hip-hop within Scotland. Rarely can a band or act cross genres with such ease, while retaining a true Scottish sound reflective of they're background. They always spoke to, and for, the audience they connected with. Drums. Rap. Blessed." Drew 'Werd' Devine (Emcee, promoter, blogger).

"Hector Bizerk's importance to Scottish hip-hop, and, I believe, UK hip-hop at large, cannot be overstated. They were, in so many ways, SHH's watershed moment - they presented undeniable evidence that a Scottish rapper could front a band that took no prisoners, and appeal far beyond what has traditionally been a niche, insular scene. From their political engagement, to their ongoing incorporation of other 'elements' of hip-hop culture through their work with breakdancers and graffiti artists, to their forays into the world of Scottish literature, collaborating with the likes of Liz Lochhead, they were a powerful force in Scottish music. They made the SAY Award list with no promo. They toured beyond Scotland. Their success has always been about grassroots support - about soul, and integrity.

They'll be sorely missed.... but for aspiring emcees and musicians who want to follow their model, or who envy their success, it's clear that their legacy is this - the door they kicked open remains open. They legitimised SHH in a way that no other band has quite managed, connecting with rock and punk audiences in the same way Stanley Odd did with pop and soul audiences. Most of all, I'll miss their incendiary live performances, and the waves of Hector-t-shirt-wearing fans who always congregated to sing Louie's words back to him... I can't wait to see what he and Audrey do next. They are without a doubt two of the soundest cunts in Scottish music." Bram 'T3xtur3' Gieben (Musician, writer, poet).