Chapter 7 – “Wherever We Go”: UK Hip Hop and the Deformation of Mastery
The final pair of chapters return to hip hop in the UK, making explicit some of the implicit arguments from the preceding chapters about how hip hop consciousness comes into form through musical performance. This chapter begins with a cultural history of UK hip hop based on interviews in London and analyses of hip hop’s music and industry in the nation. The focus then turns to New Flesh frontman Juice Aleem, highlighting and interrogating his loaded statement that “England has had a love affair” with black musics. As the debate around the industry term “urban” indicates, the nation is still not comfortable with its relationship with “black music” as such, just as it remains uncomfortable with black Britons. Through close analysis of the New Flesh album Universally Dirty, and its hit track “Wherever We Go,” I examine how Aleem performs this uncomfortable and unfinished relationship, encoding and embodying his critique in the musical contours of a deformational mastery of the form/content binary. I argue that by listening closely to his music, we can hear the antinomies of the term “black British,” and better understand how such expressions both encode and enact the mutual implication of the sonic and the social.
Chapter Keywords: Juice Aleem (Aleem Edmead), New Flesh (music group), UK hip hop, grime, electronic dance music, London, black Britons, urban music, globalization, Houston A. Baker, Jr. (scholar), Caribbean music
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Big Dada Label Night: Roots Manuva performing with Juice Aleem (left) serving as erstwhile DJ on the small stage of the Big Chill House (photo by the author).
Small basement concert featuring Chester P (left), Inja, and Farma G at the Gramophone in East London (photo by the author).
Cover art for New Flesh’s album Universally Dirty.
New Flesh, “Wherever We Go”
Kwake (back left) and the live band with MCs performing at the Speaker’s Corner Freestyle Night at the Jamm in Brixton (photo by the author).
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