‘Boundaries’, the first single from my debut album ‘Diving Deeper’ is out now:

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Boundaries

Massive thanks to Bard Picasso

Video to follow!!

From ‘Diving Deeper’, a ten track project which will be available on 12th November 2021.

International Womxn’s Day means that this time of year is always a busy one for me as people grab the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women, and open discussions about why we STILL need to be fighting for equality.

Last year’s showcase for Ladies of Rage was actually the last event I went to before lockdown kicked in. It’s been a roller-coaster of a year, and I can’t quite believe we’re here in March again – I’m glad though that the winter is over as the only certainty is that the sun will soon be joining us.

When Ladies of Rage first discussed the opportunity to do a takeover at Dub Frequency, my initial personal reaction was no way it’s too short notice and I literally had no clue how it would work. But Missy G, the driving force that she is, couldn’t bear to let down the Ladies of Rage members, and so with the help of Beth Clark, the three of us managed to pull together an absolute belter of a line-up! From 12pm-10pm on Sunday, we had music, spoken word pieces, interviews, mixes, exclusive tracks and live sessions and all done remotely. Womxn were involved who had never presented before, womxn who had never had their recorded work aired, had it aired, alongside well established artists such as Wales’ very own Aleighcia Scott and Dionne Bennett. Shout outs to the chatroom crew, some of whom were in it for the whole duration! (Becky Cee, Cheryl, Stabitha & Stereoripe were just a couple of names I clocked – it got pretty messy in there towards the end of the day…)

One of the highlights for me was a live session by Daisy Green and the Warrior Babes. Daisy left for Thailand not long after she had begun sharing lyrics at our LOR jams, and she’s been documenting her musical journey on her youtube channel. She sent us an exclusive live set from the other side of the world, where she’s been hosting her own womxn only jam sessions! We had another amazing live set from Cara Elise and Missy G, and Beth Clark’s ‘International Womxn, Inspirational Sounds’ podcast sits beautifully within all the tracks and sections sent in by our Welsh Womxn, placing us all in the wider world context. International Womxn's Day takeoverWe actually had so much content that we extended the takeover to host an additional three hours on Radio Cardiff on Monday evening. Trishna Jaikara and Asha Jane pulled together a wonderful first hour, presenting spoken word and music, and discussing the amazing Harddwch Du project and International Womxn’s day in general. We had exclusive play of a number of poems and tracks, including one from TBella, who went into labour to the soundtrack of our takeover, and now has a beautiful baby safe and well at home – congratulations!

Other exclusive plays that I was really excited about were from Fran B with her track ‘Turning to the pen ft. Aaliyah’ and Zannah Leah’s gorgeous ‘Special Occasion’ which is out now, with visuals on her youtube channel. Elina Lee, Nina, Demzie and Dead Man’s Trumpet, were amongst the artists for whom this was their first LOR involvement, and I’m excited for them all to get more well-deserved attention for their amazing music! Another newcomer to an LOR showcase, whose ‘isolation’ video I saw a while back and LOVED, are Foxy Roxies, who run a studio in Cardiff – I look forward to finding out more about what they are up to!

We had an amazing array of DJ mixes, including a ‘once in a 20 year opportunity’ to experience the 7inch pleasure from Lej ‘n’ Deri, a fab house mix from the legendary (see what I did there?…) DJ Precious, and a first-outing from Wildfyre, who smashed her debut set!

Welsh womxnTrishna Jaikara’s mix for Radio Cardiff highlighted how much home-grown talent we have here in Wales, and we are developing and nurturing more through the Ladies of Rage network. We also featured a banger of a mix from 14 year old BelleBelle and an amazing hardware set from Little Eris. The showcase was rounded off by a posse cut recorded by 21 of our members, recorded with our first male ally Stagga at the time Ladies of Rage network was beginning to take shape. My section of the takeover is dedicated to Stagga’s memory, and I shared a couple of works in progress, as well as a beautiful track that he created with his lovely Nina.

Over the 7th & 8th March we showcased more than 55 womxn – blood sweat and tears went into this! Massive love to everyone who pulled together with me, Missy & Beth to make it happen – all the wonderful womxn who stepped in at really short notice to present, all our dj’s, lyricists, music makers, movers & shakers. Laura, Trishna, Teifi, Malgola, Lubi, Electra, Amethyst and Hoffman. Massive thanks to Dub Frequency & Radio Cardiff for having us!

We will be uploading all the files to the Ladies of Rage Soundcloud page as soon as we have recovered!

Rest in Peace Stagga, who was a massive inspiration and support in the creation of this project.

Available to purchase via:

Ltd. Edition Bonus Pack

£4: Pack contains ‘Garden of my Soul’ postcard, 5 mini ‘Love Yourself’ postcards,
rememberance ribbon, sun’s golden seeds & unity sticker. Tracks will be emailed to you as wav & mp3 files.

Bandcamp

£3: Go give me a follow!

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Also available at Amazon, Tidal/Wimp, Kanjian, Anghami, Napster, Pandora (US only), Melon & Bugs

Four Leaf Clover, featuring Asha Jane
produced by Marko Zee-Rock

Garden of my Soul
produced by Habitus

Blueberry Flapjacks, featuring Szwé
produced by Naziaaa

recorded at Fat Fridge Studios by Stagga
except Szwé vocal recorded by Szwé
vocal engineering, mix and mastering by Stagga

Visuals by Doc Blackdawho released in December 2020:

 

Ltd. Edition Bonus Pack

£4: Pack contains ‘Garden of my Soul’ postcard, 5 mini ‘Love Yourself’ postcards,
rememberance ribbon, sun’s golden seeds & unity sticker. Tracks will be emailed to you as wav & mp3 files.

I’m heartbroken that Stagga has passed. This man was a true gent and has influenced and supported so so many in the Cardiff music scene to follow their passion. Without him I and many others wouldn’t be making music – Fat Fridge was more than just a studio – it was a safe space where tears were shed and magic happened. If it wasn’t for Stagga, Ladies of Rage wouldn’t have put down roots and grown. If it wasn’t for Stagga I wouldn’t have released music or be learning how to produce. I will always cherish his gentle, patient way of working, encouraging words and absolute musical talent – his open heart and enthusiasm for passing on his knowledge, his way of looking at the world and his positive energy. I am truly grateful to have been able to spend the time that I did with this man, fondly remembered and greatly missed. My heart goes out to his family, his lovely Nina and their little boys Loki and Blue xxx

 

When you roll a stone, its growth is unknown.

You were smoothed over time when all the seasons had flown.

You were homegrown, with your toes in the water,

Salt of the earth the first ship in our port and

I was imported northernly, the wind listened contentedly,

It taught us all important things, these things are always meant to be.

You meant so much to me, a gentle wizard on the breeze,

And these tears hear your melody washing out to sea.

Paper boats in a bottle of dreams.

Earth, wind and fire tying desire at the seams.

Our streams meet on the bedrock you sowed,

Held tears in your tree house in home-spun gold.

Fold your cloak, fill your soul with yellow roses,

No moss grows unless she knows your soul chose it.

Father time standing still on the shore,

With openhanded understanding handing me liquid to pour.

 

Duck eggs in a basket, ducklings into swans,

There’ll be no moss on the rocks now that you’re gone.

We lay your salt in the earth and float on salt in the sea,

Your stone still rolls strong because your spirit is free.

I have always been drawn instinctively to Hiphop. From my early days of buying records before I even had a record player, cartwheeling into a ‘resting’ bboy cypher before I’d ever seen a bboy, scribbling my frustrations in notebooks and onto walls. When I moved away from my family home in the countryside of mid-wales, my ears continued to be opened to music.

I have always had close friends of the opposite sex – supportive, encouraging and finding their own way alongside me. I’ve always been around men who make and play music, and if I had discovered earlier on that I wanted to dj or mc, I have no doubt that they would have been fully supportive. But I never wanted to. Never felt the urge until much later on when a friend offered me his decks and I realised I too could actually play my records on two decks like all my dnb dj friends were doing. I now believe that this is because I had no womxn role models.

In going to hiphop nights I never even clocked the fact that it was only men on the stage, behind the decks, predominantly in the crowd. I was too busy soaking it all up. I got into breakin’, becoming a participant rather than just observing.

It was only when Ffion arranged the first Ladies of Rage jam that I realised that there were other womxn like me – going to gigs alone or with male friends, not necessarily participating but with a burning fire inside. And there were a handful of womxn DOING this thing – performing, contributing, lighting the way for LOR to grow. At the first ever battle rap I went to (alone), I saw Shawgz battle Rufus Mufasa. When Shawgz turned up to that first LOR jam I knew this would be something special! (The fact that they pitted the only two women in that line-up against each other is a WHOLE ‘nother discussion…).

So. Ladies of Rage was born. The first time I went to a gig at Gwdihw after having had a few jam sessions with LOR, my whole perception had changed. I felt safe (I never realised I had felt unsafe or ‘on-guard’ before). I felt like I belonged. I felt like the missing part of my family that I didn’t even know was missing had showed up! In a sea of faces, of which many of the men were my brothers, most of the womxn there were now my sisters! As time went on, womxn at hiphop gigs who hadn’t been to an LOR jam started vibing with us, started coming to jams and are now performing lyrics.

Photo: Kate Tempest Instagram

People wonder why we need womxn only jams. Safe spaces. Apart from the fact that many womxn are harassed and attacked on nights out, safe spaces allow trust to build and confidence to grow. Many womxn have suffered trauma caused by men. Many womxn are restricted by a male partner who doesn’t like them hanging out (creating) with other men. The support and encouragement that I have received from Ladies of Rage is phenomenal. I feel like I can be me, try out anything without judgement, and perhaps most importantly – I can turn up to perform at a gig and know that I will have a posse of LOR in the audience and on stage with me.

Roll on a time when we can all do this again xxx

When I started painting I didn’t take photos. I did it for fun, to get a buzz, to spend time with friends. I’ve just done my first piece which was planned around taking a photo of it. I’ve wanted to try this effect for a while but put it off – you gotta try things before judging them but it confirmed what I suspected – It wasn’t as much fun creating through a lens.

unity

floating free?

My introduction to Instagram was through painting with Sofly – she kept checking her phone between painting, to see who had commented/liked her images. She told me I should get on there. People kept asking me what my Insta handle was. So I set up an account.

Insta has opened my eyes to a whole new world – it got me into exploring abandoned buildings, checking out different typography and painting effects, and I have linked with loads of people who aren’t on Facebook. In my early days of Insta though, I was around people who looked down on those with less followers, and I found this online popularity contest fairly disturbing. Recently, I’ve had to check myself for looking to see how many followers other ppl have and comparing my own number. Why???

Most of my painting related work is through word of mouth, and the most fulfilling feedback is face to face when somebody tells me they have seen a piece in real life. Particularly if that piece was in another city, or if it has impacted on somebody’s state of mind. Instagram broadens this feedback out though, and it is nice when somebody posts a picture of your piece as you know it has caught their eye. It’s made the world smaller, and the ability to link back like this is a new way of connecting with people.

I recently joined somebody’s ‘live’ on Instagram for the first time – good in these times of social distancing, but no kind of replacement for being together in real life. This format doesn’t bother some ppl, but I wonder whether being judged on appearance and the fear of negative comments is what puts me off. Filters are a way for some people to hide but this just adds to the weirdness of it all. I’d be interested to know what other people think about this, and whether the attitudes of men and womxn are different…

During this time of ‘lockdown’ I’ve not engaged with the online gig world yet, as my whole reason for performing lyrics is to connect with others. In fact much of who I am is based around connecting with others in real life, and encouraging people to do the same so this situation has whumped me sideways. I’m interested to see how my thinking towards ‘living life with a screen between’ changes over the next few weeks/months/years…

For many of the people I know who write graffiti, it’s a life-line. When I see somebody is painting I know they’re okay. Sometimes if a writer is painting prolifically, I have an inkling that maybe they are not okay.

I’m hoping to find out more about ‘art on prescription’, trying to be open minded but with a nagging feeling that it won’t include our artform because it wouldn’t fit into the ‘mould’ that is often put on arts projects.

My hope is to influence policy so that people could be prescribed paint cans, and that Cardiff Council might one day follow through on their promise (made over two years ago) to include a tick-box on all forms for contractors erecting hoarding in Cardiff, to give permission for artists to paint the hoarding.

I am massively grateful to Matt Wakelam (Cardiff Council) for always supporting what I’m trying to do in our city – without people like him and Councillor Sarah Merry in positions of power, it would be much harder to make change. I am trying to remain hopeful that more and more people will see the benefits of adding colour to our concrete city, and understand the wider impact that this can have on the lives of those who make their mark with a spraycan.

It’s important to get out and do something that makes you happy, something that allows your brain to switch off from everything for a while. Clear space to process your thoughts and de-clutter from all the negativity that can start to seep in through the cracks in our fragile state. In the process of doing this, if you are creating art or music, don’t forget that what you actually create could bring a glimmer of joy or understanding to somebody else’s life too.

 

I was asked to paint a Cuban themed mural including portraits of both Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. I already had some knowledge about Guevara, from reading and watching the film of the Motorcycle diaries, which I loved. The diaries of his travels through South America in 1952 as a 23 year-old medical student captured not only the country, but his shift towards becoming the iconic revolutionary regularly pasted on t-shirts and posters today.

Castro, the Cuban nationalist, paired up with ‘El Che’ when they met in 1955, and the two immediately clicked through a shared optimism. They went on to lead a guerilla army, toppling the Batista dictatorship in the Cuban revolution.

photo: @fuzzylogic75 (instagram)

‘Stop whining and fight’

The close friendship between Castro and Guevara took many twists and turns, eventually turning sour.

Arnold worked on the mural with me, putting up a Locos piece in the centre of the two men’s portraits.

In researching for the piece I wondered ‘but what about the women?’. Che was married twice, first to Hilda Gadea – Peruvian economist, Communist leader, author and mother of his daughter Hilda Beatriz “Hildita” Guevara Gadea. His second wife and mother of four children was active in the urban underground movement, and first met Che during the revolutionary war in Cuba. Fidel Castro had relationships with a number of women, resulting in at least ten children. Much of his private life was censored by state media.

photo: @sheweararmani (instagram)

When a girl reaches 15 in Cuba, her ‘quinceanera’ is a sacred rite of passage. An elaborate, expensive affair where the girl dresses up for photoshoots and a party. Outfits often involve lace – trims, gloves, ruffles, fans and resemble wedding dresses or ballgowns.

Lace patterns pull the piece together.

Welsh graffiti writers have been getting up since the early 80’s, when films like Wildstyle and Style Wars were finding their way into the UK’s video players. Henry Chalfant’s Subway Art and Spraycan Art, as well as original photographs of New York trains and Homemade zines provided inspiration for young Welsh artists.

Trefforest Industrial Estate, Webbs timber yard in Rhydyfelin, the old Nelson’s garage in Swansea and walls in St. Mellons, Cardiff all became playgrounds for youngsters with spray cans, including an 11-year-old Skroe. Skroe noticed Coma written on the wall in St. Mellons, and eventually realised it was his uncle!

Cardiff busses, trains, the Valley line and mainline tracks were also hit hard, with names like Jesus, RonOne, Eaze and Cam attracting the attention of budding writers. Over is the only writer still active from the early 80’s in Swansea, and he remembers seeing FINA (Funky Individual No1 Artist) and Coma up on the Cardiff lines. Resh started painting in Swansea and is still active now on the streets of Cardiff. Unfortunately there are not many photos left from the early days of Welsh graffiti as ‘Operation Anderson’ in 1989 meant that police confiscated them.

Writers eventually started walking the tracks again and there was a resurgence of graffiti in the late nineties with crews such as IAU, B52 and HSG forming. Skroe, Hoxe and Rmer became Cruel Vapours a few years later. Cardiff’s first legal Halls of Fame were springing up in Hailey Park, Richmond Road and Elm Street, and RonOne started selling paint as Oner Signs (est. 1996), which has become a central meeting point for writers. Inkspot was the first shop in Cardiff to sell Buntlak, when RonOne was working in a sign company on Clifton Street nearby. Sadsak remembers seeing RonOne’s pieces in Webbs timber yard and bought his first paint from Oner Signs.

Ceres got into graffiti after noticing various Rmer pieces around the city. He painted his first train in 1999 after stumbling across Canton train yard by accident while track walking with Best. He vowed to return to paint it, which started a love affair with painting trains all over the world, that hasn’t faltered even after various arrests and jail terms.

Best went on to set up Peaceful Progress, and the Boiler House, Cardiff, which has held exhibitions and events since 2010, supporting writers to sell their work on canvas, making that crossover into graffiti as ‘art’.

Compass Point festival and the Oner rooftop jams provided opportunities for writers to come together. In 2007, a young writer, Roxe, sadly passed away. His family used £400 from a collection taken at the church service to set up the infamous Roxe jam, which took place in Sevenoaks park. The jam was self-funded, with up and coming writers News, Karm, Rens and others working together to make it happen. In 2008 Arts Council funding, along with sponsored bike rides etc. meant the jam could also include dancers and music. Another writer who passed away young was Gorf – his piece from the 2009 Roxe Jam still remains, with people painting around it rather than over it.

More recently, the Millenium Walkway has provided a central space for events, and some of my previous blogs document the process of saving it from being sold for advertising. The Hold Up have provided a soundtrack for many jams over recent years, giving a platform to up and coming MC’s and DJ’s. Writers don’t all have a strictly Hiphop musical taste however – many early writers were hippies, into rock and house music. By the 80’s though, the link was made with bboying and rap, and graff became more known for being under the Hiphop umbrella.

 

This is a work in progress. If you have more information to add, or suggestions of people to contact, please drop me a line. Thank you for reading!

Thank you to all those who have contributed so far: Peaceful Progress, Oner Signs, Sadsak, Resh, Ceres, Skroe, Over, Enta and Sion Kisby.

This was the question put as a conversation starter for the first of a series of ‘What’s up with Hip Hop’ discussions as part of the Festival Of Voice.

9th June 2018

As with anything in Cardiff Hip Hop, there was apparently a ‘hoo-haa’ in advance of the event, because either people mis-read the original promo, or they felt that the panel should have been different. Unfortunately, I think this meant that some people that would have benefitted from being there, weren’t there. I have to say massive props to Dregz for arranging this, and for providing an extremely important space for people to have this reflective discussion. If we can’t reflect on our scene, how can we progress in a productive way?

The ‘panel’ was there as a snapshot of Cardiff’s Hip Hop community (because yes, of course we have one). The discussion was open to everyone there, and not focussed on the panel. Cookie Pryce of the legendary Cookie Crew, was there as our host and her insight as an outsider to our scene, as well as her knowledge of wider Hip Hop culture added an extra depth to the discussion.

It was great to see so many faces in the room, everyone with different experiences and backgrounds and I particularly valued the contributions from Oort Kuiper and Asha Jane.

There was a lot of discussion about social media, and about promotion/promotors. Social media can work in our favour but it has also fragmented things – when I first started breakin’ there was one website to find out about all events across the UK. Now everyone has their own event page on facebook, and people often miss out on things if they aren’t in the loop. I also find, as some others in the room did, that social media can put an unwanted pressure on us to ‘do’ social media posts etc. taking away from the joy of being together and creating. I would say though, that everyone I knew in that room was not via the internet – I’d seen them perform or attended gigs and events with them. The process of getting to know and meet somebody has been speeded up with Instagram and Twitter, but physical interaction is what cements relationships.

There was discussion about promotors needing to work more closely together to ensure that they don’t clash. We can’t support everything, but if we support each other, including sharing events on social media, rather than only driving forward our own brand/agenda then we all benefit.

Dan made an interesting point when he said something along the lines of letting go of Hip Hop. Now I’m not going to do that but it has definitely changed from what it once was and I understand what he’s getting at. I would add to Jaffa’s explanation of Hip Hop purists recognising experimentation, play and mistakes as being the basis of the culture, to say that for me community is also the essence of what it’s all about. People like Rufus Mufasa are leading the way, smashing boundaries at Hay Literature Festival and drawing in new audiences across Wales. In our pre-discussion preparation there was quite an intense conversation about what we actually mean by Hip Hop, and this is perhaps a question for a future debate.

Including younger people in these discussions was raised a couple of times, and this is something which we all need to be mindful of. There were young(er) people in the room, but the very nature of a formal discussion is not inclusive, so we need to be taking this conversation out with us. Myself and Magugu were speaking on our way up to the room about the change in the younger generation, whereby they are creating music at home, but not putting on events to share their music. This is a complex situation, which also feeds into the discussion about social media, which is the norm for young people now. It is vital that we support new artists coming through, in whatever way they want us to.

There is a disconnect between the elements of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop community as a whole. Many of our Bboys only train for fitness or to battle, rather than to party or exchange. Graffiti writers aren’t necessarily into Hip Hop music. Is this necessarily a bad thing? I don’t think so, but if people want to be a part of a wider community, which some of them do, then we need to make sure that we’re open and inclusive, and people that want to be a part of this conversation need to make themselves known.

Some events coming up:

June 15th: Four Owls/Three Wise Men/ Jaffa & more, Cardiff
June 15th: Voices on the Bridge, Pontypridd, feat. Rufus Mufasa & Unity
June 23rd: Rhythmically Applied – Mr Woodnote/Skunkadelic/Rap Battle
Last Saturday of every month – The Hold Up Open Cypher  at Oner Signs.
June 30th: Hip Hop festival at Cinema & Co, Swansea including a showing of Style Wars.
First Thursday of every month – The Smooth Guide curated by DJ Veto
July 7th: Sure Shot – Analog Africa
July 12/13th: Blue Scar Hip Hop theatre
July 14th: Graffiti jam in Sevenoaks Park from 2pm
Local Produce – @bluehoneynightcafe on facebook
Rap battles – Pryme Cut Ent

Radio Cardiff:
Sunday afternoons: Boodikah’s Basement
Tuesday nights: The Rapture
This, that & 3rd