Lyrically Challenged

  • 20150227125132_hannahstarkeyportrait2014originalfile History is Now
    At London’s Southbank Centre, the exhibition History is Now: 7 Artists Take on B…

Maryam Violet

3 June 2014

Alternative Hip Hop Battle in London


“… I just want to be happy, Is that a crime?” As the audience applause, the young poet hands her mic back and walks off the stage. And thus, these spoken word events in the upstairs bar of Passing Clouds concert venue become the launching pad for the politically conscious hip hop movement, Lyrically Challenged. Founded four years ago by MC Angel, a young, bombastic woman who saw the glaring contradictions between mainstream rap and the lives of die hard hip hop fans, Lyrically Challenged is aiming to resurrect the true essence of community. At the 4th year anniversary show held at Passing Clouds in the Dalston area of London, hip hop artists ranging from beat-boxers, old school DJs who actually know their way around turntables, break dancers, poets, singers and storytellers, MC Angel speaks about her inspiration to challenge a capitalist system that has co-opted the art form that was once the voice of the oppressed. “Tonight we’ve got an hour long ensemble show of all different rappers doing one song each, ‘cos the idea is, one in mind, many bodies.”

Rightly so, as the massive crowd that has gathered for the event bumps their heads in unison with raised fists of defiance to the messages of empowerment and political consciousness, MC Angel has been on her grind. Head down and hood up. she has thus far produced forty shows in three years and partnered with rapper Shay D last year to expand her team. Lyrically Challenged showcases and produce music videos for artists who identify as women, queer, trans, poor, of color, and/or marginalised by the lyrical content of their songs that challenge the tried and tired mold of money, cash and hoes. As the emcees drop their bars over original beats and familiar hits like 50 Cent and Mobb Deep’s “Outta Control” or Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s eponymous banger “Still D.R.E”, one thing stays true about this art form. That despite all the attempts of ripping up the fabric of low income and racialised communities by poisoning our airwaves with images of rabid consumerism, it will always, and forever remain the battle cry of the underdog. As MC Angel put it, “The message is unity, the message is oneness.” Indeed.