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‘Pirate Mentality’ Documents the Beating Heart of Black British Youth Culture

'Pirate Mentality,' a new two-part documentary about how pirate radio put grime on the map,

Pirate Mentality is a two-part documentary presented and produced by Frisco, a prominent member of the Boy Better Know collective which includes Skepta and his brother JME amongst others, and whose own latest album System Killer was released in April of last year.


Frisco’s idea for the doc was to recreate a pirate radio set at the old Rhythm Division address, once a spiritual home (which has since been gentrified), and to do so, he enlists Risky Roadz, a pioneer of grime DVD series and now a black cab driver.

Together, he and Frisco brought together a kaleidoscope of MCs that includes President T, Elf-Kid, Jamal Edwards, the founder of SB,  Jamakabi, Devlin, Nasty Jack, Mak Ten, DJ Sharky Major, Saf.One, Teddy Music, So Large, Deadly, Skepta, Ghetts and Chip.

Held at what is now called Zealand Coffee on Roman Road in East London, the old Rhythm Division previously hosted open mic cyphers—a crucible that served as a haven for upstarts out to prove their mettle.

MCs passing a mic amongst each other as they rhyme is nothing out of the ordinary,  yet the ciphers are absolutely bewitching to watch. As if to further tighten the already tight focus required for the art of MCing, a camera purposefully attached to the base of the mic, captures everything from the MC’s faces to their nostrils, and heightens the intensity.

The is reenactment as distillation—or simply re-distillation—which should make for a purer form.

“Grime wasn't meant to have its time... until now” said Frisco, “a lot of people didn't understand the British culture: the way we speak, the way we dress, you get what I am saying, the music we make."

He's referring specifically to black British youth culture, vibrant and innovative, and a true show of musical genius that is often reduced to simply being from the Isles by larger, dominant populations.

Being invited to spit on pirate radio stations was once like being drafted into a higher league, “when you're young, it felt like you'd made it” said Tinchy Stryder, “It was wrong but not illegal." He goes on to tell of how he once got bitten by a dog while on the mic only to resume his set, after treatment, undeterred by pain or risk of infection.

Kano, one of the most versatile and articulate MCs I've heard, whose album Made In The Manor garnered a Mercury  Awards nomination (which Skepta’s Konnichiwa eventually won), insists “I never went a day without writing lyrics... everyday in a yellow rough book, lyrics lyrics lyrics... trying to get a wheel up."

Ghetts, of the trademark whirlwind and impassioned delivery which could scare the uninitiated, recalls the nights he spent listening to Heartless Crew on pirate radio and appears convinced that he wouldn't be the MC he is today without them. He'll be performing the entirety of his seminal 2014 album Ghetto Gospel as part of In The Round at Roundhouse in London come January 30.

Frisco and Risky Roadz go even further back to the earliest days of grime by interviewing Geeneus who, twenty-two years ago, founded Rinse FM, the first pirate radio station and from whom we learn (or are reminded) of the first crews to dominated the scene (Pay As You Go, Heartless Crew and So Solid), and the maneuvering that went into broadcasting from an illegal radio station in the mid-90s.

Rather than revel in grime’s new-found reach—due, in part, to very helpful co-signs from artists like Drake—the aim of the set at Roman Road, and the documentary as a whole, is to boil the genre down to its essence: the faithful triumvirate of a “deck, mixer, mic.”

Chip, whose Power Up EP was released in August of last year, came close to dismissing his own hits, when he affirmed his belief in the elementalism of Frisco’s project by adding “no Every Girl, no Champion, Oopsy Daisy. Decks, mixer, mic, go."

As you were, Chip.

Watch Pirate Mentality in its entirety via UK's Channel 4.

Sabo Kpade is an Associate Writer with Spread The Word. His short story Chibok was shortlisted for the London Short Story Prize 2015. His first play, Have Mercy on Liverpool Street was longlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award. He lives in London.

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Janet Jackson Returns With Afrobeats-Inspired Song & Video 'Made For Now' Featuring Daddy Yankee

The icon's latest is a nod to the sound, fashion and culture of the diaspora.

Ms. Jackson is back.

The iconic artist returns with her first single since the release of her 2015 album Unbreakable, and it's a timely nod to the "made for now" influence of afrobeats fashion, sound and culture.

On "Made For Now," which features Puerto Rican reggaeton titan Daddy Yankee, Janet Jackson does what she's done successfully so many times throughout her decades-long career: provide an infectious, party-worthy tune that's fun and undeniably easy to dance to. "If you're living for the moment, don't stop," Jackson sings atop production which fuses dancehall, reggaeton and afrobeats.

The New York-shot music video is just as lively, filled with eye-catching diasporic influences, from the wax-print ensembles and beads both Janet and her dancers wear to the choreographed afrobeats-tinged dance numbers, even hitting the Shoki at one point in the video. The train of dancers travel throughout the streets of Brooklyn, taking over apartment buildings and rooftops with spirited moves.

It's obvious that Jackson has been studying and drawing inspiration from the culture for some time now. She even hit the Akwaaba dance, popularized by Mr Eazi, during her Icon Award performance at this year's Billboard Music Awards.

The bouncing video, directed by Dave Meyers, features contributions from a number of creatives from Africa and the diaspora who were involved in the creation of the video, including designer Claude Lavie Kameni and choreographer Omari Mizrahi. Ghanaian health guru, Coach Cass pointed out some of the many dancers involved in the production on Instagram, who hail from Ghana, Nigeria, Trinidad, Grenada and the US.

Ahead of the video's release, it garnered attention on social media when Jackson was spotted filming in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, wearing what many thought was a questionable fashion ensemble. The outfit in question only makes a small appearance in the video, and we're glad to see that Janet's other looks appear, at least slightly, more coordinated.

Watch the music video for "Made for Now" below. The singer is set to perform the song with Daddy Yankee live for the first time tonight on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, so be ready!

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You Need to Hear Juls' New Single 'Saa Ara'


New hip-hop and highlife grooves from the celebrated UK-based Ghanaian producer.

By merging the diverse influence of growing up in Accra and East London, Juls has managed to cultivate a hybrid afrobeats style that has set him apart from the rest.

For his latest single, "Saa Ara," he teams up with award-winning rapper Kwesi Arthur and gifted lyricist Akan.

The brilliant fusion of vintage highlife instrumentals and booming hip-hop beats, along with Kwesi Arthur's lively chorus and Akan's fiery delivery gives the song a very spiritual and classical feel.

Soothe your soul this weekend with these tasteful sounds from Juls.

Listen to "Saa Ara" by Juls featuring Kwesi Arthur and Akan below.

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News Brief

FIFA Refuses To Meet with Nigeria's Sports Minister as Ghana Takes Steps to Avoid Ban

This could jeopardize Nigeria's qualifier against Seychelles in September, while the Ghanaian government has pledged not to dissolve its football association.

In lieu of the ultimatums Nigeria and Ghana's football associations faced from FIFA, one country is on its way to dodge the threat of being banned, while the other is not going down without a fight.

FIFA has refused a proposed meeting with Nigeria's sports minister, Solomon Dalung, to discuss problems in the country's football federation, BBC Sport reports. They say their leadership and the FIFA president is unwilling to meet during the proposed time period.

FIFA is giving the NFF until August 20 for Chris Giwa, who was acknowledged by the courts as the president of the federation, to leave the NFF offices.

Giwa's lawyer Ardzard Habilla asserts that FIFA can't ban Nigeria as the federation's issues need to be sorted out internally by the country's judiciary.

Habilla questions, "Do we take it that FIFA laws are superior to the judgment of the highest court in our land—the Supreme Court, and has FIFA elevated itself before the constitution of Nigeria?"

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