Since this article was originally written (based on interviews and articles by other people) I have spoken to/emailed/interviewed Sparkii, Dobie, No Sleep Nigel, Erroll Bull, DJ Devastate and MC Mell'O'. Thank you all for your time and patience in answering my questions and taking time out of your days to get back to me. Nuff respect due. Sparks – you started it all off. Thanks man.
The major (online) sources are listed at the end. I've tried to be as accurate as I can, but if there's anything glaringly obvious that I've missed or got twisted, let me know. Massive props to the various writers for Hip Hop Connection, whose back issues I have pillaged for a lot of the interviews with Rodney P and Bionic at various stages of their career, and Mark 563 for some of the article scans.
NOTE 1: I've marked internet sources for interviews with a hyperlinked "i" after each extract I've taken so the sources themselves get more traffic as a result of this page. MAD props to you if I've used your article, interview or personal recollection as a source - thank you for your effort and for posting it up on the net. I hope this blog brings more people to your site. Let me know (in the comments section) if anything needs adjusting.
NOTE 2: I've taken the liberty of breaking it into three parts to make it easier for you to read. When you get to the end of one section, click on the hyperlink in order to move to the next section.
Part 1 - 1985-1988 is HERE.
Part 2 - 1989-1992 is HERE.
Part 3 - 1992-1996: you are here.
Rodney P - London Posse MC
Bionic - London Posse MC
Sparkii - Producer
Dobie - Producer
DJ Devastate - DJ / Producer
Erroll 'Bull' Samuel - Manager / Promoter
DJ Biznizz - DJ
LADIES LOVE ROUGHNECKS
The period 1992-1994 saw the Posse recording tracks for a new album. This involved hitting up old friends and collaborators for beats, and seeing what worked and what didn't.
Devastate: "After working on Gangster Chronicle I developed a friendship with London Posse. Both of them would come down to my house and I would play them beats in my bedroom. Rodney in particular has a hell of a lot of my early beat tapes and if still has them... he's got some gems. He's still got some of my records, too!"
Dobie: "They used to come to me for beats. They'd come up to my crib and that, and I'd be playing them beats. They wanted to do a new record and they were like "Yeah, you got any beats?" I was like "Well, I got this," and they were on it."
^ HHC's mocked up "Ladies Love Roughnecks" cover
According to Junior Disprol of Dead Rez - who claims to have seen a trade ad for the second album in the early 90s - the second album was going to be called "Ladies Love Roughnecks".
Dobie: "The plan was to do a London Posse second album. They were recording with all kinds of people. they did stuff with Richard Russell who was the guy that runs XL... they were doing stuff with different people. They did stuff with Billy Biznizz, the PD3 stuff."
Devastate also confirms the second album as a reality, as he was also recording with the duo at the time: "I did quite a few joints with them that didn't come out. I think they may have been intended for the second LP."
Rodney: “There is a follow up album that we made ourselves. There's excessive amounts of London Posse tunes that have never been heard. They need to be weeded through and the gems picked out.”
Dobie: “There's a tune called 'Black Skinned Boys' (aka 'Roughnecks') which we were meant to do. I think I've got that sitting on a DAT somewhere. We was doing that track at Monroe's, but that was when things were getting a bit.... well, there were mad arguments in the studio and stuff like that."
Rodney: "We recorded 'Roughnecks' in Soul II Soul's studio in Camden."
Dobie: "That was one thing I did with them that never got released, but it never got finished! ...Actually, I should dig that DAT out.” (Note: Dobie did indeed dig the DAT out - this has been released on the 2013 version of Gangster Chronicle as 'Roughnecks'.)
Devastate: “Brian B and Steve G, the Twilight Firm, had a recording studio in Edmonton, North London. The studio was called Head Top House. We recorded quite a few joints with London Posse. One track that stands out was a track called 'Gangster Yoots'. I chopped up the Donald Byrd track 'Dominoes', that track was ill! Rodney loved it. I swear it would have blown up if it had come out. There was another track where I used Loose Ends, 'Hangin On A String', that was also bad. I did quite a few joints with them that didn't come out. I think they may have been intended for the second LP.”
For whatever reason, internally the London Posse didn't manage to make what they felt were enough completed tracks for a full second album. Maybe it was the constant strive for perfection (as seen in their previous habits of repeatedly re-recording vocals in the studio); certainly the constant day to day running of Bullet Records prevented them from focusing the same way they did on “Gangster Chronicle”.
Rodney: “We stepped out from being kids signed to a label to running a label. We don't really know what we're doing. We'd never had a video. It wasn't until we set up our label that we had a video. We'd never been out on MTV, all kinda things that we didn't get to do until we started doing it for ourselves, but it got really hard. So we was getting money in, and we were going out, and we were making an album but then we got to get the records out, we've got to promote them, we've got to find more money to make another video. It just got ridiculous and it didn't really stop, (so the second album) just kinda petered out.”
At the time, the duo kept positive.
Bionic: “True the majors ain't backing us, is like we say we just have to do it ourself... If they want to pick us up after that then they can pick us up. If them nah pick us up we just a big up ourselves, and make more money and more money til we run tings, y'understand? Ya have to start from scratch, and just do way we are do, just do the work.”
Rodney: "A lot of it I’m glad didn’t come out because it wasn’t up to the standard we set for ourselves. Them days were different days, different tings was gwarnin. Life was overtaking the music ting. I mean, UK rap ain’t always pay and we gotta eat so man was more concerned with eating than rapping. There’s a lot of quality tunes that didn’t come out. And part of it was because of the music industry struggle."
Some of these tracks have now seen the light of day - the 2013 Tru Thoughts reissue of Gangster Chronicle features five previously unreleased tracks - “Future No. 1” and “London Massive” (credited as 'produced by London Posse'), “Diamonds Are Forever” (produced by Billy Biznizz), “Roughnecks” (aka 'Black-Skinned Boys', produced by Dobie) and “London Stylee” (re-rpdocued by Hint, taken from an older acapella track). They all seem slightly raw, and were “found on master tapes and DATs and remastered” for the reissue. They are great to listen to; 17 years after the group's final release, it is fascinating to hear the tracks that could have made up part of a second album, unfinished or not.
Future No. 1 (edit)
'Future No. 1' is an interesting recording – instead of the fluid interplay between Rodney and Bionic, the verses are individual, 8 bars each and separated by a long chorus each time – six 8 bar verses instead of three 16 bar verses. (You can hear a re-edited version of this track in the video above.) The origins of the track aren't too clear - it's easy to guess that it dates from 1993-4 or thereabouts, as the use of time-stretching and the style of beat would fit that era, but even Rodney doesn't know much about it.
Rodney: "Believe it or not, we don't know who produced Future No. 1, we found it on a two-inch reel."
'London Massive' is a double time track over a lush Isaac Hayes interpolation / sample that sounds as if it was from the later years, with Bionic chatting in a flow that sounds similar to the flows used on the material he recorded with Tricky in the late 90s.
Rodney: "Bionic shows off his Jungle MC style... and smashes it."
Billy Biznizz's track 'Diamonds Are Forever', utilising a heavy hitting Buddy Miles Express sample, features one of the verses from the infamous Westwood freestyle from 92 (more on that in a while) and has much more conscious subject matter. Bionic's first verse outlines a summarised version of black history, and the track takes its name from Bionic's final verse (heard on Westwood) “so have a heart, join the club, cos spades are like diamonds, and diamonds are forever, G”.
Dobie's track ''Roughnecks' aka "Black-Skinned Boys" features Bionic chatting reggae-style for the chorus with a melodic female vocal.
Dobie: "It was a cool track. I looped up "Friends" by Whodini, the first part, and we had "Mysterious Vibes" running over the top by The Blackbyrds."
Dobie's lush, sample-based production style gives a warm and full feel to the track, recorded in 93 at Monroe's. Rodney's verse is an updated version of one of the Westwood freestyle verses from 92.
Rodney: "We tested out them lyrics on the Capital Rap Show with Westwood."
“Rodney P, yeah I love it like that /
I like punash when it's fat and hitting skins from the back /
Honeys hold me but they know they ain't having me /
I love to hurt a flirt with the work and the agony /
When I come I bring niceness /
I'm telling sexy young slimmies 'Hey, your titties look nice miss /
I like a honey I can step to /
So black girls biggup becau' nuff respect due...”
Bionic comes with some hard reggae chatting on the chorus, going back to his fluid hip hop MCing style in the verse.
“When I kick a few wise words and that /
I'm fly like a bird in the sky like Virgin At- /
Lantic, making fly girls frantic, clocking /
Big-batty Ann cos I like them gyal thick /
And when they want it Bionic'll jump on it /
Cos I hafta make her puff and pant like she's got chronic /
Asthma like Pat, I jacked her in a Mazda /
But she was a slapper so I dashed her for Sasha...”
It's a classic, and it's a great shame it was never finished or officially released back in the Posse's heyday. It would have been the title track for the second LP, had it ever been released.
Rodney: "'Roughnecks' was originally called 'Ladies Love Roughnecks', because they do!"
'London Stylee' dates from earlier than the others – stylistically it seems closer to their Gangster Chronicle style than an early 90s flow. Their interactions are constant and there are punch-ins of samples from “Money Mad”, much like the album's “Money Mad Remix”.
Rodney: "Biggup Hint. We sent him the 'London Stylee' acapella and he sent us back a wicked tune!"
Hint's production sounds reminiscent of "Money Mad" AND "How's Life In London", which is an intriguing mix bearing in mind the difference in time between the two tracks. It would be interesting to see what the original track sounded like for comparison.
There are other tracks from the various London Posse recording sessions that took place post-Mango deal, such as the safe-sex track produced by Billy Biznizz called 'Ruffneck Tip', apparently released on a promo cassette in the early 90s, and the tracks recorded with Devastate as mentioned above, but so far these haven't surfaced officially.
However, as time passed, the funds ran dry, and any money Bionic and Rodney received for their previous work was ploughed back into Bullett Records.
Rodney clarifies: "We got money from a publishing deal, but we didn't get to use any of it ourselves! It was all straight back in to the label. We'd got an album but we couldn't afford to put it out."
Whatever the reason for the second album not emerging, the quality of singles released over the period 93-96 showed what a massively high standard it could have reached. The main producers earmarked for production for the album – aside from the Posse themselves – would have been Billy Biznizz and Dobie, and according to Rodney there weren't going to be many guest vocal spots, although there were rumours of a planned posse cut (this never emerged).
The style of beats used for these tracks differs quite greatly from the London Posse that we know from the period 87-91, with much heavier sounding, fuller beats, less sparse than the dancehall / reggae inspired tone of tracks like "Money Mad" or the open sample-based "Original London Style". It's interesting to wonder whether how much of this style would have made up the second album.
The 1992 Tim Westwood Freestyle
The London Posse's output in 1992 can't be discussed without mentioning one of their most famous appearances. In between “Jump Around”, their last single on Mango Records and their first release on Bullett, Rodney and Bionic appeared on Westwood's Capital Rap Show in 92 with Billy Biznizz DJing for the session. This was one of their best performances, and still echoes in the memories of those who heard it, both from the UK and abroad.
The lyrical content of the freestyles is phenomenal, and endlessly quotable. Rodney and Bionic are both on top form, dropping verses over the instrumentals for Large Professor's remix of Slick Rick's "It's A Boy", Pete Rock's remix of PE's "Shut Em Down" and A Tribe Called Quest's "Check The Rhime".
The duo trade verses that would have torn up an official release at the time, ranging from street lyrics about smoking herbs to conscious raps about black unity. A couple of the routines are early versions of verses that made it to wax, but hearing them in embryonic, unedited form shows just how much crafting and refining the duo did with the rhymes.
In Rodney's second verse over the Shut Em Down remix you can hear the basis for what would become "Pass The Rizla", released the following year:
“I like big fat stinking buddha blunts /
and the flavour for this month is California skunk /
I smoke Phillies with Phyllis from Bed-Stuy /
and weed with Wanda as we travel on the red-eye /
At first I couldn't get into her /
until the brandy, the babycham and the fat spliff were in the cut /
And I was in like Flynn /
she knew my name weren't Humpty but she liked the way I swing /
When I want Buddha, I got to Cypress Hills /
For Acapulco Gold I go to Acapulco and kill /
10 green bottles and an ounce /
If you watch me when I walk you can see it in the way I bounce /
If you ain't ready G then let it be /
Cos weed'll make your head go boing like Zebedee /
At least it will if it's good /
I like weed, pure weed, no seed and no wood”
Bionic kicks some particularly scathing battle raps, taking shots at other unnamed MCs
“If it's wick wick wack most blacks are sick of that /
and most British rappers couldn't hit with a cricket bat /
if you underarm bowl slow, you can ask Pogo /
you no flow hobos, keep it low-pro, bro /
your rhymes are bullshit, ain't it time this fool quit? /
trying to use stush words, you're dry like bush herbs /
I'm more like thai sess, getting you high /
So you'd best to call me your highness, you jester /
Try and test, I'll distress ya /
Telling about how your girl ain't yet grown breasts, child molester /
So cease to believe you're hard, you chief /
Or I'mma burn your arse like shish-kebab, capisce? /
Don't front, silly c*nt, punk, I'll smoke you /
like a philly blunt of skunk cos you're bunk, believe....”
Bionic's last verse, over the "Check The Rhyme” instrumental, only made it out as part of an official release in 2013 – over 20 years after it as first recorded – on 'Diamonds Are Forever.' (see above). It is often quoted by fans as one of his best lyrics. As well as attacking France's far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, he looks at how society is changing for the worse, but how it could and should be changing for the better.
“Crack for the fool, your desire for that light ting /
Is adding more fuel to the fire of the right wing /
Tu con pre mon frere, how can you be the banner /
With battyman voting Klan in Louisiana /
We kill each other helping motherfuckers easily plan and /
enter the nubian man helping Afrikaaners use our manor /
like a playground, kick a nigger, stay down /
and party for the day they say AIDS'll make brown /
people extinct, and not all pinks'll be gone /
but in a new white world, they think they'll live on /
so get bright and start tightening your buckles /
Cos it's that time to stop fighting over fuck all, buster /
Save your knuckledusters for the system that makes Aryans into racist barbarians /
Or makes a house nigger out of a black with ease /
what we need to do is rebuild like the Japanese /
and if blacks who made cash held some back for the community, I'm sure there'd be more unity /
I ain't a Muslim cos I smoke marijuana but I listen to Farrakhan cos he speaks cleverly /
So have a heart, join the club, cos spades are like diamonds, and diamonds are forever, G”
The live shows kept coming (and would do for the rest of the group's career). In an interview with Westwood on Radio One in 96, Rodney says "That's how man really make a living out of this hip hop ting, is on the road, doing shows... (we're) putting out records twice a year."
"Where do you rate most?" asks Westwood.
"All over, different day, different time" says Rodney.
"Japan and New York," says Bionic.
Japan was a particular high point for the Posse. Namechecked in "How's Life In London" (not to mention Bionic's Japanese line in the later "Funky Rhyme Funky Style"), both Bionic and Rodney showed love for the country.
Bionic: "Japan's safe."
Rodney: "Nuff the black youts want pick themselves up and go Japan and take a look man, ca' you'll see something different f'real."
Bionic: "People respect black man. Respect black man, what black man's been through."i
Sparkii: “In Japan, London Posse are considered the godfathers of hip hop reggae. They went with the original Soul II Soul tour, with the other half of our crew, the Bristol half, who were the Wild Bunch. A lot of English acts and English looking models used to go out there back in the day. They were the first to go - Jonzi D went next, with the Young Disciples. I went out on tour with Courtney Pine. They went first and kicked it off.”
The singles started emerging on Bullett Records in 1993 (Rodney: "We ain't never been a group that puts out nuff music... but when we come, we come good, that's us"). London Posse weren't the first group to release something on the label – Bullett had released one 12" already. This was "Midnight Train" / "Platform" (#BULT 1), credited to P.E.G. featuring BJ Nelson. Nelson was an established R+B singer who was most active in the 80s, recording for CBS and Warner Brothers, amongst others, and appearing on the "9 1/2 Weeks" soundtrack, as well as singing backing for Power Station and Duran Duran. However, all subsequent releases on the label would be from the London Posse, and it would eventually be their last.
HOW'S LIFE IN LONDON
The first of the Posse's powerhouse 90s releases was "How's Life In London" (#BULT 2), a 3-track EP that featured two tracks produced by Dobie: the anthemic title track (with its upbeat sampling of Babe Ruth's The Mexican and the Ohio Players' Funky Worm) and the James Brown loop-driven "How I Make Papes"; and the Billy Biznizz produced 'skeezer-baiting' "Shut The Fuck Up".
The origins of "How's Life In London" go way back to the start of the London Posse's recording career.
Bionic: "Basically, how that come about is like from time. From like, day one, London Posse started we was gonna do a London tune like this, but it just happened to come out as 'Money Mad'. Like a London earning ting. But like, we was always gonna do a London ting, like... you know, from when I was a yout and I listened to them tunes 'London Town' and tune there, y'know? Nobody never really big up London and nuff black people they're Londoner, they're England, and tings a gwarn, and... you know? Have to make the rest of the world know say black people, they are ENGLAND, y'naa mean?"
Rodney and Bionic were back on the scene. The track opens with the chimes of Big Ben, an intro from the BBC's World Service and a Marvin Gaye horn stab. Then the beat drops, an urgent and upbeat instrumental with a heavy bassline.
Dobie breaks down the genesis of the beat of this classic: "The drums for "How's Life In London" were "125th St Congress" by Weather Report. There's "Funky Worm" in there, there's a bit of "Rock Creek Park", it's a mish-mash of things."
Before the MCs come in, we get to hear their manager Errol "Bull" chatting with Dobie, Rodney and Bionic (he also appears in the video). He was a regularly visible and friendly presence in the studio: "he'd come in the studio as well and he was just like one of the lads," says Dobie. "They'd be cussing Bull, and taking the piss out of each other, that's how they were. He's on the start and the end of 'How's Life In London'. Bull was cool, he was like a big kid. It was like having your older brother in the studio."
Rodney: “This was the first thing we put out (on Bullet Records). It's quite an optimistic, upful tune. It's not no doom'n'gloom thing, cos we weren't in a doom'n'gloom. It was a good time, definitely. It's about how we raved, how we dressed. We was dressing Burberry, and, you know, we always used to go to Beat Freak. And at the time everything was all so American, so we thought 'We rave! We've got a history! We've got deejays from the old school!' and we took that angle. Plus as well, we'd thought about making a tune that was accessible – we didn't want to make an angry rap tune. The patterns on the lyrics are a lot more catchy, a lot more easy to listen to, a lot more easy to learn, and that was on purpose.”
Even though the idea for the track had been around for years, the recording of the track was quick.
Dobie: "'How's Life In London' was done in a day. That's how we used to work - one day we'd record it all, the next day it'd be mixed. They might want me to move certain sections about in the arragement, they might want the drop like this at this point or whatever, but that was cool. Get the arrangement down, get it to tape, then mix the next day if the studio was empty. When you're working with people of that calibre, that's how fast it is."
Opening shot from the 'How's Life In London' video
Dobie found recording with the Posse an easy task: "They were generally on it. They'd be in the studio, and man would drinking their Guinness or dragon stout, burning their herbs, and man would be there just writing. Everyone would just be travelling on the red eye vibe and busting jokes and taking the piss out of each other."
The duo kept some old habits from the recording sessions with Sparkii - namely, writing or finishing lyrics in the studio. This was never a problem, however.
Dobie: "Most MCs don't prepare before they go in the studio. An MC would come and check me, I'd give them the beat, they'd go off and write to the beat, then I'd be "Yo, you ready to go studio?" and they'd be like "yep." We'd go studio and the MC wasn't even ready, don't know his or her lyrics or ain't written them, but you don't know that till you get to the studio. So something that should take half a day or a day would end up taking three days. I got to a point with MCs where I'd be like "look, we're not going to the studio until I know you've written your lyrics and you know them." But I never had that problem with London Posse. They were the only MCs I would go in the studio with on the day, and even if they didn't have the lyrics written, I knew they'd be written there and then and they'd get recorded in that time.
"We're going studio, have you lot written your lyrics?"
"Nah, but we'll finish in studio." And I knew they would. They were on top of their game when it came to that stuff. They were the only MCs I would go in the studio with unprepared. Other MCs I wouldn't do that with, cos... "You ain't ready, this is costing someone money..." but with London Posse it was like "Come on, let's go.""
The publicity push for “How's Life In London” was designed as a reminder of what London Posse was capable of to an audience that hadn't heard any new releases from the Posse since 91, and were fiending for a new release after the legendary 92 Westwood freestyle. This was a track that grabbed attention from its opening seconds and had a video to match: there were police, robberies, crew shots and location shots around London as well as a great opening. Despite the Cockney slang, it's a track filled with hip hop quotables - and some great interplay between the two MCs, mirroring rhyme schemes and complimenting each other perfectly, as always.
A scene from the How's Life In London video
The Posse went all out in promoting the track with radio interviews and appearances, and the video was instrumental in giving them a public face to compete with international acts. (It was played on MTV and in the US, and still gets a bunch of hits on youtube.) As Bionic pointed out at the time: "We got the video soon be playing out in New York, in America and them place there, and the video's doing alright, y'naa mean so boy, from there, people get to see our faces even more out there. Then soon as we do a little tour in England, in Europe, the usual runnings, we'll fly straight out to New York, hopefully get there for the Seminar time and see wha'gwarn, naa mean?"
Dobie also produced "How I Make Papes", one of the two b-sides (with a great Phife Dawg and Sick Rick contrasting sample for the chorus), dealing with women, general depravity and bragging, in that order.
It's crammed with quotables from both MCs, Bionic's notable lines including
"me and my mates are killing it so much every time I come out with hip hop / that you have to Dial M For Murder like Alfred Hitchcock" and "Coolin in Havana smoking Cuban marijuana / playing hide the salami as I ride the punani"
Rodney comes with some cracking lines too: "Rodney P coming straight from London City / If I see a girl that's pretty I'll Bang Bang her like Chitty Chitty" and "Back in the days I used to jack man for nuggets / But nowadays it's strictly jacking beats and making ducats".
The way the two MCs ride the James Brown loop (from "The Payback") is classic, and it's an underrated track in the London Posse discography, only available on this 12".
Rodney: "It's a hip hop tune for the hip hop kids... how I make papes is how I make money, y'know that, and this is how I do that. Let off the boom lyrics on the fat hip hop beats, y'know?"
After the previous year's storming Westwood Freestyle session, Billy Biznizz reappeared with the Posse to produce the other b-side, "Shut The Fuck Up", with a cracking Tim Dog sample taken straight off "Fuck Compton". Sonically, the track was more like the vibes you'd expect from London Posse, with a sub-bass, some horn samples and a similar 'clattering' solid drum pattern to Money Mad, but the track addressed the sort of singer who'd go "in the back of the Benz for the new tune, new deal / she's getting fucked for a 48 track and a reel to reel". Over the course of the track, the duo namecheck the mysterious "Vanessa, Karen and Paula / cos none of them can sing and need to break for the border". ...or maybe, with hindsight, they aren't so mysterious.
The lyrics seem more relevant now than ever, as ever delivered with the interplay that made the most of both MCs' contrasting styles:
Bionic: You got a big butt, and titties like watermelons / and see 'em as good assets so you thought you'd sell em / to any Tom, Dick
Rodney: or Julio
Bionic: so you could cut a tune quick
Rodney: in a studio...
Shut The Fuck Up had been heard before at live performances, but not released: this savage look at the "slappers, the slappers who'll do anything to get to the top" as Bionic put it was a definite crowd pleaser. But who was it about? "It could be nuff girls," said Rodney, "cos there's NUFF little hookers making records... I know who I met, (Bionic) knows who he met... if the cap fits...." "If you hear it, you know it's you!" answered Bionic.
There's a direct Madonna diss, with an unnamed female vocalist singing “Like A Virgin” out of key, backed with a chorus of booing from a group of men, but this has been edited out of the 2013 version (copyright issues maybe?).
Rodney: "I think we offended a few people with 'Shut The Fuck Up' but it's even more relevant now."
The reason for releasing this classic 3-track EP? In an interview in February 1993 on Kiss FM with Max and Dave, Bionic said "the reason it was an EP is cos we haven't a tune out for so long, and we wanna give the people dem their money's worth. The youts they're waiting for a new tune, but like... the single, is like... a SINGLE. Like the hip hop tune now, a little bit more hardcore, then the real London Posse tune, there y'are, hip hop reggae, y'naa mean? That's how it's dropping."
Rodney: "What we done, when we was putting together the EP we were like, well, gwarn, mix and blend the flavours a bit, y'know?"
A limited 12" remix of "How's Life In London" (credited as the 'Ragga Mix' - #BUL R2, but now known as the 'Bogle Mix') appeared a couple of months later with alternate lyrics. The 12'' came with an A4 black and white pullout of Rodney and Bionic standing with two 'policemen', smoking. (Note: the "policemen" are actually the actors who were the policemen in the original “How's Life In London” video.)
Produced by Dobie and Aswad's Tony Gad, it was a change in pace from the hip-hop-heavy original version, and closer to the older style of track that London Posse had put out, almost like a tip of the cap to their 80s sound.
Bull: “The 'How's Life In London Remix' and all that, that was through people that I knew.”
Dobie: "The remix of "How's Life In London" came about because Bull and the guys are like "Yeah, we wanna do like a bogle rub." I'm like "Cool." Bull was down with Aswad. He was road manager for Aswad back in the day so he got me together with Tony Gadd from Aswad, the keyboard player. He was like "I'm going to link you with Tony." I already had the riddim, the beat, and he says "Go up to Tony". I went up to Tony's house, I had the MPC up there, hooked into Tony's system, and Tony did the other little keyboard bits, the bits over the top and took it to the studio to lay it to tape. Then mans come in and re-voice, do what they need to do, done."
In classic London Posse style, Rodney and Bionic re-wrote the lyrics, adapting them to suit the more skeletal beat as they used to do in the Gangster Chronicle sessions. The re-recorded lyrics are darker and more aggressive than the original version, but also more cartoonish - "we used to playfight in the sunshine, and laugh at the suckers getting stung on the frontline" from the original has turned to "we keep the stanley blades in our Adidas, and get in raves on a rampage with tear gas". Similarly, Bionic's line “As a yout I was a raider, used to rob the chiefs in London / now we chat I've got more flavour than a pack of cheese and onion” has moved to “As a yout I was a raider, used to rob the chiefs in London / and I still do, ask Bad Boy Blue from the Brixton Hill Crew”.
The sunny, colourful video (shot in the summer of 93) features extended London Posse crew and girls dancing in the street, big crowd scenes and Bionic and Rodney riding around London streets. Rodney recently stated on Twitter that the convertible Saab they were riding in for the video belonged to British soul legend Omar, of "There's Nothing Like This" fame. The video was directed by Blake Bedford, who went on to direct over 70 music promos for acts such as Jamiroquai and Sindecut.
About this time, Rodney and Bionic gave a another memorable radio performance: this time on KISS FM with Max and Dave (as already mentioned), which you can check on DJ Stepone's Blogspot. Well worth a listen. As well as an extensive interview, the pair drop some sick verses over "Funky Child" by Lords Of The Underground. (Note: one of Rodney's verses may sound familiar... it's from Pass Me The Rizla.)
HERE COMES THE RUGGED ONE
The next 12" to be released, again in 93, was the superb head-nodding street banger "Here Comes The Rugged One", a double A side with the more commercial "Supermodel" (#BULT 3). “Here Comes The Rugged One” is Rodney's “favourite London Posse tune”, and “Supermodel” is a girl friendly tour-de-force with an uptempo R+B style lady-sung hook.
Both tracks were recorded and mixed at Monroe's Studio on Holloway Road, North London, and although the production is credited to "3 BASSHIGH N DA FUNK", the man behind the boards was their old collaborator DJ Devastate from Demon Boyz and Twilight Firm.
Devastate: “When I recorded “Here Comes The Rugged One”, I felt I had turned a corner production-wise. My beats were sounding more mature and I was excited about the new batch of beats I was coming with. Rodney selected it from one of my beat tapes. It was recorded and mixed at Monroe's Studio on Holloway Road in North London. It was straight up boom-bap, it was funky but hard, lyrics and beat. I guess both London Posse and me wanted to remind people who the masters were! If you listen to the clean version, I used sound effects to edit the swearing. I did that live on tape using the MC pads... I always wanted to do that.”
The track is hard-hitting and full of quotables, with a speaker bursting sub-bass that drops in and out of the track with varying degrees of rumble.
Devastate: "I still love this track!"
Rodney opens the track with
“I'mma pimp this track, you get that? /
My black axe attacks honeys with the booming bap...”
The rhyme patterns are strong, the delivery is fierce – it's one of the purest hip hop tracks the Posse recorded.
Bionic's first verse starts off with the darker side of life on the street:
"Check it.... I've got flavours like Kia-Ora /
Last week I saw a teef bore a Police informer on a street corner /
He left the grass with a slit neck /
And as he run past us, in the car I heard his spar go 'respec'....”
Then moves onto police harassment, a recurring theme in his tracks.
"When you're black with gold teeth you gets no peace from the Police /
Especially when they seen ya in Mercs and /
They hate to see blacks in Beamers it fuckin hurts em /
So I hate em down the station /
Always used to say to em 'Today's pigs, tomorrow's bacon'..."
By contrast, "Supermodel" is much more girl friendly with a faster tempo, but still has outrageous lyrics from both MCs: Rodney P's last verse starts
"The girl excites me like Aphrodite, in a nightie /
A little black number, short with nothing under /
I clocked her pose and froze cos I was thinking /
She looks exposed in those clothes, there's nothing blinking..."
The structure of the song is quite unusual by London Posse standards – as opposed to the normal 16 bar (or longer!) verses they usually came out with, “Supermodel” uses 8 bar verses, and the MCs don't rhyme alongside each other, but separately. (A similar structure was used on 'Future No. 1'.)
PASS ME THE RIZLA
The classic "Pass Me The Rizla" emerged in the same year on the XL Records compilation EP "Ruffness - The British Underground" (#XLT 42), and it was in great company alongside contributions from The Brotherhood, Lords Of Rap and Twilight Firm. (The track also made it out on the Wordplay reissue of the "Gangster Chronicle" album in 2001.) With an eerie opening loop that cuts into a fierce crisp drum break, then into a reggae sample which then cuts straight into an urgent funk loop, Bionic opens the track up with
"When I was a kid I used to love Marcelle /
She was the daughter of a nutter from a drug cartel..."
Classic storytelling, and great beat from production team Kicks Like A Mule (Nick Halkes and Richard Russell) that gets a namecheck from Rodney at the end of his first verse.
Rodney doesn't shirk either, with lines like
"Feel the effect of the Thai and the blunt /
The flavour for this month is California Skunk /
A red-eyed punk known for the narcotics /
I'm the sensimillia king, no big ting, I got it"
FUNKY RHYME, FUNKY STYLE
The last officially released track from this era is "Funky Rhyme, Funky Style", a ridiculously brilliant sex rhyme that came out in 1994 on the "Pass The Mic" EP (#PD002), produced by Billy Biznizz (credited as "Bizness") and Mysterious K, and credited to “PD3 featuring London Posse”. (The other tracks on the EP didn't feature Bionic or Rodney, and were "Noisy Music Pt II" and "Pass The Mic" - the latter of which was produced by Dego McFarlane who went on to produce with Mark Clair as 4-Hero.)
You know you're onto something when the opening line (by Bionic) is
"I creep up on cheap sluts like cellulite /
Grind her like dynamite, hoes blow me like gelignite /
Ten a night, if and when I like, sure bloody /
I pull down more whore's drawers than Dudley Moore, buddy...”
This has an incredibly layered production, with a variation on the same loop that Gang Starr used for "Words I Manifest", and some great horn chops. This may be a sign of the times, with the group moving further and further away from the reggae soundscapes that they started with.
On an MC tip, Rodney steps up hard alongside Bionic; his best lines include
"Now I'm grown, and honeys they run come /
Cos they know that Billy The Kid ain't the only Young Gun /
I do tours, make papes and after shows /
Girls wait for me in my hotel wardrobe /
Young and restless? No, young and ravenous /
You wanna test this? I'm coming with the bad-a-ness /
Think you're bad miss? I'll bone you with the bonafied back strength /
Stroke you with my English accent...”
Promo shot used on the back of the "Ruffness: The London Underground EP"
The inertia of not having an album released, and sporadic tracks appearing on the odd 12" meant that the duo were starting to go off in separate directions.
Bull: “The second album didn't come out because it didn't really get finished – some of the tracks were done but after a while, them two needed to do their own thing.”
Rodney: "We were independent, we were out there doing it by ourselves, and it felt good. But it's hard to maintain it without support. We were seeing minimal success, but the times were changing, and the focus was shifting from hip hop... Everything was strained: the relationship was strained, money was tight, times were hard."
Dobie: “They were best mates, they were like brothers. That's how it was. But after "How's Life In London”, you have to take a lot of things into account. There's them trying to deal with the music thing. They were out of the Island situation, trying to do the music thing, but as we all know the music thing is all peaks and troughs. Then they're dealing with whatever's going on in their personal lives. So they're young, broke, they were going through tough times, they were angry.”
In 1994, Bionic hooked up with Stevie Hyper D, who was on his way up as one of the best drum + bass MCs in the game. "My bredrin took we to one rave, there were bare gals, and every girl was like 'Stevie Hyper D! Stevie Hyper D!' I heard the name but didn’t know who he was. Girls were all over him. Stevie was like ‘Yo, Bionic man I used to listen to your music’ and all the girls were like 'who’s Bionic?’"
Bionic: "I thought this new music was mad! It was like how Miami bass hit me in America... I saw him (Stevie) chat rave after rave and thought mans bad! I’ve replayed that moment back in my head the most. The meeting was the beginning of a new stage of my life. I was an angry bad person and that’s what a lot of people remember me for. He brought me to the enjoyment stage of life where I needed to be."i
Bionic and Stevie used to cypher together at each other's homes, with Bionic linking immediately with Stevie's positive aura and subject matter, and verbal dexterity on the mic, which led to Bionic getting bitten by the drum and bass bug.
This influence started to bleed through to the tracks they were recording as a duo.
“London Massive” (probably dating from 1995 and available on the 2013 'Gangster Chronicle' re-release) is one such track. It showcases Bionic's double time flows over a London Posse self-produced half-speed beat.
“I gotta big up the jungle heads / To the slowed down jungle drums and bass /
This one for the hip hop kids / Faster, can you stand the pace?”
He fluctuates between frantic, urgent junglist flows and laid back, strikingly jazzy patterns. You can plainly hear Bionic's love of D+B coming through, even on a mellow track like this one, whereas by contrast Rodney's flow stays at half speed throughout.
It was about this time where the cracks started widening. First of all, the duo temporarily parted ways. Apart from a brief reconciliation, it was nearly the end for the mighty London Posse. Bionic wanted out, and Rodney was demoralised with the inertia of the music game.
Dobie: “They weren't in a deal anymore, they were trying to do their own label with Bull, and things were just up in the air. At this time the guys were just out there, doing shows and stuff like that. We'd still see each other and that, and then I found out they had split up.”
Bionic: "From about '95 I was trying to leave London Posse while other people were trying to keep me in. After all those years I had just had enough of it, and that's when I was moving in the jungle scene." i
Rodney: “The London Posse died down and I didn't really envisage a career in hip hop... I was always going to be a fan, I was always going to have lyrics, I was always going to write lyrics but I never envisaged making no more records. London Posse finished. I never knew there was an audience for Rodney P.”
In the meantime, Dobie reconnected with Howie B just as Howie had started Pussyfoot Records, and started work on the Luv N Hate EP, which would eventually be the first solo spot from Rodney.
Dobie: “I had the "Luv 'N' Hate" beat, I'd had that from time. I'm thinking of people for it, and I think ah, I'll give Rodney a call. So I say "Yo man, I've got this situation going on with Howie, he's got this label called Pussyfoot and I want you to come and voice out this tune for me."
Now at this point Rodney's kinda like "I'm not in it. Fuck this music thing, I'm not in it."
So I'm like "Look man, come check me," so he came round and heard the beat. That kind of got him vibed up again, cos he was about to like "Fuck it,I'm not doing music anymore."
Rodney: “It was because Dobie called me to say, come make this tune.”
Dobie: “I remember when we did the "Love and Hate" session, me and Rodney, we laid his lead vocals, backing vocals and whatever else ...in like half an hour. The lead vocal was done in two takes. First take - that was on. Second take - that was on. I said "We got it. We got the lead vocal." The fastest vocal session I've done, amazing.”
As “Luv N Hate” was emerging in 1995, Bionic released his own solo track on Bullett Records, a drum and bass double A-side consisting of the new track "Feds” (another Police critique), and a remix of "Live Like The Other Half Do", both produced by Peter Parsons (aka Voyager) (#BULT4).
Although these are occasionally classed as London Posse tracks, they aren't: they were Bionic's solo recordings, released on Bullitt with the label "Jungle".
“Feds” is a dark soundscape with chords stabs and skittering drum patterns, and Bionic chatting in a heavy reggae / D+B MC style. The remix of “Live Like The Other Half Do” has almost nothing to do with the original other than a brief sample of the chorus, and the title. Again, Bionic takes the role of reggae / D+B MC on this track – it's categorically not a London Posse track.
Bionic: "A lot of my bredrins had been trying to get me into jungle for a while but after I met Stevie it all just clicked and I came over from the Ragga sound system thing... We started talking and it turned out he had listened to London Posse from time, then he basically laid out the whole jungle scene for me - who was who and how it all worked with the MCs... He was telling me about bare girls and he started to bring me to all the raves, Telepathy, Jungle Fever and all them. He just got me on the list for everything and from that I was deep into jungle."
Meanwhile, Dobie and Rodney were making more moves, this time on a remix of an artist not primarily known for her hip hop roots: Bjork.
Dobie: “'I Miss You', the Bjork remix, came in for me and I just said to Rodney "Look, I got this Bjork remix, come in and kick a 16 on it. There's fuck all money in it cos I got paid fuck all to do it, but it's good exposure for you." So he came down and jumped on it. Cos that's one of my things, you know, bringing people in where I can and just "yo come and jump on that".
Things were quiet for the London Posse at this point. Although some live performances kept a bit of cash coming in, the duo were moving in very separate circles. They appeared on Westwood's Radio 1 show in 96 with a memorable couple of freestyles, spitting verses over a low-in-the-mix, blunted-sounding instrumental. Despite being at the end of the road, they still come across sounding pretty nice as a duo on the surface, if a little bit darker in tone than usual.
Bionic's first verse in particular is hard-hitting:
"(I'm) one of them clever mighty London thugs /
they can plant bugs under rugs, they'll never find the guns and drugs /
in a raid I'm getting paid like you wish pig /
I won't stop til I grown up to be a rich nigga /
mad posing in my mad old Lexus can't test me spa /
you'll think I was Pablo Escobar /
the way I cold-blooded murder ya..."
But things soon go back to the more bragging-based style when he spits
"I reckon I'm a better rhymer, so does your grind /
the second time I met her me got a shiner /
the first time I blanked her /
even though she begged for the bang and said her man was a (wanker)...."
(note: these lyrics are partially recycled from the unreleased "Roughneck Tip" track.)
Rodney is more concerned with dope-smoking and bragging:
"we're never passive, we're rowdy indeed /
when we come we come with excess girls and weed /
ya know fat buds, plus the girl I need is bad breed /
she can (fuck) but the girl can't read"
Check out a recording at DJ Step One's blogspot.
Bionic, again, has trouble spitting with no curses (just like the classic Westwood freestyle from four years before)... at least one 'fuck' gets through, to Rodney's amusement ("Oh my God it's the swearing what's flipping me up rudeboy!").
After their trademark back and forth routines, they talk about touring and recording, with Westwood inevitably mentioning Money Mad.
"Your records last a long time", says Westwood, "look at Money Mad."
"That's all about the quality control," says Rodney.
The last official and original London Posse 12" was released the same year: this was the classic "Style" (#BULT 6). Produced by Bionic (although credited to Bionic and Rodney on the label), it had a definite drum and bass feel to it which is unsurprising, as it had originally started life as a Bionic solo track.
Bionic: “It's easy. All you do is programme the drums and then put the bass on top.”
Rodney: "Style was produced by Bionic, and was before its time if you ask me."
Bull: “Bionic made the beat. It was Bionic's track, then Rodney did a couple of verses on it. That was after they'd had a first parting of ways, and just before they decided to call it a day for good.”
Rodney: "At That time we were working at Monroe's Studio, Holloway Road, where Blak Twang was an engineer."
"Style" was to be the group's swansong, although you wouldn't know it. To the fans who bought it and the DJs who played it (John Peel being one champion of the tune), Bionic and Rodney went out with a bang on this one.
The track featured such lyrical gems as Rodney's first verse, with the lines
"Rodney P stepping up to spark this /
the Marquis Of Queensbury hate me cos I'm heartless /
Any time we come we coming wicked when we start this /
Dedicated to the crews smoking spliffs in the darkness"
Bionic's first verse was heavily dancehall orientated, and his second verse starts with the classic
"If I ain't mackin on the downlow, I rhyme and it's payday /
but the back of English pound notes remind me of slave days".
He also comes with a resigned social commentary for part of that verse about the state of today's black youth:
"I'm like 'wicked, rich blacks' /
But at the same time it hurts to see my niggas in crack".
There was a heavy, dub-styled and kick-drum driven remix by the Nextmen also included on the 12", which – by all accounts – they “blagged”. It was this version that was more of a traditional hip hop–reggae track, but the Nextmen look back on it with embarrassment. "We had really basic equipment and didn't really know what we were doing," says Brad Nextman. "But everyone loved it and Westwood and John Peel played it on Radio 1." i Despite the positive reaction, they're still not happy with it. "It was 75 bpm and really pedestrian," Brad says. "Fucking terrible." Make your own mind up about it here.
After this, the duo disbanded.
Rodney: "We thought, let's try it one more time to see how it would run, but it didn't run. Things fall apart, and that was kind of the end.”
Nothing more has been recorded as a duo, although some old recordings were released as part of the Gangster Chronicle reissue in mid-2013, giving us a flavour of what might have been.
The closest the group has come to a reunion so far is an unofficially circulated track from Rodney's original version of the album "The Future" from 2002, which features a short 1m 47s track called "Hip Hop Gangster", produced by Rodney himself, featuring Sipho beatboxing, a re-imagining of the Just-Ice track from the 80s. Sadly this has never officially seen the light of day, but it's worth tracking down if you get the chance, with lines like "Riddim Killa, when it comes to a rhyme / big in every style and we're bad every time... / in the place trying to bust, ingenuity's a must / dem boy they think they're ready but ain't fuckin with us" and Sipho's rock solid beats embellished with DJ Deckwrecka's scratching.
Gangster Chronicle remains the group's only long player, with three releases over the years.
Other than the original release, there was the 2001 Wordplay Records reissue, which was the full album (minus the Money Mad Bonus Beats) with the bonus tracks “Jump Around (Nomad Soul remix), "How's Life in London", "Funky Rhyme, Funky Style", and "Pass The Rizla".
Wordplay also put out “How's Life In London” (including the “Ragga Mix”) as a 12'' and CD single.
The second reissue was through Tru Thoughts in 2013, co-ordinated by Rodney. This featured the whole album (again, minus the Money Mad Bonus Beats) and some of the other non-album tracks such as “How's Life In London” (and the “Bogle mix”), “Style” (and the Nextmen remix), “Shut The Fuck Up” and “Jump Around” (Nomad Soul remix). This also included five previously unheard tracks, and several remixes – Sparkii's unreleased Gangster Chronicle remix from 91; the “Money Mad” remix by Wrongtom and two remixes of “Money Mad” by Drumagick; and Steve Mason's “Kronk” remix of “Gangster Chronicle”, one of the high-ranking entries in the remix competition.
It also features a quick London Posse history in the sleevenotes courtesy of your humble narrator, and a niftily re-designed cover that substitutes the “London Posse Bites Dentist: $40 000 Extracted In New Raid” for “London Posse Bites Politician: £40,000 Expenses Now Returned”.
So, where does that leave the members of this groundbreaking group?
Rodney P's solo career path started with cameos on tracks for artists such as US3 and the Brand New Heavies, and he continued to work with Dobie on releases like the "Tings In Time" EP. He subsequently hooked up with Daddy Skitz for recording collaborations and the 1XTRA show, then released the heavily leaked 2004 solo album ("The Future") released on his own Riddim Killa imprint. He's now signed to Tru Thoughts, and his new album is dropping soon.
Bionic moved fully into drum and bass for a while, and remained close friends with Stevie Hyper D until his untimely death in 1998 (he still remains close to Stevie's family). They were planning to form a group with Sipho before Stevie's untimely death - "we said we were gonna make a group, he knew we were gonna bang up the world and then he died. That crushed man... when he died that’s when I knew I had to come out of the music completely."
After that, Bionic went out to LA and collaborated with Tricky and Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs on Tricky's "Juxtapose" album under the name Mad Dog. He's now working with "Thank You Creator" Records (link here) with some dope new tracks and collabos in the pipeline on his new project ready to drop in the near future.
Billy Biznizz went on to carve out a more than respectable name for himself as a highly in-demand international DJ. In the first couple of years after moving away from London Posse, Biznizz went on to DJ for The Cookie Crew, touring the UK and Europe - supporting De La Soul, N.W.A, Public Enemy, House of Pain, Roy Ayres and The Jungle Brothers, amongst others - before becoming the DJ for Caveman (MCM). After becoming Westwood's DJ on the Capital Rap Show, he became a founding member of the En4cers DJ crew, with Cutmaster Swift and DJ Pogo. He's been on scratching duties for Ty, MC Mell'O', Einstein and Big Kwam, amongst others, and produced for Ty, as well as DJing sets around the world.
Sipho was ready to form part of a supergroup with Bionic and Stevie Hyper D, but tragically he is no longer with us after his untimely passing in December 2004. Rest In Peace.