When it comes to drum & bass, the vital role of the MC, particularly in the club setting is often overlooked by the great unwashed. However, central to some of the biggest success stories the genre has had to offer has been the symbiotic roles of both MC and DJ. Take Goldie and GQ, Hazard and Skibadee, and even further back, Carl Cox and MC Magika as examples.
Responsible for hyping the crowd and taking them on a lyrical journey whilst creating a palpable energy to fuel the fire of the party, the MC is the connection between music and raver, and has to power to make or break the drum & bass experience.
Ahead of his hosting duties at this year's Drum & Bass Awards, we caught up with last year's winner of the Best MC award - Evil B. As one of the most original voices in drum & bass, the London based wordsmith has been hyping parties for quite some time now, and has been credited with changing the face of drum & bass MCing thanks to his growling tones, lyrical depth and clever use of traditional crowd hype lyrics (witness that above).
We caught up with him to find out more about his involvement with the Drum & Bass Awards, the importance of self belief, and the secret to getting your voice heard in such a competitive arena.
You're due to be one of the hosts at this year's Drum & Bass Awards. Are you looking forward to it? What will your duties include on the night?
The awards is an event that I look forward to every year. Even as an event on its own it's nice for me to hear a real eclectic mix of DJs and music. The fact that it's an award ceremony is an added bonus! As far as I know my duties will be announcing the individual awards and handing the awards to the winners.
Last year of course you won the Best MC award at the ceremony, beating some pretty huge names in the process. What did that mean to you?
It's important that I state that I do not work in music for awards or accolades. I'm just trying to spread my story and message with other people living in similar situations and also to relieve people of their day to day life in the short time I'm on stage…
However, winning an award means to me that my message has spread further than I thought and that to me is an incredible feeling. So ultimately when I won the award I felt like my supporters were letting me know that they appreciated what I do. That feeling is all I can ask for.
You've picked up a whole load of other awards in your time, ranging from UKG awards to gongs from Sidewinder and obviously the award we've just talked about. Is it a challenge to adapt your style to to different styles of MCing, or is it something you enjoy?
It's complete enjoyment. I'm thirsty for the challenge and when I'm presented with one I pretty much have a 'rule and conquer' attitude about it. It's not to go against anyone. It's competition with my best opponent, which is myself. I mean, what's a life without a challenge? Coasting? F**k coasting! I'm trying to LIVE, adapt and be better than I was yesterday in every aspect!
How would you say your style of MCing is unique from others on the circuit? And did you make a concerted effort to bring a new style of MCing to the table, or was it something that came naturally to you?
When I first came back to DnB, I came back with the traditional style of DnB MCing. I was trying to fit in, To be accepted I guess. Certain situations have happened to me in my life that have made me become OK with who I am. That's a lot tougher than it sounds.
A lot of us feel like we got to project and image, or a body shape to be accepted... but if you accept yourself it gives you freedom. I tried to and continue to try to adapt that way of thinking into my music. Truth music.
What advice would you give to any up and coming MCs? What is the best way to get noticed and what tips do you have to make yourself stand out from the rest?
This is that impossible to answer cliche question. It would take a book to answer it properly... but for now I would say ruthless hustle, ambition and the ability to continually get back up when you have been knocked down. Self belief.
Even to this day people judge me and confuse my confidence with arrogance, because my self belief reminds them about their insecurities. How can I take advice from someone who isn't sure who they are or who they want to be. So, be quiet, work hard, self belief and execute the game plan!
How important is it to have a depth to your lyrics rather than just hyping a party? And how much work goes into creating a routine?
It's not really that important to be 100% honest. I mean where would DnB be without the MCs who bring the party and the noise? However, to me it is, because one day, when it's all over, I want kids to go back and listen to what I said and know that they aren't alone in their struggles and maybe look at me as someone who escaped from them.
As far as the HBS routines go (listen to him in action below) or what I do at my own dance, then yes, huge amounts of planning and rehearsing go in to the performance.
Will you be able to catch any of the other acts in action at the awards? Or will you be too busy on hosting duties?
Yes I'm performing alongside the legendary New Breed Crew which is a crew full of the top selected DJs and MCs in the scene. When we all link on a set its pure vibes.
We're looking forward to Logan D and Majistrate playing with you, Eksman and Fatman D. We know you go way back with Logan D, so what can we expect from that set!?
I've actually known Majistrate longer than anyone else in the crew, shortly followed by Eks and Erbs. We all knew each other from the pirate radio days so the chemistry is second nature to us. I met Logan about six or seven years ago now and he has become one of my best mates. That's why our connection on the HBS series and live sets is full of energy, because the connection is good.
And finally, if you could go back in time to any of your past gigs, which one would you pick to perform again and why?
I played Roskilde festival in Denmark once with a live band and Snoop Dogg was headlining. It was incredible, but I smashed a beer over the CDJ when I was going mental with the DJ I was working with. Nearly locked off the whole rave… Good times.