Charting the trajectory of Foreign Beggars through the last decade is tough. From their beginnings releasing classic loop driven rolling hip-hop to journeying through dubstep, glitch, grime and bass, the Beggars are no longer trying to find a niche in the rap game, preferring to tackle all of them. Having recently celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the release of the genre defining Asylum Speakers, and with the trap heavy Modus EP dropping late last year, Bonafide sat down with Orifice Vulgatron (or Pav if that’s too much of a mouthful) to talk Modus, method and a decade in the scene.
Back in 2005 they had just released the Crypt Drawl EP, with the glitchy title track a nod to the direction that they would be heading in over the next few years. “We were at the point where we looked at the lay of the land, tried to see who was promoting hip-hop, so we made a list of about 40 promoters around the country who were doing shows and we made up three packages. We made a basic Foreign Beggars package, Foreign Beggars with various support… and then we had a third level which included support from this graffiti crew from Spain called Porno Stars that I’m tight with.”
“So me and Shlomo just got on the blower for three weeks, speaking to all these promoters, emailing people and just letting them know that this tour’s going on, these packages are available. Ended up with 28 shows all around the country. Put the flyers up and really got the word out, back in the day of Don’t Panic packs and all that. Then literally off the back of that before we’d done any shows we got a call from an agency saying “whose your agent”. Bang. Then we had an agent. Simply by doing stuff and being proactive is how we got started.”
Pav is clearly business minded. Maybe it’s the Dubai upbringing, or the thirst for creativity in aid of bringing something new to the table. “Essentially we birthed the label to be a platform for cutting edge music, art and fashion and everything that exists in-between. In the beginning we’re focussing on the music and we’re toying with a few of the fashion bits but essentially it’s a new start-up so were focussing on progressive rap music and electronic music at the moment.
When we started Foreign Beggars I wasn’t satisfied until we had a vinyl out because you weren’t an official group at the time unless you’d put out a wax… that’s what hip-hop was back then.
It’s hard to think of a specific Foreign Beggars track without collaborations from other artists. Right from the beginning they were working with a big range of producers and MCs to create their sound. Some of the early collaborators have now moved away from the music game but most have jumped off in disparate directions, taking something of those early days with them. “We’re lucky that our art form thrives on the collaboration and its really healthy for it. For me I grew up knowing people in hip-hop and rap scenes from around the world from those graffiti days… I knew people in Spain, Germany, France, Sweden… whatever. Underground kids who were doing it… so for us to work with them bridges this gap, it documents this time and place in history, know what I mean?”
Pav speaks as frenetically as he raps. Jumping back and forward, sideways and sometimes in directions that don’t yet have names. Like he’s trying to say everything in one breathy outburst. “For a lot of the collaboration we do now it’s just people that we wanna fuck with… if we hear something that blows our mind and we really like it then we just wanna work with that. For example when we heard Machinedrum for the first time it was like ‘this is fucking crazy’ so we just hit him up and went from there.”
“It’s not like seeing what somebody’s doing and trying to bite it or trying to do like a shit version of it. Some stuff is way out of context for us to do, but doing it as a collaboration… we can create something which finds this new ground. Working with Noisia was really cool – we got to influence them and show them a lot of beatsy rap shit, the whole Brainfeeder world of production and styles, Flylo kinda stuff… just different ways to approaching making different kinds of beats and drums patterns… and because they live in Holland giving them a bit of an insight in to different kind of underground UK movements that were going on at the time like grime and shit like that.”
For the Beggars latest release Modus, Pav tell me that it was an attempt to return to rap music and to break away from the idea that we had to write music for any type of purpose or for a dance floor or for this label. “This was the first time with the Beggars material that we decided to just completely take ourselves out of the scenario, go somewhere else… Forget everything else that’s going on over here. So rather than being bogged down in meetings and labels and parties and friends and social shit… just go and flip it up. New influences, be around different people and take in new inspiration.”
With Metropolis having grown up in North West London and Pav moving to London to follow the UK hip-hop and D&B scene, they have clearly been majorly influenced by the early artists of those days. Accordingly, having become such a focal point of the UK hip-hop movement at the turn of the century their work has undoubtedly influenced the forerunners of the revitalised British rap movement going on at the moment. “There’s so much ill rap coming out in the UK at the moment it’s fucking dope. Onoe Caponoe, Cult Mountain, Piff Gang, Remus, Little Simz, Rawkid… Ocean Wisdom is an excellent artist he’s about to do some do some really dope shit too. It’s good to see that peoples influences are really broad… I love hearing the crossover too, there’s this whole area where grime and hip-hop and rap shit met in the middle and it doesn’t have to be super genre specific y’know.”
Beggars are headlining fabric on 20th February so I asked about how that felt, having been fixtures there for so long. “2014 was the last time we played fabric, it was fucking dope. I love fabric every time. I think the first show we did there was 2005… still ten years on its still the poppin spot… we’ve changed, genres change, things change, but fabric is still the popping spot y’know. If you look at the line-up for the show its Foreign Beggars, Newham Generals, GotSome and My Nu Leng… it’s beautiful! Proper underground UK, across the board business.”
Words: TNM (thenakedmug.com)