We recently caught up with Andy Brydon, who in collaboration with writer James McNally and Kid Acne, has curated the forthcoming Home Grown: The Story of UK Hip-Hop exhibition at Urbis. An ambitious and unique attempt to capture the development of hip-hop as a UK sub-culture, the show is broken down into seven sections and covers rap, deejaying, graffiti and breakdancing.
In the midst of the build and deadlines, Bonafide decided to increase Andy’s workload and ask a few questions.
What are the most surprising pieces that you have managed to lay your hands on?
It was always our intention for the show to have a national, not solely London, focus and we’ve trawled all over and got pieces from Cardiff, North East, Huddersfield, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol [etc]. The biggest surprise is the sheer volume of personal artifacts people hold onto such as flyers, handwritten notes on tickets and sketches.
The other thing that is interesting is the transitory nature of technology and the fluctuations of its personal and financial value. We’ve been getting our hands on equipment people bought when they were getting into hip-hop in the 1980s and then, as they’ve grown up, the equipment has become baggage, stored in the loft as a prelude to be throwing out. But you only have to look at the life-cycle of the Roland TR808 drum-machine to see something starts off expensive, loses popularity and then comes back again.
Things don’t stay still
Exactly. The thing about the first wave of UK hip-hop artists, who began appearing around 1983, was that they had a beautifully naive approach. There was no ‘one click’ culture and a lot of their knowledge of US hip-hop was based on fourth generation VHS copies of Wild Style. Wild Style, then, was only shown once on terrestrial television and this was a lot of peoples only reference, so they filled in the gaps with their own background and cultural heritage. This hotpotch resulted in culturally relevant work and, as the exhibition shows, started a whole journey.
Why should people make an effort to come to the show?
If they are already into hip-hop it will show them where it has come from its very beginnings.
If they are not into hip-hop they will get a massive surprise as they discover how diverse and positive UK hip-hop culture is.
We’ve got a specially commissioned 30 minute documentary [produced by film-maker Teddy Nygh and James McNally] that looks at young kids producing urban music. The documentary will be shown in the cinema suite and makes connections between todays urban music and the lineage of UK hip-hop. Dubstep, grime, UK breakbeat… all have roots in the beginnings of UK hip-hop. This is where American and UK hip-hop differ; the development of the genre in the US is very linear but in the UK, hip-hop has always been about lineage and dipping in and out of other cultures. The documentary provides a really good exploration of these ideas.
Home Grown @ Urbis is free admission and opens 15 October until March 2010.