This episode speaks word of the formidable Queens English, a five person crew bringing their own sound to Uk Hip Hop. With DJ/Producer Something Else blessing the decks, and Lyricists Leon Rhymes & Sherlock on mic duties with the vital assistance of MC Source, they’re also teamed with the UK Beatbox 2006 & 2010 finalist Pikey Esquire.
Since their debut EP entitled Mind The Rap, nothing seems to be holding them back. Hosting an impressive array of festivals which include, Outlook, Secret Garden Party, Beach Break Live, and Wytchwood. Not to mention their debut Album EQ, which really is something special, a 17 track compilation thats an absolute treat to relax to, our favorite’s ‘Just’ and the summer anthem that is ‘Sally’s House’ makes this album a must.
Oh and when we met them at Beach Break (Big up Revelation Djs vs QE football match) they were as sound as you could ever hope anyone to be. They kindly dropped in on Broken Culture and were all too happy to fire the questions.
To get the ball rolling, can you tell us how you all met and what goes down outside of music?
Well, we all met at Bretton Hall, which was part of Leeds Uni. We all went to the same clubs, listened to the same music and hung out with the same folk and were equally disgusted by the crap coming out of the local scene. We started performing at a mate’s night, and we were like, “Hey, this aint so bad this,” and seven years later and after a couple of line up tweaks, here we are.
Outside of music exists fairly little – promoting the band takes up most of our time. However, everything does take a backseat to football. Soundchecks, connecting bus services and even shows have been missed at the behest of a derby or a Champions League final.
Am I right in saying you’re all based in London now? How do you think that’s influencing and progressed your sound?
Yep, we’ve been London-based for a while. Being in London, we’ve become friends with a whole group of artists, producers and other such folk outside of our normal circle, who’ve really broadened our horizons. We’re mates with Dark Sky/Boogaloo Crew (rising stars on Ninja Tunes/Black Acre), the guys from Trouble Vision and a whole load of other people who have introduced us to some amazing sounds.
One of the biggest progressions is the fact that we’ve finally assembled an amazing new group of live musicians as our backing band. We met them over the course of the last few years – Agga and Will (saxophonist and drummer) work on one of our side projects called ‘The Tea Committee’, and Fabrizio, our bassist plays with Babar Luck.
Source really adds something special into the mix, what inspired bringing female vocals to your tunes? Had Source featured on Hip Hop tunes before Queens English?
It was pretty organic how we came across Source. Again, we all just hung out together and she jammed over a few tracks that we’d made with a couple local producers. We played one of the Leavers Balls, and it just felt right, having some female vocals adding a bit of texture to the sound.
What other genres, outside of Hip Hop, would you say strongly influence your sound?
Most of our music is based on samples from really obscure, foreign records. We pour through hundreds of old charity shop vinyl’s – the more shocking cover artwork, the better – and we search for hooks to build up around. You could say that all music influences us. Even the really terrible old stuff still has charm.
What do you think of the Hip Hop scene at the minute, and what, if anything, would you change?
The UK Hip Hop scene is choked with really, really bad music and lyricism. Fair enough people got an axe to grind, but we rarely hear anything as poetic as Immortal Technique, as musical as I.AM or Looptroop coming out of the hoods. We don’t even watch AKA anymore, it’s gotten so bad.
Back in the days of Channel U, we still had amazing tracks from Ghost, Klashnekov, Black Twang, Baby J and others doing the rounds. In a few short years it’s really not the station it used to be. This has also translated into the live scene – promoters aren’t taking risks on new Hip Hop acts, simply because most of it is crap. On the local circuits you won’t see the ‘chart names’, which are looked after by big labels and nepotism.
We’d like to see Hip Hop artists being cleverer with their music, lyricism and flows – more Jurassic 5, less Jurassic Park. We also would have a breathalyser fitted to every copy of Logic Pro.
Following your debut album EQ, (which by the way we strongly approve of), what’s round the corner, especially considering the hectic festival period is almost upon us?
Thanks guys! Well, we’ve got the next single on the burner – ‘Our Love’ which you can listen to on our website at qe-hq.com. We’re recording a Live Lounge session, a new promo video and getting together another kick-ass launch party for the summer.
How close is QE2 coming to being dropped? ‘Our love’ is a sure favourite alongside ‘new balance’, how long have you all been working on this?
Yikes. ‘QE2’ is a way, way off! We’ve just about got a Demo EP together, and we’ve got lots of little new tracks on the go. However, now that we’ve got the live band together, we’re looking at firing off in a whole new direction.
‘New Balance’ was produced by Skinnista (aka Nu Balance) over a year ago and we’ve been playing it live for a while. We recorded it as part of the Demo EP last year and launched it as a single, with the video in December (quinceingles.com). ‘Our Love’ is a little more recent – we worked on that for most of last summer for the EP, but it’s taken on a new shape with the live backing band, that’ll really get people’s juices flowing.
Your live shows are very energetic and leak a tongue in cheek attitude without coming across too serious, something that’s also shown in your website bio. Is this something your keen to express as a group?
I know Pikey came second to Beardyman in the UK Beatboxing Championships. Do a lot of you have solo careers or interests outside of QE?
We got loads going on. Leon Rhymes has his own solo thing going on, but also performs live with Pikey as part of ‘I.J.H.’ (I’m Just Happy). It’s pure Beatbox vs. Lyricism, an absolute joy to watch. Sherlock and Something Else have the Tea Committee, a really interesting experimental project in live music – check our Facebook band page for tracks. Source has her own jazz-rock band, currently spending a fair bit of time in the studio.
After that, its football, the pub and the fine foods of Borough Market that get us off.
Where would expect yourselves, and want to be in 3 years time?
It would be nice not having to spend ten hours a day drafting emails to labels and industry folk, and researching all the crap that keeps a band like us ticking over. We’d like to be able to make music 24/7 without having to think about where the next rent cheque’s coming from – but then again, perhaps its being hungry that makes us good? To be honest, just playing more sick shows and venues across the globe would be great. We’d love to rock the main stage at Hip Hop kemp.
Any tips on other artists coming up at the minute that we should be looking out for?
Check out Excentral Tempest, the front girl of The Sound of Rum – long time mate, big time poet. Also check out the rest of the old One Taste Crew – includes MC Xander and Jamie Woon. We recently played with Size 9, an awesome funk-rock band from South East London, which really got us sweaty under the collar – Breezy, the singer, is bloody amazing. Check Dark Sky – these guys are amazing.
Big up for your time, its hugely appreciated, any last words of wisdom or shout outs?
Yahaa – Big shouts to the Guru, Babar Luck – you’re the eternal legend! Shouts to Angie and the Brixton Hoots Crew, Skinnista, Solid Gold and the Trouble Vision massif, Tristan and the Deptford A.R.M.Y. (R.I.P.), Len @ Needle&Thread, Tony ‘Hung like a Baron’ Volker, and all of our dearest, dearest supporters and fans. We love you. Keep climbing the rope over at qe-hq.com