Friday, 4 June 2010

Derek B 'Bad Young Brother'

Chart Peak: 16


Two consecutive hip-hop tracks (or even three, if you count S-Express), which is not that common in Now history. In fact, Derek B was at the Mandela concert too, although I have to admit I don't really remember him. In fact, I only dimly recalled his career at all, until his death last provoked tributes to his status as one of the first British rappers to achieve commercial success as anything more than a novelty and to indicate that the music was anything more than a passing fad (although he did slightly undermine that achievement by co-writing the 'Anfield Rap'). Indeed, this record sounds remarkably topical now with the increasing popularity of British pop-rap over the last couple of years here and even in the US.

'Bad Young Brother' (funnily enough his second consecutive single to peak at 16 during a 6-week run on the Top 75) still shows its age a little. Well possibly not so much its age (except the bit where he boasts about being a 90s B-Boy) as the lack of precedents for a British rapping. So even as he emphasises his nationality in the lyric "We get paid in pounds, not dollars", he's doing some approximation of an American accent because that was what the audience expected: he does play up the London accent in his secondary persona as the DJ, which at least provides some sense of contrast, even if it does mean a lot of talking about himself in the third person, and that line "Like Lennon and McCartney we're perfect together" doesn't really make sense in this context. On the other hand, when he boasts that his mum{sic} is so proud, it could almost be Tinie Tempah in 2010. Even if the vocals haven't stood the test of time, his backing track (co-produced with Simon Harris) is actually quite good, making wise use of the Prince sample on the chorus; whether there's any connection between this and the current unavailability of the track, I don't know.

With hindsight, his commercial prospects were probably always going to be finite, caught between an underground that seemed to disown him for going commercial and a mainstream that moved on. These two Number 16s were his only proper hits and he only seems to have released one album, although more singles arrived over the years. Still, it was fun while it lasted.

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