Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Demon Boyz Carry Vibes

Demon Boyz - Vibes
Demon Boyz - Lyrical Culture

After taking far too long to get its act together, UK Hip Hop finally came of age towards the back end of the 1980s. Following initial groundwork by the likes of Faze One and Overlord X, the scene really exploded into life during 1988 when two London crews arrived on the scene – coming out of Brixton, Hijack, and from Tottenham, Demon Boyz. Demon Boyz, consisting of MC's Demon D and Mike J, and DJ Devastate, started out rapping as teenagers at the Rebel MC’s Freak Beat gigs, but like Hijack (who I covered in my first proper post on this website, which can be found here), they got their breakthrough by winning a competition. In this instance, a search for new rap talent held on Dave Pearce’s radio show. Their prize was to appear live on stage with the likes of Derek B and T La Rock at the Camden Palace, a performance which lead to them being signed up by Simon Harris’s seminal UK hip hop label Music of Life, also the original home of Hijack.

Demon Boyz gained respect by rapping in their native accents and incorporating ‘patois’ style lyrics into their verses (Mike J’s parents were Jamaican and he spent a lot of time there as a kid), creating a form of ragga hip hop which was pioneering at the time. This flow gave their songs a reggae-like vibe, so whereas Hijack went down a militant, hardcore rap route, the Demon Boyz style was more laidback, while still retaining a hard edge. After two groundbreaking singles, they released their debut album ‘Recognition’ in 1989, featuring production from Devastate and his older brother Brian B, under the Twilight Firm moniker. The album showcased the crew’s unique styles, including upfront productions like ‘Vibes’ with its nagging guitar sample, sirens, tough beats and razor-sharp scratching from Devastate. My favourite track from the album is ‘Lyrical Culture’, which brings the patois-tinged lyricism to the forefront of the track, including the fantastic line, “When I get the munchies, I am a potater”, which was repeated by me and all my friends for months after we first heard it. During the period after ‘Recognition’ was released, the Demon Boyz played live with the likes of NWA, Queen Latifah, Salt & Pepa, DJ Mark the 45 King and the Juice Crew (MC Shan, Roxanne Shante, Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane). According to Devastate, the Londoners smoked so much weed on the bus with NWA that Dr Dre complained. Ironic, coming from the man who would later gain mainstream success with an album called ‘The Chronic’.

Demon Boys went on to record for Island Records offshoot Mango, before releasing their second album, ‘Original Guidance’ on their old mate the Rebel MC’s Tribal Bass Recordings in 1992. The album was well received, but the group split soon after. Since then, Mike J has resurfaced under the name Million Dan, and seems to be on the verge of something approaching mainstream success, with his most recent single ‘Pull Up’, released on his own Million Dappa Records imprint, entering the 1Xtra Hip Hop chart at # 3. He has also recently released a brand new mixtape, ‘Infared’ which features Busta Rhymes, Nas, Mob Deep, Bounty Killa and Assassin, and even an old school Demon Boyz cut. There’s a great interview with Million Dan here, with all the latest news on what he’s been up to since Demon Boyz.

I’d been planning this post for a while, but when I was doing some research on the crew, I found out that ‘Recognition’ is getting a re-release on the Suspect Packages label later on this year. A 12” single featuring an unreleased remix of ‘Vibes’ has already dropped, featuring the original Music of Life sleeves and their debut single ‘Northside’ on the flip. It’s well worth waiting to buy the re-release of the album as I’d imagine it would be remastered, hopefully improving the sound quality tenfold, as the LP version I’ve got sounds a bit trebly for such bass heavy tunes.

‘Recognition’ is being re-released by Suspect Packages on 16th April 2007, with extra tracks. Buy the ‘Vibes’ reissue 12” here.

Search eBay for Demon Boyz
Demon Boyz discography
Demon Boyz My Space
Million Dan website
Million Dan My Space
Devastate My Space