Foreign Beggars exploded onto the UK hip hop scene back in early 2000 and have been pushing forward ever since. Back when UK hip hop not only had a pulse but was alive and kicking, the Beggars were a breath of fresh air. I remember the first time I heard Asylum Speakers, I was blown away at how different they were to anything else I was hearing at the time. Asylum Speakers was a serious UK hip hop album, very much a product of its environment; it was the winning formula of rapid fire, in your face raps and heavy, banging, slightly dark beats. The thing is, regardless of the mighty and very unique Hip hop talent this country was producing, that kind of hip hop fizzled out a long while ago and very few artists from that era have managed to evolve, roll with the punches and stay relevant. The Foreign Beggars unlike a lot of their peers, have been constantly gigging globally, consistent with releases and are just about to drop their third album. I wanted to find out how they survived the death of UK hip hop, as it was and what keeps them relevant. So, we had a chat over a milkshake.
This is your third album. What was your approach to this one?
Orifice Vulgatron: When we record because we travel a lot, we move around so much we don’t really have like the limits of this cut off of a few weeks like a lot of people do. Like Radiohead went off to a mountain and did an album there, we don’t really get the chance to do that. I think the way we record music has changed, we just do whatever we can, whenever we can. We work with a load of different producers so people send us stuff. Generally, albums are a work in progress for us, there’s some stuff on this album, which is up to three years old. We hear beats that we like and new directions and shit, so we just try putting stuff down. It even gets to the point where some of the artists we are working with are in town when we’re not you know? The approach with this one was, we got half way through the album and decided that we really wanted to flip the styles up, do more of a departure from hip hop then we have been recently and do something completely out-the-box crazy shit. But, we’d already made a lot of the stuff.
DJ Nonames: If you listen to the album it starts off quite hip hop, quite soulful, still a part of us, still a part of the live show, still love that music but that music has moved on quite a lot. It’s on more of a journey from the old soulful, traditional sounding 98bpm hip hop. Even though it’s got something traditional about it in the beats, there’s a modern influence there in the production style. Increasingly the sound is very like hip hop but as you work your way through the album, the styles change a lot, as they do in the live show.
Orifice Vulgatron: We’re into all sorts of different music and we’re already a group, which is a rap group, and the fact we’re in a rap group from the UK is pigeonholing us even fucking further. So, it was like, we’ve done a certain amount of things and just like making a beat on an MPC and spitting over it, I could do that all fucking day but it’s not giving me the same excitement it was 7, 8, 9 years ago. I like different types of music, we’re all into different shit, whether its disco, boogie, funk, or like fucking dirty French Electro, dubstep or drum n bass. I fucking love grime you know what I’m saying? You can’t really be into rap music from the UK and fucking be ignoring grime. I love that shit, I come from that. I started rhyming to hip hop beats but I’ve always been into Drum n Bass and garage and that shit. So it’s come to a point where those flows and those styles, like a whole bunch of mcees from the UK like fucking Ghetto, Skepta, Devlin, fucking Flowdan, Frisco, I could name off a hundred right now, that’ve got styles that nobody from the States could even fuck with.
DJ Nonames: We’re just trying to rep the UK. Kids growing up now don’t just listen to UK hip hop….
Orifice Vulgatron: Just music really, it’s not even just hip hop or UK or whatever. It’s just like progressive underground rap music. If you listen to the last album, it’s more a reflection of the shit we were listening to at the time. Shit like fucking Necro and Doom. It was something we really wanted to explore ‘cos we’re inspired by the whole early Def Jux stuff. So we kinda needed to get that out of our system with the last album I think. This time, I think it’s more light hearted, less self indulgent and we just kinda really, really went in on the production ‘cos I think that’s something that’s been lacking from the whole rap movement in the UK, quality of production and sounds, engineering and just being progressive with this shit. So, I think we’re in a fucking lucky place. We do shows with all sorts of people like Skream. Plastician or Benga or we do shows with Boysnoise or the Headbanger people or opening for a rockband. The shows we do are really diverse. We did a tour with a rockband called the Heavy in France. We just want to be able to put our rap music on the same stage as everyone else’s and make it bang. Hard. I think that’s what we did with this album. Although it’s left field, its not really like fitting into like any real kind of specific genre people are fucking with, its our own shit. We just wanted to make this album banging from top to bottom.
It’s quite a departure from the UK bangers on your previous albums, was it a conscious case of musical evolution?
Orifice Vulgatron: It has been pretty organic. When we started this album it wasn’t really a departure, we didn’t really want to do exactly the same thing it was more a natural progression. This album was actually meant to be a mixtape, which was supposed to be a precursor to the next album and the next album was something we really wanted to flip on. So, we were like ‘alright we’ll put this United Colourz of Beggatron thing out, ‘cos we’re working with all these international people, as a mixtape to show everybody in the world that we’re repping’. Until last year, when we released that Asylum Agenda compilation album, we never released anything outside the UK. So it’s like why not do it now? We’ve always aspired to make world-class music. There’s a lot of people in the UK who make rap music for the people in the scene and don’t even fucking reach out to anybody else. I think it’s a real shame because there’s so many talented people and there’s been points, over the last ten years, where the shit coming out of this country has been the illest shit on the planet and it’s just like dudes are selling themselves short and the rest of the scene short by not putting it through, so we just wanted to do that. Touring is really important thing to us, we’re not going to get shows unless people know the music. We travel quite a bit and we always like working with people so, we wanted to showcase that like our international family
Is that what the titles about?
Orifice Vulgatron: Yeah. That’s kinda what this album was supposed to be. We got to a point where we had all of these banging tracks and were like we can put this out as a semi-hard on mixtape or we can go into the tracks, produce them properly, compose them, get some guests on and make it a full-on fucking album, which is what we did.
You’ve got some serious collabs on this: Phat Kat and Guilty Simpson etc – How did they come about?
Orifice Vulgatron: Serious, yeah. Just ill man. You just hear people and you’re like ‘yes, that’s the shit’
DJ Nonames: Guilty got hijacked after a show at Cargo.
Orifice Vulgatron: Yeah we had some drugs and some bitches, showed him all our gats. He was well impressed with our collection of gats. No I’m joking. Basically it’s from all the Stone Throw collabs we did. We’ve a relationship with all the Stonesthrow lots and we were like ‘when the fuck is Guilty coming to town? Let do this shit’ Alex Chase actually hooked it up, so respect Alex Chase for working that one for us.
What about Phat Kat?
Orifice Vulgatron: Phat Kat. I didn’t even know he was going to be here. I just went to the Slum Village show and he was on stage and I was like ‘Motherfucker holla! You know who we are right?’ he was like ‘Yo Foreign Beggars, I know you cats’. So he came to the studio the next day.
You’re always known to bring something different to the table. What keeps the Beggars fresh?
Orifice Vulgatron: The fact we keep doing shit and we’re all different and into new music. There’s loads of people on the UK scene who fronted on anything that isn’t hip hop anyway. Do you know what I’m saying? There’s loads of people on the fucking UK scene who still front on us to this day.
Nonames: They still front and we keep hollering at them. They have big egos and they feel a way about trying to break out of their box and communicate with different people that maybe they don’t know or are alien to them but we always want to know what’s the new shit. We’re always eager to find out the fresh stuff. You make that connection and follow it through. That’s where a lot of UK artists flop on themselves ‘cos they stay in their little box
Orifice Vulgatron: They stay in their ends and don’t do shit man. Do you know what I mean? It’s not even London-centric, it’s like ends-centric. Just travelling a lot, meeting people from all over the world. Hip hop is the biggest collective movement of youth all over the world. Whether you go to Madrid or Portugal or you go to fucking China, Russia or Dubai, kids know fucking hip hop. It’s like straight communication, they may rap differently and they may listen to Young Jeezy, you might listen to MF Doom, at the end of the day there’s still that communication. It’s still hip hop, it’s still rapping, beats, graffiti, breaks parties, shows, you know what I’m saying? People just need to understand. This whole thing of ‘yeah UK hip hop’, it’s a bit BNP for me. You don’t want to embrace anyone else ‘Motherfucka, you have an English passport. Get on the Eurostar and you’re in France! Take your fucking records to the record shop in France.’ You know what I mean?
The album features a track with Graziella currently in Miss Frank on X factor. How did that come about?
Orifice Vulgatron: Graziella! I know her from day! She came through with Underground Alliance crew, Skrein and all those guys.
Nonames: We’ve been friends with her for a long time.
Orifice Vulgatron: Yeah she was on our first album.
Nonames: Now it’s going to be like: ‘Graziella feat Foreign Beggars.’
Orifice Vulgatron: Good to see her doing X-Factor. It’s dope that she’s got this far, I always knew it man.
Nonames: She’s been on every Foreign Beggars album and she’ll be on the forth as long as Simon Cowell hasn’t got something to say about it.
Miss Frank to win?
Orifice Vulgatron: For real. Miss Frank!
Where’s your fave place to perform and why?
Orifice Vulgatron: hell.
(Metropolis jumps in having been on a phone interview)
Metropolis: My bathroom, in the shower, ‘cos no one really knows what an RnB singer I actually am.
Orifice Vulgatron: One special place is this island in the north of Norway, in the Artic Circle called Karlsoy. It’s this really like old school, like old hippy place where, since the Second World War, they sent all the society outcasts up there like the alcoholics and drug addicts and shit to recover but they said ‘fuck you we wanna stay here’ and they claimed the island. Since then its been like a hippy commune and loads of families have moved and settled there so every year they have this festival called Karlsoy festival. Like Apex Twin heard about it and called them up and was like ‘I wanna play your festival’ he like paid for his own ticket, bought his own fucking tent, fishing rod, everyting.
DJ Nonames: It’s in the Artic circle so the sun doesn’t go down. Thirty families live on the island and when they do the festival it goes up to like 500,000 people.
Orifice Vulgatron: There’s like clear white sand, clear water, stone pebble beaches with like red seaweed, mountains, marshlands, and forests. Like it’s really trippy up there.
What’s the crowd like?
Orifice Vulgatron: Very hippy. It’s just the nature experience man. It’s nice to go out there and trip out over the nature a bit.
Favourite track you’ve done to date?
Orifice Vulgatron: Astro Science is one of my favourite tracks.
Metropolis: Black Hole prophecies, the Vadim track on our album. That is definitely one of my favourites.
Nonames: One of my favourite, lesser-known Foreign Beggars tracks is Music We A Mek. I love that shit.
If you could work with anyone dead or alive who would it be?
Orifice Vulgatron: I would love to work with MJ but what the fuck am I gonna do on a joint with him? ‘Yes wha gwarn’ just fuck the tune up.
Metropolis: My favourite producer at the moment is Theo Parrish. I’d love to do a track with Theo Parrish, I think he’s incredible.
What mcees are you feeling at the moment?
Metropolis: Doom. Doom. Doom. Doom. Ghostface. Doom.
You’re not feeling Raekwon then?
Metropolis: Yeah I am feeling Raekwon but I can tell Raekwon’s feeling Doom so boy, it all comes back to the source. I dunno, it’s just mad fresh at the moment. Like in terms of straight hip hop stuff, I think he’s just the most complete; he’s got the most swagger, focused lyrics, everything.
Orifice Vulgar: I’m feeling SonnyJim as always. I’m feeling Ghetts as always. I’m feeling Devlin too man
Nonames (to Orifice Vulgatron): who’s that new cat you been showing us?
Orifice Vulgatron: Yes this kid called Rinse. He’s dope.
Nonames: I’ve got one more to add to that, some new cat from Detroit. Mickey Factz from New York.
Orifice Vulgatron: You feeling him?
Last album you bought?
Orifice Vulgatron: Oh my god I can’t tell you that!
Metropolis: Minnie Riperton ‘ Adventures in Paradise’ on wax cos I love that track ‘inside my love’.
Orifice Vulgatron: Last album I bought was either Sound Garden or Weezer. I know it was the Weezer one but I wanna say Sound Garden one.
Nonames: I don’t buy albums any more. I think Metropolis buys more wax then me these days. Because I DJ, I use Serato, I don’t buy albums I buy singles, which is a shame because it’s nice to have an album but the way I look for music is on beat bought and itunes and you can listen to every single track. It’s rare that I want to buy every single track. The last single I bought was Benga ‘buzzin’
Metropolis: Last single I bought was Floating Points ‘Vacuum Boogie’ and Theo Parish LCD remix. Both incredible.
Orifice Vulgatron: Last thing I bought was ‘Next Hype’ Tempz.
What is clear is this third album is a departure in many respect to the previous releases but it feels timely. You can’t accuse them of turning their back on the UK or hip hop for a second. This album has bangers with the Beggars stamp all over it but it also goes out on a limb and it’s clear they’ve tried to do something different. We can’t sit in our rooms angry at the world banging aggy, dark hip hop forever, we have to grow up one day and, to me this is the Beggars growing up and keeping it current.
United Colours of Beggatron is out Monday 19th October. More info here
Picture: NOOR BFB