WALKING into a city centre hotel to six hip-hop legends munching on the greasiest of Glasgow chippies certainly ranks in the top one strangest experiences of my life. Unbeknownst to me however, The Sugarhill Gang and their touring partners Grandmaster Melle Mel & The Furious Five’s Scorpio have developed a taste for Scottish delicacies on their travels.
The last time they came to Scotland the Americans were introduced to Buckfast Tonic Wine by promoter David “Stumpy” Hanvey and maintain that they will continue to eat and drink whatever they can get locally. Furious Five member Scorpio said: “We’ll drink Buckfast again because we liked it. “We’re easy to get along with because we know you can’t get what you truly want on the road, we go where it’s at and eat all types of things.”
Speaking to Eddie “Scorpio” Morris there is a sense they truly relish their visits to these shores. Not just for the culinary delight of deep-fried pizza, but to work with their friend Stumpy too. Over six feet tall, Stumpy gets his name not from a lack of height, but from the lack of thumb on his right hand. Scorpio exclaimed: “I expect a lot of drinking, a lot of partying, that’s how Glasgow get down. It’s our second year in a row, our friend Stumpy brought us back. I expect everyone to come and really party and celebrate classic hip-hop.”
“We’re from the States but when you reach different people, that’s when you start breaking down more barriers and more doors so we love the UK. If I had any other place where I’d live besides America it’d probably be the UK.” The pioneering rap collective play St. Luke’s; a refurbished church venue in the East End, on Friday night following a last minute show in Edinburgh on Wednesday.
Although Scorpio insists they are not spiritual people, they still cannot wait to play it. He said: “It’s not about us being in a church being spiritual, we’re just being there having a good time, it’s like a club back in America called Limelight it was in a church and some crazy things went down. Touching on the current political climate of right-wing governments and extremist attacks, Scorpio flows with opinions, most of which link back to music. Adopting a serious tone, the rapper said: “Music is always the thing that can help soften things and get across what politicians can’t do because first of all the melody is easy to listen to and is not preachy to the point of being chastised. We need that right now with the climate over in America with our new president Donald Trump saying a lot of outlandish things, the whole country is so tense.”
“On any given day there could be a race riot, there’s a lot of bigots that came out of hiding and now they’re looking at black people, Muslim people, Spanish people and they want everybody out of the country. It’s intense in America right now; it’s really not a good time.” “In America, everybody got guns so a lot of people are getting killed, hopefully eventually it’ll settle down but it starts at the top. Even though I didn’t vote for him, our leader is the still the president and he’s got to double down and treat people the way they are supposed to be treated or it’s only going to get worse.”
Born showmen, the two groups are the brains behind some of the greatest hip-hop tracks of all-time including ‘Rapper’s Delight’ and ‘The Message’ and they have no plans of slowing down any time soon. Scorpio said: “When you do a job for so long it becomes like walking and breathing, you know what you gotta do and when you’re there and hear a little bit of the crowd, even if there isn’t a crowd because we’ve played situations where a lot of people didn’t come out.
“Even if it’s 200 people or whatever we give them the same show. The hype is really in us, it’s not from the people. It comes from us on the inside, we know we’ve still got to do a good show.” With most of the men past their half-century, Scorpio admits it’s been hard to find an audience for their music beyond touring. He said: “I don’t think it’s hard for most classic hip-hop artists to be creative and make music, the problem is there’s not enough outlets for our music to be heard and that rains on your parade a little bit. “Back then we knew if we created music it was gonna go to a certain channel and it’s gonna be played on the radio. Your motivation was just different. “Now it’s like alright I’ve created this incredible record, who am I going to give it to to play because they push classic hip-hop artists to the side.”
Not to be deterred, Scorpio and his running partner Melle Mel are waiting for the right time to drop new material. “Myself and Melle Mel recorded a whole album we’re just trying to wait for the right situation to push it through. “I’m quite sure the Sugarhill Gang will always record and that goes back to the question earlier, cats like us always record there’s just not an outlet, there’s not a record label we can take it too. “There’s nothing for classic hip-hop artists, man I got about 20 new songs for myself just sitting in my iPhone.”
As bandmates scramble around looking for the WiFi password, it is clear that these rap icons are no stranger to technology, but do draw the line at releasing their material solely on the Internet. With real venom, Scorpio protested: “The Internet is a double-edged sword, it can embrace you but then everybody is a critic. “I’m not putting our music out just to be criticised, you don’t have to bow down and love it but it should have a fair chance of being heard by the masses versus just putting the music out for some snotty nose college kid sitting in his dorm room eating noodles and oodles gonna critique our stuff, and he don’t know nothing about the history.”
Scorpio knows even though they do not have the same mainstream pull they did in ‘80s, true legends never die and the audience will always be there, both young and old. “There’ll always be young people. A lot of people think they’re just classic hip-hop, so only people that remember them will come see them. That is so far from the truth because everybody wants the knowledge. “When you hear that the godfathers of hip-hop are coming through, the cats that created it with the Sugarhill Gang being the first artist to put it out on record, to help turn this into an industry. Then you got two of the original cats from Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, Melle Mel and Scorpio that definitely helped create the culture from nothing. That’s kind of a big deal.”
The Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Melle Mel & The Furious Five play St. Lukes on Friday 30th June.