Bournemouth Hip Hop Group Celebrate ‘All Elements’
A pinch of attitude, a lick of style and a great big dollop of cool makes up the recipe for Bournemouth’s own hip hop group All Elements. Hannah Smithson takes a look into the world of hip hop culture from the the Bronx to Boscombe, sussing out the mood from Bournemouth’s own hip hop artists…dude
I first ran into one of the All Elements members during a bike shop opening launch in Landsdowne last summer. There were b-boys and b-girls breaking (I later learnt was the slang for female and male break dancers) and I was unsure at the time of who these people were. I sensed a comradary, a unity, a connection to the cool and that’s when I began my journey discovering what hip hop was and what it wasn’t.
Bringing back hip hop from the Bronx to Boscombe
I met Paul Spencer or ‘LaceMaster’ as his fellow hip hop friends know him, which he later explains is because of his big, colourful chunky laces that he still wears on his trainers. Paul took me back to the time and place where hip hop first originated. He explained that hip hop, one of the most powerful pop culture influences of the 20th century was born from the progressive musical culture that grew out of the tough Bronx neighbourhoods in New York in the 1970’s.
Paul grew up in Boscombe, recently highlighted as the most deprived area in the South West of England. In 1987, he helped organise the first Vile Style event in St. Stevens Church Hall in Bournemouth, along with John Isaacs, a.k.a. DJ Junk from the British Second to None hip hop group in the early days. “We would go to gigs round the country – MC nights, graffiti events and not a lot of it was connected but what did unite it all was music.”
All Elements are now celebrating their first year as a constituted charity and non-profit organisation, with their motto being ‘peace, love, unity and having fun’.
“That’s what we’re trying to do is unite all the arts of our culture- we help each other, build our community and identify all the other members so we can relate to each other.” Twenty years later the Vile Style event then became more frequent and happens once or twice a year now, with All Elements hoping to secure funding from Bournemouth Pavillion this year as their host venue and all the sales from the tickets going to the b-boys and b-girls competition.
The charity consists of a group of trustees who have had years of experiencing the hip hop culture- break dancers, house DJs and MC’s. “We’re not here saying we can develop you into this – we just say we’re like minded and if you need help we can suggest help to you.”
“Hip hop is about sharing knowledge but it’s not about teaching you about it- there is no school of hip hop.”
Speaking to Simon Frankland a.k.a. Shun, a local graffiti writer and hip hop music producer, he explained it as an urban recreation that people can do without having to spend any money. I asked if there had been a resurgence in hip hop since the recession in the UK and he relates it back to the Bronx, saying: “People were unemployed, the place was a mess and people do want to do things, they wanted to be creative, they wanted to be better than the next person.”
“Rapping and graffiti writing doesn’t cost anything and in these times it’s definitely an opportunity for that because it’s so accessible to everyone.”
Misunderstood- Graffiti- an artform or a crime?
Originally born and bread in Bristol, Shun found the city really multi-cultural, “everyone was separated but when hip hop came along no one seemed to care- they all embraced each other, which I think was a huge turning point.
“Now everything is a little more separated again but it’s the likes of what Paul’s doing that is trying to bring everything together and feel connected to all the elements.” There used to be a lot of stigma surrounding graffiti but Shun explains that these days the way society sees it means it has gained some legitimacy. “There are legal places you can go and paint, like the walls in Boscombe. Councils even commission murals nowadays. Art buyers like graffiti and so it has become appreciated as an art form.” He points out though that although there are graffiti walls in Boscombe he wonders if there would be graffiti walls in Canford Cliffs.
All Elements were invited along to Boscombe Tea party last year and went on stage with all the elements; rappers, breakers, beat-boxing, Djing and graffiti artists. “It was really successful and we had a crowd of about 150 people there”, says Paul. The next All Elements event will be Vile Style will be on Sunday 26th August. See All Elements- Dorset Hip Hop Facebook page for more details.