Hector Bizerk – Scottish hip hop… the illegitimate art form?

Posted: 16/11/2011 in Local Music
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The gig is billed as an evening of Scottish hip hop, with Glasgow duo Hector Bizerk a prominent feature of the bill.

Arriving a few minutes before their stage slot, you step into Ayr’s cosy but cramped Courtyard Bar and a quick scan of your surroundings instils a degree of trepidation. The stage area is an alcove at the back of the bar which is separated from the main part by a waist-high wall with a metre-wide entrance, essentially rendering the performers invisible to all but those in the front row.

In addition to this, located within this alcove are the male toilets, meaning that any performance is destined to be peppered with interruptions and further negations of visibility as members of the audience make the journey through the aforementioned entrance and across the stage to relieve themselves.

As if this wasn’t enough to put one off one’s Friday evening pint of frosty ale, just as Hector Bizerk take the stage, into the breach stumble two highly inebriated females set firmly upon some sort of drunken dancing crusade who proceed to position themselves directly in front of the entrance to the alcove.

It seems that they are of the opinion that whatever the audience originally arrived to see will pale in comparison to their own unique brand of same-sex bumping and grinding and wilful displays of flesh. Even the ad hoc insertion of the refrain “put some fucking claithes on; naebody is watching” into one of the hip hop team’s earlier numbers is lost on the self-appointed backing dancers, who are so deep into their own rhythm that the scathing couplet merely serves as further soundtrack to their flaunting.

It is, however, noteworthy that also present, in addition to this sort of amateur pub burlesque troupe, are the altogether less salubrious – but possibly even rowdier – Hector Bizerk entourage who, unperturbed, show their fierce support for the purveyors of gritty lyricism and accomplished percussion.

The performers, for their part, although understandably miffed at this fairly inconsiderate attempted upstaging, manage to respond to the display in a fairly humorous manner as Louie invites the crowd to check out their mailing list and intimates his hope that they are able to “maybe come to a gig where yous can… you know… actually see us.”

As well as the obvious regrettable implications of a drastically impaired view of a performance which already had a very ‘tunnel vision’ type vibe, this type of spectacle is most unfortunate as, if you weren’t already familiar with the work of MC Louie and drummer Audrey’s and your arrival was such that this appeared as an intentional inclusion, it might just lead you to dismiss Hector Bizerk as some quirky chavsploitation sideshow.

This is a risk that exists even without the undesirable gyrations of a pair of sozzled wenches, due in large part to how uncommon it is to find a credible Scottish hip hop act whose output isn’t restricted to YouTube videos of a bunch of bams in tracksuits using bottles of Mad Dog as microphones for their renditions of latter-day Eminem offerings.

It is also a risk clearly not lost on the artists themselves, with their track Niche seeing Louie impersonating the reception they have garnered from radio stations with the line “we like your tunes but you sound like a ned.”

Humorous as this undeniably is, it showcases a viewpoint that must be guarded against by any means necessary, as the putting aside of any initial scepticism and bemusement will invariably lead to the revelation that the duo are a truly exciting, original and inspiring talent.

The Hector Bizerk experience, in a live context where you can actually see them, comprises a decidedly sparse stage set-up – Louie with mic in hand at one side of the stage and Audrey keeping in careful charge of the drum kit occupying the other side – but this doesn’t in any way hinder their creation of an intensely captivating soundscape.

The lyricist’s calm, almost glazed look belies the summoning of a wealth of talent and his hands slash at the air in front of him as he layers distinctly working class rhythmic musings over equally accomplished bars of percussion and the room immediately becomes a sea of nodding heads, all exhibiting the same expression of awe and admiration. From the moment they take the stage, Hector Bizerk are in complete control of a sonic output that demands nothing short of captivation from the listener.

The material’s lyrical content ranges from the gritty to the humorous to the obscene but remains, at all times, thoroughly intelligent. For the Record contains verse after verse of seemingly throwaway rhymes which flow with an astute self-assurance and exhibit a tendency to elicit a knowing grin from those listening:

“Life’s a work in progress of self-empowerment, 

You can eat your own words if it’s time you’re devouring,

 Till I’ve got the hunger and I can’t crawl cowering, I stand tall towering,

The seeds of the roots of the tree are flowering,

I never rain on a parade, evaporate water you’re showering.”

The prior suggestion of the existence of a ‘Hector Bizerk entourage’ of fans and fellow musicians who appear at every one of their gigs illustrates the admirable savvy of the two musicians. Evidently aware that their musical style positions them within something of a niche market, they are taking all the right steps towards building up a loyal following. An active mailing list and social networking presence are maintained, a range of merchandise is readily available and ticket runs are duly embarked upon prior to gigs to try and ensure the maximum attendance and exposure for each appearance.

With all of this considered, this is an act who could well serve as the harbinger of an era of credible Scottish urban music. Hip hop is an immensely popular genre around these parts and, as anyone who tried to catch The Streets in the Slam Tent at this year’s T in the Park will attest, an immense deal of respect exists for those in the London scene who took the style and made it their own. Just like their counterparts in the South, the Scots have their own identity, their own culture, their own slang and their own social problems that need addressed. It could well be time that they stamped their own signature on the genre and claimed a branch for themselves.

It does seem only right that, now that a strong scene is showing signs of emerging on the home shores of Scottish urban enthusiasts, an equally huge amount of support should be forthcoming. Hector Bizerk are a duo with genuine talent and passion residing within an immensely interesting and forward-thinking genre of music and it is truly heartening to see them resist the temptation to take their cue from other established scenes and, instead, create and work with a sound and content of their own.

It’s just unfortunate that their rhythm holds such an irresistible allure for steamin lassies.

Hector Bizerk on Facebook

  1. […] Hector Bizerk – Scottish hip hop… the illegitimate art form? […]

  2. […] Tonight is the official album launch for the, of late, hotly-tipped duo’s freshly-pressed Drums. Rap. Yes. offering and, as such, now seems as good a time as any to provide some coverage of how far the pair have come in the eight months since their last appearance in these pages. […]

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