The British rebirth of neo-soul...
Hawk House by Neil Bedford for Clash issue 90

Change, musicality and dopeness.” Quite the straightforward mission statement, yet it’s true that Hawk House are defined by what they wish to evoke. Hip-hop fuelled by enlightenment, not braggadocio. An urge to tell stories, not boast about the quantity of carats in a ridiculously priced medallion.

In this instance, it’s London that those tales originate from. Brothers Sam and Eman jinked between different postcodes within the capital while growing up before settling in south. Grime got scooped up early in the process, too.

“We used to be involved in all the grime sets and all the battles,” utters Eman, the most vocal of the group. “That’s basically where me and my brother started. Battle bars. Then we just had the general progression to other forms of lyricism.”

Demae, songbird/MC of the group, comes from Harlesden and got introduced to the brothers via a mutual friend and over a joint appreciation for Pac Div and other hip-hop.

Yet it’s not only rap and grime that consume their roster of influences. As we natter over Skype, there’s a mini interlude where Demae shows love to Spike Lee for Crooklyn and Sam bigs up Inglourious Basterds. Then the three calmly reciprocate artist names between them, pasting the likes of Little Dragon next to composer John Tavener in their good books.

The result is a soul-satisfying smoothie of Native Tongues, Fugees and Yukimi Nagano sprinkled with LDN dialect. Full-blooded, abstract hip-hop and neo-soul, yet experimental and without boundaries. And now, like the burgeoning Beast Coast collective forming on the east coast of the States, a UK mini scene is slowly poking through the pores of the Internet.

Names like The Group Called HR, Ego Ella May and Jesse James join the dots – but Hawk House are wary of being sheep-herded into any sort of clique. Says Eman: “I think that we have elements of that whole movement but we don’t intend to get placed in a box, per se. We just want to be experimental with everything we do but we definitely have elements of that in our music. With our future music, that’s something that people will hear as well.”

A new project is in the works and set for early 2014, but it’s their last release, ‘A Little More Elbow Room’, that’s picked up attention. Peep accounts of inner-city life problems on ‘Save It For Another Day’ or the poetic backflips prevalent on ‘Tidal Tendencies’ (video below) for a hint of their subject matter. In other words, it’s food for thought with an enviable taste.

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Where: London

What: Spirit-nourishing hip-hop/neo-soul

Get 3 Songs: ‘Round We Go’, ‘Tidal Tendencies’, ‘Live-ation’

Fact: Eman puts sugar on his chips and jam on pretty much everything else, including chicken.

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Words: Errol Anderson
Photo: Neil Bedford

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