HANG: 'When you're struggling, even listening to a hip hop track can change the dynamic of your emotions'
- Deborah Chu
- 10 June 2021
Hip hop promoter and HANG co-organiser Alana Hepburn speaks to us about breaking barriers for hip hop and grime artists in the music industry, and why institutions are finally sitting up and taking notice
Later next month, Glasgow's SWG3 will be playing host to Scotland's first-ever music conference dedicated to hip hop and grime. Titled HANG – Hip Hop Aimed Networking With Grime – the event will take place both virtually and in-person, bringing together people and communities that have had to remain apart for much, much too long.
But even whilst living under the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, these communities have been busy. Across all corners of the music industry, people have been standing and calling for change – in working contracts, in streaming revenues and in representation. HANG has arrived as a key voice in addressing the latter, bringing together members of the hip hop and grime communities to celebrate the diversity of voices in 21st century Scotland, but also as a call-to-action for greater representation in an industry that has, up until now, viewed these cultures as marginal to the mainstream.
HANG has now revealed details of its full line-up, and joining the likes of previously-announced names like Ransom FA, Nova and Darren McGarvey will be Jill Brown, founder of Conviction Records, Scotland's first label for ex-offenders; broadcaster and musician Vic Galloway; founder of European urban music conference New Skool Rules, Henca Maduro; director of Intercultural Youth Scotland, Khaleda Noon; and Zander Whitehead, also known as Fliptrix, founder of hip hop label High Focus Records.
The event will kick off with a talk on the history of hip hop, hosted by McGarvey, Sinkler and Ransom FA, and chaired by Arusa Qureshi. The day will then feature a range of free panel discussions by experts in the industry, as well as workshops on various aspects of hip hop culture, such as breakdancing, spoken word and DJing. HANG will then culminate in a live showcase from Nova – who made waves as the very first grime artist to win a SAY Award this past year – as well as SAMA winner India Ros3, Ayrshire rapper Bemz, Mistah Bohze and more.
Ahead of this milestone in the industry, we've spoken to one of HANG's co-organisers, Alana Hepburn, about her view on changing conceptions around Scottish hip hop and grime, the power of the genre's enduring influence, and where we go from here.
HANG has come together with the goal of highlighting the importance of Scottish hip hop and grime – something that has often been overlooked in discussions of Scotland's music scene. As the industry reckons with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and imagines how things can be done better in the future, do you think HANG can play an important role in those discussions?
As a hip hop promoter in Glasgow for over 10 years, I feel hip hop and grime has been overlooked for many years in the Scottish music scene. It's an exciting time for development and growth for these genres within Scotland. HANG has the ability to help artists break down the barriers within the Scottish music scene. With the impact of Covid-19 on the industry, we are hoping by virtually hosting our main event this should be more accessible to everyone.
Nova's album Re-Up is the first-ever grime record to win a SAY Award. Do you see this as a positive sign that Scottish institutional bodies are beginning to recognise the importance of the genre?
Yes, a hundred per cent! This is a huge step forward for the culture. Artists like Nova have been overlooked for many years, and it's fantastic she won. It sets a historical moment for the Scottish music scene that the old way of doing things is changing. Promoters and taste-makers can no longer ignore rap music and the impact it's having within Scotland.
Hip hop and grime music and culture has been around for decades, and carries with it potent political messaging as well. Why do you think it's taking so long for Scottish cultural institutions to sit up and take notice?
Unfortunately, cultural institutions are often the last to sit up and take notice. These genres began on the streets, with people coming together in difficult times. Rap is a huge political movement in itself and represents the under-represented. It can give hope and a voice of understanding to people. Throughout the history of the music industry, people have often considered hip hop culture and music as too raw, too real and therefore not fit for commercialisation. It's through this growth from the streets that it eventually reaches cultural institutions.
Jill Brown [founder of Conviction Records] mentioned that hip hop 'plays a crucial role in the lives of many of those on the margins of society in Scotland'. Why do you think hip hop in particular has been such a vital conduit for their stories?
I believe hip hop has been a vital conduit due to its relatability. I've found hip hop has given me a sense of community, family and unity. When you are struggling, even listening to a hip hop track can change the dynamic of your emotions. Many people seem to realise this; that there are many others in the same situation who share the same thoughts. It forms a scene of relatability and understanding.
What sort of sea change do you hope to come out of HANG?
Hopefully to combine all the seas of change to form one big flowing collaboration! We aim for the future of HANG to become a solid hub for aspiring hip hop and grime artists to gain valuable insight and knowledge on how to break down the barriers in the music industry, how to get your music heard and for people to listen to interesting, personal discussions with our panel speakers. Hopefully in the future it will help under-represented artists to have a stronger voice and be taken seriously in the Scottish music industry.
HANG will take place both online and live at Glasgow SWG3 on Sat 31 July. Find out more at officialsama.org/hang