chapter  3
28 Pages

‘I See the Glow in You’: Summoning the Aura in London’s Post-Hip-Hop Culture

In his recollection of an evening at his old youth club, JJ describes a scene in which about 100 boys and girls gathered to hear the rapping of local MCs. The crowd, composed of slightly more boys than girls, counted about 10 MCs amongst its members. They had been drawn to the Tuesday evenings at the Forest Gate youth centre by word of mouth, spread throughout the borough. JJ recalls that at the centre of this gathering MCs stood around the DJ ‘with the mic, in front of the decks so you can see what’s going on and all that. And obviously it’s important with sets that MCs have contact with the DJ.’ The group of MCs ‘spat’ their lyrics while gathered in a semicircle-in concert with the DJ. Their audience surrounded them and contributed to the atmosphere through their support, but the MCs focussed on their own skills-‘I’m gonna get tight with my bars, and get my flow tighter, and focus on the spitting and what I’m doing verbally’—rather than on the audience: ‘It weren’t like a performance type of environment.’ The rapping (or ‘spitting’) was directed towards the improvement of their linguistic skills. The spatial arrangement of the DJ, MCs, and audience is closely linked to this sociocultural process. Their collective efforts made the night memorable to JJ because of the build-up of ‘hype’ as the assembled rappers passed the microphone to one another, practicing their lyrical delivery.