The Honey Farm on hip-hop, sex and standing out
We talk to Dunbar trio The Honey Farm, who want to take Scottish hip-hop in a new direction, with love and sex at the top of their manifesto
Much of the criticism directed towards Scottish hip-hop tends to be misplaced and rooted in classist snobbery, particularly when it comes to the accent and demeanour of respective artists. Recent releases by the likes of Werd, Mog and Solareye of Stanley Odd also demonstrate the scene has shed the machismo that dominated it in early years, but even the most blinkered emcee would readily admit there's still something of a gender imbalance.
Dunbar's The Honey Farm identify as “potentially the first and by default greatest Scottish female rap group,” but they have no interest in being pinned by promoters for purely tokenistic reasons. There's much about their sound which is subversive: their highly contrasting vocal styles, their boogie-inspired instrumentals and their focus on love, sex, femininity and LGBT empowerment.
That's not to suggest the trio are anything but frank and funny in their approach to songwriting. Composed of Gael Curran (aka Sweethardt Dowt), Bee Asha Singh (Pimpses Asha) and Gracie Brill (Bitta DisGrace), plus unofficial member and bespoke producer Robin Brill (aka DJ Honeybadger), they're shameless in their mission to “take the piss out of the conventions” of the genre they love.
“It's satirical a little bit, sure, and a celebration," says Brill. "We point out that what we're doing is daft and we're daft going on stage doing it. We're essentially swinging our metaphorical dicks about. We want to do something different because we find the lack of positive sex stuff in hip-hop very annoying. To be honest, we don't only fit with Scottish rap in that sense – Scottish music, in general, isn't sexy. We want to make the sexiest music going.”
With track titles such as Pussy All Day and Ass Bitches, their upcoming EP Welcome to The Honey Farm is not so much an introduction as a raunchy manifesto. It's a record that seeks to celebrate romance, undermine toxic masculinity and promote body confidence all at once, and always with colourful language.
If the crew emit a sense of synchronicity and unified purpose, it's probably because they've all known each other since birth. Curran jokes that the band's “first practice was in 1995,” but siblings Robin and Gracie's musical upbringing suggests that's not entirely far off. After writing acapella verses in school, Curran and Singh linked up with Brill and the band eventually debuted at the conveniently nearby Audio Soup Festival in 2016.
“We really wanted to be a girl band,” says Curran. “We had songs written and we needed Gracie, who's good at playing instruments, to help us with them. The songs I'd written were really explicit and I couldn't write any subtext. It was just all out there.” Curran adds: “It wasn't particularly subtle, but we just write what we can. Whatever comes out is whatever comes out. I think we all work differently and have different styles. We do like Scottish guys – Stanley Odd and Hector Bizerk are good – but they didn't influence us to want to rap or what we rap about. It just started to happen. We love rap music and have grown to love it way more since we started to do it, but we all have such diverse tastes.”
The group's touchstones are certainly another point of contrast. Drawing everyone from Azealia Banks to M.I.A. to Die Antwoord, The Honey Farm's spasmodic style represents a radical departure from the traditional boom bap inclinations of their Scottish peers. DJ Honeybadger, meanwhile, cites electro-funk and worldly rhythms as his preferred template when producing beats to fit the trio's disparate rap flows.
This partly explains why categorising the group by genre is perhaps unwise. The crew have already comfortably headlined hip-hop showcases in Glasgow and Edinburgh and proudly represented “Team Rappers” in BBC The Social's Rappers v Poets showcase at last year's Edinburgh Fringe. But they've also played alongside indie up-and-comers Man of Moon and are set to support Glasgow punk duo The Twistettes at their Glasgow album launch on 14 September.
“We do feel very much distinct from a lot of the other guys doing it," Singh tells us. "We've gone to nights when we've performed with other Scottish hip-hop folk. They're all quite similar guys – well, not all, and there's some good stuff, but what we're doing is very different. We think the EP clearly conveys our point of view and what we're saying. It welcomes you to The Honey Farm and introduces our characters: I'm the bad ass bitch, Gracie is the smart ass bitch and Gael is the high-class bitch. We're here to make sexy moves.”