Tut's: Loki

It upsets me when I've worked so hard to change perceptions, and one person can just wipe it all away.

Feature by Jasper Hamill | 13 Oct 2006
With all the blingin' and posturing, it's easy to forget that hip-hop, at its core, has a strong resemblance to protest music. Acts like NWA, Public Enemy and Grandmaster Flash weren't so much celebrating the lifestyle of the ghetto, but bemoaning it, angrily questioning the government or attempting to expose grim truths to public scrutiny.

Darren Garvey (AKA Loki), a Glasgow based rapper notable for his unerring use of his native accent and vernacular, suggests that hip-hop is born "of frustration," anger at your surroundings. Hailed unfairly in the papers as "Neddy Burns, The Poet Laurete of the NED Generation," his rapping deals unflinching with the truths of his hometown, wittily and sometimes shockingly exposing the harsh realities he sees. "It doesn't piss me off when they say NED, or use any other acronym," he says, "it's that when people use those words, they don't realise the lives behind the phrase. People drive to work on the motorway, which goes through housing estates which are just housing scheme, shopping centre, motorway, housing scheme, shopping centre motorway. It upsets me when I've worked so hard to change perceptions, and one person can just wipe it all away."

Scotland is not known for its hip-hop, although the more organised Edinburgh scene was recently written up in Hip-Hop Connection. It was only recently, according to Loki, that rappers started rhyming in their own accents, rather than aping Americans. Nonetheless, influence "first and foremost comes from America," and at first it "doesn't even cross your mind that you can rap in your accent." Leading the scene as its "self-proclaimed celebrity," Loki has appeared on BBC Radio as "the voice of youth," teaches children to rap, worked his way out of a homeless shelter and has been the public face of a scene which, amongst others, includes rappers like Gasp and Respeck BA.

The music that comes from this scene, centred around bedroom smoking sessions and chaotic live performances, has the self-deprecating humour of the pub, the lexicon of the street and, unfortunately, some of the violence of it. Some fans think that "it's hip-hop to come and start a fight… they need to go home and calm down," but primarily the scene's about swapping rhymes, battling and freestyling. Harking right back to the poetic tradition of yore, Loki's music can be plaintive, hilarious, aggressive or painfully personal: "I would be lying if I talked about anything else," he says, "that's what I see, that's my environment. It's a love and hate thing with Glasgow but I wouldn't have anybody say a bad word against it."