Spee Six Nine & Bigg Taj
Spee Six Nine & BigG Taj
About The Episode
In this episode, Spee Six Nine & Bigg Taj chat about what hip hop means to them, how Scottish hip hop has evolved over the years and challenge current media stereotypes. Their selected songs are “Words,” “Energy,” and “Astounding.”
Bigg Taj: Hip hop gave me freedom to express myself.
Spee Six Nine: Hip hop to some people it’s violence and it’s gangs and it’s criminal activity. It’s not. There’s so many levels to it.
Host: Immaculate Reception presents a showcase of Scotland’s finest hip hop producers, MCs, beatboxers and DJs. This is The Scottish Hip Hop Show. This duo are an MCing, beatboxing and production power house. Introducing Spee Six Nine and Bigg Taj.
SSN: Hi, my name is Spee Six Nine and I’m an MC. I am originally from Yorkshire and I’ve been living in Scotland for about 15 years. A little over 15 years now.
BT: Yes. How we doing? I am Bigg Taj and I am a beatboxer. That is my thing. Beatmaker for Spee Six Nine and a bit of a bedroom rapper, if you want to call it that. Do you know what I mean? I drop a verse every few years. I am from Glasgow.
SSN: I got interested in hip hop from, I think I was about 9 years old and my older brother had a cassette tape of N.W.A. and a Bone Thugs-N-Harmony album, I think. And I wasn’t allowed to listen to that sort of music back then. But my brother used to let me sneak, like sort of secretly listen to it. So I got really, like I was obsessed and then he bought the soundtrack to a film called Friday.
BT: My sister used to play a lot of music, you know, really loud and I used to listen to the radio quite a lot, as well. Like the Top 40. I liked pop music, you know? I still like pop music. But I remember hearing a track on that and I didn’t know who it was and then I heard it blaring out of my sister’s room. I was like, “Who is that?” She was like, “That’s 2Pac.” I was like, “I love that track!” You know? And from that I was just like, “I love 2Pac!” And then Coolio came out with “Gangsta’s Paradise.” The same with like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony as well with “Crossroads.” “I Got 5 On It” by the Luniz, you know? All these tracks are coming out. And I started listening to Tim Westwood, the Radio 1 Rap Show. A lot of us listened to that at that time as well. That really got me hooked on to hip hop music. I remember recording it on cassette.
SSN: I got involved in hip hop sort of, it was a few years later. I think I was. I’d always liked being into it, but I started writing things at school. Little poems. Just weird kind of, don’t even know, 4 lines and things that merged together and worked well together. And I genuinely thought that there was no rap in the UK. I thought it was like, you know. I’d only listened to American rap so I just assumed there was nobody in my hometown or any city, really, who rapped. So I started doing it myself and then started finding though graffiti artists and people I knew locally that there was this sort of subculture, underground movement of rap in the UK. So I started hitting up open mics maybe about 17 years old.
BT: There was a lot of music played in my house, right? My dad plays a lot of Indian instruments so music has always been there, right? And, you know, I played an Indian instrument called a tabla and sometimes I would teach it or come up with rhythms like [beatboxing]. Like that. So that’s how the beatbox kind of thing came about. And I remember when I was in secondary school about 16 years old or whatever. I remember just beatboxing outside the classroom. And there was a couple of boys there. One would rap. And my other friend was a DJ, right? So from then, we used to do little performances at the front of the school. So I would beatbox and my friend would rap. We would have this kind of big audience. And I love that attention.
SSN: If I was to describe the music we made to people who’ve never heard it, from me, my personal description would be “unusual.” And I’m absolutely in love with the sort of Bollywood sound anyway. I grew up hearing things on the radio and now and again, like
BT: I think we’ve got eclectic style.
SSN: Yeah quite. Very eclectic. Influenced by a lot of genres and ages and people so I’d kind of describe it like that. What about you Taj?
BT: Yeah I think it’s quite eclectic as well. You know like Spee was saying with the Bollywood samples. And I listen to a lot of different type of music as well. And also from like doing my youth work. I was working with a lot of Romanians and Slovakians as well for the past 15 years or whatever. And even picking up on some of the sounds that come from their culture as well. So I try and keep my, my kinda mind open to it all and try and be inspired by everything, you know? So everything you hear from Spee and I will be different. Even in my beatboxing the patterns are different. The tempo’s different. You know, as much as I love boom bap hip hop. You know, I love just a [beatboxing]. You know, I love that stuff, but also when I throw in something really fast as well. Know what I mean? [beatboxing] Just because! You know and that just kind of taking inspiration from lots of different things that I’ve heard. So quite eclectic. I mean, you’ll probably hear Spee rapping over an acoustic guitar and the next minute it’s over, you know, drum and bass or, then it goes to boom bap so
BT: so just expect something different.
Voice: You’re listening to The Scottish Hip Hop Show.
SSN: This track is called “Words” and it’s produced by Bigg Taj and it’s just something I just really, I really loved. I wrote, I wrote the stuff about myself, about my life, about my family. There’s little nods in there to how my lifestyle is and stuff and how it has been. And it’s just kind of. Taj sent over the beat to me. He’d done the chorus thing on it and the chorus, the words in it, it says that. It says,” Words don’t matter to me” or something and it was just that. Of like words are so important to us, but they don’t matter to us as well because when people say words, they just. Sometimes it’s irrelevant. So yeah I just picked that track because it’s real chilled. It represents us on the lighter side. It’s not something we would play live much because it’s more chilled out and more for your listening pleasure.
SSN: So some of our career highlights, for me. I’ll list off a couple of mine and then Taj can tell you some of his.
BT: Yeah man.
SSN: Just big. You know, supporting some of these acts from, who I listened to growing up as well. You know we’ve opened shows for LP, Eminem, Dead Prez, Redman and Method Man. You know, just like the list is just insanely large. Other highlights have been just being. Things aren’t. Getting to do TV work. Getting invited to go on Sky One. Getting invited to go on other TV shows through what Taj has done. Kinda weirdly, it’s a bit cliche, but one of my highlights has been spending time with Taj.
BT: That’s definitely a highlight working with someone who is as passionate as I am. Who is as professional as I am. You know, it’s come to the point where I can perform with Spee and as long as I’ve rehearsed my bits.
SSN: But you’ve got another highlight right?
BT: What is that?
SSN: Being on the mighty Coronation Street.
BT: Ahahaha! Being on Coronation Street! I never even watched Coronation Street in my life. The only episode I ever watched was the one that Spee and I were on. Honestly, it was just the whole experience. It wasn’t even like being the fact I was on TV. It was just. I love the behind the stage stuff, behind the scenes stuff and seeing how they record and. I learned a lot about myself and a lot about acting as well from being there. And we were only there for like 2 days, but just their professionalism and the way they were performing and stuff. You know, it was very different from what I’ve seen before. These things, we’re sitting here talking about it now, it didn’t come overnight. You know, this is the years I spent in my room just beatboxing. You know, I didn’t go out much. I didn’t have a lot of friends either. I could leave my phone for a whole day and there’d be no messages. You know, what I mean like? Because this is what I wanted to do since I was younger. Was beatbox. You know, so I didn’t want to get involved with anything else. Just mucking about and I’m still like that now. Like if I’m meeting people. And maybe it’s a bit of a flaw as well, but I always want to be doing something creative or constructive and not wasting time.
SSN: What hip hop means to me is. It’s a weird term “hip hop.” Everyone’s like, “This is hip hop. That’s hip hop.” And for me, personally, it’s a movement It’s a culture and it’s a way of life. It was. There’s not one defining thing that it is. It’s just when I heard these sounds from these other people when I was younger, that’s, that shaped my youth. That shaped my childhood, my teenage years, my adult life. You learn so many things. You know, me and Taj teach. We do a lot of workshops and we have a lot of young people come through our doors and interact with us. Everytime we try and explain to them it’s not one level. It’s not. For the untrained ear, let’s say, hip hop or rap is to some people it’s violence and it’s gangs and it’s criminal activity. And it’s not. There’s so many levels to it. It’s peace, love, unity, fun, you know. To steal a phrase from the Zulu Nation. This is kinda. It’s a way of life.
BT: I agree with what Spee was saying. Hip hop, it shaped me. You know what I mean? Shaped my youth and my adulthood as well. Even now I still get pure buzzing off of hearing new hip hop, branches of hip hop. What the young people are listening to, it inspires me. It gives me something different to work on, a different idea, a different creativity, you know? Hip hop gave me freedom to express myself, as corny as it sounds. It gave me a lot, a lot of confidence. A lot. If you guys knew me when I was in school, like, I wasn’t like this. Hip hop gave me that chance to come out of my shell. You know, also represent myself. For my people. My culture. You know what I mean? Back when I started there wasn’t nobody wearing a turban on stage and beatboxing. There was no Sikh people. You know what I mean? I was there doing that. You go to the UK Beatbox Championships, there was no Indian people there. It was just me. You know what I mean? It kind of gave me that. I feel powerful. That’s the best way to put it. I feel powerful when I do this and through lockdown, this last year and a half, not doing shows. It’s made me feel weak. You know what I mean? It’s really strange. It’s brought me down. I cannae perform. You know, yeah I can do hip hop in the house, but it’s not the same when you’re out there. You know what I mean? I think that’s probably the best way to put it. It makes me feel powerful. It makes me feel like. It’s hard to explain, man. You feel high.
BT: I know a lot of people who meditate in silence. I beatbox! That’s my meditation! I need that noise. When I’m beatboxing, that’s my meditation. I need that noise!
Host: You’re listening to The Scottish Hip Hop Show featuring Spee Six Nine and Bigg Taj.
SSN: How’s Scottish hip hop changed since we started? In some ways it excelled and flourished and in other ways, it’s reverted back. I’m never gonna use a platform to bad mouth certain artists or put people down because if you’re a creative person, this is your outlet so I always find that it’s kinda negative when people see artists that don’t maybe get or they don’t want to understand and they’ll put down. I’m not that kinda person. So I think it’s grown and it’s brilliant. There’s so many amazing artists, but there is also artists who need correct guidance to shape how they are. There is a lot of people. And it’s not just now. Over the years who will be heavily influenced by stuff and we all started not realising we should use our accents. So people were putting on these sort of fake Americanisms. Yeah.
BT: I think it’s really, really diverse with the sound as well.
SSN: Extremely diverse. Yeah.
BT: Before it was like you had to be boom bap underground. You know what I mean? I’m looking at stuff on Up2Standard, on Instagram as well. All these young people coming out with these bangin tracks, you know? And I think we need to respect the youngsters who are doing, what they’re doing as well. Also youngsters need to respect where they all came from too.
BT: I love it all. I love all branches of hip hop and I think we need to break out of the way that it needs to be underground and raw. It’s all raw to me, if you keepin it real.
SSN: Yeah, yeah.
BT: Whatever your definition of “real” is. That’s raw. You know, and it’s inspiring to see young people coming out with these videos that are nice and shiny and clean and their own production. I love it!
BT: I think it’s fantastic.
SSN: This track is called “Energy” and it’s produced by Bigg Taj. It was something that I wrote. I was in quite a dark place and I just. There was a lot of back and forward. So in the chorus, I’m talking about the energy. Some people need all my energy. Some people feed off the energy. I feed off energy. You know, we all take and give energy. So it was. It’s kinda about that really. And I was in a bit of a dark place when I wrote it so it’s really nice how it came out and hearing it back. It kinda cheers me up. So. That’s why I’ve picked this track. Just because it’s cool. And I like it.
Voice: this is The Scottish Hip Hop Show.
SSN: When we perform live, it’s weird to describe yourself in that position because we see it from one angle. You know, we see it from the stage looking at the crowd and an older MC who gave me a lot of advice early on, he always told me never, never look into somebody’s eyes. Never. When you’re on stage because they could be loving everything, but they’ve maybe just had a bad day. Just want to stand there. They’re not nodding their head along because maybe they’re just sort of relaxing. They’ve just finished a shift at work and they’ve come out. And you will consume yourself, you know, looking at that person and being like, “Why’s he not enjoying himself? Maybe I’m terrible.” And you start. So I think for us, our performance, we don’t focus on those aspects. We just go there and we do our thing. And we have played in the past to – luckily – 1000s of people. We’ve done things on the TV, but we’ve also played to nobody. We’ve played to empty rooms with 3 or 4 people in them. And that’s, that’s just the way it is.
BT: Also it is fun. It’s also just Spee and I just being us. I’m not gonna go on stage and pretend I’m a gangsta who’s been selling drugs before I jumped on stage. You know? You’re not gonna get any fakeness from us as well. It’s just this is us. This is how we perform, you know? I know what you’re saying about sometimes people are just quietly watching but. Even myself, if I’m watching a beatboxer on stage, I’m not going to talk over it. I’m just gonna listen because it’s a special thing to experience. And before I used to be paranoid, no one’s cheering yet. Even when I beatbox nobody’s cheering or clapping. I’m like, “They’re actually listening.” You know what I mean? They want to hear what other sounds you can do. And I’m the same when I watch other beatboxers. I’m not screaming through it. I want to hear this. I want to hear. I really want to hear what he’s doing. How is he doing that? I still get really wowed when I hear anybody beatboxing because that’s my passion. That’s where my heart is.
BT: I used to get para about that stuff, but now I’m just like people just soakin it in. And it’s that kinda wow factor. It’s just us being ourselves on stage. There’s no fakeness at all. So expect all that when you come to our show.
SSN: Do I think mainstream support is important to us and for Scottish hip hop? To me, no. For Scottish hip hop, it’s important to a certain level. It’s important that. Nobody does this still. It’s important that it’s looked at professionally and not as the rubbish, micky-taking kind of culture. Because that’s ultimately what it is. And this. I’m going to talk real fast about the UK culture for a start. The media still to this day and it’s something that really annoys me. You see people like James Corden, Jonathan Ross. They’ll introduce a hip hop artist and now and again they’ll do a litte, “Here’s so and so the rapper. [record scratching noises] Yeah! Fresh!” You know they do these kind of things. You never do that with anyone else. You never introduce Oasis on stage and go, “Plinky, plinky guitar music” or drummers and be like, “doo doo doo” you know? So laughing at this culture that you are jumping on the back of. The thing you’re jumping on the back of there like the types of James Corden-esque presenters
SSN: and stuff. They’re using that artist because they know they’re popular and they’ll get the views. But you’re also still having a slight dig at that culture so. It happens a lot in the UK scene, but in the Scottish scene it’s a million times worse. Yeah, there’s not enough and I don’t think they will cover it because like I say it’s kind of a laughable thing to them.
BT: It’s a novelty.
SSN: Not taken seriously ever so. Why would they push it?
BT: I think the mainstream representation is definitely needed.
SSN: Yeah. The thing about the accents is you never hear this as well. You never hear Sean Paul on a record and people be like, “Oh I can’t listen to that. I don’t know what he’s saying.” No one says that. Nobody. But as soon as a Scottish guy puts a track out and you play it to not. Not everybody as well because I know that there’s a lot of fans in Australia, England, other countries who listen to Scottish hip hop. But some people you play that to and they just go, “Don’t know what he said so it’s not for me.” And that’s such a negative attitude. Imagine saying that when a reggae track comes on the radio. No one would ever say that. When “Welcome To Jamrock” come out, no one ever said, “I don’t know. I don’t know what he’s saying so we’re not going to buy this record.” They loved it! They loved the track, you know, so. It’s just people’s insecurities and they need to embrace and open up a bit. And give things a chance and say, “You know what? I’m going to listen to that.” And represent. Support your people. Support your cities. You know, these guys are coming from your towns and your cities and they’re out there. And all you, some people do is put them down instantly. What a horrible sorta thing to do, I think. Let’s big em up!
BT: This track is called “Astounding” by Bigg Taj vs Spee Six Nine featuring Freestyle Master and Werd. Enjoy!
Host: The Scottish Hip Hop Show is an Immaculate Reception production and is generously funded by Creative Scotland and Audio Content Fund. The Series Producer is Delaina Sepko. Original music and production by Dunt. Graphic design by Kirsty Maclauchlan and marketing by Colleen Reid. Thank you to Sunny G Radio, shmu, K107 and 3TFM for their broadcasting support. Visit www.thescottishhiphopshow.co.uk.