Episode 6:


The Scottish Hip Hop Show Episode 6 Empress
About The Episode

In this episode, Empress talks about what hip hop means to her, career highlights so far and why she thinks homegrown platforms are best for pushing Scottish hip hop forward. Her selected songs are “Get Slapped” and “The Raw, The Rugged.”




Empress: I said this to many people: hip hop saves lives. In one way or another, it does.


Host: Immaculate Reception presents a showcase of Scotland’s finest hip hop producers, MCs, beatboxers and DJs. This is The Scottish Hip Hop Show. She’s a Paisley-based MC, writer and educator. Introducing Empress.


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E: Hi, I’m Empress. I’m a writer, rapper and lyricist. And I’m from Paisley. I originally got interested in hip hop though hearing it from, well, it would have been on the radio. But I wouldn’t have kinda known it as hip hop back then, but I just know that I resonated with hip hop sounding songs. So early 90s songs. House Of Pain. Things like that, but also I had cousins who would listen to things like 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle album. I listened to Ice Cube The Predator. Yeah, so I would listen to that as well. And that kinda got, that sparked my passion for hip hop.


I made the switch from just listening to hop hop to actually making hip hop when I was about, I’d say, 14 or 15. I’d always been into writing poetry and stuff when I was younger. About 5, 6 years old, I was writing poetry. So I feel like it was a natural progression for me to want to then, you know, rap. I would start rapping over sort of Nas instrumentals, Wu-Tang instrumentals kinda trying to put my own versions on top of that. Yeah, that’s how I kinda made that transition from writing, just writing poetry into rapping.


I would describe my hip hop as my hip hop. It’s hip hop, but not as you probably know it. Scottish accent. Full of patter. It’s live. It’s energy. It’s real. Yeah.


So some of my influences have been Nas, obviously, Method Man, ODB. They’re my favourite members of the Wu-Tang Clan. Method Man just because his flow’s crazy. He’s funny with it as well. He’s just an outstanding rapper. ODB just because again he’s crazy. I’ve always loved his style. Not afraid to go there and just really be who he is. Ice Cube’s always been an inspiration for me as well because he’s a West Coast legend. And he’s just one of those voices you hear on the mic and you just know that’s Ice Cube. More local, Loki, obviously. Loki’s a massive influence in me. I resonated with a lot of the earlier stuff and I still do. Darren’s an amazing lyricist. MOG, obviously, as well. There’s too many! Ms Dynamite as well. Ms Dynamite was a massive influence on me. Lauryn Hill. Missy Elliott. I tend to, yeah, go for the kinda avant guard.


So when I’m looking to work with other people, it’s about the vibe. You know, if there’s no vibe there, we’re not going to make decent music. So it’s always got to be about the vibe. That’s the most important thing. I don’t tend to look for credentials or anything in producers or anything like that. Because some of the people I’ve worked with, S.89 for example, I don’t think he’d worked with anyone sort of, a big name or anything, but you see the kinda fire we make together. So that’s dope. No, it tends to be if the vibe’s right and we’re going to make good music, then it happens. So yeah, I don’t look for anything specific.


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E: Some of the people I’ve been working with so far have been Steg G, obviously. Legend in this hip hop thing over here. Just a pure don. I’ve worked with Sound Thief as well. He’s produced from, everybody from Bohze to Loki to Jakey Bites. The infamous Jakey Bites. And myself. We’ve made absolute bangers together. S.89 of course. I mentioned him before. We make some really good music together. Macapella. We’re working on a few things at the moment. He’s a producer from Perth. So we’ve got some really dope stuff coming together as well. Long may it continue. I hope the list is very long of collaborators and producers.


So the track that I’ve picked is “Get Slapped.” This was produced by Sound Thief. It was on the Public Menace EP released round about 2017. It’s a banger. Enjoy.


{music, “Get Slapped”}


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Voice: This is The Scottish Hip Hop Show


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E: What people can expect when they come to see me is pure energy. Raw energy. I’m gonna always bring it. Like whatever I’ve been going through, you’re probably gonna get a good taste of it in the front row. But definitely, it’s always live. It’s always energy. I believe that when you’re coming out to one of my shows, you’re coming out to forget about the outside world for 5, 10 minutes. You know? And if I can help you escape from that and I can help take your mind off it, then we’ve all had a good night together. So yeah.


Some of the things I’m proud of, the highlights so far, have been being part of the hip hop documentary. That was a big thing. Also, getting the chance to get out there and play my music. I know that sounds quite vague, but from sitting and watching people do it to actually going out and doing it yourself, it’s a really big thing. Getting to meet everyone and getting to put faces to names and stuff was a big thing. I’ve performed with Neu Reekie. I’ve performed at Leith Theatre. I’ve performed at Electric Fields. That was a festival down at Drumlanrig. I’ve done Frontseat Freestyle. I’ve performed with an orchestra. Air In Between. Going to do it again with Live Today. Gosh, there’s so much. There’s a lot, a lot!


The Queens Of Art tour, that was a buzz. It was a buzz to be asked to be involved. It was great. Shay D had done something that no other female MC’s done before, to be fair, and put together an all female tour. So she was touring different cities. It was coming up to Glasgow. Unfortunately, the week before that I had done The Air In Between. I think it was the week before. Definitely the week before. And it was. Yeah, it took the wind out my sails. I was already not well and so I’d been told by the doctor, “Stay at home. Don’t go out.” But me being a pure warrior, I was like, “Naw, I’m going out. I’m gonna represent with the Queens Of Art tour.” And then, yeah. I wish I could remember every bit of that night because I know it was a blast, but I was ill. So but big ups to everybody that was there. That, that was something special, again, that only happened in hip hop. That got brought round to our city. So that was fair enough. But performing with an orchestra and all that, that was really dope. That was really dope. Yeah. I wouldn’t take any of that back, do you know what I mean? But it was definitely a learning experience. The next time the doctor says stay at home, I’m gonna just stay at home, do you know what I mean?


So yeah, getting up on stage with an orchestra was a life changing experience. It was just fantastic. There’s nothing that can compare to that because it’s very different from having a DJ. You know, you can’t spin it back. You can’t, you know. You need to just run with it and when you feel the vibration of the strings at the back of you, oh my goodness. I can’t wait to do that again. That was a, yeah, that was an amazing experience.


It was a relief. It was a big relief getting Love Wins out there. You know, putting your first album out, you’re first. It’s a test, I think, of your own sort of character and how well you’re gonna stand by what it is you’re feeling and saying at that time. It’s also just a learning curve. The whole thing is a learning experience. I will say I probably should have enjoyed it a wee bit more. I should have just enjoyed it, but we were in a lockdown. We were in a pandemic as well so I had that to sort of wrestle with. I don’t think many other artists can say that was one of the things they had when they were putting their debut album out, but it’s done. I’m proud of it. Me and Steg created a musical baby. Ahahah! It’s out there for the world to hear so yeah. Love Wins. First solo album and very proud of it still. Would I have done things differently? Probably not because it is what it is. And it’s what it’s meant to be so there you go.


Yes. Knowing what I know now, I would give myself the advice of keep quiet a bit more. Don’t jump down people’s throats with expectations and don’t, don’t put any expectations on your art because it’s not gonna do you any good. Just have fun. You know, I think I’ve learned now, I’ve learned. Come full circle and I don’t pay attention to numbers. I don’t pay attention to things like that. It’s all about just making decent music and putting dope art out there now. Yeah so. But I think fair play to me, you know what I mean? I never had a management team. I never had anyone backing me up. I never had anyone guiding me as how to approach people in the industry or how to sorta. Even just making music or whatever. So fair play to me. I came out on my own like a solo warrior and just went for it. And I think yeah I’ve learned now just to have complete fun and just enjoy it. And that’s how you get the best results.


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Voice: You’re listening to The Scottish Hip Hop Show featuring Empress.


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E: So this track is “The Raw, The Rugged.” This is produced by Macapella. This is off an upcoming project we’ve got dropping together later on this year.


{music, “The Raw, The Rugged”}


E: I do. I remember the first time I heard Scottish hip hop and a massive smile just came across my face. I heard Scottish hip hop. It was STS and Gael Force. They were a band. They used to kinda do Gaelic rapping, but over a live band. And it was amazing. They had a song “Step, Aon, Dhà, Trì” and that’s Gaelic. 1,2,3 in Gaelic. There was other members in that band, but obviously STS is still quite prolific. He’s out making beats and stuff in the hip hop community. And that was the first time I’d ever seen it live and it just hit me. It was like something through my heart. It was like, “Wow! This is really. It’s not just what we hear on record or see on TV. This is our, our thing.” The first time I heard a Scottish MC that just blew me away was obviously Loki. You know, Darren’s really early stuff. And it was just, you know, on another level. You know, when I heard him, I was like, “Ok, I’m gonnae take this to another level as well.” It really put the battery in my back and I think it made me feel not embarrassed to speak about things when I heard someone like Loki. Obviously, other people as well, talking about their situations and problems. I thought, “Right. Ok. I’m going to go for it as well.” So yeah.


Hip hop to me is life. It’s my life. It’s just a force within me, at this point. It’s a force that we all have. I just look at it as sheer energy. It’s that, you know. It saved my life on several occasions. And the one thing that I think now is if I can put back into hip hop what it gave to me, as in working with the youth, as in just making music for people to have a sort of therapy, that’s all I ever really want. You know, I’m. Hip hop’s something, as I say, it saved my life so if I can give back to this culture and then give that to the youth, that’s all I would ever want from it. But yeah, I’ve said this to Steg. I’ve said this to many people. Hip hop saves lives. In one way or another it does. So yeah, that’s what this is to me. It’s everything.




E: So the work that I do. I do workshops mostly with the youth. I’ve worked in primary schools. I’ve worked with the Refugee Council. I’ve worked more recently with employability hubs out in Easterhouse. Places like Drumchapel as well where obviously the youth out there don’t have many opportunities and the ones they have open to them aren’t routes they want to go down. These individuals are really bright young individuals that know what they want. And again, they’ve got that ethos, the hip hop ethos, at the front of their heads so it’s really easy to get the best out of young people like that. And that’s again why I say hip hop saves lives because you see it. You see it in these communities. I think I said before. I know it sounds a bit cheeky, but it’s true. A lot of the rappers and road men and bad men they don’t walk through the schemes that I teach in. They don’t or they can’t, you know, for whatever reason. So I know that I’m bringing something to this culture and bringing something to the youth that they’ll remember for life. And that’s opportunities and a chance to give them a voice and make them feel that there is a chance for them to get involved in this if they really want to. And show them that it’s a realistic, you know, chance and opportunity.


The Scottish hip hop community’s changed massively since I first got involved. And it’s only gonna grow expediently from there on in. There’s far more women, which is a great thing. I’m always happy. Shout outs to all the ladies that rock the mic! You know what I mean? We’re all out here doing our best. But yeah, it’s changed and the fact that there’s more diversity now, which is amazing. Yeah, it’s just great to see people who maybe didn’t have confidence before or didn’t have a voice and now they’ve found themselves a name and a. You know, it all starts with the SoundCloud rappers, doesn’t it? Ahaha! It all starts with them. But like I say, that’s a great thing as well that hip hop’s went from, you know, having to go into a studio, having to be part of a crew and going to be able to do it on your own and having that freedom. So yeah, that’s how it’s changed.


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Voice: You’re listening to The Scottish Hip Hop Show.


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E: So I think Scottish hip hop hasn’t had the kind of general, mainstream support or anything like that. In saying that, we have been doing a lot more cyphers on GRM Daily, Link Up TV. There’s been a lot. The Rap Game, for example. There’s been Scottish contestants on there. Things like that. So there is that mainstream, you know, pool out there for us to dive into. Do we need it? I don’t think so, but that’s maybe another question. Yeah, we do get support, but I just think it’s. I often think we should just start our own and build from the ground up and go from there. That’s usually the best way forward.


I don’t think it is important for us to have. Rather, I think it is important for us to have our own platforms that we create. So from the ground up because I’m a big believer in if you want something, you take it, you know what I mean? And hip hop’s got that thing where you do. You know? If you build it, they will come. So I think, yeah, we should rely less on the kinda mainstream channels, you know, London-centric, America-centric and be more homegrown in the sense that we create our own. Build our own and keep pushing from there up. London’s a perfect example. They started their whole thing down there by collabing. Getting together. Building it up. Creating their own styles and then running with it. I don’t see any reason why we can’t.


Scottish hip hop brings to the table patter, confidence, the bars. If you ever watch a Scottish hip hop battle, then you’re in for a treat. Yeah, we’ve just got our own unique charisma and charm. We put that in our bars, in our music and it shows. Yeah. Scottish fighting spirit.


To raise the profile and start doing grassroots stuff. Stuff like this. You know, Beats & Breaks. Stuff like this, The Scottish Hip Hop Show. It’s putting the power in our hands. It’s given us creative control. It’s given us the freedom to express without being boxed in, as I said, in a London-centric or American-centric industry or movement. Like this. Like the youth employability hubs I go to. Those are the kinda things we need. Things in the community. Things that have been there that, you know, we can all use. I think we’re doing a pretty good job, I think. Between yourself, between Beats & Breaks and what we’ve got already. Sunny G is a great beacon for the community. Start from things like that and then push forward. It’s definitely the way forward.


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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.


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