Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Around Bow with Lee Brasco - Part 3

This is the third part of a little tour around E3 with Lee Brasco. You can catch the first instalment here and the second here.

But for now the talk of radio filters out, and we go through Lanfranc estate. Over one of the walls, looking towards Roman Road, we can just see the top of the sign.

rhythm division Pictures, Images and Photos

The sun shines, and the tees in the window look so much better than on the internet thumbnails or Myspace albums where I usually see the designs. Hoodstars, SN1 and Boy Better Know are the main ones on show.

There's no customers, so we just have a look around. It's the sort of place that you step into and wish you were a DJ. It's not the biggest shop, but funky vinyl is stacked all along the back wall, behind the steel-topped counter with decks sitting on top. But it's on the oppposite wall where all of the grime CDs are, complemented by a smaller stack of road rap CDs on the right.

If you could only get five CDs from here right now, which ones would you get?

Brasco takes time to think.

LB: Race against Time, Trim's mixtape, Back 2 Da Lab 3, Down Volume 2 and Tinchy’s Star in the Hood. But if Tinchy’s album ain't there then Wretchrospective.

The guy out the back is sitting in the office.

LB: What's going on boss?

The man comes up to the front and stands behind the counter, giving us the low-down on the shop.

MrRD: Rhythm started about twelve years ago, and I’ve been here for about seven years.

How's Rhythm doing at the moment, given the recession and stuff?

MrRD: We haven't been doing too badly to tell you the truth, because-

Because Rhythm's a specialist shop?

MrRD: Yeah exactly. We're a specialist shop, so people will still spend their money here. Obviously we get in a lot of DJs and collectors as well as fans so, even if they're bruck-up, they'll still spend money on music because it's a hobby. And also, in these times, music is something that's fun and which gives entertainment.

I still think about his seven years. He must have remembered a few notable customers from back in the day. Dizzee?

His face lights up.

MrRD: Ah yeah, I remember Dizzee coming in here back in the day, course. He would make a tune at home on his computer, press it up round the corner and come straight down here, boxes and boxes of vinyl he would bring in to us. Around I Luv U times we would buy boxes and boxes off him, knowing that we would easily sell them all.

Dizzee was on the main stage at Glastonbury last week. His new song Holiday looks like another chart-topper.

MrRD: See some people might say that Dizzee has sold out, but there's a part of his music that's still E3.

What? Like in his delivery?

MrRD: I dunno but, to me, I just think he still brings a little bit of Bow E3 to the mainstream.

LB: Yeah man, Dizzee still reps for E3 - I'm not even gonna say he don't.

MrRD: Like I would say that grime was born in E3, and in that sense Rhythm is the lifeblood for the music here.

LB: When I came in here, I used to think that, one day, I wanna get on that wall.

Brasco almost says it as an aside, but it still shows that this isn't just a place to buy records. It's a shop with a history, and one of the cornerstones of a culture. I didn't quite realise Rhythm's significance only half an hour before.

LB: There was another shop that opened in Mile End called Allstar Records, but that closed as soon as it started.

MrRD: Yeah, I remember that. Rhythm was already more established, and they had nothing that we didn't already.

tinchy picture 2003 Pictures, Images and Photos

So are you - well maybe it's the wrong word - but like kinda 'proud' of Tinchy, Dizzee and Wiley, coming from here and now seeing them having such success?
MrRD: Yeah of course, definitely. I remember Tinchy coming in here.

He puts his forearm across his body, just above his waist.

MrRD: He must have come up to about here, you couldn't see him on the other side of the counter. I saw him and I was like 'what!? This guy can MC?'. But he was merking raves, 'tingz in boots' and all that, you know like the Eskimo Dance Top 100 reloads or whatever. Everyone in the crowd would just be going nuts.

Mr Rhythm Division fully explains by bussing gunfingers behind the counter. Brasco points at the Tinchy album on the rack.

LB: Tinchy is an original. Apart from Wiley, Tinch has probably been doing grime the longest out of all of the MCs you see on this wall - he helped pave the way.

But we change to current talk - what's the best grime-sellers in the shop at the moment?

Mr RD: Erm, a few things have been selling well. 'Microphone Champion' and 'Race against Time' have probably done the best.

But with all the June 1st hype, who has sold the most so far?

MrRD: They've both done well, but here probably Wiley.

LB: Well Wiley is from the bits, so that's kinda expected to see him sell the most here. We all support him fully.

MrRD: But the hype and publicity of releasing on the same day has worked, because what's been happening is that people having been coming in and buying both albums at the same time. Another thing is that the Skepta and Wiley albums have done a lot of units in a short space of time. Like for example what we would expect to sell in two or even three weeks, they did in just one week.

Brasco asks what has sold the most in the shop, ever. While the guy thinks, I pluck a guess at Eskimo.

MrRD: Yeah I actually think it was you know. The thing is that with vinyl, Wiley was just absolutely untouchable. A few years ago, if he had something just out the phone wouldn't stop ringing. For Eskimo, people were even driving down from Wales just so that they could get the tune.

Logan Sama's Earth 616 Maniac vinyl is there. I ask to have a look. It's green and it's Maniac and I just really want it, even without decks. How have they been doing?

MrRD: It's difficult because Logan's doing on his own what at the very least what three or four people should be doing. We only got them in last Monday but they are selling solidly. Not massive numbers, but just selling solidly.

I'm just about to ask the guy what his name is, but the phone rings again. He's picks up, and now seems a good time to leave. On the way out, near the funky vinyl, is Lee Brasco's Computer Girls, with Having a Bad Day on the B-Side.

LB: Make sure you go out and get that man, it's a good look.

We carry along down Roman Road. Brasco sees a tidy car sitting in traffic. The motor moves off but Brasco hurries, following the car down the road it just turned. We flag it down near Olga primary school.

LB: Oi, Mercs!

Mercston pops his head out of the window.

M: Ah Lee man, what's good fam? Alright - I'll pull over for a sec.

Catch the rest of the Roman sights and find out what Mercston's up to on Grime Forum tomorrow.

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