In summer 2013, Tru Thoughts released ‘Gangster Chronicles: The Definitive Collection’. The record was the London Posse’s seminal 1990 LP ‘Gangster Chronicle’, repackaged and augmented with a comprehensive selection of exclusive, previously unheard tracks, including eclectic remixes by Steve Mason (The Beta Band), Wrongtom, The Nextmen, Hint and Drumagick. In-depth liner notes by London Posse blogger/biographer Jimbo Jones complete the experience, telling the colourful story of these UK pioneers.
The group formed in 1987, soon being invited on tour by Don Letts and Mick Jones (The Clash) to support their new band Big Audio Dynamite. The original lineup featured Sipho ‘The Human Beatbox’, Bionic, Rodney P, then known as MC Rodie Rok and DJ Biznizz. Soon after, they secured their first recording contract with Big Life records and recorded pioneering hip hop classics like “Live Like The Other Half” and “Money Mad” for their debut album ‘Gangsta Chronicle’.
They released two singles in two years: “My Beatbox Reggae Style” in 1987, and after Sipho left – “Money Mad” in 1988. “Money Mad” put them on the map, a hard-hitting street anthem successful with both rap and reggae fans, using a roughneck fusion of elements from the two genres. Biznizz left the following year, and the now two-piece Posse began recording a demo for Island Records under the guidance of their manager Errol ‘Bull’ Samuel. These sessions would be the genesis of the ‘Gangster Chronicle’ LP. The Island demo sessions lasted a week, in a rooftop studio in Acton during the heatwave of 1989. Due to the heat, the tracks were recorded with the studio door open out on to the surrounding industrial estate. Spurred on by Guinness and Jamaican soul food courtesy of a nearby hole in the wall takeaway shop, the sessions resulted in three finished tracks. Two were discarded, but one would be the classic “Live Like The Other Half Do”, which was released untouched as the group’s first single on Island Records. The flipside was producer Sparkii’s remix of “Money Mad”, which was recorded (with re-written lyrics and a recreated beat) at Island’s Fall Out Shelter – previously used by such artists as Bob Marley and Toots + the Maytals.
The success of this double A-side, after being played by John Peel and making the UK singles chart, led to Island requesting an album. Both tracks were included on ‘Gangster Chronicle’ when it was finally released in 1990. This album moved UK hip hop to the next level, presenting a vivid depiction of London street life that put the listeners there on the street next to Bionic and Rodney, their lyricism showing a striking attention to detail.
According to Rodney, “We ain’t pulling it out of the sky. If something happened on Saturday, Monday we was in the studio writing it”. They were known to hold recording sessions that lasted 48 hours, with a day of sleep in between. Rodney and Bionic were often writing in the studio, playing games of one-upmanship, then re-recording as many times as necessary until they were happy with the track. The lyrics were startling, accomplished and fresh, but the beats behind the rhymes were just as striking, utilising classic soul influences of yesteryear and reggae soundscapes straight from the London sound systems.
‘Gangsta Chronicle’ was voted the Most Important UK Hip Hop Album of All Time in 2007 by Hip Hop Connection magazine. The Tru Thoughts re-release of ‘Gangster Chronicles: The Definitive Collection’ brought the album in to a new era, for old and new fans alike. London Posse must be appreciated to ever fully understand UK hip hop, in its past, present and future. While the group may have parted ways for now, their music continues to set the bar for the genre, as some of the first artists to show what UK hip hop could be.Read more
“A British hip hop landmark”
“Rodney P and Bionic still sound great and totally ahead of the game”