Interview with Caxton Press
Literature used to be a luxury for the high classes, the dignitaries and religious figures. Great work, strong messages were out there, but it wasn’t reaching the masses ‘til William Caxton introduced the mass printing press to England. Like the Twitter of its day, it revolutionised the way word is spread, and as its namesake, UK hip hop group, Caxton Press aim to carry the mantle forward…
You have all been prolific in your own right as artists, but what brought you together?
We linked through doing music as solo artists; you always make links along the way. We did some recording at [fellow rapper] Cross Bone T's studio Organic Sounds in Lewisham. We had this high charged creative energy, recording track after track; we didn’t’ actually have a name until the album was almost finished.
You must have all brought your own strains of influence to the party, but was there a common thread that united your musical heritage?
It’s over-played, but that old saying, "keep it real. " Truth was a common thread too, and classic hard-hitting hip hop.
You’re playing a variety of festival dates across the summer, including Soundflow Festival – how do you find the festival environment for getting people to really listen to what you have to say?
To be honest I have only played a couple of festivals before, so I’m looking forward to it. I anticipate that people are gonna act like we do in those environments... but time will tell.
Chris Rock once joked, “I’m tired of defending rap music. It's hard to defend 'Move bitch, get out the way!'"” – rap music lost its edge as a form of intellectual expression, but groups like you guys are reclaiming that – is it important to you that people realise you have something real to say?
It’s not so important they realise we have something to say, as it is that society has something to say. I mean, if we weren’t doing music we'd still be as pissed off about the state of affairs in this country, but we naturally convert thoughts and feelings into words when we write. I think the people are waking up, and we are a voice among millions right now. As far as rap music is concerned it’s important that we have better role models and positive lyrics; the future is ours right?
‘Shame the Devil’ has just been released; in a world of increasing single digital downloads, an album of work is a strong statement – did you plan from the outset to release a long player?
I think at first we was just recording songs, just getting it down on track, then everything else just fell in to place of the back of that. My boys Natty and Seb from Defcon were willing to help us put things into action, but there was no official briefing or plan of action until we had at least 12 or 13 tracks recorded. It’s always been about writing, recording and doing shows; keeping working and not getting rusty.
From the album title, who’s the ‘Devil’ in your sights?
There’s too many to mention! The album title came from the saying "tell the truth- shame the devil"; as a writer/journalist you should always strive to do this, if not you may be selling yourself and the people short of what’s needed and deserved. Lets not get lost in fantasy, some people hate socio-political hip hop, but I'm hoping they come round to the idea cause talking about what’s going on around you has been the most natural thought process for MCs over time. It’s cool to talk some super lyrical mad shit that can twist your brain inside out, but we always come back to the matter at hand; I try not to drift away from the roots of this culture. Sure, you can evolve, but evolve with integrity and pay homage to the culture.
Your songwriting momentum hasn’t dropped; I read you’re already 12 songs into writing a new album. Have you found the subject matter for the second album has diversified from the first at all?
15 tracks in now, and yeah the sound is growing very nicely. I’m looking forward to dropping it, I think a few people will be surprised, but you have to stay true to your fan base; I don’t wanna drop a second album and have all our original fans say, “Ah, I preferred their first record, it was more raw.” Trust me people, its always gonna be raw and have that merciless stamp on it.
You four are the figure-heads of Caxton Press, but tell us how much importance your producers play on the overall output, and how you came about choosing them…
If it wasn’t for those fellas we'd of been struggling. Production from UK hip hop has been a little on the shabby side for some time, so I’m glad people are getting their shit together. We’ve got some banging beat makers. Shout outs to Profound, Think, Hutch, Sivey…the music makers; you provide the soundscapes for our thoughts.
You have one of the most inspired band names I’ve ever come across. As a free magazine, we’re often faced with the statement ‘Print is Dead’ – what’s your argument for the weight of the printed word?
The word is power; knowledge is power. Any format we can get is good, but print stays the best. I love picking up an old book written a 100 years before I was born and being able to relate to it, it’s so important. I was shocked when HHC [Hip Hop Connection] went down, and surely a lot of others follow. I guess a lot of people don’t buy magazines any more when they can read online for free, but please don’t ever stop, you’d be surprised how many people the printed word can reach.
The internet is today’s Caxton Press – do you embrace all forms of social technology that help get the word out, or do you worry that we’re bombarded with too much now?
All channels to spread the truth.
Do you think British hip hop will ever be as exportable as American hip hop is over here, and do we need to concern ourselves with that issue at all?
It’s not a issue I’ve thought about much since the last boom in UK hip hop. I suggest we deal with our own backyard first, then deal with the rest later .
Having not seen a Caxton Press set, tell us how you think the live environment elevates what you do, and whether you’re able to let go more on stage or in the studio…
We’re a tight unit on stage; we come alive up there with the mic in our hands. The whole crew love performing, energy explodes, it’s crazy.