They’re the Leaders of the New School, adept enough to ignite the flame of something that’s been dormant for far too long.
Hawk House is the second in Noisey UK's "debuts" - a in-depth profile of a brand new artist. We'll be doing one a month until the apocalypse, or music ends (both estimated to be in 2016).
“They’re going to be a little late”, the manager tells me, as I slump into a sofa on the upper-floor of East London’s Strongrooms. Outside, the Hackney mise en scene is battered with rain and inside isn’t much better. Monochromatic faces exude into laptops, payday isn’t here, and my nose is blockaded with an army of phlegm. I order a Coke with a dash of blackcurrant and leave my coat on.
I’m here to meet Hawk House, hip-hop triumvirate, who are currently traversing their way between varying postcodes to reach our location. Comprised of Croydon brothers Sam and Eman, and Harlesden songbird Demae, the group make music that slots somewhere between today’s weather and the warm balm of Spring. It’s motivational but scored in the grayscale realities of city-dwelling youth.
Their mixtape, A Little More Elbow Room, sits somewhere between old-school A Tribe Called Quest and contemporary neo-soul like Iman Omari, who produced a couple of the tracks, but shaded over a backdrop of British inner-city assonance. Yes, this is conscious British hip-hop, but it skips round the hazards of the genre: middle-class teens with a penchant for weed and SBTV rhyming “coercive policing” with “quantitative easing”.
“British musicians seem to get misrepresented in everything,” says Eman, when they eventually arrive. “People still think that we eat crumpets and tea and I’m like, no you should actually come down, it’s not like that”. How would they like Britain to be represented to the rest of the world?
“I would put forward Dizzee Rascal, and that whole era and moment in time of UK grime,” says Eman. “Jay Kay from Jamiroquai I would put him forward as one part, and uhh. Third artist…” Sam interjects, “If I’m going to be real, it’s going to be Robbie Williams, that’s the way it is”.
This turns into a five-minute conversation about Robbie Williams, Westlife, JLS, and the under-appreciated genius of Jamiroquai. We agree that Jay-Kay is a pioneer. And we also agree that, despite the imminent emergence of a UK variation of New York’s current Beast Coast movement - Flatbush Zombies, A$AP, Pro Era - a lot of British hip-hop is currently being slept on. Hawk House are one of the leaders, but young, forward-thinking, jazz-infused artists like Jesse James and South London’s King Krule affiliated Sub Luna City are slowly building the creative foundations of something that could challenge the Flatbush empire.
“Save It For Another Day”, taken from their mixtape, is an ideal example of the way in which the group are trying to get “people to think about the world outside of themselves”. It tells the story of inner-city struggle that doesn’t reek of the mind-numbing mundanity that usually perpetuates UK hip-hop. The rest of the tracks on the tape, which includes production from Ta-Ku - who recently produced Willow Smith?!! - harks back to De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising and ATCQ’s Midnight Marauders with fresh undertones of British realities.
For them, it seems like creativity and natural processes are the key. “Hawk House basically just represents the collective”, Eman tells me, referring to the individuals they’re working within and around, “we wanted it to sound like a martial arts dojo”. The group are all equally involved in the song-writing process, Demae says, stating that “it’s more of a vibe. We just come together, listen to the beat, listen to the track, and just start to write. It’s organic and collaborative”.
“The project we’re working on right now is called A Handshake For Your Brain.” Eman continues. “That title basically encapsulates what we’re trying to do with all of our tracks. Evoking some kind of interaction between the listener so you don’t sit there and numb your brain, but actually start some kind of raw process and discussion”.