Is Manchester the UK’s Atlanta?

This comparison comes from me looking at how Hip Hop in New York used to be on top, but in the last 10 years, since the reign of 50 Cent, we have seen a decline in their sovereignty. Since then, it seems through collaboration, Atlanta has taken over; from the early trap rappers such as Jeezy, Gucci Mane and T.I. to more recently with equally inescapable artists like Migos, Future and Young Thug, Atlanta has gradually ascended to the position of hip hop superpower today, with enough influence to impeach New York’s supposed supremacy.

Like New York, London has always been on top in the UK in terms of urban music. And apart from sharing the same boujee attitude towards “outsiders”, London also has that everyone wants to be “The Man” complex, whereas in Manchester, similar to Atlanta, everyone collaborates together. The first Manchester breakthrough on a major scale, was grime artist Bugzy Malone. But then this past year, we saw talented songstress IAMDDB burst out of the underground with her “urban jazz”. Rap-wise we have Black Josh and Sleazy F Baby emerging from the outskirts with a genre I have coined sauce rap: a distinctive fusion of American trap and UK bass sounds. These are just some of the many coming out of Manny, and I reckon soon enough, with collaboration, they will be a serious powerhouse within the UK urban scene. 

Let’s talk about the comparison of London and New York: both cities hail themselves as the epicentre for rap in their respective countries. With New York, the story of how The Bronx became the literal mecca for hip-hop during the 1970’s is world famous. From the early nighties to mid-noughties and beyond, New York has always looked down their noses at other forms of hip-hop; especially artists from the south. Take Joe Budden for example. The former/sometimes rapper from New Jersey  – similar to New York – has experienced a second life as a hip hop critic and anti mumble rap advocate. If we look at our side of the pond, since the early noughties with 21 Seconds and Boy In Da Corner, all the attention has been centered on London, shifting between East and South. It has only been in the last couple of years that nationwide stars have broken out from other cities in terms of MC’s. We can look to Birmingham’s Mist, owner of perhaps the best visuals in the UK, as perhaps the artist who signaled the shift towards making sounds outside the M25 commonplace. 

So the crux of the argument is this; in what way is Manchester the UK’s Atlanta? Well I’d start with this: the way New York hip-hop once looked down on hip-hop from down south, is very similar to the way up north UK urban music was once disregarded by us Londoners. But now with breakout stars such as Mist from the midlands and Bugzy Malone further up north, they are no longer being ignored. But it’s not just Bugzy Malone strongly repping for Manchester. If you’re looking for that gutter trap rap, look to Black Josh, Sleazy F Baby and Just Banco, who are coming through with a cruddy underground style. And on the other side you have artists such as IAMDDB, LayfullStop and Kinkai who are pioneering their northern soul/ urban jazz sound, which is much easier on the ear. Even more alternative are the likes of Bipolar Sunshine and Tobi Sunmola who have a very unique sound and interesting perspective.

I compare Manchester to Atlanta because when the latter’s rap scene was burgeoning in the early noughties, you had the likes of Young Jeezy helping to pioneer the trap sound that many would say runs music today, while simultaneously, the likes of Outkast, – who’d been leading the charge for the South more than ten years earlier – were still bringing lighter influences like soul/jazz influences into their raps,  for a much smoother concoction. It’s funny that Atlanta rap was first disregarded in its early stages, but now we see the trap sound they created is running the mainstream industry. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Could Manchester be the future torch bearer for UK urban music? I don’t know. But one thing I do know is that there is a hell of a lot of talent brewing in the City of Manchester.

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Published /
January 21
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Features