So, i’m chewin’ the fat with my pal who – as it happens – is a selector for, and member of, the OG Dancehall collective ‘Lord Gelly’s Soundsystem’. This information isn’t fully relevant to the subject of this article, but they do add some credibility to his opinions that I’m about to share; seeing as he’s a certified soundbwoy and 34 year old original North London Garage raver.
So, as I was saying, Nikki AKA OG and I were having a chat about the early noughties transition that took the UK’s Undeground Garage scene into the darker realms of what has come to be defined as Grime. A period he remembered well, and one he wasn’t particularly fond of; largely because it was turning the otherwise bubblin’ Garage raves into less of a party and more of a “hood concert” – which in short mean’t; the two- stepin’ was out, and the gunfingers were in – which for the hardcore-raving-Jungle-born-Garage-raised-masses of his generation this was not their cuppa tea.
To my pal OG, and a lot of people his age, Grime’s conception had detrimental affects on the rave scene he’d grown up in. But with that said he still had some passionate and positive things to say about it, and in particular the E3; Warlord; Original Pay As You Go MC by the name of ‘God’s Gift’. Who in his teens during the early part of this pivotal period was bringing a gritty Ruder-than-Rudeboy feel to the Garage scene in a way that had yet been attempted.
Arguably one of the first MC’s to shower the mic with an aggressive heavily Bashment influenced style – which you could likely attribute to the popularity of the likes of Bounty Killer, Buju Blanton and other heavyweight 90s Dancehall stars; plus the direct link from Garage to Jungle and Drum & Bass which incorporated the same influences.
Gods Gift was bringin the swagger and attitude of Jamaica’s biggest, baddest and most notorious MC’s into the lancscape of London’s contemporary rave sound of the early 00’s. Patwa, street talk and ruggedness laid over the poppin’ Garage beats of the era. A precursor of sorts to the burgeoning Grime shift that was starting to fade in, as the ‘Gucci Loafer’ Garage Scene was beginning to fade out.
In compound with his street content and dizzying delivery, God’s Gift was one of the most credibly hood, genuinely feared MC’s. But he came into the game at the age of 16 and gained his initial notoriety with his ‘Tribute to 21 MC’s circa 99, which paid homage to the most the popular MC’s of the time including man like Munchy, Creed, Precious, and B Live, producing a lyrical medley which incorporated their catch phrases and iconic bars – humble beginnings.
The tribute to 21 MC’s was – in some ways – the spark that launched Gifts early ascent, and as he grew from 16 to 19, he developed from a young clean quintessential Garage MC, into the rough and rude Yardman on and off the mic that the Garage scene respected and the streets feared.
“I’M HEERE NOW and i’m doin’ the do, nuff MC’s wish they was in my shoes, 19 years old with an MR 2!” Are the bars my pal OG recalls the most vividly. The fact a 19 year old boy from Roman Road Estate – Bow E3 – was pushing that kinda whip said a lot about Gifts street activity, and like in most cases, the realness and raw appeal of these kinds of lyrics engaged a generation of young Pirate Radio listeners in a way that other MC’s weren’t. “Me and my crew we nar pet, you don’t wanna get gunshot in ya neck!” – Gods Gift, 2001
On top of the street cred, unlike the MC’s of the time who were still on this ‘Lybical Dan Lybical G’ ting, Gift was more greaze and more advance than the average mic man. “Gods Gift, Mighty Mo, B Live, Plague and Wiley were spittin with content…” Recalls OG when discussing the critically acclaimed top ranking MC’s of the era. “Riko was big on the Drum and Bass scene, but like Gift he also went pen, so he missed the early Garage-Grime thing..”
Although being a certified badman boosted Gifts notoriety for the aforementioned reasons the fact remains it comes with its own set of “Occupational Hazards” which in Gift’s case, you could argue had quite detrimental affects on his career and possibly a large explanation for why he doesn’t get remembered as much as he should. Like Riko, God’s Gift found himself spending a significant period of time in Jail which unfortunately coincided with the signing of his then crew ‘Pay As U Go’.
The single Champagne Dance which was recorded and released while Gift was in prison subsequently took off and although Wiley, Maxwell D and the rest of PAYG where enjoying the fruits of their labour, Gift was boxed up and missing the opportunity he had played a vital role in catalysing. The venomous, unforgettable bars which made the hook for the PAYG classic ‘Know We’ were a staple of his style and personally some of Gift’s most memorable bars which are still synonymous with the crew today.
He went on to form Mucky Wolfpack which made their mark on Grime in the mid-noughties but sadly the scene wasn’t what it is now. Money was scarce and I guess after missing out on such a momentous opportunity, the task of making it to that kind of level again was possibly too out of reach. That, with the fact that it’s also widely understood that’s he was the type of guy that would of likely had a more reliable and lucrative revenue stream from the ‘roads’ than from music which would’ve also contributed to his lack of motivation.
In spite of his relatively short time in the game, it’s important to remember his impact on the scene; even arguably being responsible for playing a fundamental role in More Fire Crew’s early success. “Oi blud, Gifts on Deja with some guys..”Say’s OG on his initial introduction to More Fire Crew as he recalls a phonecall he got from a friend who happened to be locked into to Deja one evening around ’02. “Don’t get me wrong they (More Fire Crew) did their work, but Gift brought people to their show. We were lockin’ in to hear Gift… So was everyone. That’s kinda what buss More Fire Crew on a ‘street’ level.”
This type of influence and street level respect is a strong part of Gods Gifts legacy. He was more than just a cold MC; he was a leader in the game at the time and brought credible attention to whatever he was involved in. Being the only MC to feature on the legendary ‘Boy In Da Corner’ album aside from Wiley on the track ‘Hold Ya Mouf’ says a lot about his status in the scene and among his peers.
When you reflect on Gods Gifts contributions to the game, in my opinion and the opinion of my 34 year old ex-Garage Raver friend, the impact he had on the Garage scene, and the force that formed what became Grime was profound. You could argue he set the tone for the likes for N.A.S.T.Y, Meridian, Slew Dem, Kids In The Hood (Crazy Titch’s crew) and the whole host of Grime crews and MC’s who specialise in street content. Where producers like Danny Weed were altering the Underground Garage sound of the early noughties, MC’s like Gods Gift were influencing a new attitude among Garage MC’s.
So, given his impact on the scene that we celebrate so much today its important we recognise Gods Gift not only as a topptop OG MC but for his contributions as the Grime Scene’s Forgotten Father. As Jammer put it when I approached him for an impromptu and out of blue ‘alf cut one question interview at the bar in Visions to get his opinion on the subject, his response once again validated the common oversight that “He was a king”.