Sometimes it feels like British rap music has had as many false dawns as So Solid Crew had members. There was the 1990s UK hip-hop generation, the likes of Rodney P, Roots Manuva and Blak Twang, alongside the rave-driven MC cultures of ragga, jungle and UK garage. Then the grime wave of 2003-5, when Dizzee Rascal, Roll Deep, Kano, Wiley, Lethal Bizzle and others exploded from the London underground into the popular consciousness, with an avant-garde sound as playful as it was frenetic.
Record deals followed for many of the MCs and crews, but few matched the success of Dizzee’s definitive 2003 debut, Boy In Da Corner, and the goldrush quickly turned to dust. Record labels returned to the safer policy of importing commercially proven American rap, and the UK scene reverted underground. But the underground was crumbling – FM pirate radio stations were becoming outmoded because of the internet; vinyl and record shop culture was supplanted by free downloads and homemade CD “mixtapes”; while the rave scene was snuffed out by targeted racist policing in the form of the Metropolitan Police’s notorious “risk-assessment” form 696.