So Solid Crew were the first British group to adopt the hip/hop garage genre from America and consequently they made quite a significant mark on British music. They were declared as “The most talked about and controversial musicians of the 21st century”. A lot of what made the band so successful is the way in which they conform to all aspects of the American rap genre.
As So Solid were one of the first to bring this genre of music to the UK almost all other examples of those in the same genre were from the US, where one of the main conventions of rap genre is criminality, as seen from artists such as 2pac and 50cent who both have history of gun related violence.
By bringing elements of America’s hip hop culture they gained a lot of press attention. From the Channel 4 documentary about the group (This is So Solid); we can see that even if their felonious reputation was not intentional, that’s the type of label they received from the papers with some headlines reading: ‘top pop stars in gun terror’ and ‘so squalid crew’.
The group were even accused of a rise in crime in their Battersea origins. In November 2001, at the Astoria Club in London, gun shots were fired at a So Solid gig and despite the band being on-stage, they were still accused in the following days and the press began to associate the band with gun terror.
The group’s tour was cancelled and they were banned from performing. This branding of the group by the papers allows us to draw upon Gerbner’s cultivation theory, as the paper’s produced similar stories all-round the public have no option but to accept it. It then becomes a popular trend,
The group responded by doing a school tour and hosting gigs with an invited audience. In addition they released ‘Broken Silence’ which acted as a public message conveying how they feel regarding their mistreatment in the press and the government prejudice they have faced. They way in which the lyrics are passed along in the music video links to how So Solid want everyone to spread the word and the message of the song. As they scan the room at the start and end of the music video there is a direct mode of address from each member, making it personal to the audience and also makes it quite obscure. They look like a family and all facial expressions are blank or angry which links to the message behind the song. We see a record playing at the start and the setup is similar to that of a DJ, which could bring us the message that the focus should be on the music, and not the criminal undercurrent. Furthermore, the lyric ‘revoke the violence, not promote the violence’ summarises the message of the song.
Although the group claim to not deserve their criminal label, there are several links to a crime culture in the history of the band members. Both Ashley and Megaman have spent time in prison with Megaman being accused of rape. Even Megaman’s idea to form the band was thought of whilst behind bars. Therefore we can gain an insight into why the band is associated with a life of crime similar to the American artists from whom they adopted the genre.
Another convention relating to the American rap genre is the dress code, which always represents wealth and money in order to attract women. Each and every member of the band is constructed according to Dyer’s star theory in order to appeal to the target audience whist being a successful commodity. In So Solid’s first music video 21 Seconds we see a dress code being conveyed along with several other conventions that help to add to the image of gang culture. The objects worn range from shades to gold chains, which all link to the stereotypes associated with the genre, additionally everyone is wearing dark coloured clothing which links to a dark ghetto culture lifestyle; this is reinforced through the content of the lyrics. The direct mode of address from each member of the band creates an intimidating effect linking to a gang culture that relies on intimidation. This can also be seen in the video for the song ‘oh no’ where vicious fighting dogs are featured in the video which directly relates to a life of crime.
A lot of the rap genre consists of embracing your roots and where you come from. In American this usually results to most black rappers talking about the ghetto as their origins. So Solid Crew has replicated this feature as they all originate from Battersea in London. The group embrace this in the music video for Broken Silence as we see shots of the streets and areas of Battersea which we assume the band members lived their childhoods, we even see the insides of local shops. Moreover in the Channel 4 documentary a lot of emphasis is put on the area that each band member grew up in.
To conclude, So Solid Crew have certainly adopted all the features of the genre they belong to, and conform to the conventions set by the American rap artists. With the criminal undercurrent that accompanies the band they have been the source of much controversy in their journey from the streets of Battersea, to platinum selling, multi award winning stars.
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