TRCH Dracula

VVV: Leading the Hip Hop Revolution

12 April 18 words: Ashwin Balu
photos: Curtis Powell

VVV are Nottingham’s most exciting new hip hop export. Having said that, music aficionados could contest that they aren’t really new, as the underground supergroup is made up of three names who’ve been on the Notts scene for years. The trio have proven themselves to be a unique contribution to the UK’s rap scene, delivering skilled bars and cultural nostalgia without taking themselves too seriously. Cappo, a UK rap veteran whose career spans over two decades, is joined by Juga-Naut, the culinary and musical polymath, and Vandal Savage, the lyrically adept nephew of Nottingham hip hop legend, Joe Buhdha...

Those who’ve listened to VVV’s debut album Bozo Boyz won’t be surprised to learn that their playfully immature brand of humour isn’t reserved strictly for skits between tracks. “I’m sorry I’m a few minutes late,” Juga-Naut grins as we stand outside Broadway waiting for Cappo. “I couldn’t find anywhere to park the Arachno-Chopper, so I landed it on top of the Adams Building.”

As we sit down, Juga-Naut retells his first encounter with Cappo in 2009, drawing a smile from the rap veteran as he remembers being given a run for his money by the hungry nineteen-year old. “Cappo was pretty much the best rapper for a long time until I came to his album launch party in a Bape hoodie and rapped my head off for ages,” says Jugs.

“Yeah, there was an open mic freestyle thing at DJ Squiggly’s old shop, Oh My Gosh,” interjects Cappo. “Me and Endemic were releasing something and we hosted a cypher there. I had about five verses left, but Juga-Naut kept going; he wasn’t gonna stop, and you can’t really back out of your own cypher at your own EP launch. I had to conjure a spiritual lyrical miracle.”

Cappo’s breakthrough came a lot earlier than his VVV cohorts. As a teen, his next-door neighbour took him to see Courtney Rose at the ACNA arts centre. “That was the first time I saw a mixing desk, and someone who knew how to use one,” says Cappo. “It’s where I met Trevor Rose [CRS founder] and gained a lot of insight into the industry. They were constantly training for big events like elite athletes, competing with the best of the best down in London, and they often came home with the prize. Styly Cee from Lost Island was like that too; he really schooled me on the loops, samples and records. Same as the P Brothers, who were super militant with the sampling and drum breaks.”

Around the same time, Vandal Savage was a kid watching his uncle create a blueprint that he would later use to build his own career. As the next generation of local rap representation from the city of outlaws, the lives of the Bozo Boyz have been intertwined since they were young.

“I’d always listened to Cappo,” says Vandal. “In the UK Takeover days, I used to see him about and eventually met him through my uncle, Joe Buhdha. I’ve known Juga-Naut since our Sherwood criming days, though,” he laughs. “It was crazy being in that environment and seeing people like Mr. 45 come through to record. I’d be sitting there as a kid watching all these people do their thing, not just locals either. American heads like L-Fudge and others came from overseas to work with him. I’ve grown up seeing all this, and now I’m doing it for myself. It wasn’t just music, though. From watching how UK Takeover housed all these different rappers and DJs, I’ve seen how to build a brand and a structure.”

It became apparent early on in their friendship that the trio had the potential to make something totally original and unique together. Forced to work for hours on end by their DJ International Jeff, they set out to craft something that many felt was missing from the culture.

“What drew us closer as a group was that desire to make stuff we wanted to hear, based on our own influences from the UK and the US,” says Juga-Naut. “Everyone was complaining about how crap everything new was. When it came to making the beats for the album, it was just a huge mix of all the stuff we were influenced by. The sound is quite nostalgic, because we all grew up with the same stuff in terms of culture, film and music.” Vandal Savage nods in agreement: “Things that gripped us growing up, basically, this is where it all stems from. The sound is nostalgic because it’s coming from that place of remembrance, but it’s also fresh and new. The stuff we’re into is what makes the music what it is.”

The group had the opportunity to tour with Sleaford Mods in 2016, and they’ve been keen to make a name for themselves outside of Nottingham, over and above chasing local success. Having garnered some initial interest online from fans abroad, Juga-Naut explains what prompted the group to tour: “We got told for so long that you have to break your own town before anyone else pays attention, but it actually happened the other way around for us. People from all over the world have got in touch saying that they love our music, and that’s made more people in Notts pay attention. It’s funny because that’s the same thing that happened with Hendrix; no one in the US was interested, then he came to the UK and blew up, which made him blow up back in the States.”

Jugs says that the Sleaford Mods’ audience took them out of their comfort zone a little bit: “It wasn’t really a hip hop crowd on that tour. They were mostly punks, and a lot of them looked over forty, which was great. Some of them came up to us afterwards and said that they’d never listened to hip hop before, but that they loved our music. That was amazing.”

Although Bozo Boyz has only just dropped, Vandal Savage has already released a new solo offering. Bicmaster Vol. 1 is the first installation of a four-part series themed around the art of penmanship, and Juga-Naut is putting the finishing touches to a new project with EatGood head honcho SonnyJim. The Purple Door is due to drop this summer, and we’re expecting mammoth things.

VVV Bandcamp

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