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The Comedy of Errors

Frisco Boogie: Reflections of the Mature B-Boy

25 April 21 interview: Jared Wilson
photos: Kam Rahmoun

Many would have you believe that hip-hop is a young man's game. However, Frisco Boogie (aka Duncan Mitchell) would beg to differ. Twenty years ago he turned his back on a record deal and took two decades out of making tunes. Now, nearing his half-century, he’s back enjoying making music (and breakdancing and graffiti) more than ever…

How did you first fall in love with hip-hop?
I grew up in Hyson Green in the eighties when the riots were rife and there was a lot of friction, but as a child all I wanted to do was play outside and have a laugh with my mates. I first found hip-hop through breakdancing. We used to get into school early to practise our backspins and freezes and from that point I was hooked. The rapping and graffiti both came a year or two later. I remember when Run-D.M.C. released Sucker MC’s and we sat in Chemistry class learning the words and banging out the beat on the desks.

In the late nineties, you were half of the rap duo Lost Island, releasing music on Son Records. How did that come about?
Styly Cee interviewed me on a radio show for Heatwave FM and we just hit it off. We shared the same love for hip-hop and put some tracks together. Styly knew the people at SON Records and sent a tape of our stuff to them. They loved it and signed us. We released a few EPs and an album called Forbidden Ground in 2000. The album was licenced in Japan and it sold all over Europe. These were the days of physical copies and it was on general release in all record shops, HMV, Virgin, etc. It was a buzz to see it in stores.

What happened after that?
I recorded a solo venture but never released it, I still have it on a CD somewhere; it was going to be called Still Lost. But I stopped writing for quite a while after that. I felt like I didn’t really have much to say at that point in my life. I was still on stage hosting and MCing at events, just not writing and recording new material.

One of those shows you hosted, in the early/mid-noughties, was UK Takeover
Those days were amazing, we felt like we were doing it for the whole country as there were no shows like it at all. Joe Buhdha and MistaJam worked so hard to put it together and it was all for the love of hip-hop. We had anyone who was anybody on those bills – Blade, Taskforce, Roots Manuva, Rodney P, Skinnyman, Estelle, Professor Green, Roll Deep and so many more.

How does the song creation process change as you get older? What made you want to make music again after all of these years?
In 2017 I released an album, The Internal Masquerade with ChatOne, and found my voice again. I really enjoyed writing it and it motivated me to buy some equipment and start to produce. I followed it up with The Masks of the Morning Son. At the time I thought that it would be the last project that I would release, but the way it was welcomed made me think there was space in the market for me to release more. I feel there is less pressure now I'm older. We all used to want to be the greatest MC, but now it’s more important for me to just make music that I like.

For people who haven’t listened to your music before, what should they listen to first?
Start with Rainbows in the Rubble as it expresses where I am in life now. If you like it, then work backwards.

You’ve been a B-boy for many years too. Do you still have moves?
I actually entered my first battle in many years at the Notorious IBE Breaking festival in Holland in 2019 and qualified into the top eight, which was a surprise as I was clearly the oldest person on the floor. Over the years I’ve hosted dance battles, including Breaking Convention for Jonzi D, which is amazing because I get to meet so many of the greatest dancers out there. I’ve also taught and been part of dance classes for QMX and hosted classes for the university and various other workshops around the city. I’m still here doing it all because I love hip-hop culture.

What’s it like trying to breakdance in your late forties?
I don’t B-boy anymore, I dance more funk styles like poppin’ and lockin. Until last year I was training once or twice a week, but my stamina is different now and you get to the point where you realise that you can’t do everything you did as a kid. I would advise anyone considering dancing in my age bracket to know your limitations, dance to enjoy it and don’t put any pressure on yourself to keep up with anyone apart from yourself. Dance to express, not impress.

I feel there is less pressure now I'm older. We all used to want to be the greatest MC, but now it’s more important for me to just make music that I like.

You’re also a graffiti artist. Where can we see your artwork?
I’ve painted around the country at various graffiti jams and festivals and I was lucky enough to be invited to paint at the Breaking Convention Park Jam 2019 in London, which was a great experience. I have some of my work still up in Beeston as part of the Beeston Street Art Festival. I write as AONA, which stands for All Or Nothing Always. I love painting and there is no better feeling than losing yourself on a wall for a few hours. I just zone out and lose track of time and life.

There seem to be a few other hip-hop heads in Notts from your day still active…
Yeah, I love the fact that we are all still making music, but even more importantly we are passing on the torch. The work that Joe Buhdha, Trevor and Nick from CRS and Courtney from Take 1 do with the younger generation is essential. I still listen to everything that comes out of Nottingham. Karizma’s last few singles were great, The P Brothers have always represented to the fullest and Cappo is just a machine when it comes to releasing music. Nottingham has a whole world of talent crammed into a small city. It really is legendary!

How does the scene compare now to when you were coming up?
There were a lot more jams back in the day. Live hip-hop was very popular, but these days a lot of it is online so the need to go out and find it in its rawest form is no longer a requirement for a lot of people. Making and releasing music is easier, but there’s probably more competition as a result. I also feel that the corners of hip-hop culture, as in the five elements, are not really practiced by a lot of the new generation. We have a lot of beatmakers, rappers, dancers, beatboxers and graffiti writers, but not many people try to do them all.

Jay-Z once said that “Thirty is the new twenty.” Is 48 the new 28?
No, not at all. I didn’t have the aches and pains at 28 that I do now. But I do have more experience in life now so at least I don’t make as many bad decisions and mistakes.

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