CULTURE

Open to all, essentially hip-hop

Summarizing his pioneering and successful British hip-hop band’s overall philosophy during an interview with Kathimerini ahead of three shows in Greece later this week, Stereo MCs founding member and frontman Rob Birch noted, «The world of music is a very beautiful place to let your fantasy run wild.» The Stereo MCs embarked on their long and successful journey in the late 1980s, combining their love for nascent rap by acts such as Whodini with other broad-ranged influences, including Kraftwerk, Led Zeppelin, the Clash and Bob Marley. They’ve managed to release exceptional work, including the top-selling «Connected» as well as the seedier «Deep Down and Dirty.» Back in Greece after previous scintillating shows, the Stereo MCs are to launch their latest round of shows in Thessaloniki this Thursday, at the Principal Club, and then travel south to Athens for two more gigs, at Club 22 on Friday and Saturday. The band’s repertoire will include material from a brand-new album, «Paradise.» «With this album, we tried to add something new to our music, like the blues. We’re always open to all forms of music, from rap to classical,» Birch recently explained. Despite their open-mindedness, the Stereo MCs remain devoted to hip-hop, their biggest love of all. «Right now, it’s the international musical language. All other styles are borrowing elements from it,» said Birch. «But listeners have got to distinguish between authentic hip-hop and mainstream, which is blossoming in America and whose only objective is to make money. That’s why all it talks about is money – at least it’s honest about its intentions – as well as women and lifestyle. In all fairness, mainstream acts that make really good music do exist, but, in most cases, this sort of hip-hop is monotonous and empty,» he added. Besides their music, the Stereo MCs have also managed to draw attention to their lyrics, which also carry political dimensions. «As far as I’m concerned, a political song these days is one that expresses truth, reality. It does not necessarily need to protest. But it’s essential that an artist be honest toward fans, which is his or her biggest responsibility,» Birch remarked. «What worries me most, since we’re talking about politics, is that even though we’ve become more cynical against governments and politicians, we’re not as active about it as in the past, perhaps because we’ve got little power left. We don’t even possess basic rights, which, until recently, were taken for granted.»  Throughout their long career, the Stereo MCs have remained committed to their values. The band has not hesitated to oppose fashionable trends, or speak freely about its beliefs. If some judgment could be passed, it would be about the band’s relatively slow work rate – just five albums in nearly 20 years. Responding to the comment, Birch stood by his band’s approach. «If you mean that we’re lazy, then that’s not true. On the contrary, we’re always producing. But we simply don’t release everything we write,» explained Birch. «And this is precisely the big problem with music today – everybody releasing albums with whatever crap they’ve written.»