First Blood to Legionnaires: The problem of being black, talented and from the UK

When I listened to the Legionnaires’ new track First Blood I lost my damn mind. In fact, I felt a slew of conflicting emotions – I was proud, excited, angry and sad all at the same time. Let me explain.


But as an aside I need to get a disclaimer out of the way – Lefty aka The Yellow One, aka Comb Ya Hair, aka Christopher to his parents, is family. Not real family, but family enough. But let me be very clear, I would sell that man out at the earliest opportunity and any praise in this piece hurts me as much as it brings out any type of joy.

But anyway, the pride I felt was mainly directed to Lefty, who I believe has always been a sensational rapper. In fact, for the past two years I felt he was the most exciting hip-hop talent to come from our little Island. His flow is frankly breath-taking. If you have an understanding of rap as a craft or have partaken in rap in the past, you understand that Lefty’s flow is not normal. As well as being the usual big-headed arsehole of a rapper, Lefty also has a bag-packer’s mind – what I mean by that is that he has a thoughtful side. He doesn’t just talk about smoking weed (although he does rap about that A LOT) he also talks about what is going on in the world around him. A song which everyone should listen to is Up to no good, a track about the London riots a while back. If you want to know what madness was on the minds of the youths during that time, that track pretty much spells it out in an unvarnished fashion.

The excitement comes from the fact that I hadn’t heard hip-hop from this country sound like First Blood in a long time. This track is dirty, grimy, uncompromising, braggadocios, smart, witty but also very accessible. What I mean by that is that I can see radio playing this track if they gave it a chance and I can see the king makers – aka white teenage girls – digging this… even if it is to rebel or something. The last time I felt UK hip-hop was this pure and this accessible was in the days of garage when Kano was on his P and Qs.

The anger comes from the fact that, to my eye, I can’t see a path for this extremely talented crew to make it in the music business – this is simply because the black/ urban market in this country is dying or already dead. Now I’m not an expert, but I cannot remember the last time a talented, young, mostly black talent made it here on these shores. Was it Craig David? The industry doesn’t care about fostering talent of this kind and that pisses me off.


Folks are quick to label people who look like most of the lads in Legionnaires as thugs and gangsters, but where is the support for them when they are producing and partaking in something that is wholly positive? Oh, I forgot, it’s hip-hop.

This also goes to a wider argument with black talent in general, regardless of whether it is in music or in film. Yes, folks like Idris Elba and that guy I can’t spell the same of (David Oyelowo) and the lad from 12 Years a Slave with the very African name (Chiwetel Ejiofor) have made it, but they’ve all told stories about how they had to leave the UK to get where they are. I fear that for the Legionnaires to fulfil their potential, they have to blaze their own path in the United States and that is a damning indictment to this country as far as I am concerned.

The sadness carries on from that in the fact that they practically have no support from this country’s music industry. The Legionnaire crew need a champion who believes in their tremendous talent and going by the last couple of years – I don’t see that happening. So these young British mostly black lads have to be trail blazers. The mountain they have to climb is steep as hell and they most likely won’t make it, but I really admire them for trying.

All I can do is support great music and talent like this and hope others do the same. If this blog puts just one person onto this crew who would otherwise not know who they are, then frankly I am happy with that.

Keep doing your thing, lads.


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