Champions Of Nature Interview (by A to the L)
Hip-hop masters Champions of Nature release Salsa Smurf through Wordplay on September 10. The track promises to smash the hip-hop charts this autumn and is already being tipped to be one of the anthems of the year. It is the second single to be taken from the critically acclaimed hip-hop compilation “Wordlab 2”, which was released in August. I recently had a chance to talk to crew member L-Dolo about life as a Champions of Nature member – here’s what he had to say…
Can you give a little background info on the crew members and their backgrounds and influences?
Dolo: Well the crew members are: Apollo, Jhest, AM, Supa T, Lewis Parker, and me – Dolo. We’ve been working together since the release of our first EP (“The Fuck-Off EP”) which was around March of 2000. Before that, a few of the crew members – me, Supa T, Lewis Parker and Profound (who used to be a part of CoN) – we did some stuff with Braintax on Lowlife Records around ’98. We’d met each other quite a few years before that – with AM, Apollo and myself going back to around ’92.
What does Salsa Smurf actually mean?
Dolo: Its just a dance really… its originally a tune by Special Request, an old electro group who were on Tommy Boy.
How did you get involved with the WordLab project?
Dolo: Basically, we released it ourselves first. The guys at Wordplay Records kept playing our stuff, and saying how much they were into it. The Salsa Smurf track was already done, with a video and everything, so they went with that as the track to put on the album.
What’s next on the horizon for Champions Of Nature?
Dolo: Well we’ve got another independent release coming up, probably around the end of September. We’re also working on an album – its probably about half done now, and we’re hoping to drop that next April. Basically we’re just looking to get a deal at the moment…
I’m always interested in hearing how hiphop groups decide what to record, and how to record it. What process do you go through? Does one person decide a topic and everyone writes? Do you all just throw ideas out?
Dolo: Well, we start with the beats first. We all get together, and people just play their beats, and whoever feels each beat just takes it and rhymes to it. On certain things, like Salsa Smurf for example, the beat had been done for quite a long time, and we all got together, played the beat, and everyone just wrote for it there and then.
How does UK rap compare to its US counterpart?
Dolo: Well it depends on what level you’re talking about really. Obviously in the UK its not selling commercially… in terms of skills, from what I’ve been hearing, there’s more real skills in London at the moment. The big difference is the change in America, where rap has kinda become the “pop music” of the moment… so its hard to compare that with the scene here, because over here most people are doing it just for the love of it – they’re not really making any money. Another difference I’ve noticed is that over here in the UK its more freestyle-based – in the US people in the same position as us are concentrating on recording, and getting music out there to make some cash. Its more professional really I suppose…
Do you have any desire to “make it big” in the States, or is it a case of getting the recognition at home first?
Dolo: Well I do know that our stuff is selling in the States as well – but to be honest we aren’t really bothered. I’m more interested in just coming with skills – and the only way we gauge other people really is on the level of their skills. Cos that’s what Hiphop is about.
What hiphop artists are you listening to a lot at the minute?
Dolo: Nothing really to be honest… I’m just trying to think back to the last thing I bought… and I don’t know – I haven’t bought anything for a little while. Its kinda changed – you used to talk about one shit tune on an album, and now you talk about an album only having one good tune.
Finally, there’s been reports of you guys taking up knifethrowing jobs in the circus – whats the real story?
Dolo: Well yeah… Gerry Cottle has offered us jobs but… we ain’t taking em! Its a bit of a risky business. The story behind the Champions Of Nature is that we were all in a freakshow that used to be in Gerry Cottle’s circus, but we escaped after realising that music was the only way to go forward. (Gerry Cottle has seen the story and has issued a press release offering the group real-life trials as knife-throwers’ assistants. The job involves having blades thrown at them at 60 mph as they spin on a wheel by a blindfolded knife thrower.)
Thanks again to Dolo for taking part, and for Serena at for setting this up.