A mild November night in Glasgow, the last few leaves are holding onto the trees and I’m heading out to see Ugly Duckling, a hip hop band from Long Beach, California.
Downstairs in Stereo and Louis from Hector Bizerkis dancing around in a hip hop-style, Spee Six Nine plugs in his mobile onstage – gangsta – and from this rough and ready set up a sweet female vocal gives backup to these desperados.
Bigg Taj writes bars with his mouth, wap wap wap wap and Spee raps about Sour Croat and Patti LaBelle.
The crowd of big pocketed hip hoppers clap along to Taj’s beat boxing, Spee’s rhymes and samples from ‘Seven Nation Army’ and ‘Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone’.
Hector Bizerk is up next and tonight Audrey and Louis are joined by Jen Muir on synthesiser and Frazer Sneddon on bass.
The synth morphs from being a glockenspiel for ‘Niche’, into giving cool electro stabs on ‘Bury the Hatchet’ and augmented notes compliment ‘Burst Love’ brilliantly.
‘The Champs’ has a great, striding intro, Audrey is awesome on the drums and Louis’ lyrics are quirky and clever – if the devil was in the room he has now left, in fear.
‘Sometimes I Wonder’ has a more poppy beat and the sleigh/cow bells make it feel quite Christmassy, while the inclusion of bass brings a fuller and sometimes dubbier sound to the band.
Young Einstein of Ugly Duckling works his way across the half full dancefloor and takes position behind his record decks.
He starts to mix uplifting old school funk, with lots of brass and scratching, the sound is cinematic and the execution professional.
In total contrast to the dark and edgy Hector Bizerk, the other two members of U.D., Andy and Dizzy, amble on stage with a Fresh Prince air about them and warn all the sucker alligators that they’re going to get souffléd.
They ask the crowd “tell me who you came to see” in classic MC battling fashion with the crowd chanting ‘U.D.’ in return the MCs turn to their DJ and say ‘Einstein do it’ – he does it with ‘Hotel California’ by the Eagles on balloon gas.
They ask for somebody/anybody to come up onstage and have a go, they get a guy calling himself ‘Damaged Goods’, clearly one of Hectors crew (he’s got their Tee shirt on).
Damaged Goods makes a good job of it and then he flashes a Public Enemy tattoo to us, and a slightly scared looking Californian MC.
Einstein smoothes things up with some classic Marvin Gaye and the MCs get really hilarious with ‘Sexy Glaswegian’ – playful, positive and unassuming, you could safely hire U.D. for a children’s birthday party.
On my way out I overhear someone say “I wish that every Monday night of my life was like this”.
I’d like to see the Scottish hip hop scene get themselves more happy customers, the all American Ugly Duckling have a charming way of making everyone feel glad they’d come out on a damp Monday.
Words: Janice Curless
Photos: Jo Kelly