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Essential Listening: Congo Natty

Essential Listening: Congo Natty

Francesca Melia | Features & Interviews

From illegal raves to becoming a prominent figure within the Jungle music scene, Congo Natty aka Rebel MC amongst other names has had an interesting life, which is nicely represented within his music.

Growing up around music from such a young age the young Rebel MC started to explore different sounds which were prolific on the streets of 80s London. Influenced by reggae, hip-hop and house he formed Double Trouble with Karl ‘Tuff Enuff’ Brown, Michael Menson and Leigh Guest. Over the years he has found his own sound in which his lyrics and tunes brings attention to black-pride and “blackness” in which he tries to combine different ideas of tradition and thoughts among the communities he associates with.

He has never been afraid to experiment with different themes, styles and sounds; all the albums and singles over the years prove testament to this. Emerging as Congo Natty in the late 90s his sound has kept to the same tempo and has helped push Jungle to what we know it today as. Disappearing from the public eye for a few years he sprung up in 2013 with his album Jungle Revolution’; unapologetically vibrant, it screams what the Jungle genre should be.

Street Tuff
The year is 1989 when this single became the UK’s no.3 in the charts. Undoubtedly his biggest hit he was unfortunately dismissed by the Hip-Hop community, being called a sell-out due to its pop like nature and commercial success. Nonetheless, the single acts as a testament to the sounds of the 80s, a funky rhythm coupled with a groovy baseline with elements house thrown in creates a chaotic yet upbeat tune which makes you want to boogie. ‘Street Tuff’ can be seen as retro cringe but will always remain as a shining example of the young Rebel MC’s eagerness to try new and interesting sounds for that time.



Black Meaning Good
This single was the first track of his 1992 album Black Meaning Good. Moving from the commercial pop which got him negative attention, the album was to be a new start for him, this track in particular oozes all what 90s Hip-Hop was and is. You can tell he wanted to make a fresh new start with this tune as it is very powerful for it speaks out about black rights, politics and what it meant to be ‘Black’. This song is a great representation of the mixture of feelings and voices within the black community in London at this time, it isn’t afraid to be bold which makes it all the more enjoyable to listen to. It also highlights how well the Rebel MC was at changing his sounds to fit in with the times, this song in particular captures how he wanted to be defined in his music; he wanted to be heard.



Code Red
I think it would be blasphemy not to include this track which he released under the name Conquering Lion in 1998. This song perfectly captures what the Jungle genre is, from the fast tempo to the fun breakbeats it shows the type of sounds he wanted to project within his music. Never dull and always full of life, this single again shows how versatile and how far the artist has come over the years. Keeping his audience on their toes, he displays his talent by creating something new and stimulating, that he will never drift that far away from his roots but instead can regenerate his sound into something that was, at the time, considered boundary pushing. ‘Code Red’ is a powerful single which is a must listen to for anyone wanting to experience his talent.



Junglist
After a few years under the radar the Rebel MC reemerges with this new track in 2004 which features Peter Bouncer, however this song came to height when it was listed on the 2014 album This is Jungle under the name Congo Natty. This track expresses the ferocity and intensity of Drum ‘n’ Bass yet mixes well with the laid back and socio-political themes of reggae; this is what we know Jungle to be. Smooth vocal lines coupled with a hard hitting bassline, ‘Junglist’ shows how Congo Natty has come to be a prominent figure within the Jungle movement, he pushes the boundaries of the genre to create a new sound each time and this song especially, captures it well.



Get Ready
This 2013 hit doesn’t slap you in the face but instead opens with beautiful vocals and uplifting vibes which transports you to a caribbean island, but then drops you right back down onto the dance floor with its powerful bassline and talented MC-ing. Quintessentially Jungle to the core, this track highlights how the Jungle scene has transformed over the years, it shows how versatile it can be with its combination of Dub, Ragga and DnB. positively catchy, this good feeling single lifts you high and pleasantly incorporates all his previous sounds in some way or another which is a pleasure to listen to. This track features on his Jungle Revolution album which has other hits such as ‘UK Allstars’ and ‘Revolution’, which packs more of a punch for the listeners yet never drifts far away from the main elements of the genre.



Congo Natty can be caught at Outlook Festival in Croatia this summer, but before that he’ll also be at Bristol’s Motion on Saturday 28th April, as part of The Blast Spring Carnival.

Photo courtesy of Congo Natty

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