Take three savvy young music-heads, throw them into a studio and tell them to create the radio show they’ve always wanted to hear – that’s the premise behind Sicknotes Radio – the weekly hip-hop podcast on Resonance FM. Bringing together the best in what the boys call ‘struggle music’, each week, Pinty, Jada Sea and Arthur Bentley put out an hour long playlist of the best in new hip-hop. With the station barely a year old, its local credentials have seen it collaborate with Noisey favourites, King Krule and Rejjie Snow, to name a few. With the buzz around Sicknotes circulating, I went to get the scoop on just how three local South London boys are putting out one of the best modern dialogues of roots hip-hop that you can find on the web.
Over the last few months, Sicknotes has grown from a one-time forum for local music and free expression, into a station that gets big-name emerging artists to playlist an entire show with their musical inspirations. Taking from the ethics of pirate radio, these lo-fi, smooth, cruising jams have seen the boys support a whole new wave of Chance The Rappers, bigging up airtime to the likes of Lofty 305, Rejjie, Ragofoot and Malarkey. But where did it all start?
“Radio was always just a complete mystery to us” Arthur explains. “The show came through one of us having work experience at Resonance FM. I didn’t know anything about what I was doing, but I had a concept there, and I wanted to do something with it.” Recruiting the minds of Pinty, and other local MC’s, the station was brought quickly off the ground, with the duo bringing in any local talent that they were rating to help build the early playlists.
Although the radio show on Resonance is a Saturday midday affair, the boys upload all the material to Mixcloud, where listeners from around the world have started to pick it up. It’s from here that they started to recognise the station as a platform for something more, bringing together a dialogue of new producers who were spilling out demos onto completely unknown soundcloud pages. With links being fired back and forth between audiences and the boys, that close knit relationship between listeners made the whole thing more exciting than any 1xtra hype-on-the-mic-session.
But why the pirate radio vibe? “Cool FM was the first thing I ever heard, and while I had no experience in radio, it helped ignite things,” says Pinty, “pirate was always about the love for the music – making that grand connection with youth culture that no other station could – and that’s what made it stand out in my mind.”
“Sicknotes is saying the same thing that pirate radio did. There isn’t any advertising, thank Resonance for that – it’s just a community of people who have a love for them.”
The crew all throw big ups to Caspar, Ed and Richard for all supporting them through bringing the show to its modern incarnation. Pinty emphasises that the station has always seeked to give a channel to those who wouldn’t otherwise find a space on commercial airwaves, and it’s that low-key, on the ground support, that somehow makes Sicknotes so interesting.
“It’s like the new establishment clashing against the old establishment – hopefully we’re sparking people’s ambitions for real culture in a way that the mainstream airwaves just don’t,” says Pinty, “ take BBC London, they all have one playlist. They’re different to us, they get a lot of music sent their way by labels – we just go direct and get the music from the people themselves. That way we establish a relationship”. This way, they tell me, is how they’ve been able to access such a goldmine of incredible new talent – doing it for the love, rather than just creating another piece of meaningless content that no one really wants to listen to.
Arthur, Pinty and Jada Sea - the latest incarnation to the Sicknotes family – all just want to create a real community for a talent. “It just feels like a much more natural way to work,” says Arthur, “friendships establish themselves into full working relationships – it’s great.”
Encouraging artists to share with listeners their own musical influencers, King Krule, Jamie Isaac and a whole load more have all hosted shows on the station. From one week to the next, you might hear everything from Chet Baker and early 20’s jazz records to the sounds of Biggie or a new ambient producer from North London – “doing it this way just makes radio interesting, it’s about sharing experiences and connecting the listener,” says Pinty.
The man has a point. With so much out there, and so much to listen to, it’s hard to feel connected to most of the music coming through the blogging-sphere and onwards – but Sicknotes offers the perfect dynamic between local community radio and the excitement of the early pirate stations. And with more stations like Resonance FM, a whole host of incredible content could be unleashed from the banks of people’s own musical libraries.
Back in the day when grime was on its come up – every show on every station was recorded to tape, logged and stored ready to be brought to light later. Little did many realise, they were capturing a moment in history. The internet is doing much the same for local stations, with a whole archive of material awaiting release. All it takes is a few inspired minds. That was the key to NTS, and Hackney Fields Radio, and now both of those are doing everything from running stages to starting festivals. And with Resonance now another station to add to that list – what could we possibly anticipate from the future of local radio?
For Slam The Poet, of the Mad Vibez Collective – a Sicknotes and King Krule favourite – local radio gives new artists and DJ’s, “a place to show what we’ve got, so our words don’t just end up trapped in the spines of the notebooks they’re written in.”
“Stations like Sicknotes are crucial to the discovery of new artists from around these parts,” Slam says. And with new musical discoveries being made on South London streets everyday, it’s important we keep it locked to the voices of our community.
Follow Robbie on Twitter @robbieflash
Photos by: Reuben Bastienne Lewis
Clothing provided by: Wolf Oracle
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