This article originally appeared on Noisey UK, obviously.
If aliens landed on earth, and by some miracle could understand human language, how would we explain to them who, why and what Tim Westwood is? On the one hand, he’s a 58-year-old white dude who grew up in a middle class suburb in Suffolk, calls MCs "hot cats", and says things like “The swag levels are off the freaking chain!” in faux patois. On the other, he’s been a radio host for over three decades, and at one point was practically the only person in England to play rap and hip-hop on mainstream radio, making him one of the most important and well-connected figures in the business. He’s as famous as he is infamous, as much of an unintentional parody as he is a straight-up icon, and he’s interviewed everyone: from Biggie Smalls to Eminem, Kanye West to Nicki Minaj, and Rick Ross to Young Thug.
While Westwood is best known for hosting radio shows, one of his most loved projects is his Crib Sessions, which are, for the uninitiated, freestyles from MCs recorded exclusively for YouTube. Unlike Charlie Sloth’s Fire in the Booth, Westwood’s Crib Sessions are laid back and free-flowing, and see artists spit bars in a tiny, dimly-lit room surrounded by old vinyls, a swirling haze of joint smoke, and champagne in plastic cups. It’s kind of like how you’d imagine a rapper’s living room looks like after getting home from a night out, but much more cramped, with Westwood in the corner on his laptop going HAM, selecting the right tunes at the right moments.
This week, both Noisey and Westwood will be heading down to Croatia’s Fresh Island festival to drink cans of pina colada in the sun, bark out a few bars at our Grime Karaoke pool party, and just generally roll around on Zrce Beach. Westwood will be playing a DJ set on Thursday night, so ahead of that, we thought we’d use this opportunity to get him to tell us his all-time favourite Crib Session. He was adamant he couldn’t pick just one (which is fair enough – there are over 100 of them), so instead he gave us five, in no particular order. So without further ado, hit the explosion sound button, and let’s go in.
“This [freestyle] is particularly significant because Giggs is the reason why we set up the Crib Sessions in the first place. He was banned from the radio station I was working for at the time – he wasn’t allowed in the building because they didn’t like his music. I thought it was important to let him freestyle so people could understand what he was about and what he was trying to say, so I heavily supported him. If you look at this video, there’s no lighting, the shelves weren’t even painted, and his bars are just out of this world. This is the one that made it all happen, so I’ve got mad love for it.”
DVS & JAJA SOZ
“I’ve known DVS and Jaja for many years because they’re two original Brixton guys. I’ve got a lot of respect for them because they’re real. For this freestyle, they used a very emotional backing track, which was a Meek Mill instrumental but was originally an R Kelly track. It just resonated with me and I appreciated their words of wisdom. DVS will always bring like sixty or seventy guys with him, like the whole of Brixton, and there’s a lot of champagne drinking and a lot of weed smoking. To be honest, when DVS comes in, we’ve had people pass out in the crib because they’ve drank too much. It gets super turned up, it ain’t no joke. DVS is a real guy telling real stories and I’ve got mad love for him. He’s in jail at the moment but I speak to him all the time.”
“The thing with 67 is that they’re part of a new generation of UK rap artists representing the street, representing the hood – it’s very gang gang bang bang; it’s very UK drill music. These guys came through the crib and they really turned up, and when you watch that back it’s massive. What you’ve got to understand is that when you’re on the radio you’ve got a lot of editorial guidelines so there are restrictions on content, so editors take out all the swear words or whatever they’re not comfortable with. But the nature of the Crib Sessions is that artists can be in their own environment, they’re there with their crew, they’re drinking, smoking, getting turned up, and this is their moment, and we’re celebrating that moment together. You don’t get that on the radio. In this era now, everyone wants that uncut raw flavour, and that’s exactly what 67 are all about in this freestyle – total rawness.”
“J Hus is another artist that we saw very early on. We just really believed what he was about and the unique sound that he was bringing. He already had a street following but he’s gone on to do great things, and this freestyle was an important moment for him. It was great to be there help in on his way. Crib Sessions gives me the opportunity to hang out with these artists who are representing what they do. It’s not like Crib Sessions generates any money, so it’s just about giving artists J Hus the chance to represent. You can see in this clip that J Hus really steps up, and that’s why I love this one.”
“Hopsin is the only American rapper in my top five. We’ll occasionally bring over people like Waka Flocka Flame, 2Chainz and Mac Miller, but it’s usually just a UK thing. Hopsin is awesome, he’s so lyrically talented, and his words are so powerful. He’s an underground artist – we don’t really play his records in the club or on the radio – but this freestyle in particular is absolutely massive. Also, US artists aren’t used to the experience of doing something like Crib Sessions with a guy like me in a place where you can drink and smoke like you’re in a club, so they don’t always engage with it like a UK artist. But in this clip, Hopsin goes so hard. Mad respect.”
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