Thursday, 22 July 2010

Sweet P From The SL Troopers Interview



"Cold chillin, I'm moving about for fun. I'll take you suckas out, each and every one"


I recently had the good fortune to communicate with one of the UK's most eloquent and humble microphone masters, Fabian Stephenson AKA Sweet Pea from London's SL Troopers.

The late 80's were an exciting time for UK rap, almost a golden age, and there were a lot of great records coming out regularly with a creative buzz previously unseen for this genre.
The two heavyweight record labels of the time, Music Of Life and Kold Sweat put out some of the most memorable tunes and were home to some of the UK's most legendary acts such as Hijack, Hardnoise, She Rockers, Derek B, MC Duke, Krispy 3, Katch 22, Daddy Freddy, Demon Boyz and so many more.

Both of these labels at one time or another managed to sign the SL Troopers , such was their status at the time.
Beginning with DJ Woodhouse and DJ Crime, Sweet Pea arrived soon after where the first single Debut (Unarmed, Yet Dangerous) was released in 1988 on Global Rhythm Records. With a simple break loop, scratched horns and a Lord Finesse-esque rap flow this signaled the arrival of the Troopers.

1989 saw the release of the still-firing 12" single, Movement on the Music Of Life label. Moving with a fast style and furious scratching, this track boosted the group's status further and got the attention of Kold Sweat who signed them the following year where they would release the single Knowledge / Put Your Brain In Gear and the Systematic Terror EP both making waves on the UK scene.

Since the disbanding of the group Fabian went on to record with the Acid Jazz band Quiet Boyz, Chris Bangs for the Mr Electric Triangle project, Kosmosis Of The Heart and subsequently in 1996 worked with The Herbaliser on Ninja Tune. It was here where his friendship with Ollie Teeba would grow while he featured on the albums Blow Your Headphones and Remedies.

The late 1990's would see the birth of an alter-ego, Travis Blaque who Fabian would use as a mouthpiece to relieve his vent and fury on the industry.
Travis has since worked alongside Ollie again as well as producers RJD2 and East Coast crew, Ugly Duckling.
His album, The Many Facets Of Travis Blaque was released in 2006 and Fabian is still very much busy recording to this day.



Ageing B-Boys Unite!: What was the first record to interest you in music?

Fabian Stephenson: There are so many records that have interested me in music, but if there is one it is Max Romeo's War Inna Babylon.


ABBU: Can you remember the first record that you purchased?

The first record I purchased with my own money was the Slave album Visions of Lite.


ABBU: You were a keen dancer in your youth. Which crews were you in?

I used to hang out with Anthony Duncan (DJ ADEE), Mark B, Ollie Teeba, Baby K/DJ Afro Puff (ex-Choice FM/DJ 279's mix DJ) Regal from The Wise Guys, Malachi (The Herbaliser) Julian from The Creators and others from Kingston and surrounding areas. We all shared ideas and developed styles and would go uptown to Covent Garden to showcase our styles. The main influence for me was Poppin' Pete from L.A. the master of locking. I was a big fan of Live To Break and Francisco Diaz from Epsom was a good friend of mine.


ABBU: How did you make the transition from body-popping to holding the mic?

I was listening to Tim Westwood when he was a presenter on LWR and he was a judge at a Rap competition with Tom Silverman from Tommy Boy Records. The Cookie Crew won best group performance and I could say that they were my main influence to start writing rhymes.


ABBU: Who were your peers when emceeing? Which crews did you roll with?

Other MC's at that time were Sergeant Rock, MC Mello, Blade, Uncle B Nice, Demon Boyz, London Posse, Huntkillberry Finn, Kamanchi Sly who all influenced me in one way or another.


ABBU: Grooverider was a heavy presence in your earlier days. Did you ever feel like going down the hardcore/drum & bass route?

Grooverider was and still is a good DJ. An old soulboy at heart who embraced house music and techno to drum and bass and was instrumental in guiding me in the early days of Global Rhythm Sound System which the S.L. Troopers were part of. I have no problem with drum & base as an MC you ride the rhythm and I would love to work with German group N.O.H.A. and the diverse British producer Manifest.


ABBU: What kind of emcee were you? Did you actively battle?

As a young upstart living in suburbia, The Royal Borough of Kingston I had to get myself together and battle other MC's whenever or wherever. Going into London with the guys and the S.L.'s gave me confidence. As you get older or as you mature you still keep the battle principles, but life is much more than that now. There's much more to talk about from a spiritual and humanitarian perspective.


ABBU: Which of the 4 elements of hip hop have you participated in, however successfully?

B-Boying - I was good.  
Graf - I tried it and was caught tagging in '86 in Feltham shopping centre by the police!
DJing - Well I used to mix well, but didn't master the scratch mix.  
MCing - Well that's my chosen field and I'm content.



ABBU: Would you have liked to released an album on either Music Of Life and Kold Sweat?

I would have been happy for an album on Music Of Life as I was The S.L. Troopers' first MC, Sweet Pea. Unarmed, Yet Dangerous was the first 12", then Movement/There It Is came. I left the S.L.'s due to creative differences. The other MC's they worked with. That's another story!
There was a track called Ready To Run recorded in Kingston with The S.L.'s in '86. I don't have a copy, but it was OK.
As Fabian I have 8 tracks recorded with The UYD's on DAT. As Travis Blaque I recorded Ego Trippin' Pt 3 in 97' with Ollie Teeba from The Herbaliser. Killer Tune!!
Travis Blaque and Misty Oldland - You Can Be The One. I love the tune and it will probably be on the 2nd Travis album.
There is also a nice Soul cut I recorded with Marsha Ambrose (Floetry) before Floetry blew up. One day, perhaps when I die these tracks will see the light of day!


ABBU: What was the difference between Music Of Life and Kold Sweat?

With Music Of Life you were happy to get a tune out. It wasn't about the money, that's me being naive! I heard that Kold Sweat actually paid royalties. To be honest I actually earned money working with British labels such as Acid Jazz, Delancey St. and Ninja Tune. German labels Unique and Buro 9 have also been good to work with.


ABBU: How involved were you in the production?

I tried to steer the S.L.'s in a P-Funk, Jazz influenced way before the genres were big in Rap Music. This resulted in me leaving.
However as Travis I have to be in the thick of it and add some creativity here and there.



ABBU: What do you think of the current UK rappers compared to the golden age of the late 80's/early 90's?

In the 80's there were MC's who were influenced by the American sound and rapped as if they were from the US, I was one of them. MC's that have heavily influenced the way the UK sound has developed in my opinion and no particular order are Blade, Rodney P, HKB, Roots Manuva, MC Mello, Demon Boyz, Blak Twang, MCD, Chester P.
I like some of the current crop, however some of those who come from the grime arena, well that's another story!


ABBU: You're marooned on a desert island. You are allowed one of each of the following items. An album, a single, a book, a dvd, and one type of food. What do you take?

The album would be Gil Scott-Heron - Pieces Of A Man. The single would be The Roots feat. Common UNI verse. The Book would be Can't Stop Won't Stop by Jeff Chang. The DVD would be Roman Polanskis' Chinatown. The food would be fresh veg and salad.


ABBU: Is there any one person or persons that have influenced your musical path in life?

My father and my mother's cousin Uncle Boogs for introducing me to Soul, Rhythm & Blues, Ska, Rocksteady, Calypso and Reggae. Chris Bangs for helping me to find my Jazz chops and understanding the need to experiment.




ABBU: What are your musical aspirations for the future? Who would you love to work with?

I would like to release a 2nd Travis Blaque album in which I have 4 tracks which are ready to record.
I would like to work with Nomadic Poet of The Planets, the legendary HKB, my friend, time permitting Mark B, Gael Blondeu from France, Shareholder Tom from Germany. The Beat Barbers from Sweden, legendary UK Soul Vocalists Misty Oldland, Noel McCoy, Paul Johnson & Leee John. Steve Spacek, David Mitchell. German Jazz vocalist Alison Degbe, Primo and Pete Rock.

Last year I worked with Shareholder Tom, a multi talented German musician/producer and featured on two tracks on his 1st album. I didn't meet him until a few weeks ago when he asked me to repeat the process, but record in Cologne as supposed to the UK. The music is Reggae-influenced and Mambo which I am happy to work with. There will be a 7" before winter 2010.







Many thanks for Fabian for the time and respect to DJ ADEE for the hook-up.


Link-a-rama

Travis Blaque Myspace
Travis Blaque on Discogs
SL Troopers on Discogs

SL Troopers article at Heroes Of UK Hip Hop

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

good interview, nice insights to exactly how it was in kingston in the 80`s.

thanks fabs! nice one ben!

DJ AD

Lovegrove said...

NIce one ben. It's weird as I been listening to his Acid Jazz / Ninja Tune stuff recently and didn't realise who he was.

Waxer said...

Great to see an iinteresting interview like this with those wicked grabs of memories from the past, maximum respect!

martinlfinch said...

Nice interview Ben, always love reading about old uk legends & learning new facts about em.

Also, i never knew he was Travis Blaque!

Mad props for posting this!!!!!

muzik said...

thanks friend

Anonymous said...

My friend Sarah Marage went out with the white guy in the SL Troopers when we were in Kingston. Sweet P, you came my friend Nadine's house , she taped the 3D Greatest man alive album and Marley Marl in Control albums off you . ..which i then taped off her. Those precious C90 tapes eh?. We used to go to Options nightclub in Kingston , we watched you do a PA . We were just two 17 year old gals , heavy into hip hop and tagging trains and buses. I'm 38 year old Mum now .. still into hip hop . Any other girls still like me ?

Zoe.

Travis Blaque said...

Hi Zoe. I remember you very well and Nadine. I think the last time I saw you guys was early 90's. If you're on Facebook hook up!!

Travis

Anonymous said...

Im sure its fabian from soul brother records in putney?? Havent been there in years, he always had excellent tune selection skills as i remember

Matt

Anonymous said...

great article and site. Can anyone tell me what the SL Troopers sampled for Movement ??

Repo said...

The break is Atmosfear - Dancing in Outer Space.

Anonymous said...

from before sweet pea i new you had the music in you.
You have called yourself many things but ive always had the privalage of calling you friend.

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