Hip-Hop In The Highlands – Celebrating 50 Years of Hip-Hop

Review. Words and Pictures by  Alan Cruickshank 

With real animal skulls, stone head, random unicorn and a headless metal kilted man dotted around the place I got the feeling “The Stables” in Cromarty had a lot to offer, but never in my wildest dreams would I have thought a 50 year celebration of “Hip-Hop” event would take be happening here in Cromarty of all places! What’s more me as a dyed in the wool Rock music man going to cover such an event seemed surreal! But there I was on Saturday evening camera in hand with no clue what I’d let myself in for, (Hint, I had a ball!)

The event was called The Hip-Hop Yacht Rock After Party, try saying that after a few Rums. So what on earth is this Yacht Rock reference? I had to look it up to find out. Back in the early days of Hip-Hop the artists would regularly sample from a genre of rock music called “Yacht Rock”. I guess today we would call it easy listening or coffee table rock. Those of a certain age might recognise such luminaries of the time such as Kenny Loggins, The Doobie Brothers, Toto and Steely Dan whom were often sampled back in said early days of Hip-Hop but also genres such as Smooth Soul, funk, Jazz and of course R&B, go on to Wikipedia and type in (list of yacht rock artists) and feast your eyes on a veritable who’s who!

Ok, consider yourself somewhat educated…..to a point.

To start the night of celebration the one and only “Scottish Scorsese” aka Dj Butterscotch eased us all in to the evening. Butterscotch is a very well-known local exponent of Scratch/hip-hop around the Highlands, I have seen him play several local venues and there can be no doubting his knowledge, credentials and ability to allow even the most uninitiated to enjoy his talents and music, watching how the most knowledgeable members of the audience showed their appreciation to DJ Butterscotch’s set was a brilliant thing to witness, and a well-deserved accolade.

Next on the bill was an Aberdonian woman that goes by the name Cameron Jay and there were several times throughout her set I stood there wondering how such a soulful beautiful voice managed to come from such a petite human, she sang songs from the likes of Faith Hill and May J Blige with such class and pitch perfect it was hard to take in, Cameron sung “Good Morning Gorgeous” from Mary J Blige with an emotion that stopped the audience in their tracks, it was a truly beautiful rendition but I have to say it’s not surprising to hear such emotion in her singing when you consider Cameron’s back story.

When she was just 10 years old Cameron was diagnosed with cancer, she went on to beat that childhood cancer to become a Mum of two only to find out a few months after having her second child that she had cancer again, this diagnoses came just before Covid 19 started and as you can imagine she had to isolate like her life depended on it, it literally did. Having most of her liver removed and having the scars across her tummy to prove it Cameron came to Cromarty to give her first live performance since her treatment. Every single person there on Saturday night was treated to and humbled by the emotional rollercoaster as Cameron sang with such beautiful tone and emotion, it was a real privilege to be there and experience her set live, a set I will not forget.

Finally the headliner of the night was up, Karl Gordon AKA K-Gee and wow what a music history this guy has. His early résumé spans record production, song writing, artistry, DJing, and a founding role in the revered 90s hip-hop duo, Outlaw Posse at aged just 18. After this he went on to do remixes for such talents as Queen Latifah,  “Pras” from The Fugees and even George Michael, he also went on to share a stage with Public Enemy, Arrested Development,  House of Pain, Snoop Dog and Busta Rhymes to mention just a few. In 1997 K-Gee was introduced to an all-girl band called “All Saints” and laid down a few tracks for them, first being “I know where it’s at” and then “Never ever” that sold over a million copies in the UK alone, so little doubt we were in the presence of real Hip-Hop royalty.

When K-Gee took to the stage it was to a great welcome from a truly knowledgeable crowd thirsty for his talents, and quench their thirst he did, in bucket loads. It was a great experience to watch people dance and be totally lost in the moment with the music being laid down by K-Gee. Even for the uninitiated in the room (probably just me) his set was a joy to hear and the crowd reactions an equal joy to watch.

All this was made possible by the wonderfully charismatic Kojo Agyei whom originally hails from London but now Cromarty.  I hope Kojo dreams up another such event, hard to believe that an old rock music lover like me would have such a brilliant time at a Hip-Hop event but here I am a few days after the event still smiling and fondly remembering an event in Cromarty that will live with me for a long time, well played Kojo…..well played.

Alan Cruickshank