Friday, May 31, 2013

Chap Hop: The Tweed Revolution

by Samantha Tynes

Shocking as it may sound, I don’t spend that much time on the internet.


Well, I don’t spend that much time outside of my special pocket of cat pictures and baby sloths.


But when I do, sometimes I stumble onto something truly magical. Like Chap hop.

Just look at cover art: adventure and tweed all over.
(image from Professor Elemental's Father of Invention)

I remember the first time I heard chap hop. It was this lovely little nugget of musical weird that captured my attention with this strange British dude rapping about cricket and tea and all I could think about was “Who made this and where can I get more?” The simplest definition of chap hop is musicians having fun mashing upper crust British culture into hip hop, but there’s a little more to it than that. 

Musicians bring in influences from other related sub-genres (such as Neo-Victorian and Steampunk, broadly defined as they are) as well as jazz beats, folk, and sometimes even a dash of swing. The two current powerhouses behind the chap hop genre are Professor Elemental and Mr. B, the Gentleman Rhymer.


Mr. B and his banjolele, and sometimes piccolo trombone, puts rhymes about smoking pipes and proper attire over a modern beat accented with tinny trumpets and twangy pianos. His first two albums, Flattery not Included and I Say! are upbeat, fast-paced songs ranging from the hardships of a gentleman’s life in "Crazy Knight," the horrors of the World Cup in "Let’s Get This Over and Done With," and bragging about cricket prowess "Straight Outta Surrey". Honestly, it’s just downright fun.


Mr. B. looking positively dashing.
(image by Amphalon via Wikimedia)


The Gentleman Rhymer’s embracement of chappist lifestyle comes through clearly in his lyrics, as shown directly in "All Hail the Chap," but is even more apparent (as seen above) in his dapper style. With tweed jackets, a cultivated mustache, your grandfather’s glasses, and pipe, it’s easy to see why he is a trendsetter among chaps and chappettes. 

Appearances and subject matter aside, Mr. B is a talented musician. His arrangements pull in modern rap beats, some classic hooks, and old timey horns into a surprisingly polished and put together sound. If someone told me “Hey, listen to this guy string Sugarhill Gang, Beastie Boys and Public Enemy together. There’re a couple really bitchin’ banjolele solos in there too.” I’d think they were nuts, but he pulls it off with aplomb. For example, check out "Chap Hop History."


Professor Elemental is the eccentric counterpart to Mr. B’s proper self; the man has a gorilla for a butler, for chrissake. A lanky chap with a safari jacket and pith helmet, Professor Elemental branches more into steampunk, crossing the line between Victorian and modern day English gentleman with ease. He raps about the epic "Quest for the Golden Frog," "Steampowered" machines, and experiments for animal hybrids in the rather innocuously named, "Animal Magic." (All of which can be previewed and/or bought on the Professor's Bandcamp page).

Despite the range of steampunk situations and silly hijinks covered, Professor Elemental still has deep roots in his ultimate British gentlemanship. You’ll still find more than several songs about tea, which would be more than enough to establish all his Brit cred, but in case you had any lingering doubts, he clears them up in "I'm British." (Editor's note: Wikipedia verified - someone claims he's from Brighton).


Professor Elemental's got a posse.
(all image copyright belongs to Ben Broomfield)

Just like any proper rappers, until recently these two were caught up in their own rivalry. After Professor Elemental called Mr. B out and put on his fighting trousers (yes, the song is even titled "Fighting Trousers"), Mr. B accepted the challenge just like a chap. They spent the next two years trading passing insults in songs and videos. Crashing each others videos, sometimes literally shoving the other out of the spotlight while they fought for the title of Number One Chap. It finally culminated in “The Duel,” and is probably the most polite rap battle you will ever listen to. A true gentlemanly end to the pair's rivalry.


While these two are certainly the most prevalent in the genre, doing a little digging will get you (what I hope to be) a rising star. Poplock Holmes. With by far my favorite stage name, Poplock Holmes only has a few songs and videos floating around the internet. Sadly, his Kickstarter was unsuccessful but he is still making appearances and doing performances at various Steampunk festivals around the country.

And, yes, I mean this country, the man’s American!! Poplock Holmes is American born and based, and while some might say it can’t really be chap hop to them I say, "Nay and good day, sir." Chap hop isn't about being from the right part of England, or even about being British, it’s about having a grand time making absolutely delightful music.

With proper attire and manners, naturally.

2 comments:

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  2. If you're looking for more chap-hop check out Sir Reginald Pikedevant, Esquire on YouTube - http://www.youtube.com/user/Pikedevant

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