Hip-hop isn’t necessarily the first thing you think of when you hear the East Midlands city Nottingham. More famous for Robin Hood, Brian Clough and Trent Bridge, the city has had a pretty solid hip-hop presence since the 1980’s. In recent years this has become more apparent with the likes of Young T & Bugsey and the hip-hop-punk hybrid band Sleaford Mods troubling the charts and music journalists alike. For this featured artist article, however, we’re going to go further back to the earlier days of Nottingham hip-hop. When writing about hip-hop in Nottingham, the most obvious place to start is with the supergroup of MCs that appeared in the 1990s and early 2000’s, Out Da Ville.
Forming out of a loose group of performers at the Community Recording studio in St Ann’s, the group initially consisted of three core members, rapper Lee Ramsay and producers Nick Dimes and Big Trev. Big Trev was very much at the helm, helping to guide the number of rappers that would turn up to freestyle over beats at the studio. Lee Ramsay, however, was very much the vocal constant throughout the lifespan of the group. Their first track was recorded in 1993 with a 13 year old Lee Ramsay rapping on the 12” “Dedication”. The track, however, wouldn’t surface until 1995 when the Real Deal record label was set up by the group to release their productions. Once the label was set up, the records started coming with their next release, “R.D. Style” coming in 1996 featuring vocals from newer members Tempa, Scorzayzee and Fidel Castro. Next came 1997’s “Out Da Ville”, a track that showed the evolution of the group both musically and lyrically and also gave them their name as it took hold up and down the M1. 1998 would see another 12” released with the white label “Rules to this Life Game”, with Tempa, Lee Ramsay and Scorzayzee taking the lead on vocals.
These succession of 12” records would lead to Out Da Ville’s first EP release in 1999. “And Da Ville Go’s On” would mark a turning point for the group with a distinct changing of their style, the Notts accent becoming more prominent over the initial American imitation. There would also be a clear step up in performance and sound with the additions of Karizma and C-Mone to complement the existing members. It would be this record in particular that would catch the attention of hip-hop heads across the country and secure their place at the top table of UK hip-hop, shown by Scorzayzee being voted by readers of Hip-Hop Connection magazine as one of the top ten rappers in the world in 2001.
There would, however, only be a handful more releases from the group and by the mid-2000’s the various members had, for the most part, gone their separate ways. A couple of 12” records appeared in 2000 in the shape of “Blood Sweat and Tearz” and “Life”and there was also time for one final EP, with 2002’s “Notts Property”a further celebration of their Nottingham roots. Since their final EP, members of the group have continued producing records and collaborating with each other, albeit not under the Out Da Ville moniker. Lee Ramsay continues to make music both as a rapper and producer under the names Marga Boys and Low Star as well as his own, both Karizma and Tempa have collaborated with numerous UK hip-hop performers and Big Trev continues to run a community focused studio where he produces and mentors up and comings MCs. The most successful to come out of the group, however, have been C-Mone and Scorzayzee. C-Mone released the critically acclaimed album The Butterfly Effect in 2006 and has since released a series of 12”s and a second full length release. Scorzayzee’s profile exploded after the release of “Great Britain” in 2004 and the controversy and media coverage that came with it. However, the impact led to him stepping away from the mic to recover his mental health and focus on his Islamic beliefs. He reappeared in the film“Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee” in 2008 and has since released a series of albums and EPs including 2015’s “Aeon:Peace to the Puzzle” and 2017’s EP “Illa Scorz”, once again showing his skill on the microphone.