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Some people make a living from music but Rebel MC has dedicated a whole lifetime to his craft.
The Londoner first announced himself to the world as part of 80s hip hop/dance act Double Trouble alongside friends Karl ‘Tuff Enuff’ Brown, Leigh Guest and Michael Menson. That catapulted the name Rebel MC into homes up and down the country thanks to the releases of ‘Just Keep Rockin’ in 1989, which peaked in the UK top 20, before really hit the big time with ‘Street Tuff’, which reached number three in the charts.
Numerous appearances on national television followed, leading to the release of his first album project ‘Rebel Music’ in 1990. But while the ‘pop-rap’ style of the time reflected Rebel’s first foray into music, it was far from representative of what he wanted to achieve and the collaboration with Double Trouble was short-lived.
Instead, Rebel used his new-found success to allow him to concentrate his energies on music that was more representative of his background and influences. 1991 saw the release of his second album ‘Black Meaning Good’, which saw the fusion of the British underground hardcore techno sound of the early 90s with dub basslines to spectacular effect. The precursor to a style of music that eventually became known as Jungle, Rebel successfully integrated legendary reggae artists such as Dennis Brown, Tenor Fly and Barrington Levy into modern dance music, simultaneously introducing them to a whole new audience.
Tracks such as ‘The Wickedest Sound’ and ‘Tribal Bass’ gave notice of a completely new style of music production and led to the formation of his Tribal Bass label the following year. Drawing heavily on the experiences of the black youth growing up in urban Britain, Rebel sought to embrace a wide range of influences to create his unique sound that had a distinctly London edge to it.
By 1993, Rebel had two labels dedicated to the new craft, X-Project and Tribal Bass. Utilising the ‘Conquering Lion’ moniker in recognition of his increasingly Rastafarian views, Rebel produced ‘Lion of Judah/Innah Sound’ in 1993. But it was the foundation of his Congo Natty Recordings label that cemented Rebel’s place in the annals of Jungle music history. 1994’s ‘Code Red’ became one of the anthems of the year and firmly announced the arrival of the Jungle movement to the entire country.
Over the next seven years, the name Congo Natty became a standard bearer for the original authentic Jungle movement and spawned numerous hits including the classics ‘Police in Helicopter’ and ‘Champion DJ’, released under the alias Blackstar.
While the remixes kept coming throughout the late 90s and early 2000s, Rebel’s interest in the history of Ras Tafari took him away from releasing music and deeper into his faith. Having spent almost a decade in the business, he decided to take a step back and embark on a spiritual journey to discover his roots. Ras Mikail Tafari in recognition of continuing devotion to the teachings of Ras Tafari.
With this came the realisation that material aspects of the music business are not what should be dictating the terms, rather the creativity and talent of those who make it happen.
A trip to his spiritual homeland of Ethiopia in 2007 changed Rebel’s life forever. He returned re-invigorated and determined to make an impact on the world he had left behind. Now, Rebel is back; determined to champion the cause of the UK’s emerging talent through his Congo Natty and other labels, and the launch of a new music production company, called Trinity.
Watch the Jungle Lion roar in this time, and make sure you keep up to date on the latest manifestations of the Junglist movement.