MC Duke, otherwise known as Anthony Hilaire, is one of the pioneers of the early British Rap and Hip-Hop scenes. Born in the East End of London, he started out as a dancer before attending rap open mic nights. His win over a recent champion was witnessed by the representative of a record label, who invited Hilaire to meet with the executives. He was quickly signed, joining the up and coming ‘Music of Life’ label.

Hilaire was heavily influenced by the contemporary rap and hip-hop being produced in the USA by artists such as LL Cool J, Run DMC, Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy and many more. However, the sound Hilaire developed was distinctly British, dealing with the social and political issues of the time, such as race riots in the UK and apartheid in South Africa.

Emancipation and empowerment flow through his musical output, with particular emphasis put on the everyday lived experiences of Black British people during the 1980s and 1990s. The influence of the West Indies can be felt in the integration of sound systems into the production of rap and hip-hop, which allowed musicians to incorporate deeper bass lines and more powerful percussion. Sound system culture started in Jamaica in the 1940s, revolving around street parties with music, dancing and food. Using these systems inside nightclubs revolutionised the UK nightlife!

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Black Music Collection #11

Minutes by MC Duke