People from the era tell their stories.
» Sam Wisternoff
My brother and I had a shared obsession with early rap music after hearing a homemade Hip Hop compilation tape which my dad put together from recording John Peel’s Radio One broadcasts in the late eighties. Being unrestrictedly precocious, we began to imitate the likes of Mc Shan, Marley Marl, LL Cool J and Run DMC, my brother at twelve years old programming beats using a ZX Spectrum, me at eight rapping.
We would make recordings using a four track cassette and put on performances for our parent’s friends. Early memories of this time include rapping acapella stood on a table at a grown up’s party, somehow finding myself on stage with a mic, joining in with the local support act for The Jungle Brothers at The Thekla and coming second in the local DMC rap championships (the judgement was undoubtedly due to the novelty factor of me being under ten years old).
Due to the staggering generosity of Smith & Mighty, we were given a publishing advance to produce a twelve inch single. From what I understand, they were given a large amount of money from a major label (things were different then) and they decided to cut us a healthy slice of the cash enabling us to build a home studio (parts of which I’m still using for my recordings today). The money must have come after the record though as the twelve inch we made for Smith & Mighty’s Three Stripe label was recorded in their studio which was located in a spliff smoke filled flat above a shop in St Pauls.
The novelty of a being prepubescent, English child rapper meant that local news took an interest as well as the magazine, Hip Hop Connection who published a photograph of us looking, as a letter in the following issue pointed out, “like we were on crack”.
This, and the undeniable reality that there’s nothing worse than a squeaky voiced, white, child MC, led to me retiring from rap music sometime in my early teens.
Interview with Jillo Wisternoff
Words © Sam Wisternoff