Whether they admit it or not, Black American music fans tend to define London simply as the land of tea time, proper accents and Amy Winehouse. That obviously isn’t fair. In a lot of ways, Black British youth, many of whom are of West Indian and African descent, face many of the same issues Black youth experience in the States. They’ve managed to emerge from their trials and tribulations to craft a culture uniquely their own, a movement spear-headed by the city’s bubbling Grime scene, UK Rap, and the older genre known as Garage.
American Hip hop culture has been slowly embracing British acts over the last 18 months We’ve seen them featured on our blogs and websites, performing on the biggest stages and festivals, and receiving co-signs from the biggest names in rap. While many purists of London’s musical exports have battled over whether or not they should seek or care about love from popular US acts, artists like Skepta, Stormzy, Section Boyz, and others seem happy to watch their profiles rise on American soil.
And it wouldn’t be a revolution if legions of British artists weren’t looking to achieve the same level of international success as their predecessors. Acts like AJ Tracey, Dave, J-Hus, Fredo and 67 are ready in the wings, hoping for a chance to showcase their musical prowess to the world—they just need the right opportunity and platform.
LDN is the latest work from cinematographer Nathan Miller, who gives the world an inside look at Britain’s eclectic music scene. Miller directed and shot the 45-minute documentary, which focuses on the artists, managers, DJs and photographers who make up London’s blossoming Grime, Afro-Bashment and UK rap movements.
CASSIUS spoke with Nathan about LDN, what impact he hopes the film will have on his community, where British music is headed, and just how good the famed Nando’s chicken really is.
CASSIUS: What was the inspiration behind LDN, and why did you want to make the film?
Nathan Miller: LDN was inspired by what was happening in the city. I was at a show watching Dave perform—I was a little tipsy—and my friend Ayo basically said what’s the next piece gonna be about (I usually do one documentary a year). I decided then and there that I was going to shoot a piece about what’s happening here—from my point of view.
C: You candidly spoke about quitting your job to finish making the film. What other obstacles did you face in bringing this to life?
NM: The biggest obstacle was trying to sort out times and dates to interview artists. In terms of getting in contact and stuff, all their manager info is in their Twitter / Instagram bios, pretty easy.
C: What do you think your place in London’s music scene is as a filmographer? You managed to have very open and free dialogue with a lot of artists, something that is very hard to do. How’d that come about?
NM: I’m not too sure what my place is, I think most people call me the documentary guy. I’ve always been around artists, there are great musicians throughout London that I’ve known for a minute so some I could just reach out to. I was able to get connected to most people in the documentary through people I already knew, and if I didn’t know them then I just hit up the emails in their bios.
C: Has life changed for you since LDN’s release?
NM: Absolutely! Before LDN I would have had to explain what I do, but when people hear that I did the “London doc” they know about it straight away. It really caught on, a lot of people have reached out to me. It’s cool.
C: Many British artists have started to share their stories of firsthand racism affecting London’s Black and brown youth. Is this behavior still prevalent?
NM: I haven’t experienced full on hate racism in years, but I’ve definitely been stereotyped. I usually dress pretty smart casual-ish but the minute I wear a tracksuit I notice a change in people around me. I think if you wear tracksuits daily you probably won’t notice that you’re being watched a little more but it was clear to me.
C: With several artists starting excelling here in the States, and people around the world paying more attention to British Rap, Grime, and its other sub-cultures, where do you see the future of London music going?
NM: I picture it being huge in the near future. There are so many artists touring the world from tracks on Youtube and Soundcloud— the climate is totally different. I used to actually ask artists why do you think it’s hard to break into the States but now I ask that question as a joke. I think we’re so proud of what we sound like and growing organic fanbases that mess with us for good music. The walls are slowly coming down and if a city really messes with the music coming out of here, expect to see the artist in your city – it’s what’s happening now and I don’t see it stopping.
C: On to the important stuff, is (chicken spot) Nandos really worth the hype?
NM: I actually had Nandos today. For us, it’s pretty calm but if you’ve never had it—yes! Can’t go wrong with a cheeky Nandos.
Here is “LDN”, by Nathan Miller.