New Music
21.04.2009, Words by Charlie Jones

Newham Generals "When you open your eyes, everyone’s going mad."

Newham Generals have been one of grime’s biggest names for five years now, but it’s taken three of those for their debut Generally Speaking to finally arrive. Regularly threatening its release since signing with Dizzee Rascal ’s Dirtee Stank label in 2005, until late last year when a brilliant teaser for the song Violence finally turned up on the net, it looked like the Gens’ career might have permanently stalled. “It was frustrating ‘cos people can’t see anything you’re doing,” admits Footsie, the group’s mouthpiece and in-house producer, with a laugh. “We was in a rush at first, like ‘why ain’t it out?’ You get impatient ‘cos the artist in you wants to be seen. But we understood that when we were going to be seen, the impact was going to be there. And that’s why it’s taken time.”

So what have they been doing? Touring. Though used to ruling underground raves, supporting Dizzee around the globe has given the Gens a chance to develop their gigging skills and introduce things like DEE’s “oouuhhh oouuhhh” vocal trademark (think: the sound you hear when you get killed in Streetfighter) to a whole new audience. Basically, they’ve had to start from scratch again. “Touring with Dizzee, 99% of the people don’t even know who we are,” says Footsie. “So you’ve got to do a lot to win them over. It’s a massive step up from saying a quick 16 bars with your eyes closed in a rave, where by the time you open your eyes, everyone’s going mad. Performing a set of three and a half minute tunes is totally different.”

It’s something they’ve been learning from Dizzee, but the relationship hasn’t been only one-way. Since signing their deal, they’ve tempted their boss back to raves like FWD and the Rinse FM studio, where they do their weekly show, places he hadn’t been in years. “He’s always wanted to do it,” says Footsie. “It was just that after going so far and breaking up with all them guys (estranged crew Roll Deep) he couldn’t. But he’s laid back into it with us. He’s found that we’re his mates as well as his artists.”

Ironically, pirate radio might end up on the backburner for them too, now that the album’s out. With more touring and promotional activity on the cards, Footsie says it’s getting tougher to fit it in. “We’re just getting busier and busier. And the reason for that is because going to radio all those years has now paid off. You’re so busy in the week that getting to radio on a Sunday now is a bit of a struggle. But we can’t let go of it. It’s done so much for us. That’s why Dizz still comes back on radio with us. You can’t turn your back on it.”

Newham Generals’ myspace

Generally Speaking is out now

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