Greatest Shit: House of Pharaohs

This is the series that looks at people doing some of the greatest shit in our scene. We want to give people the flowers while they are still here and tell them “hey, what you’re doing is great, keep on doing it”. These are people doing it their way, however unconventional that may be. Last week, we looked at the creative director for the London based clothing brand, Corteiz, Clint 419. And, this week we have some Corteiz wearers, in the form of the South London, rap collective, House of Pharaohs.

House of Pharaohs are a group of creatives. They are rappers, producers, designers, managers and DJs. They are Sam Wise, Blaze YL, Bandanna, Kevin Taylor, Danny Stern and Mally Chinks (rappers), G Lo (manager), Tilly (designer) and Jamo Beatz (DJ). They also have many associates. And, they represent a portion of the scene in South London yet have global potential.

(From left to right) Blaze YL, Kevin Taylor, Danny Stern, Sam Wise and Bandanna

I first came across House of Pharaohs on Instagram in late 2015. I was trying my best to be wavey so was preeing the “cool kids” two years above me at school and checking out what they were interested in.

I had seen a picture of one of these “cool kids” with an interesting looking fella, who I later identified as Bandanna, at Wavey Garms, a vintage clothing store in Peckham. Just looking at Bandanna, I became intrigued. He had long hair, nice clothes and looked carefree.

To give this more context, I was rocking a high top back then so I thought that if I got plaits, bought a couple of Stone Island pieces and kept on pushing my music, I’d basically be Bandanna.

Anyway, this one photo, led me to the House of Pharaohs. The guy whose Instagram I was looking at, had a playlist with a bunch of their songs and from there I was hooked.

Bandanna in Clint419’s earlier brand, Cade on the Map

This was after they had dropped their first collective tape together, the Southern Stamp EP. It was one of those moments where I thought wow. There are guys like this. Their sound was something that I hadn’t heard before but it seemed familiar because I was so interest in groups like Pro Era, the A$AP Mob and The Underachievers as well as more underground UK acts at the time.

I remember playing their track, 1:11, for one of my boys and he said that it sounded like a lullaby. I guess it’s because he wasn’t used to the sound yet but he soon became a believer.

It was the energy that caught me early on. 1:11 demonstrates this energy perfectly. Although the music and performances in the video were rough, the flair was undeniable and the video very well shot. They were a bunch of guys being themselves. They ran up into a hotel, a casino and a corner shop and had fun, bouncing around, hiding their nerves. They were what you want to be: free.

They also represented a different side of London and Black British culture. It was still familiar but their sound and style wasn’t limited to labels like Grime and Drill, which were popular at the time. They were a mixture of influences and they were able to execute it so naturally. In an interview between Sam Wise and events manager, Mr I Am Next, Sam effectively said that the antics which we saw in the videos, was how they really were – “we didn’t give a toss”.  

This attitude is still a theme but it’s amazing to see how they’ve learnt from the early experiences at shows, how their music has developed and the opportunities that they’ve created for themselves. It’s been seven years of dedication.

In my opinion, what brought the movement to the next level was the run from Raid to RWM (Run With Me). The quality had risen.

When I listen to Raid this day, it brings a tear to my eye. It was a showcase. The way that the beat built, the standard of the verses, the execution of the video. It brought things beyond just energy and into a well-oiled machine and you could tell that many people were involved in making things happen.

It allowed them to build momentum, with the release of Draws next. Again, the way that they were able to capture the fun that they had is beautiful. These videos and sounds are things that they can look back on and things that will bring back memories. Like Raid, Draws was undeniable and perfect for shows with the beat and its menacing hum and slapping snares, accompanied by memorable verses.

Then, it was the most polished track yet, RWM (Run With Me). This track really spread. From being played by Frank Ocean on his radio show, Blonded, to be recommended by a badders with surprisingly good music taste (check the comments section beneath the video). It became the entry point for many people and showed everyone how far they had come and the work that they had been putting in to produce their best song yet.

Since then, there’s been so much more. Project after project: Real Faces, The Fix EP, Seasons, Seasons II. More shows – I still remember the show at Tate Britain – while everyone else in the gallery was admiring the artwork on the walls, we admired the artists on the stage.

And, each member has come into their own, with Blaze’s solo music popping off, Bandanna in Top Boy and Sam Wise with his headline show last month. This individual work gave me more respect for the group as a whole too because there doesn’t seem to be any jealousy. They all keep on pushing and if one of them makes it, they all make it, as I saw when the whole gang came on stage at Sam Wise’s headline.

They are doing a lot for the underground UK music scene. They are laying out the blueprint for others to prosper. They have also gone had mainstream looks, like going on Mixtape Madness’ channel, Tim Westwood TV and collaborating with UK super-producer Nyge. Nonetheless, they remain genuine guys and true friends that also care about their supporters. I just hope that when this is all done, they can reminisce and smile at the great shit they did!

Check out their latest single, AM to PM and make sure to like, follow and comment!

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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