Between their retro hip-hop, jazzy trumpets, and substantive lyrics, Rizzle Kicks brings a flavor to the music industry that has long been missing.
The rap/hip-hop duo from Brighton, U.K. is comprised of Jordan Stephens and Harley Alexander-Sule. Both young men come from creative but humble beginnings. They were childhood friends but lost touch for years until they reconnected in high school where Jordan studied media and Harley studied theater. At the same time, they both attended rap and performance workshops put on by AudioActive—a Brighton-based charity that seeks to provide musical and creative experiences for young people who come from low-income backgrounds. With their similar upbringing and musical interest, Rizzle Kicks came to be when Jordan was working on a mixtape and asked Harley to sing on some of his tracks. The two saw how compatible their musical styles were, and they formed Rizzle Kicks in 2008 at the ripe age of 17.
New on the scene, Rizzle Kicks produced a number of demos and worked to form an online presence through their blog and YouTube channel. Their efforts were recognized in 2010 when they signed to Island Records—a division of Universal Records and home to numerous successful musicians ranging from Drake to Disclosure. The release of their first official single "Down With the Trumpets" in June of 2011 put Rizzle Kicks on the musical map. The song set the stage for the duo’s signature sound—rap laid over hip-hop beats and vintage trumpets and piano.
Rizzle Kicks released their debut album Stereo Typical in October of 2011. It garnered much success for a first album, reaching the number 5 spot on the charts and becoming certified platinum in May of 2012. Stereo Typical includes their popular single "Mama Do the Hump", which started the dance craze “The Hump” throughout the U.K., similar to phenomenon of The Harlem Shake or Soldier Boy. Following the release of Stereo Typical, Rizzle Kicks had a packed two years of touring and playing shows. They headlined their own tour in the U.K., went on tour supporting Ed Sheeran and Foy Vance in the U.S., played in a number of music festivals such as the infamous Glastonbury Festival, and performed various shows throughout Europe and Australia.
By 2013 Rizzle Kicks were itching to get back into the studio to work on their next album. In September of 2013 they released their sophomore, and most recent album, Roaring 20’s, which includes the singles "Skip to the Good Bit", "Lost Generation", and "That’s Classic". Since the release of Roaring 20s, Rizzle Kicks went on another tour across the U.K. during February and March of 2014. They also recently released a single "Tell Her" in August of 2014 in partnership with Evian for the 2014 Wimbledon Championships.
The quick success of Rizzle Kicks over the past five years is even more impressive when you know that Jordan and Harley are only 22 years old. Additionally, what I find so respectable about these two young men is their view on the current rap industry and how it needs to be changed. In an interview with BBC in November of 2013 Jordan says, “I can’t listen to hip-hop at the moment (…) The stuff I’m hearing in the mainstream…it’s overly-misogynistic and it’s still homophobic.” He then goes on to say in response to a line in the song Clique by Jay-Z, “I don’t want a bad bitch. I want a chick that would slap up a guy if he calls her a bad bitch.” A lyric that made it into their song "This Means War" on Roaring 20s.
Needless to say, these guys have a strong sense of humor as well as a strong opinion about the content of their music. For some, music is fun to listen to or dance around to regardless of the lyrical content, for others, the lyrics are an essential piece of a song’s appeal. When talking about their album Roaring 20s, Jordan explains the duo’s desire to add cultural material to their songs. They’re making an effort to add more substance to the hip-hop/rap scene than what’s given in the existing plethora of songs about partying, dancing, and love.
This mature outlook on music isn’t to say Rizzle Kicks doesn’t have catchy songs to dance to or swearing in their lyrics. It’s quite the opposite. Many of their songs are upbeat, and their shows are high energy and rowdy with the occasional bra thrown on stage—just to paint a picture. The two are known to vibe off each other both on stage and in interviews, and being only 22, I’m excited to see what they have in store for us in the future. Look them up, take a listen, and get to know what may become the new face of hip-hop and rap.
By Gabi Schwartz