So Solid Crew are back – as businessmen

Twelve years ago, the British rappers were notorious for the violence they attracted. These days, they believe they're 'pioneers'

They talk a good fight, So Solid Crew. Spend time in their company and they won't let you leave until they have convinced you that they have been to the UK garage scene what The Beatles were to pop. It is true, certainly, that they made quite an impact, and threw open the doors for the UK urban scene in general, but the truth is we do need reminding. There has always been so much else surrounding them – firearms charges, assault, countless stabbings, even manslaughter – that it's easy to overlook any musical contribution they've made.

That said, when we meet a couple of days after this year's Mobo Awards, both Megaman and MC Harvey – who, along with MC Romeo and Lisa Maffia, formed the core of the group back in the day and still do, more or less, today – jubilantly point out that they received nothing but love and respect there from their peers. “And our closing performance,” Harvey adds, “was epic.”

They were there to announce a “Best Of” compilation and also a farewell tour in November, though the very notion of “farewell” seems as vague to So Solid as it is to Status Quo. “Hey, if some promoter comes offering us £2m to reform in a few years' time, I'm sure we'll sit down and negotiate,” says Harvey, laughing like a drain.

It is a dozen years since So Solid Crew, an underground act from Battersea in south London, with as many as 32 members, broke unexpectedly into the mainstream with “21 Seconds”, a minimalist UK garage track that knocked Atomic Kitten off the No 1 spot. While alerting half the country to an often thrilling, and hitherto overlooked, genre, they also managed to terrify the other half with what some of the media saw as an endless glorification of drugs and gang culture. Every time they played live, the police were called in: there were knife fights, and on more than one occasion – through no fault of the band themselves – the fights proved fatal.

Megaman and Harvey, the two representatives of an approximately 10-strong crew today, sigh wearily. Here they are, wanting to talk music and business, but all anyone wants to perpetuate is that old controversy. Both are 34 years old now, and both are different characters. Megaman is brooding, almost menacing; Harvey is a human firework, constantly going off. “Thing is, yeah,” says Harvey, “we come from struggle. Everything we've done, we've had to struggle. But why did people get so fearful? We just lived by basic rules, like anybody else: we defended ourselves when we had to.”

Perhaps, yes, but they weren't always merely defending themselves. One member, for example, Skat D, was once arrested for allegedly breaking the jaw of a 16-year-old fan who spurned his sexual advances; another, Asher D (now Ashley Walters, one of the UK's most promising actors) was imprisoned for firearms possession. Megaman himself was arrested in 2005 on suspicion of manslaughter. “Okay, everything they talked up in the newspapers was true,” Megaman says, “but we also ended up being held responsible for things we had nothing to do with, like all those fights at our events.” Megaman was eventually cleared of all charges, but by then the band had splintered. They had released just two albums – 2001's They Don't Know (which sold 450,000 copies) and 2003's 2nd Verse (25,000 copies). By then, each of the main MCs had individual public profiles. But while Ashley Walters' acting career took off, the others' solo albums were not huge hits.

But this, insists Megaman, is to miss the point. For behind the scenes, each had never been busier. “So Solid was always about bringing new talent up – the next generation,” he explains. “We don't need to jump about on stage any more because we don't have anything more to prove. We're iconic already. We're not just rappers, we're businessmen.”

“You look at acts like Tinie and Dizzee [Tempah and Rascal, both now international superstars],” adds Harvey, “but they are just music. We are brands. I've got so many things in so many pies, I could work until I'm 50!” He talks about management deals (Megaman is currently managing nine up-and-coming acts), and of “crazy” endorsement deals with jewellery and watch companies. “We've got video-hosting websites; our own range of clothing is in Top Man now; and we're about to get into legal radio. Always growing, yeah? It's like, if I've got two houses, I want four…”

Back in July, the band were abruptly dropped from the Lovebox Festival, by all accounts because another act didn't want to share the stage with them. Harvey wasn't best pleased. “We give artists careers, and they still treat us like c***s,” he tweeted afterwards. Which is why their reception at the Mobos pleased them so much. They are retiring from centre-stage now, though, because they want to move more into management, into creating and running a growing empire. This is something, you feel, they would like more respect for.

“Thing is,” says Harvey, “we are British, just like you. So shouldn't you all be proud of us? You love American rappers, and half of them have gone to jail on murder and firearm charges! But still, they come here and they get maximum love. Meanwhile, all people here say is, 'Ban So Solid.' Why? Be proud of us instead, man! Because bottom line is this: we've done something no other crew in this country has done.” He is out of his chair at this point, all but levitating. His eyes are awfully wide. “You know what that means? It means that when we die, we'll be remembered. We're pioneers.”

'The Best Of…' by So Solid Crew is out now. The band's tour continues in Sheffield tonight (16 November), Norwich (18 November) and Birmingham (19 November)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone