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
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
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
Latest stories from i100
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.

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried