Rap and hip-hop have an undeservedly bad reputation in this country, as police and punters shy away from their `gangsta' associations. But now a London promoter aims to up their image

Spare a thought for hip-hop. It's been around longer than house music, offers more raw energy than drum 'n' bass (a hybrid that sampled rap heavily in its infancy) and has influenced huge swathes of current music. Moreover, its fashions and mannerisms have indelibly stained urban youth culture.

Despite its enduring popularity, hip-hop largely remains an underground phenomenon in the UK. Many clubs that showcase R 'n' B also feature rap tunes, but it's rarely hardcore or from home- grown artists.

In the UK, the police are notoriously reluctant to sanction rap events. As a result of this, they're promoted infrequently, or on an ad hoc basis.

When the mass media occasionally focus on the genre, they highlight spurious tales of American "Gangsta Rappers", black-on-black violence and rap's ongoing attempts to eat away at the moral fabric of society.

As with many tabloid stories, the reality differs from the screaming headlines. Some rap music admittedly produces some ugly excesses (most notably in its anaesthetising attitude towards violence and sexism), but hip-hop is a positive musical force in many ways.

Take Mudlumz (a hybrid name for the Highbury Hoodlumz and the M.U.D. crews), who are bringing together the cream of UK hip-hop talent for a showcase of gargantuan proportions on Friday.

The UK All-stars, featuring Blak Twang, Rodney P and Roots Manuva, will appear on stage in addition to the M.U.D Family, MC D, Unusual Suspek, Funky DL and DJ Paris.

"I want people to experience the community vibe," says Vincent Barnet, from promotions team Intenz. "There will be all sorts of different people having a good time. Some people imagine hip-hop jams to be full of people smoking weed and giving attitude, but they're wrong. We just want to keep hip-hop and R 'n' B real."

Frustrated by other hip-hop events and a lack of exposure for UK talent, this north London collective put together their own hip-hop and R 'n' B jams in March 1997.

"Not many people want to put money into UK hip-hop at the moment," explains Barnet. "Maybe they don't think that it will sell, but they're wrong because rap crews like Hijack, Caveman and London Posse have done really well.

"Stereotypes are the biggest problems facing hip-hop because a few people think there will be trouble. Many hip-hop jams could be better organised, but since rap has stayed underground it's retained the essence of the street."

In addition to a plethora of DJs and live performances, the Mudlumz showcase holds a few more surprises. Skateboarders will perform "olies" and grab "big-air" to warm up the event.

While you're deciding how best to hit the dancefloor you can watch the fashion shows or check out the many merchandise stalls before winning pounds 50 in the best dancer competition.

Dance moves not up to scratch? Don't sweat, as your linguistic dexterity could win you pounds 100 as the best freestyle rapper. (To be sure to get your chance on the mic, call Intenz promotions before Friday 5 Feb and audition.)

"I'm a great believer in value for money, so rather than give the fans a teaser of British rap we're going to give them a whole oversight of what's happening."

Mudlumz start their own label at the end of February with the clear objective of developing UK rap talent. In the meantime, every clubber bored with monotonous house music should beat a path to Finsbury Park and join the line of b-boyz and b-girls. No dress code, no attitude - just phat beats.

Mudlumz, Powerhaus, Seven Sisters Road, N4 (0956 255492: Intenz Promotions), Friday 6 Feb, 9pm-3am, pounds 5