UK urban breaks USA – part 5

Mark Beaumont tracks the course of the latest British invasion across the pond.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 24 Nov 2010
  • min read
American-Style Branding

If such hard-nosed perseverance reflects the rags-to-riches struggles of many US hip-hop acts, the similarity doesn’t end there. Taking his cues from Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Wear fashion offshoot, Russell Simmons’ Phat Farm and 50 Cent’s G Unit, Taio has taken on the US rap model of the mogul, expanding his brand to include Rokstarr sunglasses, jeans and T-shirts.

Both Jay and Taio have mirrored the American shift from hip-hop and R&B into more pop-based sounds.

Their success is arguably down to infiltrating the US mainstream disguised as locals – indeed, Sean claims the head of Cash Money had no idea he was British when he signed him. ‘When I sat in front of the CEO and I started talking, the first thing he said was, “Where you from?”’ he told The Guardian. ‘For them, they don't care where I'm from, my music is the only thing they care about.’

Global Ambitions

Taio is similarly open about his non-urban attitude, telling MOBO ‘I’m not an R&B artist, I’m not a hip hop artist, I’m a pop writer and a pop producer and that’s what I look to do.’

Whereas the novelty of UK urban acts delivering in a distinctly British style has led to limited successes in the States, Cruz now advocates a globally homogenous approach.

‘In the UK, artists like Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Stryder and N-Dubz are all representative of the youth culture,’ he told The Guardian. ‘But that [youth culture] isn't in America, so there's no one to relate to it. The kids in America don't talk like that and they don't use the same slang, so it kinda goes over their head. I think singing is a very universal thing so if I'm singing about love, everyone can relate to that.’

>Read more on page six<