Little Simz

PRS Foundation: powering up hip hop

Having previously supported the likes of Little Simz and Dave, the organisation’s focus on championing hip hop music creators has never been greater than it is today.

Sam Moore
  • By Sam Harteam Moore
  • 27 Oct 2023
  • min read

As the UK’s leading charitable funder of new music and talent development, the PRS for Music-funded organisation has proactively supported some of the country’s most talented music creators. This is particularly true when it comes to UK hip hop artists, with the likes of Little Simz, Dave and AJ Tracey all receiving support from the Foundation at crucial stages in their careers. Vital talent programmes like POWER UP and The Hitmaker Fund, meanwhile, are ensuring that budding creators in the genre and beyond are receiving the necessary funding they need to take their creativity to the next level.

M recently spoke to PRS Foundation CEO Joe Frankland and POWER UP manager Yaw Owusu to find out more about the Foundation’s continued support of UK hip hop.

How would you describe PRS Foundation’s relationship with UK hip hop?

Joe Frankland: ‘We pride ourselves on offering timely support to exciting new music creators across the UK. Through the expertise of our team, independent advisers and industry-wide partnerships, we have a strong track record for supporting hip hop artists, songwriters and producers. For decades, creators working in hip hop and associated genres have been pushing musical boundaries and building on varied influences while constantly evolving the sound and pioneering new ways to create music and reach new audiences. In a musical and business sense, the innovation within these genres is mind-blowing: over the last 50 years, the evolution of the industry and the way in which creators and industry professionals work has been hugely influenced by hip hop. This is particularly true in the UK, which has witnessed the arrival of genres like UK rap, grime and drill.

‘However, it’s safe to say that within the grant-making sector and during the Foundation’s early years, hip hop music, and creators working in its associated genres, were not receiving a representative share of grant support. I consider a big part of PRS Foundation’s overall role to be to reflect what’s happening in creative scenes, ensuring that financial and other talent development support is available and helps to nurture and impact the careers of music creators in all genres. I’m proud that, in recent years, over 10% of the music creators and organisations we fund work primarily in hip hop and rap genres — and over 20% work in Black music genres, including hip hop — better reflecting what’s happening creatively and commercially in the UK. The shift in the last 10 or so years has been huge. I expect this trend to continue and look forward to supporting more incredible members working in hip hop in the coming years.’

Who have been some of the best success stories from this relationship, and why?

Joe: ‘Our funding and support is reaching and helping so many UK artists, writers and producers, it’s hard to pick just a few. But we’re very proud to have supported members at crucial points in their journey including Little Simz, Dave, Bugzy Malone, Ms Banks, Mace the Great, Sanity, Young Fathers and AJ Tracey. Through programmes like the Hitmaker Fund, we’ve also been supporting behind-the-scenes creators like The FaNaTiX, Celetia Martin and Savannah Jada.

‘Many of these creators first accessed talent development support through non-profit organisations we fund, then accessed direct support through programmes such as the PPL Momentum Music Fund or the International Showcase Fund. Aside from being a huge fan of her music, that’s what jumps out to me about someone like Little Simz. She’s been supported by the likes of UD and Roundhouse, had grant support to take her first steps into the US through our International Showcase Fund and was supported earlier in her career through the Momentum Fund. Now she’s one of our country’s finest writers and performers and pays it forward in many ways.’

Yaw, what can you tell us about the work being done by POWER UP?

Yaw Owusu: ‘POWER UP is an ambitious, long-term initiative which supports Black music creators, industry professionals and executives, as well as addressing anti-Black racism and racial disparities in the music sector. As part of the development of this initiative, more than 80 Black music executives and creators came together through themed focus groups to contribute and steer the initiative. We then implemented a consistent strategy through the POWER UP Executive Steering Committee, which is made up of a cross-section of experienced and successful specialists in the areas in which we operate, including Keith Harris OBE, Paulette Long OBE, Ammo Talwar MBE, Sheryl Nwosu, Jackie Davidson MBE and Danny D. We also work with dozens of partners across the music industry including YouTube Music, Beggars Group and the Black Music Coalition.

‘Through our Participant Programme, POWER UP elevates exciting Black music creators and industry professionals and addresses barriers for those at crucial career stages. We cover all genres and are very proud of our work with an assortment of hip hop artists, including the likes of Guvna B, Bemz, Graft, Kasien and L E M F R E C K. We have also supported industry professionals who focus on platforming and developing the genre, such as Glasgow hip hop platform owner Sami Omar, Nottingham hip hop producer and promoter Joe Buhdha and studio owner James Ayo.

‘We are committed to supporting individuals who drive hip hop forward, both from a creative standpoint and in terms of infrastructure. We will continue to do so in the future, alongside our work across all genres.’


To get an artist’s perspective on the Foundation’s important work, M spoke to former Mercury Prize winner Speech Debelle — a POWER UP creator who has been supported by the PPL Momentum Music Fund — and rising rapper Queen Millz, who has received grants from the PPL Momentum Music Fund and International Showcase Fund.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of hip hop. What does hip hop mean to you?

Speech Debelle: ‘It feels alive, like it’s a living entity. Imagine [if the] music came to us as artists to be heard. If that were the case, then we are listening to something that absolutely wanted and needed to be heard. Five decades really puts into prospective the conversations around the changes in hip hop, such as the emergence of mumble rap. How can anyone live to 50 and not evolve, change or experiment? 50 years old is an honour.’

Queen Millz: ‘Happy birthday hip hop! Growing up, I wasn't the best-behaved child. My parents put me into poetry workshops to guide my energy down a more productive path, and that led to me becoming a rapper/MC — so I thank hip hop for giving me a focus that has now turned into my career. Hip hop is the founding father of every genre that I ever touched: without hip hop, my sound wouldn’t be what it is today.’

How has hip hop influenced the UK music industry?

SD: ‘Jamaican culture was the catalyst for the birth of hip hop, and that was the case here in the UK as well. We went from wearing grey and brown clothing to colour clothing because of the Windrush era. So my first point of reference in terms of influence is actually Jamaica. Hip hop, though, has changed the music industry here hugely. Labels had to start [specific] departments and then have A&Rs of colour, and now the biggest stars in the UK are people of colour. Hip hop is forceful, proud and hypnotic.’

QM: ‘I think hip hop has influenced the UK massively: garage, rap, trap and grime have all stemmed from the hip hop sound. Hip hop has created careers for many people from underprivileged backgrounds in the UK to become successful.’

What are your hopes for the future of UK hip hop?

SD: ‘The women in UK rap are the most exciting currently. Whether musically like ENNY, Bree Runway and of course Little Simz, or the women within the industry like the A&Rs, managers and DJs. The future for UK rap is women-led. It's going to really shake the table when the UK music scene has its #MeToo movement.’

QM: ‘I hope that UK hip hop continues to grow, because it has come a long way to now be part of mainstream culture. I hope the underground can continue to flourish and make subgenres to develop the sound in different ways.’

You’ve both been supported in the past by the PRS Foundation-supported PPL Momentum Fund. How valuable was that support to you as an artist?

SD: ‘To be recognised as someone who deserves that kind of support is so important. I've contributed hugely to the scene both in front and behind the scenes, so it's like giving me my flowers. I'm completely independent, so I have to think about my budgets. I shouldn't have to use the money I make outside of music to support myself when it comes to releasing music. PRS funding is a way of making sure I don't have to.’

QM: ‘The Momentum Music Fund helped progress my career as an artist massively. It contributed to me releasing my debut mixtape Causing A Scene, and because of that I have been able to perform at festivals such as Reading & Leeds, Radio 1’s Big Weekend and SXSW — the latter of which was definitely one of my best experiences as an artist to date.’

Speech, you’re also a POWER UP Music Creator. Again, how valuable has that initiative been to your career?

SD: ‘Kinfolk: it’s really powerful to be in a WhatsApp group with people like Gaika and Josette Joseph. Our skills and talents are so varied, and POWER UP shows we can be so many things while also being Black. Helping us stay connected is crucial to surviving the kind of tactics a place like the UK has against us. How can you pit us against each other when we can just pick up the phone?’

This article appears in a special edition of M Magazine celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip hop. You can read the magazine here.