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|Rebel MC/Congo Natty|
27 August 1965
|Other names||Conquering Lion, Blackstar, Tribe of Issachar, X Project, Ras Project|
Michael West (born 27 August 1965 in Tottenham, London), better known as Rebel MC, is an English jungle producer and toaster. He has also used the aliases Conquering Lion, Congo Natty, Blackstar, Tribe Of Issachar, X Project and Ras Project. "Conquering Lion" is an abbreviation for "The Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah", one of emperor Haile Selassie's many titles.
In the early 1980s, West formed the group Double Trouble with the now deceased Michael Menson, Karl Brown (more commonly known as the UK garage DJ Karl 'Tuff Enuff' Brown) and Leigh Guest; and released the single "Just Keep Rockin" on the Desire record label in 1989 as Double Trouble and Rebel MC. The single was a UK Top 20 hit, and the follow-up "Street Tuff" (1989) was his biggest success, reaching #3 in the UK Singles Chart.
Because of the style and content of these releases, West was often dismissed by a British hip hop community, distrustful of pop success and "selling out". His first album was Rebel Music (Desire, 1990) which included the popular dance track "Better World".
His second album. Black Meaning Good (Desire, 1991) was a complete change of style for West, mixing his former pop-rap influences with reggae, hip hop, dance and the emerging jungle styles. The album featured ragga notables like Barrington Levy, Tenor Fly and Dennis Brown singing and toasting on top of reggae-house music rhythms.
Forming the Tribal Bass label, Rebel MC released "Tribal Bass" (1992), which was his last significant hit, reaching #20 in the UK charts, and the hip house track Demon Boyz "Dett" (1992) and the Oldschool Jungle track "Jungle-ist" (1993). The X Project label followed shortly with the "Old School Ting" (1993) single. As Conquering Lion, West, with help from DJ Ron and Jumping Jack Frost, released the sound system mash up "Lion of Judah/Innah Sound/Dub Plate Special" (1993). With vocals from Supercat, Conquering Lion's "Code Red/Phenomenon" (1994) caught the attention of 4th & Broadway who re-released the track along with "Rastaman/Word, Sound and Power/Code Black" (1995).
Tribal Bass gradually mutated into Congo Natty, and West himself released some material under this name, before settling on the Conquering Lion name. However, this was not the last the world heard of Rebel MC. Despite his continued success with his new style of music, West released the single "Junglist" (Congo Natty, 2004) under the Rebel MC name, and followed this up with a greatest hits album Born Again (Congo Natty, 2005).
New interest in the Double Trouble & Rebel MC song, "Just Keep Rockin" in December 2007, saw it re-enter the UK Dance Chart at #32.
In 2013, he released the album Jungle Revolution, featuring the likes of General Levy, Top Cat, Tippa Irie, Tenor Fly and Nanci Correia.
Rebel MC's sound derives from his focus on blackness from various angles. Rather than solely celebrating Afrocentric motifs, his music hearkens back to the African diaspora. The lyrics embrace a wide range of approaches to blackness and black-pride, bringing a different understanding of tradition by combining the different voices, themes and styles drawn from all kinds of sources of "blackness", creating a "playful, vibrant, postracial utopia". This amalgamated version of modern thought has allowed for the emergence of a uniquely London version of politically charged hip hop. Paul Gilroy argues that Rebel MC's message prevents the existence of "the trope of race as family". Instead, Gilroy states that the London hip-hop culture allows for a healthy competition between African-American and Caribbean sounds to gain exposure. As recently as 2009 Joe Rankin' Rattigan described the song "Street Tuff" as "the birth of UK grime", a view supported by Dizzee Rascal also.
- Rebel Music (Desire, 1990)
- Black Meaning Good (Desire, 1991)
- Word Sound and Power (Big Life, 1991)
- Born Again (Congo Natty, 2005)
- Jungle Revolution (Congo Natty, 2013)
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 453. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Gilroy, P. "It's a Family Affair", That's The Joint! The Global Hip-Hop Studies Reader, pp. 87-94. New York; London: Routledge, 2004.
- DeLoach, D. "Bill Hines: The King of Lead," Lowrider Magazine, April 1992, p. 52.
- Rebel MC