Tottenham, Haringey, London, England, United Kingdom
- Peter Akinrinlola
Pre-empting all other beat eclectics, Urban Species, with their unique approach to making music and their engaging live shows offer a tangent of blues, funk, jazz and reggae combining live playing and samples to create their own definitive sound and feel. They deliver incisive and worthwhile lyrics addressing universal issues relevant to all.
Urban Species hail from Tottenham in North London. Growing up amidst the backdrop of diverse cultural heritage, founders, Mintos and Renegade had known each other for most of there young lives attending the same infant, primary and secondary schools together. In the 80s, as teenagers, they embraced an emerging Hip Hop culture; however their musical environment was not solely limited to Electro and Rap Music.
They were just as likely to be found at a sound system (Reggae Dancehall) as they were at a Hip-Hop jam, Blues or the occasional Rave. The connecting factor of such diversity was the underground nature of them.
It was in 88 when” Renegade (Winston Small) and Mintos (Peter Akinrinlola) first realised that they shared the same love of music and set about writing together. Using basic low tech equipment and samples, comprising largely from Renegade’s older brothers vast collection of old jazz and funk records, the two (during this period) followed the standard DJ MC model whereby Renegade would provide the beats and Mintos would drop rhymes on them.
In 89 they saved enough money to go into a professional studio and recorded a track called” its My Thing” Pleased with the result they set about pressing white labels and distributing them via specialist record stores on a sale and return basis. Going out under the name MC Mint & DJ Renegade “its My Thing” was championed by several underground DJs and Pirate radio stations alike and they soon found themselves doing PA s and pressing more copies to keep up with demand.
But it wasn’t just in the UK the track created a stir; as proof of their budding talent two of New York’s Biggest Radio Stations, Kiss and WBLS put the track into rotation. However with out sufficient experience, backing or distribution, they were unable to capitalise on this break. What it did do however, was expand their horizons beyond the UK and make them realise that they could make a career from music.
In 1990 they self funded and distributed a track called “Got to Have It”. It was this track with its driving jazz piano, heavy bass line and clever rhymes that first brought them to the attention of Gilles Petersons Talking Loud Records (Then subsidiary of Phonogram) which, although a relatively new label, could boast a roster of some of the finest black music acts of the time with the likes of Incognito, Omar, Young Disciples and Galliano to name but a few.
Soon after signing in 1992 ,they came up with the name Urban Species and in 93 they had the distinction of opening the Talkin Loud 2 compilation, with the track “Hide and Seek” picking up critical acclaim and laying the foundations for what was to follow.
Urban Species from the outset enlisted the help of funk musicians to reproduce their sound live. They also called upon old school friend and Ragga Style MC Rodney Green AKA Doc Slim, whose mad cap street flavour and humour served as the perfect foil for Mintos’ contrasting more laidback and thoughtful style. These elements meant that now they were able to deliver shows as opposed to appearances.
After opening for Bands such as MC Solaar, Jazzamatazz and the Stereo MCs Urban Species quickly developed a fierce show and were fast becoming known for their live exploits. It wasn’t long before they were a headline act and would earn the reputation as one best live act around prompting the Guardian to say “if there is a better live act, this reviewer hasn’t seen it.
The experience of playing with musicians would also have impact on their recordings as they started incorporating live instruments not to mention the embellishment of Ragga vibes courtesy of Doc Slim into there recordings, further advancing their sound and unique take on Hip-Hop.
Urban Species released their ground breaking Classic Album “Listen” onto an eagerly awaiting public in May 1994. Described by Melody Maker as “Possibly the finest Debut of 1994” and “The best album Talkin Loud have ever put out” by Sky Mag, the album received universal acclaim and was an immediate success. Commercial chart success came with the hit singles “Spiritual Love” and ”Brother”, firmly confirming their arrival and unprecedented exposure of a UK rap act.
The Band was also finding success across Europe, most notably in France even managing to eclipse that of their UK achievements. In the States they picked up a following in New York’s underground, receiving considerable airplay. The album was released on London Records after a jaw tropping performance at the New Music Seminar in New York , a showcase that blew away both media and public alike. Over the next 18 months they would take their unique blend of Hip - Hop to places as far a field the Far East and Africa, making many friends along the way.
Finding it difficult coming to terms with the emergence of Mintos as the principle force behind the band, coupled with the rigours of touring, Renegade, sadly, announced his departure from Urban Species in 95. He went on to set up Hip-Hop and R&B production company, Dub Wise productions. .
Urban Species re-surfaced in 96, on the Talkin Louder sampler, their next offering was in 97 with a four track EP entitled “Religion and Politics”. Urban Speciesreturned to the studio accompanied by up and coming Raw Deal who would co produce their follow up album. Doc Slim was replaced by Tukka Yout who would feature on both the next album and in a live capacity. Mintos then enlisted vocal contributions from established artist like Blues legend Terry Callier and respected UK Rappers MC Mello and Blak Twang, while also providing a platform for a crop of talented up and coming artist such asMJ Cole, Elizabeth Troy, Jeffery Darnell and Imogen Heap . The result was a “maturer, more introspective sound, yet one that retains all the soulfulness of its predecessor” (Music Week Feb 99). .
Blanket was released in continental Europe in late 1998 and repeated Urban Species previous success in the region. It was not until the following year 1999 that the album finally got its UK release receiving wide spread critical acclaim. .
This was to be Urban Specieslast offering to date with Mintos concentrating his efforts on writing for other artist like The Freestylers, LHB, S Club 7and various unsigned talents. He would also pursue entrepreneurial interest outside music, most notably Real Estate. .
In recent years, the anticipation for another URBAN SPECIES album has been growing. The good news is that Urban Species have OFFICIALLY REFORMED with Mintos, and Slim working on new material. They also have plans for a reunion tour.
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