Originally Published: 10th Oct 2017
Who actually knows the lyrics to our national anthem? I do. I’ll help you out, it starts like this: “If you’re talking the hardest, Giggs better pop up in your thoughts as an artist, Jheeeeze”.
Okay, okay, you know I didn’t make that joke up, because you’ve seen it a million times on Instagram over the last couple of months. And that’s all it is, a meme. But it perfectly sums up our generation’s obsessive, idol-like love for Giggs.
2017 has seen Hollow certify his National Treasure status, but the road to UK icon has been a long one: 15 years in the making.
Peckham born and raised, Giggs’ ear for music developed at a young age. Back in the 90s he was already spinning reggae records long before rapping was even a thought to him – nor was it really a lucrative option for many artists in the UK at the time.
In 2003 he caught a gun charge which saw him spend time inside. It was then that the iconic name ‘Hollowman’ was born. Speaking to the BBC, Giggs said, “Hollowman came from when I was in jail. People can’t see me when I’m coming – if you get what I mean.”
This period of time, like the majority of his personal life, isn’t a topic that Giggs is happy to talk about publically. Despite multiple attempts by interviewers, each one has always been shut down with a classic cutting remark (“Are we gonna talk about music?”).
Similarly, while we all know Hollow is a family man, you’ll never see his kids’ faces on the ‘gram, keeping our only intel on his private life strictly to the lyrics in his songs.
Undoubtedly his breakthrough hit was 2007’s “Talkin Da Hardest”, however the foundations had been laid years before. Since dropping his first mixtape, Bloody Raw, in 2005 the rapper immediately built up his unbeatable reputation for his work rate. 2006 alone – that’s just a year into the game – saw him drop three releases.
So when “Talkin da Hardest” came out, there was already a cult like following around the south London rap scene for man like Hollow. The track’s beat was indeed produced by Compton’s own Dr Dre, though it wasn’t originally meant for a UK artist. Earlier in 2007, US rapper Stat Quo jumped on the beat with his track “Here We Go”, but good luck trying to play that to an English crowd. JHEEEZE.
Make sure not to get your genres twisted though. There are plenty of places where you’ll see “Talking Da Hardest” listed amongst ‘the greatest grime songs of all time’. Long before High Snobiety was labelling Yxng Bane as a grime artist, Giggs was the artist that had the ‘grime as a generic term’ cross to bear. There are numerous think pieces out there debating the question: is Giggs grime? Some of which the man himself has deemed to respond “NO GIGGS IS NOT”.
The latter half of the noughties would be turbulent. The afterglow of “Talkin Da Hardest” was followed by an independently released debut album Walk In Da Park, which was followed by a BET Award.
After a bidding war between various major labels, Giggs signed to XL in 2009. In an interview with Noisey last year, he retold the story of how shortly after he was signed, the label received a phone call from the police.
Operation Trident – a Met police unit set up in 1998 to tackle gang, drug and gun violence within London’s “Afro-Caribbean communities” – were actively trying to dismantle Giggs’ career before it even began. Travel to America became impossible due to having a gun charge, his music was blacklisted from MTV Base and BBC Radio 1Xtra, and now his label was shook. However, Giggs persevered.
His sophomore album, Let Em Ave It dropped in 2010 and produced another seminal scene classic in “Look What The Cat Dragged In”. Subsequent albums would see appearances from the likes of Ed Sheeran. 2015, or as it should be officially known: the-year-of-Giggs-feature-verses, produced “Man Don’t’ Care” with Jme, “Three Wheel-Ups” with Kano and so many more. It’s clear to see that even if the powers that be were actively attempting to block it, the people (and artists) weren’t going to let Giggs drift away.
Which brings us to the third chapter of the south Londoner’s tumultuous career. The act that we’re still seeing the tail ends of over a year later. The Landlord era.
Peaking at number two on the Official UK Album Chart, sales wise Landlord is Giggs’ most successful album to date. Tracks like “Whipping Excursion” and “Lock Doh” combined with insane and innovative features from Stormzy, CASisDEAD and more made Landlord a dark, powerful eerie reflection. A stand out piece in a year which produced some incredible albums – enough to win him Best Artist at last year’s KA x GRM Rated Awards.
Sparking attention from across the pond was inevitable and just when you thought Drake was geared up to drop a collab with long-time friend Skepta, we were greeted with not one but two Giggs joints. We can thank Shola Ama for introducing the pair and giving us the pure joy that comes with screaming “BATMAN DA NA NA DA NA”.
The US didn’t get it and part of me is glad. Yes, we want the entire world to recognise our home grown hero (step aside Theresa, I know who my PM is), but as long as we get it, that’s all that matters. DJ Akademiks is self-admittedly “not about that life”, yet he became the poster boy of the post-More Life criticism. But after a career of constantly being blocked and pulled down, is this going to have any effect? One thing Giggs has never been is a beg friend. “They like it? Sick, thank you. They don’t? Wamp 2 Dem.”