“Taken from the forthcoming album, The Horns of Jericho by HIJACK!”
In 1989 the above proclamation came from perhaps the most progressive piece of music the UK Rap scene had ever witnessed. Hijack’s The Badman is Robbin’ (1989) not only laid waste to any competition, it also created a buzz of anticipation for an LP that many believed would re-define rap music. Period.
Hijack existed surrounded by a code of street level ‘Omerta’. No press or promotion only added to their mystique. Seemingly effortlessly, Hijack had perfected a detached ambivalence towards any marketing and this, crossed with their audio technical perfection, only made fans hungry for more. The core line up of Hijack were DJ Supreme – Scratch innovator, MC Kamanchi Sly – The Rhyme Writer, DJ Undercover aka MC Crhymester and Ulysses – a martial arts specialist and mentor and the inspiration for the Chinese Ying Yang Hijack logo. Agent Clueso and Agent Fritz completed the line up.
The genesis of Hijack came from an advert Supreme placed, looking for equally skilled DJ’s to form a crew with. His vision? A band of turntablists aptly named The Turntable Trixters. Serendipity ensued, bringing forth MC Ron, an admirable beatboxer but not initially what Supreme was looking for, However Ron made a vital introduction. DJ Undercover had an enviable reputation, having contributed mix tapes for Tim Westwood’s LWR Radio Show. MC Ron returned some 24 hours later, now reborn as MC Kamanchi Sly, offering up Back to Brixton to Supreme. The group focus however, was still about DJ prowess and rebellion against the showmanship DJ competition circuit. It wasn’t about tricks, it was about upholding the art of turntablism and battling with skill. The infamous 87 Battersea Park Battle against DJ Pogo and Cutmaster Swift (The Enforcers) showcased this ethic perfectly.
Money Ain’t the Matter
At a rap competition hosted by Tim Westwood in Scrubs Lane, White City, KSly, having won the competition, took his £50 prize money and threw it into the crowd, announcing, “Its about the art, not the money!” UK rapper and A&R man for Music of Life Records, Derek B was a judge at the event, helping to sign the trio soon after. When asked what name to write on the record contract, Undercover replied, “Hijack”. A band was born.
Rock with Style Wars
A one record deal, no signing on fee, but a colour sleeve. Style Wars (1988) decimated UK Rap’s mediocrity. A Public Enemy inspired assault, and in a matter of minutes Supreme, Undercover and KSly had cut, scratched and rhymed their way onto a throne. A wake up call for Supreme too, realizing he would have to focus on production to achieve his music’s potential, a potential that ‘outside’ producers couldn’t provide, or now be allowed to take the credit for.
Hardcore Never Bores
That potential: the sound and vision in Supreme’s head would re-define hip hop music on their next release; Hold No Hostage / Doomsday of Rap (1988). Inspired by classic horror movies, Supreme approached this record, as if he were scoring the music to a film. The result was a 120bpm revolution. Off-key melodies, genre defining scratches and one of the best emcee performances ever committed to record, Hijack blew the scene apart and invented the Britcore sound, often imitated, never bettered. Not surprisingly Prodigy beatmaker Liam Howlett openly acknowledges Hijack as a main influence, having been exposed to them as a young hip hop DJ. So too had America had woken up to the Hijack attack, when visiting US rapper Ice T, promptly signed them to Rhyme Syndicate Records, after a listen on Tim Westwood’s Capital Rap Show.
An Album that’s Glossy
In the Autumn of 1989, Hijack started work on an album. Recorded at F2 Studios in London. Supreme hunkered down, armed with a Casio FZ1 sampling keyboard and an Atari 1080ST running Cubase software and set about building the ark. KSly and Undercover worked on song concepts. Three months of production, mixing and mastering later, the record was handed over to Rhyme Syndicate in December 1989. Behold, The Horns of Jericho. The record racks though stayed empty. Rhyme Syndicate’s affiliation with CBS Records had collapsed. Hijack were left high and dry whilst a rescue deal with Warner Bros was brokered. Frustrations grew, Hijack had an LP, yet no one could bloody well hear it! To sate fans appetites,Hijack released Style Warriors Revenge (1990) on Music of Life Records. Essentially a remix of Style Wars, intricate and assured,it breathed life back on wax, for now at least.
Did you think it was a Bluff?
The Horns of Jericho did finally see a release on Warner Bros Records in Autumn 1991, selling over 35,000 copies worldwide. The 12 track LP was a revelation. The claustrophobic visual assault on the sleeve artwork, led us into a theatre of ideas and untouchable production. KSly unleashed his ‘theatre of medieval macabre’ wordplay amongst themes of drug abuse, child abuse, hostile takeovers and breakouts. Here was the art of storytelling, so crafted, surely the British nightmare to America rapper Slick Rick’s dreams?
Brother vs Brother
When Music of Life invited Supreme to create his break beat LP Stolen Beats and Ripped Off Scratches (1992) it went against the other members belief that Supreme should only work for Hijack. Conflict and argument would see Supreme leave acrimoniously the crew he had originally brought together. Undercover and KSly would continue to work together as Mr. Pink & Mr. Blonde setting up Reservoir Records and releasing a couple of 12’s in 96/97. Whatever the critique, there was no hint of the Hijack magic. The label did put out a double LP: The Original Horns of Jericho featuring extra tracks that didn’t make the Warner Bros released version. The greatest acrimony though came from a falsely credited house record credited to DJ Supreme. It fooled a lot of people. Bizarrely, many old school fans indoctrinated by the righteous quote “Top of the Pops, I see ambitions fly” would do a double take as KSly appeared on TOTP as MC Unknown, hitting pay dirt with Agent Fritz’s (DJ Pied Piper) No1 chart garage smash Do You Really Like it
Rising like a Phoenix
DJ Supreme launched BackBone Records in 1995, collaborating with UK veteran Icepick on several releases, though it would take some years, and a relocation to Switzerland before Supreme came back with a string of releases in 2012. Backbone Records would put out MC Killer by Bodysnatchers and Icepick’s Revelations 13:9 LP, entirely produced by Supreme. 2015 sees the 25th anniversary of the original The Horns of Jericho, with Supreme releasing a series of Britcore Ep’s: Supreme Legacy v1.0 and v2.0. Reinterpretations, remixed from the Hijack archive. Collaborations include Killa Instinct,Son of Noise and Gunshot. 25 years later, just watch for that twinkle in an ageing BBoy’s eyes when you mention The Horns of Jericho, those drums, that production, their scratches and his voice. The Hijack attack is back! Now finally remastered by Soops aka DJ Supreme: The Master of Suspense.
Marc ERZ 2015