UK Rap’s Black Market


by Milo C.H

For the most part of its life, UK Rap has existed without commonplace, organised releases, monetisation, or mainstream recognition. Until fairly recently, most UK Rap music lived only on YouTube, accompanied by ‘hood videos’, or a Windows Movie Maker title or slideshow, and occasionally a more trying artist would release a body of work to Hoodtapes, Mixtape Madness or Datpiff. The next phase, from around 2013 onwards, would be the migration to Soundcloud, conducted mostly by impartial individuals employing YouTube-to-MP3 ripping tools in order to be able to listen to the music on the move. But now, in 2019, with major record label interest, the accessibility of streaming platforms and the maturing demographic of the genre now at the age and knowledge where they are qualified to independently create an establishment around it, UK Rap can be commercialised (we’ll talk about this another time).

Despite this, the underbelly of UK Rap, which is the majority, remains dank, a creative space and for some a proving ground to gather the momentum to make the jump to the relative big leagues, à la Loski or Headie One. Most of these artists will remain here as the ‘big league’ is currently rather small-scale and the typical release rate of underground rappers being sporadic would suggest a lack of eagerness for a musical career. Often, the sound resonating from this end of the spectrum falls under UK Drill. The subject matters are typically dark, provocative, and much less ostentatious than that of their major label-friendly counterparts.


Amongst other reasons, the combination of a lack of financial benefit, comfortability of making music at one’s leisure for a small audience and also the possibility that the music will be removed by police intervention if uploaded to a notable channel has somewhat stifled the progress of distributing this music. Hence, the stalwart fans of underground UK Rap resort to creative measures in order to hear new music and from this an online community has gathered where partakers trade unreleased songs anonymously online. I reached out to Mizzy, who is a trader of such songs and runs MZYMedia, a YouTube channel that promotes UK Rap from popular and more obscure artists alike. He was kind enough to answer a few questions and give us more of an insight into the process of trading leaked UK Drill songs.

GT: How do you get a hold of leaked UK drill tracks in the first place?
MZY: This varies on the artist, many tunes come from affiliates/friends of the artists and they get sent around to loads of different people which ends up in the tune becoming “common” as we traders call it and then gets leaked by other channels.

After you have a track, what's the process of trading it?
I just message a wide variety of people who have tunes that I would be interested in trading for and after we agree on a trade we send each other the tunes. I message people on email, Instagram and WhatsApp and “preview” what tunes I have then we start negotiating.

The community I've seen involved in trading seem to only exist on Youtube, is this the case or do you use other social media etc.?
Youtube is the main site for it, apart from that all trades happen on WhatsApp / Gmail, maybe Instagram.                              

Traders make screen recordings, skipping through unreleased tracks, and then upload these to YouTube.

Do you trade music just to hear new stuff or are there any other reasons?
Being a fan of these artists is the reason why I get these tunes, I’ve listened to drill for a very long time and once I started getting unreleased tunes I just wanted more, it’s sort of an addiction haha. U.K artists also take a very long time to release tracks after making them or in some cases they make a very good track but never release it so that’s another reason why I aim for unreleased music.

What's the best track that you've had as an unreleased exclusive and how did you get it?
This would have to be Incognito x GB - Yuck, I got it from a friend of the artists. Sadly these artists have passed away now but with their unreleased tunes, I can continue enjoying their music while they have passed.

Who are some of the traders that get the best tracks?
There is a whole bunch of traders that get the best tunes, I cannot name them as they would like to stay anonymous. We like to keep trading on the low but I’m not the biggest, but I’m one of the biggest traders in this community.

Have you worked with any other traders to help you with MZY Media?
I’ve worked with over 60 people to get all the 700+ unreleased tunes I have today. If it wasn’t for other traders my music library would be very minimal but apart from that, I run my channel completely by myself.

UPDATE...

In the time since I sent these questions over to Mizzy, there has been noticeably less leaking of tracks on YouTube, he himself has distanced his channel from those practices and adopted a more official format. Comments on newly leaked tracks have become increasingly hostile towards the channel owners, who in turn shift the blame of who uploaded first between their anonymous peers. I messaged Mizzy again for an update on the state of trading:

Leaking has become a win-lose type of thing. Certain people that are affiliated with the rappers and people that already have the exclusive tune do not like the tune being leaked as it makes it less “cool” to have it in a sense, but people who do not collect exclusives as much as the “traders” love when tunes are leaked so they can listen to some exclusive tracks. 
People mainly dislike leaking because the artist might stop making music or sending their music out.
Check out MZY Media's channel here