Newport is Wales’ third largest city and lies to the east of the country on the banks of the River Usk, just north of the capital of Cardiff. Newport’s docks used to be a major hub for the export of coal and prior to Cardiff’s exponential growth in the 19th century, Newport was booming. The city is steeped in cool history, my favourite bit being the 1839 Newport Rising, which stands as the last big rebellion against authority in the UK. Led by local bad-ass John Frost, between 1000 and 5000 (numbers in history are invariably vague) angry workers marched on the Westgate Hotel which was acting as a makeshift prison for misbehaving workers. Sadly the crowd upon reaching the hotel were quickly mown down in the 25 or so minutes of madness that ensued and the Chartists, for whom many of the workers represented, acquired a seriously bad rep for themselves. Frost was sentenced to ‘transportation for life‘ and ended up in what is now called Tasmania. Bullet holes can still be seen in the facade of the Westgate Hotel which lies in the city centre. In case you’re worrying – Frost didn’t remain in Tasmania for the rest of his life and eventually made it back to the UK in his autumn years. He died outside of Bristol aged 93.
Newport also has it’s place in rock history – Kurt Cobain proposed to Courtney Love in former rock venue TJ’s after a show by Love’s band Hole in 1991. Once upon a time Van Morrison played warm-up gigs before big tours in one of the city’s hotels too.
Modern Newport certainly doesn’t enjoy quite the same reputation as it used to in world trade, but the city still occasionally finds itself on the international stage. As well as being the location of 2010 Ryder Cup, the city has just hosted this autumn’s NATO summit. Many Newport locals weren’t entirely happy about this arguing that spending money on hosting such an event won’t do much for the city’s long term prospects. We’re erring off topic here, so let’s return to the pressing issue – Welsh music.
Back in the ‘port, stackin up yer bong / havin a fuckin laugh and still signing on
I’m keen to know if there is another town of Newport‘s size and stature that is such a source of inspiration as it is for rap band Goldie Lookin Chain. The GLC are a loving tribute to a town, a lifestyle and a culture. They’re a group of excellent rappers whose wit and knack for penning great tunes have left their mark on Welsh culture. I really enjoyed seeing the band rise to fame in 2004 – the live shows and TV appearances around the time that the brilliantly titled ‘‘Greatest Hits‘ album was released were always funny and ridiculous. They annoyed people, caused some controversy and released a single called ‘Your Mother’s Got A Penis‘. They also found a fanbase who were willing to embrace the ethos of the band and not take it too seriously.
Increase the pressure, increase the dole, fuck homework and the Severn Bridge toll, buy fags n booze with no ID, get porno mags on Friday for free
The band’s beginnings can be traced back several years prior to 2004 when they released a number of homemade albums such as ”’Don’t Blame The Chain‘ and ‘The Return Of The Red Eye‘ helped the band build up a loyal local following. The success of singles ‘Half Man Half Machine‘ and ‘Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do‘ brought them widespread attention and they’ve been somewhat of a fixture on the live music scene since.
The GLC are very funny. Humour plays a central part in the band and whether they’re rapping on the subject of smokin’ weed, bedding women or getting pissed, the GLC are hilarious. The city is a backdrop to their sometimes-juvenile-sometimes-satirical rhymes which references to local issues, characters and legends. The streets of Newport come alive in songs such as ‘Newport Bouncers‘ and ‘Baneswell Express‘, as do surrounding towns such as Cwmbran and Chepstow.
Like all great rap groups, the band is comprised of a series of characters, each with their own flow, humour and lifestyle choices. Many in-jokes, nicknames and incidents from the band’s legacy of many years hanging out and bonding over a fat spliff or five blur the lines between reality and legend. Adam Hussein‘s a bit of a cokehead whilst The Maggot‘s constant wheeling and dealing has earnt him the reputation as a ‘modern day Fagin‘. Eggsy and Rhys often take lead the group, narrating the band’s tales of Newport nights and red-eyed mornings. Mike Balls‘ football hooligan rhymes sits well alongside Mystikal‘s English gentleman shtick. Billy Webb, 2Hats and Grayham The Bear all provide rap-based support too. Of course, the GLC would never have got the attention they received without some excellent beats behind them. ‘Gun’s Don’t Kill People…’ for example is an amazing composition and it’s obvious that whoever is behind the music (I suspect Rhys) has a deep appreciation for rap music.
The GLC’s ‘leisure wear‘ image is also worth mentioning – it’s a send-up of the local fashion and a nod to putting on your best tracksuit and going for a cruise in your Micra on a Friday night. Had the Beastie Boys grown up in South Wales, this is probably what they’d look like:
Below you’ll find a selection of songs from the band’s career – check ‘em out and get down with the sound of Newport, South Wales!
A Selection of Goldie Lookin Chain’s Best Songs
Half Man Half Machine
This is the band’s first single from 2004.
Put the product in the van/ hit the town and try and park it/ Chepstow Market
At The Drive-Thru
Like a posh restaurant but it’s in my car/ Can’t wait ’til some twat invents a drive-thru Spa
Burnt a new hole in my tracksuit today….smoking soapbar without an ash tray
I’ve just got to Amsterdam/ Fancy that/ Now I’m off to pay for some twat
Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do
This became the GLC’s highest charting single when it reached number 3 in the UK singles charts in 2004.
Thanks for reading – check out my other posts on Welsh music here. The last words go to the GLC…
Newport’s the start, we’re not gonna stop,
’til we conquered South Wales, take the ‘Port to the top,
You knows what you need in life to be free,
Hand Newport City Council over to the GLC