The Late 1980’s was a very interesting time for Hip Hop music both in the US and in the UK. I remember as a kid getting in to the Hip Hop culture by watching the film Break dance and hearing music by artists The Fat Boys, Beastie Boys and Run-DMC. During this period I would have been about 8 or 9 years old. It wasn’t however until around 1988 when I first heard the music that artists like Ice T, Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy and De La Soul were making when I really started becoming intrigued by the Hip Hop culture. Along with the US rap superstars there were a handful of UK Hip Hop artists that at the time had the same impact on me as a fan of the music. One of these UK Hip Hop pioneers was Overlord X.
What I respect most about Overlord X is his consistency in making quality Hip Hop tracks, plus on every 12″ single he released there was at least one different track that did not appear on any of his albums. In 2012 this may not seem like a big issue but back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, music (especially Hip Hop) was not as accessible as it is now. Even in 1990 Hip Hop records were filed under Dance music, Jazz music or even the World music section of a record shop.
My point is that on every Overlord X 12″ single there was a unique track making the singles as much of a worthwhile purchase as the albums. Overlord X along with his DJ Sir-Preme-Tee were one of the few early Hip Hop crews from the UK to make Hip Hop their own in terms of not rapping in an American accent.
Overlord X‘s vocal style and music are somewhat unique to him and DJ Sir-Preme-Tee’s super funky scratches and cuts complimented Overlord X’s musical vibe perfectly. Overlord X also had a crew of rappers, DJs & Performers doing vocal and DJ features throughout his projects called the X Possee, all residents of the East London borough of Hackney. Overlord X, & The X Possee are UK Hip Hop pioneers and along with a handful of other artists kicked off the first wave of British Hip Hop especially in terms of releasing vinyl records. These records went on to inspire others to get in to the Hip Hop culture in the UK, Europe and beyond. This article was put together with the aim of honouring the contributions to UK Hip Hop culture by Overlord X, Sir-Preme-Tee, & The X Possee.
Overlord X‘s first track entitled Let there be rock appeared on the Music of life compilation Hard as Hell Vol 1 in 1987 along with tracks by pioneering UK Hip Hop artists Derek B, The Demon Boyz, MC Duke, CJ Mackintosh & Einstein, Asher D & Daddy Freddy, Thrashpack, Lady Sugar Sweet, and producer Simon Harris (under his alias DJ Hanway). The Entire album was produced by Simon Harris and seemed to kick start several of the first generation of UK rappers careers. Overlord X was one of the few artists that appeared on the compilation that did not release any other materiel on the Music of life label which went on to be one of the biggest outlets for UK Hip Hop artists in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Hard as hell – 1978 Music of life
Let there be rock was one of the only tracks in Overlord X‘s discography that he didn’t produce. According the the credits on the back of the release all tracks were produced by Simon Harris (With a few exceptions that were co produced by the artists) Let there be rock also features X Possee member and rapper Dark Heart. Although there is no mention of this in the credits Overlord X confirms this is correct in the break to the beat Overlord X interview. Musically Let there be rock sounds very influenced by popular Hip Hop music of the era such as Run DMC and The Beastie Boys. Considering that it was released in 1987 Let there be rock stands out as one of the early compositions of UK Hip Hop music rapped in a UK accent. This is also true for several of the other featured artists on the compilation. Let there be rock is only available on the Hard as Hell vol 1 compilation.
Overlord X “Let there be rock” 1987 Music of life
The following year, a second Overlord X track entitled 14 days in May was released. Firstly on the compilation series Electro/Hip hop vol 20 and shortly after as a 12″ Single on Hardcore records that was a subsidiary of the Street Sounds record label also behind the groundbreaking Electro series. The Electro/Hip Hop series played a big part in breaking Hip Hop music in the UK as a lot of the 12″ records were difficult to obtain at the time. The Electro/hip hop series however were widely available in the UK. On the same compilation that featured Overlord X were Hip Hop artists Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock, J.V.C F.O.R.C.E, Levi 167, Ultimate III, Rough N Smooth, Faze One, The Switch Rap Crew, and The MC I.B & Beat Creator.
Hip Hop 20 1988 Street Sounds
14 Days in May was written as a response to the execution of Edward Earl Johnson a black man executed by the US State of Mississippi for the murder of a policeman. His case came to the attention of the world when Edward Earl Johnson featured on the BBC documentary “Fourteen days in May” and had always protested his innocence. In spite of British lawyer Clive Stafford Smith’s attempts for a reprieve Edward was executed. Clive Stafford Smith made a follow up documentary that claimed to prove Johnson was innocent but this was after the execution.
Below is an insert of 14 Days in May by Overlord X:
Overlord X “14 Days in May” 1988 Hardcore
Later that year Overlord X signed to Mango Street, a subsidiary of Island Records who initially signed him and the X Possee, which is where the majority of their music was released. Overlord X‘s & The X Possee‘s debut single for Mango Street was entitled The Earth is Moving/Rough in Hackney and was released in 1988.
On the 12″ release Rough in Hackney was credited as Overlord X & The X Possee but it also appeared on Overlord X‘s debut album Weapon is my lyric released in 1989. The Earth is moving was only available on the mango street debut 12″ Single and did not appear on the vinyl albums releases. It was however included on the CD version of the Weapon is my lyric album.
Overlord X “The earth is moving” 1988 Mango Street
A follow up single 2 Bad/Now I’m here was released shortly after in 1988. 2 Bad would later appear on the weapon is my lyric LP but Now I’m here is exclusive to the 12″ single release and keeps to the same formula with as the previous release by featuring guest vocals by several members of the X Possee.
Overlord X “2 Bad” 1988 Mango Street records
Overlord X “Now I’m here” 1988 Mango Street records
Overlord X‘s debut album entitled “Weapon is my lyric” was released in 1989. The album contained a total of 10 tracks, 7 of which were brand new, plus the 2 previous releases Rough in Hackney and 2 Bad. There was also a remake/part 2 to Overlord X‘s previous single 14 days in May, This version was entitled 14 days in hell. Overlord X wanted to include 14 days in May as part of the LP but Island Records would not pay the license fee to required from the previous label. This concluded with X remaking the track under the new title 14 days in hell. The CD release of the Weapon is my lyric LP also contained the single The Earth is moving.
Overlord X “Weapon is my lyric” 1989 Mango Street
The entire album was written and produced by Overlord X who holds down the main vocals throughout. DJ Sir-Preme-Tee provides scratches and cuts and there are back up vocals by various members of the X Possee. On all of his previous singles Overlord X has recorded back up’s on to his main vocals by slowing down the pitch of his voice. On the Weapon is my lyric album Overlord X introduces us to the first of his alter-ego’s which is the character Lord V.
Lord V‘s voice is created by Overlord X pitching his vocals down, the tracks have been recorded in such a way that it sounds like two different vocalists. Alter ego Lord V also makes an appearance on the back of the album cover shown below.
Overlord X “Weapon is my lyric” 1989 Mango Street
The Weapon is my lyric album is a perfect example of a classic Hip Hop album. Every track is consistent in style and production and vocally the album covers various topics and moods. The level of creativity involved in creating a offering like this is seldom seen in Hip Hop today. Overlord X remember was involved in production, arrangement, writing and recording both main vocals as well as the character/alter ego Lord V. Overlord X also delivers his raps using a British accent which was a pioneering style for a handful of UK rappers in the 1980’s.
Weapon is my lyric full playlist is available in the below link:
Overlord X “Weapon is my lyric LP” 1989 Mango Street
The 3rd and final 12″ single from the Weapon is my lyric project was a 3 track EP entitled Radical Kickbag also released in 1989. The A side Radical Kickbag was a remake of Kickbag which was track 2 from the debut album Weapon is my lyric. According to the credits Radical Kickbag was produced by Overlord X, DJ Sir-Preme-Tee, and X Possee member DJ Supa T who possibly also features on the scratches & cuts.
The album version of Kickbag also appears on the B side of the EP along with a remix of the debut album’s title track Weapon is my lyric. The remix contains most of the same elements with a few extra samples and a different arrangement. The Radical Kickbag EP was the first of the 12″ releases to also contain a picture cover as displayed in the above youtube footage.
Below is an insert of the Weapon is my lyric remix from the EP:
Overlord X “Weapon is my lyric remix” 1989 Mango Street
1989 must have been a busy year for Overlord X. as well as producing and recording his own album he also produced and featured on an album by the X Possee entitled Project X. The album was entirely produced by Overlord X and also features an exclusive Overlord X track called The X and the V, which is basically a track where Overlord X elaborates on his alter ego Lord V.
The Project X album also features X Possee vocalists Freshski Dames, Dark Heart, Kandie, Stingray, Midrange, and Magnificent Sam. There is also with a turntable track featuring DJ Sir-Preme-Tee & DJ Super T called Return of the breaks.
X Possee “Project X” 1989 Mango Street
Several singles were also released from the Project X album by various members of the X Possee. Each single contains an extra track that was not included on the LP. All tracks were produced by Overlord X, and all were released in 1989 on Mango Street Records.
- Freshski Dames “Kickin it live/Stay bad” 12″ Single
- Kandie “Just like Kandie/Aint got the time” 12″ Single
- Midrange “I got talent/Gimme some beat” 12″ Single
Currently not many of the tracks from the Project X album or are available to listen to online. Below are a few examples that I have found:
Freshski Dames “Kickin it live” 1989 Mango Street
Midrange “I got talent” 1989 Mango Street
As 1989 drew to a close Overlord X has solidified himself as a major player in a UK Hip Hop scene that at times was struggling to find its own identity. Overlord X became internationally recognised as an artist but also as a producer. Mango Street Records had started to sign more UK Hip Hop artists as had the Music of life label and a unique collection of UK Hip Hop music was beginning to emerge.
In early 1990 Overlord X returned to the scene with DJ Sir-Preme-Tee and the X Possee with the first 12″ single release entitled “Powerhouse/They can’t handle it” from his second LP entitled X vs the world.
The Powerhouse single introduced us to Overlord X‘s second alter ego Sidekick who features as a kind of Flavour Flav style hype man complimenting Overlord X & Lord V. Whereas Lord V was created by pitching down Overlord X‘s voice, Sidekick was created by pitching Overlord X‘s voice up. Years later US Rapper/Producer Madlib would use the same effect as his alter ego Quasimoto. Powerhouse can be heard in the below clip:
Overlord X “Power House” 1990 Mango Street
Keeping with the same formula as the previous releases the B side to the 12″ single They can’t handle it features back up vocals by members of the X Possee and is also exclusive to the 12″ single which also has a picture cover as displayed below. An instrumental version of Powerhouse is also exclusive to the 12″ release.
Overlord X “They can’t handle it” 1990 Mango Street
Later that year Overlord X dropped his second album entitled X vs the world. The album contains the single Power house plus 11 brand new tracks (more if you purchased the CD or Cassette copy) and follows on from the previous projects with as much consistency in sound and feel. The theme of the entire album is very si-fi based. The first track “Prologue 1990” describes Overlord X travelling back in time to the planet earth on a mission to educate the masses. The album deals with several social and political issues including drug use, suppression, as well as Overlord X demonstrating his lyrical skills and abilities. Several members of the X Possee also guest on the album. Kandie and Midrange join Overlord X on the title track X vs the world while One to One, Midrange, and Sir-Preme-Tee, join Overlord X on the posse track Lyrical Turmoil. The album artwork is also amazing and was designed by artist Joe Jusco. The characters Lord V and Sidekick also feature on the front cover. The back cover contains a cartoon strip that coincides with the order of the tracks as they feature on the LP.
Overlord X “X vs the world” album cover by Joe Jusko
Overlord X “X vs the world” (cartoon insert taken from the back cover) by Joe Jusko
Another highlight from the album is a rework of Planet rock by Africa Bambatta & The Soul Sonic Force called Planet Hackney where X describes a far off world that he, Lord V & Sidekick are from. DJ Sir-Preme-Tee‘s scratches and cuts are also a big part of the track and are as on point as ever. The album concludes with a track called You can’t do it in London where Overlord X airs his thoughts on Gangsta rap even calling out NWA. It’s hard to pick a selection of stand out tracks from this album as the standard is so high (all killer no filler).
Below is a playlist of X vs the world as it appears on the vinyl release:
Overlord X “X vs the world LP” 1990 Mango Street
The cassette and CD Release of X vs the world contain a bonus track not included on the vinyl release entitled O X Corral which is equally as good as the rest of the album. The CD version also contains and extra track from the second 12″ single called X keeps turning which we will get to next.
Below is an insert of O X Corral:
Overlord X “O X Corral” 1990 Mango Street
Following on from the X vs the world album the second and final Overlord X 12″ EP was released from the X vs the world project containing three tracks, You oughta get rushed, X keeps turning, and Die hard. You oughta get rushed was the title track of the EP and like the first single Powerhouse featured alter ego Side Kick as well as Lord V and DJ Sir-preme-Tee. The EP also contained an instrumental version of You oughta get rushed and came with a picture cover.
A remarkable amount of creativity on Overlord X‘s part is noticeably displayed in the releases especially as Overlord X progressed. With Lord V and Side Kick he had essentially created a group using just his vocals.
Below is an insert of You oughta get rushed:
Overlord X “You oughta get rushed” 1990 Mango Street
X keeps turning was the second track included on the EP and was only previously available on the CD version of the X vs the world album so this was the first time it was available on vinyl. Below is an insert of X keeps turning:
Overlord X “X keeps turning” 1990 Mango Street
The third track Die hard was a brand new recording exclusive to the EP. Die hard was a dis track aimed at another high profile British rapper MC Duke following a battle in central London’s Cafe de Paris.
Overlord X “Die hard” 1990 Mango Street
As 1990 came to a close Overlord X had completed his 2 album contract with Mango Street and had signed a new contract with Motown where he continued to rerecord a third album entitled Mind Of A Menace (MO-AM). The last track to be released on the Mango Street label by Overlord X was entitled Reservation and was included on the compilation album Ragga Hip Hop Vol 2 in 1991. Rapper Midrange from the X Possee also had a track called Youths in the ghetto that was produced by Overlord X on the same album.
Unfortunately the Mind Of A Menace (MO-AM) album recorded for Motown was never released. Over the years a few tracks have surfaced on the internet. Below are some of the recordings:
Overlord X “Prototype” (Unreleased from MO-AM)
Overlord X “Beast killer” (Unreleased from MO-AM)
For further information on Overlord X please check the exclusive Break to the beat Overlord X Interview
Please check out our British Hip Hop Pioneers section for more articles.