March marked our long overdue return to Manchester, where we went head-to-head with LEVELZ – the 14-man crew of homegrown DJs and MCs. Things got pretty raucous, with a day of sightseeing followed by a LEVELZ takeover session at Salford’s Islington Mill that rolled deep into the night. Check the documentary of what we got up to below, and scroll a little further to read up on our time spent with the Manny mandem.
The UK is one of the few European landmasses of its size to house so many vibrant musical hubs. Despite London being many people’s go-to spot, there is something unique about Manchester that no other UK city can touch. Britain’s second-most populous urban area still orbits an ethos driven heavily by community. Almost tribal at times, this community still proves to be most welcoming. Much of the young Mancunian population (excluding the termly influx of students attending the city’s three universities) functions as a large network made up of numerous tight-knit families.
Playing host to our trip was the LEVELZ crew – a 14-strong DJ/MC collective displaying Manchester’s finest in all things grime, hip-hop, rap, electronic and beyond. Skittles, Truthos Mufasa and Black Josh (with a little guidance from LEVELZ manager Rich Reason) took us to some of the city’s key spots whilst giving us a daylong history lesson of how LEVELZ came to be.
Left to right: Manchester mural outside Affleck’s Palace; Skittles, Truthos Mufasa and Black Josh at Granada Studios; LEVELZ studio at Wellington House.
One thing that quickly became clear was how the LEVELZ crew actively avoid people’s instinct to categorise what they do. We spent our time in Manchester chilling in their studio, sitting in on an interview at Granada Studio’s Reform Radio, shopping at NOTE Skateboard Shop, playing dress up at Affleck’s Palace, visiting the workshop hub at Contact and having a bite to eat with the extended LEVELZ family on Manchester’s legendary Curry Mile. It was an entire day-and-night’s worth of intros to many of Skittles’, Truthos’ and Black Josh’s crew – both in and out of LEVELZ – strengthening the palpable feel of brotherhood and sisterhood in Manchester.
The LEVELZ crew capture much of the fun that Manchester is known and loved for. The same fun that makes the city a distinctive student nucleus and a heavily visited spot for partygoers. Most obviously, you’ve got the Warehouse Projects and the Parklifes – but dig a little deeper and you’ll find a nightlife circuit as broad and varied as London’s, with a character profile as distinctive as that of Bristol or Glasgow. If you’re one to look at things more monochromatically, these other UK cities can even be profiled musically, whereas Manchester goes above and beyond to embody several genres all at the same time. It’s the vibe that unites the city.
In one of the (rare) moments where we pinned the LEVELZ boys down for a more extensive chat, Skittles explained: “You’ll see the mosher kids at the garage gigs, and the grime kids at Slipknot concerts. It’s so small and everybody’s into music. That’s why there’s no segregation here.” Despite the occasional tensions between north and south territories, all the different musical seeds are sewn together on dancefloors across town. This is what distinguishes the city, and makes Manchester so special.
© Jody Hartley, 2016
✣ ✤ ✣
Watch back as the LEVELZ crew hijack our airwaves in Manchester.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.