England is notorious for its traditionalist values; change happens in the country eventually, but not as quickly as some would hope. The music industry is no different. One of England's hottest exports this century has to be Pop Idol which translated state side as Fox's hit, American Idol. Rap, Hip-Hop, R&B has yet to be welcomed into the folds of the English music industry; which is why brothers Mega and Mayhem, as S.A.S were elated to be given a home under the Diplomat umbrella.
In the US they appreciate the doors that open for them as opposed to slamming in their faces; which is common for any artist who doesn't adhere to the traditional 'pop idol' role in the UK.
Their style and street values are attributes which brought them to the attention of Diplomats CEO Jim Jones. S.A.S. breaks down to AllHipHop.com the Rhymefest dispute, the English music biz, why 'breading' keeps their name underground and just where their knowledge of haute couture and modern street fashion came from.
AllHipHop.com: Why is the commercial Hip-hop market in the UK virtually non-existent?
Mayhem: They don't let no street music come through. People don't bother. The struggles you have to go through to get on the radio here when you are gangsta rappers like we are, is enough to make you give up. We would just rather start off in America, you know there has never been a UK rapper that is doing anything street credible.
AllHipHop.com: So that's why you feel you had to aim for state-side recognition?
Mayhem: Yeah definitely, if we just had the UK as our only market I don't think we would have done it.
AllHipHop.com: But you do have a following in the UK and quite a big one.
Mayhem: Yes we do, but the industry don't f**k with us - and when I say that I mean just the industry, I am not talking about the streets. Our following in the streets don't do the calling up radio stations and video channels to get like say other rappers followers in the UK do. Our following doesn't exist over ground, you know they aren't bothered about going on forums and arguing, because they are the streets and they are doing what they need to do.
AllHipHop.com: So your fan base over there is very different to over here?
Mega: In America, people follow the rappers and there a large majority of people who follow it reflect that rap lifestyle, whereas in England there is just a small percentage and these are people that are into Hip-Hop, but don't live the Hip-Hop lifestyle. I know that I don't pay attention to it, and I rap, I am in the streets. If you are towards the streets, you are real.
Mayhem: We call it breading over here when you follow something too much and brag about things too much, you are 'breading', so if you talk about an artist or play them too much that is breading. That is the mentality over here and people in the hood don't like to go on about things too much. So our fanbase doesn't exist when it comes to the outlets that play the music and bring it to the attention of others. But then we did the S.A.S. release party in the UK, the place was packed, with n***as from all over London and the country.
AllHipHop.com: Without the love of the majors, are the illegal radio stations still an option for you to get your music out?
Mayhem: Yeah, but after Dizzie Rascal and the other "grime" artists started to get major play with Tim Westwood the pirate stations started to dwindle. Unless you have grime or elements of pop tart, commercial s**t, you know some people are puppets and I refuse to release stuff in the UK that I wouldn't release in the states. Just because we get a better buzz in one country as opposed to another doesn't mean I want to be hearing my records in one country; I want to hear us all around the world.
AllHipHop.com: So how do you plan on changing this? You said there are no other gangsta rappers in England, so the pressure is on.
Mega: I don't think we can change it in the UK. They won't reciprocate what we are trying to achieve in this country, they shut us down. You know the government is shutting people down who have sold a million records. The average lifespan for an artist in the UK is about three albums, you know anyone I know who makes "hoodish" music whether it be grime, backpack whatever, they have only put out one single or an album and then they get dropped. There is no artist development in England, you never hear of labels doing development, there are no Black [Music Departments] of any single record company.
AllHipHop.com: Being accepted as English rappers, how do you enforce that here in the US, you know being that England is predominantly known for its pop culture as opposed to its Hip-Hop?
Mega: The more you give the fans, the more you draw them into your world, that's what people get with us. The artwork on the back cover on the recent album is breaking it down, you know the words we use in our raps that people may not understand. You know we get that people may not exactly understand our slang, but we break it down for them. We obviously lived in America and that was where we perfected our skills on the New York streets. More people in [America] feel us, you know in Miami or LA, you know we have traveled without a record deal. We make music for a broader variety of people, it's like you don't make movies for just one country.
AllHipHop.com: I know you had an issue with Rhymefest, he took back everything he said right?
Mayhem: Yeah, he did. He called Cam'ron and said it was a misunderstanding, and he wanted to dead it. The only reason I think Cam'ron is telling us to dead it is because he is related to one of Cam's dude's cousins. So that's what happened. We weren't happy at being disrespected like that, but he knows he has to come back here to market his album.
AllHipHop.com: Will you be making New York your new home then?
Mega: We will probably be coming back in January and we will be settling more than likely in New Jersey. Just can't wait to get back man, it's been crazy.
AllHipHop.com: Your connection with the Diplomats came about because of your time in New York, knowing the same people and all that, but you also said Jim Jones was attracted by your sense of style. How important is style and fashion to you both?
Mayhem: It's very important and has been since we were babies, as we were growing up our Mum, she had us in [United Colors of] Benetton and all that so as far back as I can remember we have been fly. Even coming up that's what we used to spend our money on, clothes.
Mega: When we first got to the states we kinda freaked them out because they kind of frowned on us because we were wearing jeans with peanuts and snoopy on them, and I was like, "You crazy, this is Iceberg, you need to go check these out," and sure enough people saw that the jeans were like $400 bucks a pop and then Jay-Z started to wear Iceberg and they were official then. London has a lot of things going on when it comes to fashion, and we like to represent that in our lifestyle.
AllHipHop.com: So where do you like to shop?
Mega: Everywhere, you know we put thing together, right now we are rocking a lot of Lacoste. We are wearing a Japanese designer on the front cover of our mixtape, Maharishi. We have to reinvent ourselves.
AllHipHop.com: Why do you feel you have to reinvent yourselves?
Mayhem: Because rappers be coming over here and stealing our ideas. A few years ago, we might have been seen on stage in a button down shirt, a fitted cap or BCBG jeans but we have already done that and you won't see us in that again, ever.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah perhaps diversity is required. Did you find coming from London to the states, fashion wasn't so much of a big deal here like it is in London?
Mega: People are more focused on things like sneakers [in New York], you know like the whole Jordan craze. You know they come out on a Friday, and you have to wear them to school on the Monday, and the only differences between peoples' outfits may be the laces that they put in the sneakers. It is like if you are wearing old seasons ones, then you are not popping. It is more like a cult following out there whereas here it is like no-one dresses the same. I have friends that wear things I would never wear but it still looks fly in their own way. Everyone is doing their own thing here, where as out there in the states everyone is looking the same. You know when we went to our first club when were 15 or 16, we was wearing Armani blazers, Patrick Cox loafers all that. Being in the clubs at home, you have to wear shoes.
AllHipHop.com: We already determined you like to be known as trendsetters, but there has to be someone you admire?
Mayhem: I think outside of our camp and the Diplomats, I would have to say Kanye and T.I. There are people that wear one-off bits that I look at.
Mega: Fabolous is cool. He pieces his outfits together real nice and there is a European kind of style with him. Jimmy has his own style too which I feel. No-one does it like Jimmy. You know he will wear a Harley Davidson with long sleeves and then you have Cam who can get flamboyant and look he had the whole United States wearing pink and men over here in England wearing pink. There are a few rappers out there but not too many we look at for their sense of style. I think it is about being original in the states.
AllHipHop.com: How did you gain all your fashion knowledge?
Mayhem: All our fashion sense came from our mother. Until we got to the age of starting secondary school, 11, 12 and we started seeing what all the other kids were wearing. We were always ahead of those kids as well, because of our mothers' tastes.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, I mean you are talking about going out at the age of 15 in Versace and Armani; a lot of kids at the age aren't doing that because they just don?t dress that extravagantly. With all this knowledge and love for clothes, is your own fashion line a possibility?
Mayhem: Yeah, but not like everyone else's. It wont be casual either - as everyone else seems to go that way, you know not like the Roc-a-Wear or the Akademiks. If we were going to do something, it would be more of a couture line. You know Cam just started his own clothing label called Devani, and it will be in Italy for the first two years, and that is a more of a couture line.
AllHipHop.com: So the most expensive article you have bought?
Mega: Probably a Fendi coat and a Prada jacket.
AllHipHop.com: So do you have any clothing fetishes, jackets, shirts, shoes?
Mega: Hats. Designer hats. I have about six Gucci hats and Prada scullies. You know, I have like every single Gucci hat that you can have.