mr b the gentleman rhymer | chap-hop superstar
Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer is the founder of chap-hop. The genre fuses hip-hop with ‘chappism’, which celebrates the more gentlemanly way of life associated with the mid-20th century and earlier. He’s a bit of a wag (think tributes to old-fashioned loos and cricket, as well as critiques of the government, all delivered in clipped RP tones), but thanks to his songs’ grounding in hip-hop culture, they’re no mere parodies.
Mr B has previously said that were rapper Chuck D, ukulele-playing singer-songwriter George Formby, hip-hop DJ Grand Wizard Theodore and 1930s English comedian Ronald Frankau ever to get drunk together and decide to form a band, this is the music they would make. So we collared him by the lapels of his impeccably cut tweed suit to find out more about how he got started and what it takes to keep that moustache looking so impressive.
Whereabouts do you live in Brighton/Hove and what do you like about the area?
I live just into Hove and have lived down here for 15 years now. It’s simply the most splendid place in the country so why would one not want to live here?
You’re single-handedly responsible for creating a new genre of music – chap-hop. For those not in the know, can you tell us when/how this all started?
One summer’s day 11 years ago, I decided to try and bring elements of things I’d done before – hip-hop, production, banjolele playing and dandyism – together, and Mr.B sprang forth!
You’ve sung about everything from cricket to curtseying, are you inspired by the everyday?
I’m inspired by the everyday and the every other day. From larger issues like the general socio-political climate to the ‘milk first or last’ question.
Your songs often lament the lack of manners in modern society, what’s your biggest bugbear?
The creeping selfishness which permeates our very being in modern day western civilisation. The glorification of the ‘me’ over kindness to others.
What’s been the highlight of your Mr B career (apart from the Daily Mail describing you as ‘controversial’, of course) so far?
Well, recently I supported the legendary Sparks at the Forum in London and it was rather wonderful. I think I did alright, considering I was the support act.
And where’s the strangest place you’ve performed?
I once played a gig in a hotel suite for an Arab sheik and his harem. They sat around smoking hookahs and sang the wrong words along to all of my songs. It was most peculiar.
Any unlikely fans?
There was a government minister… I don’t want to talk about it. [Former Education Secretary Michael Gove once declared himself a fan.]
When you’re not making music yourself, what do you like to listen to?
I’ve been obsessed for a few years now with lo-fi instrumental hip-hop and the LA beats scene. Lovely, wonky instrumental hip-hop. I simply can’t get enough of it. That and Sparks since I supported them.
Mr B is such a dapper gent, do you dress (and behave!) as impeccably off stage as you do on? We’re hoping you don’t secretly lounge around in onesies, even if they are tweed…
Good god, no. I feel horribly under-dressed if I’m not wearing a tie and pocket square. It’s simply who I am.
We have to ask about the ‘tache, it’s very impressive – does it take a lot of upkeep?
I am a lucky man in as much as I wake up and it’s ready to go. I do sell my own moustache wax (two flavours: ‘Mr.B’s Wax’ and ‘Victor’s Vapour’ – my Vicks VapoRub moustache wax for ravers – on my website, but I rarely wax, myself.
You’ve got a show coming up at Komedia this weekend, what can we expect?
Expect the unexpected, except for some of the bits you might expect. Singalongs, songs about the choppiest matters and perhaps even a spoons solo.
What else have you got coming up this year?
Can you describe your perfect day in the city for us, please?
Today should be nice. I’ve had a stroll on the beach in the sun already, then I’m off to the Spiegeltent to play The Devil Will Drag You Under cabaret show, then a wind-down and a few gins in the Spiegelgarden. I do love Fringe month.