HOG have pioneered rap in the UK and, after six years of dues paying, are still rapping and scratching. HOG's Lee Jackson spoke to Tony Cummings.


If ever there was a story of talent and tenacity overcoming enough body blows to gain a first class degree in the School Of Hard Knocks then it belongs to HOG. The Leeds rap duo, due to open for the World Wide Message Tribe at their Apollo gig in November, have paid serious dues. Here's a band who've stuck it out for five years, have been told on at least three occasions that a record deal was about to be offered only to have their hopes dashed and have still managed well over 100 gigs ("not bad for a weekend gig band," says rapper, scratch master and producer Lee Jackson). HOG are Lee Jackson and Justin Thomas. Lee lives in Leeds where he is a fulltime Christian schools worker while Justin is currently studying theology in Scotland. Maybe not the most streetwise of biographies but HOG's music, a steaming mix of hip hop and pop rap, is as street level as anything in British CCM.

"I've been in to the whole rap/hip hop thing for what must be 10 years now," says Lee. "I started to get involved in DJ mixing competitions (the posters bear witness to his involvement). I began finding out that there was loads of this which wasn't available easily in this country. When we found out about it, myself and a few friends, we began finding out where it was available from and we'd buy a new import 12 inch, play it for ages and then pass it round between us."

As a result of Lee's interest and involvement in both traditional disc-jockeying and mixing, the band which is now HOG was set up six years ago, breaking new territory for CCM in the UK.

In 1991 came HOG's first foray into that wonderful world of low-budget, private tape recording. The fruits of their labours was 'Revolution' - a four track cassette offering which showed their bite, hammering home the message of the Gospels and their tongue-in-cheek humour which has become their trade mark. Their style is one which veers from the deeply serious to the severely silly.

"Justin won't listen to 'Revolution' now," says Lee, and lyricist/lead rapman. Justin not only nods, but embellishes. "It's cringeable."

HOG aren't exactly enamoured either with their album 'HOG'. "Money was put up for it in 1993 but all kinds of corners were cut and by the time it came out in '94 it was already dated," comments Lee. "We only do about two things from that album in our set now." One of them is their zaney fun song "Figgy Rolls" which when performed has the band throwing such aforementioned biscuits to the audience. "It's kind of ironic that 'Figgy Rolls' is the song we're best known for," laughs Lee.

The duo's latest songs are showing real creative development. "Catch My Drift" is a GRITS-style jazz rap on the theme of the hypocrisy of preaching the Christian life if we aren't living it; "Boo-ltz" is another zaney song, this one about wearing large boots; and "Watershed" contains chilling denouncements of social ills such as porn on the Internet. The band are also moving into rap worship. "We've learnt to worship God a lot more through our music. Sometimes we rap in tongues. Rap is a great vehicle to praise and worship God in, one day we'd like to do a praise and worship album." Another area of development for Lee is production. He recently produced a trip hop track "Glory To You" for Revive, a youth congregation in Leeds.

HOG were asked to do the Apollo gig by the World Wide Message Tribe after the two bands had shared a stage at Soul Survivor. "They really liked us and asked us to do the Apollo concert. We're really thrilled to be there. We're only doing a short set but we get the crowd involved, we use water pistols, comedy, all kinds of things to get the kids' attention."

And figgy rolls? "Yes, and figgy rolls." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.