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Powered by, one of the most popular daily English language newspapers in the United Arab Emirates.

Wherefore art thou Romeo?

08/20/2009 03:16 PM

Grime pioneers So Solid Crew hit Dubai for a gig - and managed to lose their most controversial member somewhere in a mall.

In this business there are some interviews you can never quite prepare for - no matter how hard you try. Having memorised, practised and perfected my best "gangster" vocabulary, I stepped (admittedly somewhat apprehensively) into a dingy, unlit nightclub and waited for the boys from the So Solid Crew.

Watch video: Grime pioneers So Solid Crew in Dubai

Famous Shakespearian monologues I hadn't thought to brush up on. Silly me.

Leaving all traces of sunlight behind, I waited for the bling to appear, if only to provide the necessary light needed to scribble in my notepad.

Like a slow-motion walk scene from a Bronx-filmed underground flick, from left to right Sef, Mr Shabz, Swiss and DJ Adam J burst through a set of double doors and headed straight for us.

My heart racing I instantly conceded the hard work on my "yo 'sup", "feeling it" and "keeping it real" would probably not be enough for this crew.

But unlike the rough-edged club which met every expectation a meeting place should for such an assignment, the So Solid Crew did not.

No "homie" talk, no offensive language, but instead a touch of Shakespeare as it slowly dawned on the group that perhaps the most controversial of the crew, Romeo, had gone awol ahead of their gig.

"Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" laughed Mr Shabz who, dressed in black from head to toe, cap, phone and cigarettes never far from reach, looked somewhat out of place reciting the famous - if oft misunderstood - literary line.

"He'll be off chasing the ladies," joked the others, giving each other "here we go again" looks.

Needless to say Romeo, off chasing his Juliet, was never to make an appearance in this love story.

Luckily for the So Solid Crew - a DJ, MC and producing clan from South London - Romeo is backed up by more than 30 others.

Sef, Swiss, Megaman - and Shabz happily stepped into the limelight in Dubai proving teamwork really can make the dream work.

"The So Solid Crew is a bit like a marriage," said Sef, recently enjoying the successful release of his latest solo single, Need a Hero, featuring fellow MC crew member Swiss. Proving the team theory, Sef looks to his friend of more than 20 years for support.

"Our message is don't ever give up," continued Swiss. "You've have to be hungry and the music will see you through."

"Working in a team is great," said Sef, cutting in. "If you do make a mistake, there's someone there to correct you or help you back up."

Often referred to as the early pioneers of grime - a form of urban music which sprung from East London in the late '90s - stints on UK pirate radio stations soon became So Solid Sundays - hours of Djing with MC overrides - before their own station, Delight, came online and the branding began.

On Christmas Day in 2001, So Solid performed a final showdown on Delight FM to strategically coincide with the release of their debut album (which can't be named in the pages of this family paper) and single They Don't Know.

"Swiss was a DJ at first but then his talent just blew up," said Sef looking at Swiss for reassurance.

"With support and encouragement he has grown into the best MC, I reckon anyway, and the best lyricist in the world. But not because he's my friend, but as a hip-hop fan myself."

Fame has opened doors to artists and producers including Memphis Bleek from Roc-A-Fella Records, Jamaican reggae entertainer Beenie Man, Diane Warren who wrote Unbreak My Heart for Toni Braxton and Rod Temperton who helped produce Michael Jackson's albums Off The Wall and Thriller.

"So Solid has helped a lot of people live a dream," said Swiss, also author of self-help book Spot the Difference - a motivational guide for youngsters.

"We were lucky as young kids, because we didn't know it but we were actually preparing ourselves at an early age for what was about to come," added Sef.

Written to curb a bad smoking habit, Spot the Difference is hardly what you'd expect from a South London rapper.

"Smoking was one of my big vices," he said. "It was affecting my music, my brain, my mind. In interviews I couldn't come up with the right words. I replaced smoking with writing and want to tell young people how to get out of negative situations."

Raising his voice and adding a lighter note, Sef takes over. "A lot of guys who do this kind of thing are qualified doctors. So I'd like to rename Swiss, Dr Swiss. Remember that."

Doctor of self-help, music, medicine or love, looks like it's going to take more than a doctor to bring Romeo back down to earth.

"He just needs a map," pipes up Shabz. "Apparently he's lost in Mall of the Emirates."

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