Q: What does the word ‘MOG’ mean to you?
a) A music subscription service?
b) A forgetful cat?
c) A lyrically astute Glasgow rapper?
The answer, to keep things moving at an agreeably brisk pace, is in fact d): MOG is all of the above. Today though, we’re only interested in talking about c): MOG the astute rapper dude. There’ll doubtless be ample opportunities to blog about forgetful cats and subscription services in future, but today, we’re gonna stick to the hip-hop, cos this one’s all about MOG version c) and MOG version c) only. Got that?
The name’s MOG – Glasgow MOG
Ed Uncovered doesn’t ‘do’ music reviews that often, in spite our love for all things musical. (And by ‘all’ read ‘that narrow selection of esoteric genres that conform to our high-minded perception of what constitutes music’.) The truth is, there’s a fuck-ton of awesome tracks, mash-ups and remixes that we love more than cocaine itself, but we’re not so bold as to assume that you’ll feel the same way about our slavish devotion for nasty-ass screamo, low-ass dubstep and fast-ass hardstyle. Besides, you may love boshing seven-gram rocks even more than we do, in which case even the most euphoric beats will rank a distant second to the pleasure of burying your face in a bag of fun dust.
Just as one man’s princess is another’s filthy whore, EU’s aural orgasms could well be sonic sewage to your more refined auricles. In other words, just because I believe that MOG is the best Scottish rapper since…well, since Scottish rappers were ever a thing doesn’t mean I’m right. And even if he is the best rapper since… whoever doesn’t mean his shit constitutes a panacea for all mankind’s ills.
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that when it comes to music, we can’t agree on anything.
For example, some people believe that Ed Sheeran is the epitome of English singer-songwriting. Conversely, I gravitate towards the camp that believes he creates emasculated coffee table ballads for virginal freshers to make love to. Badly. As a case in point, check out his flaccid rape of All Along the Watchtower with Devlin, if you dare.
Getting Ed Sheeran to cover Jimi Hendrix is like getting Ed Miliband to fill in for Ron Jeremy – those are big shoes to fill, and Ed doesn’t even come close. Anyway, I digress. Instead of using this blog to celebrate everything that’s mediocre about English hip-hop, I’m going to use it to celebrate everything that’s great about its Scottish equivalent.
For the record, there are plenty of decent English rappers out there (including Devlin on a good day), but it’s not my job to big them up. This is a Scottish blog that celebrates Scottish things, when it’s not hypocritically waltzing across the Atlantic to meddle in puerile hacker wars or speculate as to the emergence of a zombie apocalypse.
Scottish hip-hop? Scottish hip-hop!
Today we’re going back to the homegrown however to appraise a musical talent who emerged on Scotland’s West coast, attained maturity on its East and can now be heard on all coasts, as well as the land-locked parts in the middle, provided you have a contraption known as the internet. If you’re reading these words, I’m gonna stick my neck out and wager that you’ve mastered that last caveat.
There are numerous reasons why a reader of Ed Uncovered might appreciate a dose of MOG wrapped around their ear-drums: He’s Scottish. He’s a rapper. And best of all, he’s a Scottish rapper who’s actually good. That said, these attributes should have no bearing on whether his music warrants mass consumption on Scottish soil. After all, whenever I hit up YouTube, Grooveshark or The Pirate Bay (God bless its blackened soul), I couldn’t give a damn about the provenance of the music I’m stealing – sorry, streaming. Just as I couldn’t care less how many lives were lost in the quest to procure me an ounce of Columbia’s finest, I have no preference as to whether my rappers hail from Palm Beach or Penilee. That Glasgow’s MOG happens to fit into the latter camp is neither here nor there; that’s why I’m patently not making a big deal about our protagonist hailing from sunny Scotland.
Just as you’d expect any rapper raised in the hood to be liberally referencing 40s and five-oh, it would be inconceivable for a scheme spitter to develop a vocab that wasn’t built around the concept of chibs and slashed coupons. Take ‘Kickin Through The Needles’, in which MOG appends 16 memorable bars onto a track by Edinburgh rapper Jordan Butler. It’s raw, it’s bitter and it’s bleak as fuck. It’s also strangely hypnotic, with Mog spitting such cheery couplets as “We wear sports apparel and accessorise wi weaponry…cunts are jagging junk, birds are gagging spunk, thugs will stab and plug any cunt unfortunate enough to walk their savage turf.”
This is Scotland, but not the tartan-shrouded Visit Scotland that graces Japanese billboards. No, this is the real Scotland in all its feculent, blood-spattered squalor. If this sounds like music to slit your wrists to, don’t worry – it ain’t, unless you’re the wrist-slitting type, in which case it’s not MOG you should be avoiding – it’s anything Ed Sheeran wraps his tonsils around. Conversely, if you’re trying to hasten your an hero attempt, I would urge you to check out Ed’s inimitable take on All Along The Watchtower. Seminal stuff.
Keeping it real
Of course, there’s only so much talk of blunts, 40s and chibbed coupons that hip-hop fans on either side of the Atlantic can stomach before the ennui sets in. That’s why the best rappers elect to transcend their humble origins and deconstruct the wider world using the same street slang that made them in the first place. As Mog recounts on Evolution, “…on the corner with these teenagers in primary six trying to be cool, trying to fool myself into thinking I could kick about wi’ thugs and no’ get beat up constantly for my youth, always the laughing stock, always the fucking butt o the joke, always the one no’ old enough to get a bird or smoke.”
When MOG tires of eulogising the tenements and closes of Glasgow’s syringe-strewn underbelly, he turns his attention to darker places – places where fantasy and reality converge amidst rain-streaked tales of murder and betrayal. It’s an alternative Scotland, one in which the grim realities of scheme life are eschewed for an even blacker alternative. It’s a dystopia of a dystopia.
MOG in your lugs
You don’t have to have been raised on the streets to appreciate MOG – though if you were raised in an Edinburgh townhouse (and deflowered in the bogs at Shanghai) you probably won’t relate to his tales of guns, drugs and blades in quite the same way.
A string of well-received releases has seen MOG cement his position in the upper echelons of Scottish hip-hop – but Scotland being Scotland, that still means that most of the country has yet to hear him spit a single syllable. We love our KT Tunstalls and Paolo Nutinis, but colourful Glaswegian rappers who tell it like it is? Not in my constituency! All that may be about to change however when My Lives & Times – Everybody’s Child premieres on BBC2 Scotland. The gritty documentary follows recovering heroin addict-turned-film director Garry Fraser as he retraces his steps through Muirhouse, a scheme which was blighted by AIDS during the 80s. If this sounds like harrowing stuff, that’s because it is – narrated with painful honesty and filmed with unflinching candour. The melancholy subject matter sits comfortably with MOG’s lyrics which underpin lead track Sins of the Father. Produced by Zambian Astronaut’s Stuart Jackson, who composed the score for Everybody’s Child, Sins of the Father is more commercially viable than much of MOG’s earlier work, even if the subject matter is, by necessity, about as uplifting as a Scottish summer.
What the licence fee-paying public – read: little old ladies slumped in nursing homes – will make of MOG’s uncompromising take on heroin withdrawal and prostitution remains to be seen. The reality is that vast swathes of the country are about to experience Scottish hip-hop for the first time – a product whose existence they had hitherto been unaware of. While there is little prospect of the nation’s octogenarians downloading Sins of the Father en masse after watching My Lives & Times – Everybody’s Child, MOG’s flirtation with terrestrial TV might just strike a chord with Scots housed in schemes, tenements and prisons across the country – as well as ne’er-do-wells in more salubrious establishments. You don’t have to have been born with a heroin addiction to ‘get’ MOG, though it probably helps, as anyone who’s ever listened to Evolution will attest:
If that track doesn’t move you to feel something, anything then you’re clearly an Ed Sheeran fan. Evolution may be hauntingly good, but to insist that you need this track in your life would be hyperbole of the highest order. The truth is, all a man needs in life is food, water and a big set of chebs to stick his face in at the end of the day. The rest is mere details. But therein lurks the devil’s music, the best music of all, even if it cannot be considered essential, for there is no such thing as an essential track; its value lies solely in the ears of the beholder.
Scotland will not wither and die if it doesn’t hear MOG, any more than my wank life will perish if I fail to track down those uncensored polaroids of Kim Kardashian. I’d take a world without Kim sooner than I’d take a world without MOG, but given the choice I’d take a world stocked with both, for it’s the simple pleasures that make life more than just a constant struggle to take in enough food and water to survive.