What are some great examples of London accents in song or rap?
March 11, 2019 8:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm compiling a Spotify playlist where I'm collecting examples of different London accents in song or rap. Can you help me add to it?

The concept is to represent the diversity of London accents, and also to arrange tracks chronologically to illustrate how accents have changed over time. What I have currently kicks off with Lazy Sunday by the Small Faces, and then takes in the Clash, Lily Allen, and Skepta. Examples from cockney, estuary, mockney, north London, south London, RP, MLE, and any other London accent are welcome.

The proviso is that the accent must come across in song or rap (or a spoken word section at least). Adele, for instance, has a really strong contemporary cockney accent in speech but sounds transatlantic in song, so her songs wouldn't make the cut.

Bonus points for songs that reference London life or include London in the song title.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
posted by iivix to Media & Arts (48 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Sorry, MLE is Multicultural London English, that probably isn't widely known as a term.
posted by iivix at 8:42 AM on March 11, 2019

Does M.I.A.'s Paper Planes work?
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 8:45 AM on March 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Streets!
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:50 AM on March 11, 2019 [6 favorites]

The Hitcher Rap from Mighty Boosh? 😜
posted by Ian Scuffling at 8:54 AM on March 11, 2019

At the end of the CD version of Fergie's London Bridge, there is a man speaking with an accent. He says, "Fergie, my bad" at some point and London a few times.
posted by soelo at 8:55 AM on March 11, 2019

Best answer: Serine Karthage
Lady Sovereign
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:57 AM on March 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thou Shalt Always Kill!
posted by jessamyn at 8:57 AM on March 11, 2019 [7 favorites]

Anything by Dizzee Rascal
Parklife by Blur (Phil Daniels)
Bernard Cribbins—Hole in the Ground esp (with two contrasting class accents)
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:03 AM on March 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Professor Green
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:03 AM on March 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Anything by Kirsty MacColl or Billy Bragg.
posted by MysteriousSympathy at 9:08 AM on March 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

You have Skepta, but what about Stormzy or Lethal Bizzle. Oh and Kate Tempest.
posted by kendrak at 9:12 AM on March 11, 2019

Lots of things by Billy Cotton, but especially Forty Fahsend Fevvers On A Frush (late 40s/early 50s).

Anything by Chas and Dave, but especially London Girls

George Formby

Gracie Fields
posted by yankeefog at 9:17 AM on March 11, 2019

Jamie T—Sheila (video features Bob Hoskins!)
Any by Ian Dury
Madness for North London, but not super strong—listen to Suggs on Bed and Breakfast Man
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:22 AM on March 11, 2019

Best answer: You really should include some classics from the Duo Chas and Dave:

London Girl, Rabbit and of course Gertcha!

Check out their You Tube Channel too

The guys were originally professional backing musicians and became consummate entertainers in their own right. Originating from North London so not proper "Cockneys" but their Lahndan accent and vocabulary is more authentic than the estuary drawl of the so called street music now so common place
posted by jallypeeno at 9:22 AM on March 11, 2019

Best answer: Northern Line: LV - featuring Joshua Idehen

(A few years ago - in the days of Mefi CD Swaps - I put together a compilation where each track represented a monopoly square. This track was one of the stations. Here is the cover and here are the other tracks: some London other London accents on there.
posted by rongorongo at 9:31 AM on March 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

"Europe is Lost," by Kate Tempest.
posted by baseballpajamas at 9:33 AM on March 11, 2019

Roots Manuva, a number of albums on YT such as the early Brand New Second Hand.
posted by carter at 9:35 AM on March 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

Phil Daniels in Blur’s Parklife. Guess you could argue for Blur generally - they’re from mid-Essex rather than London but pretty Estuary. Maybe Damon more than Graham or Alex.
posted by penguin pie at 9:47 AM on March 11, 2019

Estelle, "Stronger Than You."
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:53 AM on March 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Just Jack
posted by humboldt32 at 9:57 AM on March 11, 2019

2004 - Skinnyman - Fuck The Hook
2017 - Skengdo x AM - Mansa Musa
posted by JonB at 10:05 AM on March 11, 2019

Loyle Carner - No CD but most of his stuff.
posted by cocoagirl at 10:06 AM on March 11, 2019

George Formby is a strongish Lancashire accent, so northern, not southern. Its a tight 'a' and a long 'oo' if that helps to recognise....
Seconding Ian Drury, who has a lot of patter and wordplay in his songs
posted by glasseyes at 10:07 AM on March 11, 2019

Seconding Estelle's "Stronger than You."
posted by tzikeh at 10:18 AM on March 11, 2019

Marie Lloyd "A Little Of What You Fancy Does You Good!"
There are less crackly remastered versions on Apple Music, I don’t knw about Spotify.
Harry Champion - I'm Henery the Eighth, I Am
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 10:23 AM on March 11, 2019

Riz MC has a distinct accent - I'm rubbish at identifying which one alas. Englistan would be thematic.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:31 AM on March 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Stereo MC's Bring It On (and live)
posted by jessamyn at 10:35 AM on March 11, 2019

Best answer: Sophie Ellis Bextor is from London and sings in a distinctly RP accent.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 10:45 AM on March 11, 2019

NAO is a singer-songwriter from East London. Her accent seems a bit more polished than what one would expect from an east London-Cockney native, but you can definitely hear it in her tracks.

Also, Octavian, a French-British rapper whose accent is distinctly South London, as are many British rappers.
posted by Everydayville at 10:49 AM on March 11, 2019

Wiley's Numbers in Action for another example of the accent and cadence from Bow, similar to Dizzee Rascal.
posted by lasagnaboy at 10:49 AM on March 11, 2019

Seconding dizzy rascal “dance wiv me”
posted by catspajammies at 11:15 AM on March 11, 2019

Best answer: Anthony Newley!
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 12:07 PM on March 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Gracie Fields is from Rochdale, a long way from London. She would have been very hurt to be mistaken for a Londoner,
posted by TheRaven at 1:09 PM on March 11, 2019

Jah Wobble was raised in East London, and he recites some poetry by William Blake (also a Londoner) on his Blake tribute album. Which reminds me that Johnny Lydon was raised in London as well.
posted by ovvl at 1:33 PM on March 11, 2019

Re the Streets, it's worth noting that Mike Skinner's accent is primarily Birmingham, although with London/Estuary modification acquired from his later teens on. I think you could make a good case that the accents of Londoners born elsewhere, each inflected by the city in different ways, make up a whole panoply of London accents.

Thou Shalt Always Kill!

And I think this one raises the possibility that you have to think how wide you're casting your net. Pip comes from Stanford-le-Hope, which is well out of London (about ten miles past Dagenham) and his accent is very distinctly local to that bit of Essex. But, at the same time, that accent does exist in a pretty direct dynamic with London accents, so I think it's difficult to simply exclude it. I guess the only challenge is choosing where to draw the line when the various forms of London English are so dominant in their effects on British English generally.
posted by howfar at 1:51 PM on March 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Tippa Irie
posted by bluedora at 2:09 PM on March 11, 2019

Best answer: Smiley Culture's 'Cockney Translation' (1986) is worth your attention.
posted by Joeruckus at 2:49 PM on March 11, 2019

Ian Dury
Songs that reference London:
London talking
Bus driver's prayer
Mash it up Harry
posted by Lotto at 4:31 PM on March 11, 2019

Best answer: Kate Nash!

(Though when I did a quick search to confirm whether her accent was a London one or not--it's seems to be most often described as "north London"--I came across several articles saying she exaggerates. None of the articles are particularly trustworthy in either direction, though, so I'll let the suggestion stand.)

Oh and Estelle, for sure. "American Boy" references London a couple times, but to me it's one of her songs where the accent comes across less distinctly.
posted by rhiannonstone at 7:48 PM on March 11, 2019

Mans not hot!
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 8:39 PM on March 11, 2019

Anything by King Krule. Southwark.
posted by unearthed at 9:05 PM on March 11, 2019

I see Jamie T's been mentioned, but I'll still plug Brand New Bass Guitar.
posted by pompomtom at 9:56 PM on March 11, 2019

Best answer: Tinie Tempah grew up on the Aylesbury Estate.

Tinie Tempah- Pass Out

(This song contains my favourite rap boast of all time, “I’ve got so many clothes I keep some in my aunt’s house.”)

Florence Welch is hardcore Camberwell, if there is such a thing: South London Forever.
posted by Concordia at 2:56 AM on March 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, fun question.

Let's go back to the 90s
Gunshot - Manhunt (intro track off their Patriot Games album) | 25 Gun Salute in which they spell out L-E-Y-T-O-N-S-T-O-N-E
Hijack - Bring the Terror
Silver Bullet - 20 Seconds to Comply | Such an amazing track.
Blade - 100% (kicks off with him saying Fish n Chips)| Bonus article in the Quietus about his career including crowdfunding his The Lion Goes From Strength to Strength album before the internet was even a thing.
Ragga Twins - Hooligan 69 | Hackney legends, pioneers of fucking everything great... but I'm not sure this will sound London enough. No vocals on this track until 1:10. Try Juggling for a lot more vox.
Shut Up And Dance - Autobiography of a Crackhead feat. Kevin Rowland | Representing Stoke Newington. You might know their more housey / hardcore stuff like Raving I'm Raving. This is... not like that.
London Posse - How's Life in London | Starts with the sound of Big Ben then ADDS MORE LONDON
Cookie Crew - Rok da House | Not hugely London sounding TBH but they're from London and this is a wicked little tune.
Betty Boo - Doin' the Do | Such a fun song

Not rap
St Etienne - London Belongs to Me | Listen for a few area namechecks.
David Bowie - London Boys | Listen for the street names
Suede - The Drowners | "Stop taking me over" is the key line here :)

More recently
Flohio - SE16 | with God Colony. You said you wanted some MLE right?
Dave - Streatham | Dave is the new hotness.
posted by ZipRibbons at 3:55 AM on March 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I marked a few best answers because they were particularly entertaining, but I really appreciate everyone's input.

Smiley Culture sadly doesn't seem to be on Spotify, which is a real shame because that's a great track for accents.

Serine Karthage is new to me, and is my new favourite jam, so thanks for that!

I've made the playlist public on Spotify if anyone wants to hear what it sounds like, although it's still a work in progress. It's called "The many accents of London" - I guess you can find it by searching? There's a few jarring bits of sequencing, but I guess that's half the fun with something so eclectic.
posted by iivix at 2:36 PM on March 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Just a few few more

Squeeze - Cool for Cats Greenwich, London, 1979. I owned this as a hot pink single in '79. Lyrics fairly nsfw, video has lots of spandex and wild leaping.


Cockney Rejects - I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles - East End.
posted by unearthed at 5:34 AM on March 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: West End Girls.
posted by nenequesadilla at 5:48 PM on March 13, 2019

Best answer: I just remembered this article about a compilation called Music is the Most Beautiful Language in the World — Yiddisher Jazz in London's East End 1920s to 1950s. Check out 'Beigels' by Max Bacon.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 9:42 AM on March 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

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