Invizible Circle

words: Andy Forbes

November 2003


Hidden in the underground? Not the INVIZIBLE CIRCLE. Andy Forbes catches the leeds hip hop collective as they come into the light.

So why the name Invizible Circle?” “That’s an important question,” says Monkee. “Part 2 from New Flesh For Old came up with the name a long time ago. When I started pulling various people from the Hip Hop scene in Leeds together I asked him if we could use the name and he said yes. It was perfect for what Invzible Circle is all about. There was a hip hop scene in Leeds but we weren’t being seen – there was an underground circle of artists that were active but not getting the recognition they deserved.”

This sums up the Invizible Circle. Talented hip hop artists who have developed their skills over many years, are willing to share ideas and push forward their scene, but are not getting the recognition and support that they need and deserve. But things are changing.

The Invizible Circle are a group of Leeds based hip hop artists. Started by Monkee (Lee McMillan) whose aim was to help push the Leeds hip hop scene forward.

“There was a lot of talent in Leeds but nothing major was happening, there was no label for us to put out our music on and no way of getting recognition for our skills.”

Having been on the scene for a long time Monkee started getting in touch with various like-minded people and selling the idea of a collective to them. “I told them that together we could make this happen. It was alright people carrying on doing what they were doing, but in ten years’ time most of us would still have been doing the same thing.”

People involved in every aspect of hip hop were contacted, from MCs to breakers to promoters. Business people were also brought in to help ensure that the project worked.

The first Invizible Circle meeting took place in Monkee’s living room over two days in January 2001. The DJs and producers came on one day and then the rappers came on the next. This meant that a lot of people didn’t get a chance to meet and network - which was the whole point of the exercise. From then on meetings took place on the last Sunday of every month at Monkee’s work place, CHAMP (Chapel Town And Harehills Motor Project) where he taught kids graffiti and graphic design. It had a bigger meeting room which could fit everybody in. By the summer of the first year the group had come up with a lot of ideas but the momentum was starting to slow and people were no longer getting together.

January 2002 saw the group get together again and this time with even more people. The idea of running it like a business had been floated before but never acted upon. Then TD, Tom Stewart from BTI (Breaking The Illusion - one of, if not the, oldest hip hop group in Leeds) and the founder of Low Life Records, told people to put their money where their mouths were and invest in the idea. The group then decided that in two months’ time, people had to commit to the Invizible Circle and start paying money into the venture regularly. They all decided to pay in £20 a month, a figure that they agreed was a reasonable amount and a figure that everybody could pay even if they weren’t working. They also agreed that everybody involved would be an equal partner.

They calculated that after seven months, they would have enough to start their record label, put out their first release and buy the equipment to kit out the studio. The money generated from the first release would then pay for a year’s studio rent and for the next release. Although close, it didn’t quite go to plan and the collective showed their commitment by paying in money for a further six months, allowing them to carry on and even purchase extra equipment.

The first release on the Invizible Circle label was by Minority Rules in the summer of 2002. 1,000 records were pressed with 30% going to record shops and the other 70% being sold by the collective. Minority Rules are TD (production and rapping) and two other rappers from the group Scorcher Force (also part of the Invizible Circle) called Kaynee and L.P.

The 12”, Don’t Stop, had three tracks and the instrumentals to those tracks. Don’t Stop is a Neptunes-style slice of electronic funk. Black Folks is a “witty and yet hard hitting track that through poignant observation depicts the misconceptions dealt to black youth and the double standards that are present in modern society”. Last but by no means least is We All Love Hip Hop, a celebration of hip hop from its roots to the present day, utilising intelligent lyrics and a melodic beat reminiscent of De La Soul.

The record was sold by all of the shops in Leeds, including HMV. As they didn’t have a distributor, the collective also travelled to other cities such as Manchester and London to make sure that the record was available in as many places as possible. Future distribution will be taken care of by Boom Box (Don’t Stop is still available through them), although the collective do have plans to start their own distribution team.

Since the Minority Rules 12” the collective have been involved in another release (out this month) although it’s not on the Invizible Circle label. The track is an excellent take on Beyonce Knowles’ Crazy In Love, superbly called Crazy In Leeds, and is a must for any DJ playing hip hop or R’N’B. The first release on Nice Things Records (owned by TD - Tom from BTI), the B-side carries a remix of Joe Buddens’ Pump It Up (they have used the remix of A Tribe Called Quest’s Scenario). Both tracks use only Invizible Circle MCs and are guaranteed to send any club apeshit. The 12” is available from any of Leeds record shops, Crash, Jumbo and HMV, and is being distributed by Boom Box.

The next release on the Invizible Circle label will be from Junkyard Tactics early next year with Nightmares On Wax down to do a remix. The 12” will be called Takin Over, which is also the name of the main track. Junkyard Tactics areMonkee and J Bravo (both MCs), D.M.W. (Dangerous Mouth Works - Beatbox of the highest quality) and Oddball (MC/DJ), and both traks are produced by TD. Takin Over features a guest rap from Tenton (of Breakers Unify and Co-accused) and the second track On Road features two guest MC’s from Genocide Squad (also part of Invizible Circle) - D Brown and Prophecy.

The Nightmares On Wax remix will have different raps on it from TD, Tommy Evans (originally of Junkyard Tactics), Danger from Genocide Squad, Monkee and J Bravo. In addition to the tracks will be two skits, one of which will feature D.M.W. beatboxing and a guy from the Nightmares on Wax camp called Toz 180 an old school rapper who apparently goes way back (and is currently making an album with Nightmares On Wax).

Future releases are planned for Genocide Squad, J Bravo and BTI (who both have tracks ready to go).

As well as releasing records, artists from Invizible Circle also play live sets and DJ. BTI was selected to be in the last 10 acts of the unsigned section at the Mobo Awards 2001 and performed at the competition that was held at Po Na Na Hammersmith and was televised. Minority Rules played in the Urban Section of In The City Live 2002, an event in Manchester for unsigned bands.

In Leeds, Invizible Circle acts have played live at venues including Elbow Rooms, Warehouse, West Indian Centre, Milo and others, but the two biggest and best appearances by Invizible Circle acts were at Chapel Town Carnival and Unity Day at the Hyde Park Festival. DJ Kidkanevil can be found playing sets at North Bar and the Elbow Rooms, Genocide Squad and Pro Optic are running Freestyle Frenzy, a free weekly open MC night at Doctor Wu’s on a Thursday, and Tareck has a slot on LSR radio.

Although Invizible Circle are totally committed to the Leeds hip hop scene, they are disappointed by the lack of support that they and other Leeds acts have received from some of the more well known hip hop nights in Leeds. Not getting booked for these events is further justification that the creation of Invizible Circle has been a smart move. They did used to play regularly at Funky Mule which, has now stopped, but is possibly going to make a comeback.

Invizible Circle also contributes to Leeds hip hop scene through various graphics and graffiti projects. Monkee actually works for the YMCA teaching graphic design and Art. He also works with Leeds City Council organising graphics, graffiti and MC workshops. He and another graffiti artist from the collective, Sparx, opened the first two legal graffiti walls in Leeds in 2002. They can be found behind Royal Park School and Kendal Close near St Michael’s School (in the car park) and anybody can go down and create some pieces. Next year Monkee, in conjunction with Leeds City Council, will be opening a number of new legal graffiti walls. The walls allow kids to practice their skills without the fear of prosecution whilst allowing them to publicly display their work.

Now that their tracks are getting out and about, Invizible Circle are looking to start organising live sets and events again. Make sure you check out the two 12”s that they have released and been involved in, and keep an eye out for the next Invizible Circle Records release by Junkyard Tactics and their soon to be arranged club nights and gigs – all sure to be covered in Sandman. It looks like 2004 is going to be a big year for Invizible Circle…and not too soon.

The Invizible Circle are -
Monkee (Junkyard Tactics) - MC, Beatbox, Graffiti artist and designer
TD (B.T.I, Minority Rules, Founder of Low Life Records & Street Retribution) - MC, Producer and DJ
E.A.S.E (Nightmares On Wax) - Started Nightmares on Wax - DJ and Producer
Testament (Homecut Directive) - MC, Beatbox
Oddball (former B.T.I & Kaliphz, now Junkyard Tactics) - MC, DJ and Producer
DJ Countdown - DJ, Producer and MC
Daddy Tenton (Breakers Unify) - Breaker, Promoter, MC and Producer
Agent M (Mutant Productions) - Producer and MC
Sparx a.k.a Baller - MC, Designer and Graffiti artist
Jitender (Illustrious P.R)
Funky Mule - Promoter
DJ Kidkanevil - DJ and producer
MC Speedo - MC, promoter and Film
J.Bravo (Junkyard Tactics) - MC and Producer
D.Brown, Prophecy, Danger, Masta C, Chambeers, Misery (Genocide Squad) - MC's and Producers
Magic & Brett Thomson (LS Invisible) - MC's
LP & Kaynee (Scorcher Force/Minority Rules) - DJ's and MC's
Levi - MC (from the US)
D.M.W. (Junkyard Tactics) - Beatboxer, MC and Breaker
Tareck - DJ and promoter
China B - Nightmares on Wax vocalist, Producer and MC

Don’t Stop by Minority Report (Invizible Circle Records) and Crazy In Leeds (Nice Things Records) are both available from record shops in Leeds.

Invizible Circle
Danger Monkee
D Brown
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