Sometime back in the summer of 2007 on the rough and tumble cobblestone streets of the English countryside, there emerged a well-dressed dandy with a boombox, a banjo ukulele, a pipe full of tobacco, and a dream. I am speaking of course of the lord of Chap-Hop, Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer. With the release of the single “A Piece Of My Mind” in Japan that year, both a genre and a sharp dressed persona were born. Since then Mr. B has toured the world and released a satchel’s worth of top-notch recordings exploring the pitfalls and delights of all things “Chap”, including, but not limited to: cricket, proper facial hair maintenance, etiquette, and smoking a modicum of crack cocaine.
Mr. B was gracious enough to correspond with us via electronic mail all the way from bonny olde England and answer a few questions about the finer points of Chap-Hop, hairstyles, the recent “Brexit” vote and of course the power of tweed:
MEB: As a pioneer of the genre, I am sure you get a version of this question in every interview, so why break with tradition? In case people have been living under a rock, (or in the case of our readers, just got their medical marijuana cards for chronic “Bob Marley Syndrome”) what is Chap-Hop anyway?
Mr. B: If you can imagine a scenario wherein Grandmaster Flash, George Formby, KRS-One, and Noel Coward get drunk in a club together and decide to form a band. Chap-Hop is pretty much what it would sound like.
One of my favorite songs of yours is “Hermitage Shanks”. As an aficionado of a good long sit on the commode myself, I identify with the lyrics in a visceral way. The details of which are perhaps best left to the dignified prose within your composition. My question is this: what in the name of Thomas Crapper is a Hermitage Shanks? It sounds like a Harry Potter character to my American ears, but then again so does Benedict Cumberbatch.
It’s a simple portmanteau pun thingy. Armitage Shanks is a make of porcelain bathroom goods and a hermitage is where a hermit lives. Very much alone. Pop the two together and hey presto- Hermitage Shanks.
While your rhymes tend to focus on social mores and the proper etiquette of high society, I wonder if we can diverge into the shallow waters of British politics for just a moment. From the perspective of a literary chap such as yourself, what’s the deal with Boris Johnson’s (leader of the Brexit movement) hair and utter lack of fashion sense? We have a similar bigoted lobster-man on our side of the pond. It causes one to wonder: has class and social grace left the world of politics forever, or could we solve many of these problems with a smart pair of suspenders, some pomade and a sit down at the UN over a biscuit and a couple Sloe Gin Fizz’s?
I think their hair is the least of all of our problems, old thing. Chapism begins from within. No amount of tweed and silk could cover the darkness of these men’s souls. Perhaps a propensity of gin, administered in regular and sizable doses might bring them to think a little deeper about said darkness. Gin could be our only hope.
You have proudly stated your Chap-Hop bona fides of being “Straight Outta Surrey”, the upper crust capitol of all things Chap. I wonder, are there still many Chap-hop gangs in Surrey or has the countryside been gentrified by the nouveau riche?
Sadly Surrey is not quite the place it is portrayed at. Mockneyism runs rife and sportswear (not cricket mind you) is rife, as is poor suitery. I mean, it’s not Essex, thank the lord, but it’s not a million miles away. It does have Kent as a buffer. There is a small and strong resistance though like Hounds-tooth Jedis.
Take me through a typical “Good Day” with Mr. B. The Gentleman Rhymer. Ice Cube mused about playing dice in the alleys of Compton and going so “deep” on a female admirer that he sent the young lady into a restful slumber. What sort of shenanigans does a rough and tumble chap from manicured gardens of Surrey get into, of an evening?
All should be clear on my song “It Was A Rummy Old Day” from The Tweed Album. An evening with the chaps would consist of gin/chinwaggery, then ale/frippery followed by whiskey/tomfoolery then off to a club for brandy/absurdity. As far as female admirers and the like go, I have put ladies to sleep in my time, but not in the way old Cube purports to have done. I have to say I doubt that of him anyhoo. He is prone to exaggeration.
Speaking of tweed, you are celebrated by those lucky enough to have seen one of your recitals as a top shelf showman. I wonder about the practical matter of fashion verses function, specifically reconciling your near cultish dedication to tweed with 200-degree stage lights. How does one sustain the grace of a dapper dandy, while exerting the energy of a shirtless Mick Jagger?
To be perfectly honest I have all but abandoned tweed as stage-wear. It’s just too much. A chap cannot go on about looking smart whilst sweating like a swamp donkey. I do like a nice practical Irish linen, especially for festivals. Once off stage of course and as autumn approaches the tweed is on.
As an educated chap and representative from our former colonial overlords, (god save the queen). Casting an eye to the less dignified shores of the new world, what would be the cultural equivalent of Chap-Hop in the United States? Yacht hop? Trump-hop?
In the early 2000s there was a brief and intriguing occurrence in hip-hop called The Gentleman’s Movement, wherein rap starts would take to sporting buttoned-down shirts and a generally preppy look. It seems to have disappeared again, but there is always hope. I think the very term “Trump Hop” should be stricken from the record and never spoken of again.
You are the paternal ward of Chap-Hop. Where do you see the genre evolving in the future? Will we have to endure an unfortunate and prolonged auto-tune period? Any plans to inexplicably re-brand yourself as Mr. Bizzle or Master Bee?
Chap-Hop is an ever-evolving beast. I’m currently recording my….(I’m not quite sure…7th?) long player There’s A Rumpus Going On and once you’re that far down the line things grow, redefine themselves and become other things, whilst maintaining the central facets of the oeuvre. That said, after that I’m recording an album called Spamballads, which may well end up being my 808s and Heartbreak. I of course say that having never managed to listen to that album all the way through.
One last question. If you could be remembered in just one line, to be misquoted in a meme on the internet as something Winston Churchill said when he was drunk, what would it be?
“If you can keep your tea when all about you are spilling theirs and blaming it on you, stop nudging them, you poppinjay”
Big thanks to Mr. B for the interview! Keep up with the continuing adventures of Mr. B. The Gentleman Rhymer at http://www.gentlemanrhymer.com/
Now pour yourself a sherry and watch him spin a jaunty verse about the joys of private time in the loo with “Hermitage Shanks” off of his 2010 release I Say: