From a shed in an Oxford Council Estate garden, to European tours and live performances on the BBC, this group of friends with a common interest in Hip Hop and the spiritual and physical connections it can bring is both an independent record label and an artist collective, containing various combinations of groups and solo artists comprised of it’s 10 Producers, Beat Makers, MCs and Singers. Renowned for vibrant live Hip hop performances, the Inner Peace Records family share an ethos of self reflection, positivity and the creation of a thought provoking sound.
The collective began as a platform for a small group of friends in Oxford to release their Hip Hop projects. Over 20 releases, 2 European tours, thousands of online followers and a few BBC Live Sessions later, the label’s roster now holds 10 artists of various disciplines, living in Oxford, London and Los Angeles.
Inner Peace Records’ music creation often focuses on digitally sampling recordings of traditional instruments from all over the world. This gives a new lease of life to the way these instruments are played and interpreted, bridging a gap between traditional and modern music making and performance, ultimately helping the collective’s audience to engage with cultural material that they may not have deemed relevant to their personal experience.
“We’ve been on some adventures together,” says producer King Boyden, explaining the philosophy and friendship that binds Inner Peace Records together. “We’ve shared good times and faced adversity; this has brought us together and that is something that shows through the energy of our performances. We’ve developed a particular dynamic, comprised of the individual talents of our artists. This gives us a streamlined workflow with its own creative style.”
Inner Peace Records’ exact origins and history can be difficult to unravel at times, a tight-knit team who also exist as solo artists in their own rights. Many of the members were friends from school, while others have gravitated towards the collective or simply met through working and performing on the local hip hop scene. The roots of the collective began when beatmaker and MC Terao met rapper King Khan Shamanic (Shaman for short) at a job interview; Terao had a show lined up supporting GZA of Wu Tang Clan and invited Shaman to pass through. Terao subsequently introduced Shaman to his brother EarthONE – and the trio released the `UPC’ (Universal Protection Collective) album together in 2014. This album was the seed which would blossom into Inner Peace Records. “Many of us grew up in similar circles and have know each other for some time,” adds King Boyden: “some of us were making music within our interlinked networks, some of us as solo artists; it was a natural progression for us to solidify ourselves under the banner of Inner Peace, particularly as we shared a common outlook.”
Since coalescing, Inner Peace have released a host of records, and hosted live shows all over Europe, notably their highly successful residency in Clapham. Their sets feature various levels of collaboration alongside individual sets. “It’s just about reading the crowd and creating a vibe that everyone can enjoy,” says Tiece; “cos we want to enjoy what we put out as much as people enjoy hearing it.” Tang the Pilgrim expands: “Our ability to respond to a crowd and be versatile has helped us cater for different gigs in different environments, from The Ashmolean Museum to stages hidden in the Italian Alps.”
Inner Peace’s live activities have taken them on two European tours. Terao: “Those tours solidified the family. We drove stupid far! Taking over Hill Street Blues in Amsterdam was crazy but every place we played was on point.” Rawz: “Just before the first tour I had recently played my first gig with the crew, a few weeks later I flew out to Amsterdam and met up with everyone as they were on the way back from Mandrea Music Festival in Italy; I can remember arriving at the camp and Terao standing at the top of the road waving the Inner Peace flag tied to a huge branch! That was an image that has stuck with me ever since. We played a six hour set that night with absolutely no plan and went down a storm. It felt so natural and I don’t think any of us really ever even doubted that it would be great. That flag still comes with us to most of our gigs, it’s got a lot of history!”
As well as being celebrated live performers, Inner Peace Records artists are known for the thought provoking content of their lyrics, Tang reflects: “I came to Oxford to study Philosophy, and it was during that time that Inner Peace Records was established. I feel that if you are seeking, then Oxford is an inspirational place, conducive to contemplative thought. We have been writing as a group long enough now that we can all sync up quite nicely and latch on to one another’s creative streams. Everyone knows their strengths.”
Diverse in their talents and styles, Inner Peace records are nonetheless a tightly-knit collective of friends, a collective whose ethos of the greater good is reaping ever greater dividends; members of the collective recently developed a project called ‘Digging Crates’ working in collaboration with the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. They worked with a group of African musicians to explore the museum’s collection of African musical instruments and reinterpret the objects from the collection, taking audio samples from some of the instruments in the collections and also from recordings made of the musicians playing their own music inside the museum. These samples were used to create new Hip Hop tracks that were written and recorded inside the museum.
The project’s lead artist Rawz says: “This was a hugely spiritual experience for me. I had underestimated the spiritual impact that it would have on me – I thought that it was just going to be fun to make tracks in the museum and sample some old instruments but actually, the project gave us a way to talk about the weight of the history of slavery and the outrageous abuses of the British Empire and colonialism, and share our views with each other. It gave us a chance to inform academics and researchers in the field about the impact that it’s had on us as non-academic people that are living with the legacies of these events.” An 8 track album containing their reflections is available at diggingcrates.bandcamp.com. A documentary film was also made, receiving great receptions at two public screenings.
Eclectic, versatile, charismatic and talented, Inner Peace Records open minds, bodies and spirits with everything they do. A group of friends above all else, the collective’s pull is irresistible, adding new followers they call “Lovers” to their expanding clan with every performance and new release. Described as “a more spiritual Fugees” by some and “Tribe Called Quest meets Wu Tang Clan” by others, Inner Peace Records have enjoyed favourable comparisons with the elite artists of their genre. From humble beginnings to becoming a well established team of polished solo artists, potent in the art of collaboration, Inner Peace Records is here for the past, present and future!