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Updated: Mar 4, 2021

Written by Stephen Pennell ©

“When I was in Digbeth I felt so alone,

I’m not sure that violence was born in my bones”.

So sang Harry Koisser from Peace on the band’s 2015 hit I’m A Girl, seemingly hinting that things could occasionally get a bit lairy in B5. Not in my experience, but I’ve been knocking about there for decades, usually with the dodgiest people in the area, so it holds no fears for me. I can understand though, how it could be traumatic for Harry, a handsome and sensitive Kidderminster kid, who spent many nights traipsing around the Digbeth streets in a sandwich board advertising The Rainbow. Anyway, it got me thinking about other songs that referenced the multiple manors of my beautiful city. Any excuse for a Brum-based list.

There are three absolutely fantastic albums named after Second City suburbs - Handsworth Revolution by Steel Pulse, Moseley Shoals by Ocean Colour Scene and The Twang’s sophomore long-player, Jewellery Quarter. Of those, only the Steel Pulse classic has an actual song named after a B-Town hood - the title track, obvs - and it’s a great song. But by far the best and most prolific use of Brum-centric geography-based genius in a vaguely musical setting was by Loxy, all-time champion of battle rap channel King Of The Ronalds. I saw it live in Rob Millichamp’s Dragon Grime Lair, a recording studio down Adderley Street that doubles as a very underground events space. Myself and a 15-strong crew of battle rappers scoured Digbeth for what seemed like an age looking for the place, but when we finally and somewhat flukily stumbled through the door, it was worth all the searching. The whole thing warrants a watch but if you just want to see Newtown, Ladywood, Five Ways, Handsworth, Smithswood and the Jewellery Quarter effortlessly name-checked to eviscerate her opponent in a single round of battle rap, skip to 7m 38 on the clip below:

Best of the rest:

Steel Pulse - Handsworth Revolution

BX19 - M1llionz

There’s a couple in this one (Soho Road gets a mention) but my favourite is:

“I ain’t even from Perry Barr

I’m just down the road it’s not very far”

Drinking In LA - The Twang.

A cover, but I think it’s safe to assume the lads came up with this bit themselves:

“And the girls on the bus kept on laughing at us

As we rode on the 10 back to Quinton again”

Devilman - Chipmunk Reply

“Eat up a man like spinach and broccoli

Kill Skepta and dump him in Hockley”

Definitely Not Safe For Work:

Toothache - Jaykae

“Wanna come Small Heath? Do a straight at the bridge”

The Sun Never Sets On Aston Villa - Spizzenergi

“Oh, Aston Villa

Gravelly Hill riviera,

Holte Enders live forever

The sun never sets on Aston Villa”

This Is What She’s Like - Dexy’s Midnight Runners

“Well you know how the English upper classes are thick and ignorant?

Hey you’ve seen the scum from Notting Hill and Moseley?”

The extended version also mentions Bearwood and The Little Nibble cafe, but it’s about ten minutes long, so here’s the short one:

Birmingham Crew - Yatez

“I bet you’re shook on my Birmingham crew,

My Sutton family, my Erdington goons”

Turn The Page - The Streets

“The hazy fog over the Bull Ring

The lazy ways the birds sing”

Lotto Boyzz - Birmingham Anthem

“I come from these ends,

Peng ting out of town she hurt my feelings,

Might just go to Broad Street on the weekend”

Lady Leshurr - Shurraq

“I ain’t from Clapham, Streatham, Brixton

I’m from 0121 Kingshurst”

I’m not counting Weller’s tribute to the Chelmsley badlands, Wildwood, or Eddy Grant’s Electric Avenue; as far as I know neither Paul nor Eddy possess a Birmingham passport.

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