Congo Natty…


Conquering Lion aka Congo Natty aka Rebel MC is the stage name of Jungle producer and Toaster Michael West. “Conquering Lion” is short for “the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah,” one of emperor’s Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia many titles.

In the early 1980s, West formed the group Double Trouble with the now deceased Michael Menson, Karl Brown (more commonly known as the UK garage DJ Karl ‘Tuff Enuff’ Brown) and Leigh Guest; and released the single “Just Keep Rockin” on the Desire record label in 1989 as Double Trouble and Rebel MC. The single was a UK Top 20 hit, and the follow up “Street Tuff”(1990) was his biggest success, reaching #3 in the UK charts.

Because of the style and content of these releases, West was often dismissed by a British hip hop community, distrustful of pop success and “selling out”. The release of his first album Rebel Music (Desire, 1990) did little to change their views.

This was soon to change, however, as West used to money he had made from his pop successes to record his second album. Black Meaning Good (Desire, 1991) was a complete change of style for West, mixing his former pop-rap influences with reggae, hip hop, dance and the emerging jungle styles to produce an album that was uniquely his own. The album won over the Rebel MC’s detractors, and is now widely regarded as a classic of the era.

One of Jungle’s unsung heroes, Michael West began his career as Rebel MC with Brit rappers Double Trouble and the bubblegum pop hit “Street Tuff”. After leaving Double Trouble in 1990, he released Black Meaning Good (1991), an album that featured ragga notables like Barrington Levy, Tenor Fly and Dennis Brown crooning and toasting on top of reggae-House rhythms. Word, Sound and Power (1992) was a further exploration of roots electronica that mashed up techno, house, reggae, ragga and hip hop music. Forming the Tribal Bass label, Rebel MC released “Tribal Bass” (1992) and the Demon Boyz “Dett” (1992) and “Jungle-ist” (1993) which were Hip house tracks borrowing a vibe from the Yard that heralded the emergence of Jungle.

The X Project label followed shortly with the “Old School Ting” (1993) single. As Conquering Lion, West, with help from DJ Ron and Jumping Jack Frost, released the sound system mash up “Lion of Judah/Innah Sound/Dub Plate Special” (1993). With vocals from Supercat and more gun shots than a Sam Peckinpah flick, Conquering Lion’s massive “Code Red/Phenomenon” (1994) caught the attention of 4th & Broadway who re-released the track along with “Rastaman/Word, Sound and Power/Code Black” (1995).

Not resting on his laurels, West left Desire and released his third album, Word Sound and Power (Big Life, 1991). West also used the success of his albums to set up his own record label, Tribal Bass, and began signing some of the scene’s most important artists – such as the newly label-less Demon Boyz – as well as releasing some of his own work on the label. The third album featured even more of the diverse inspirations than previous efforts, but it was also clear that West was starting to move in new directions.

Tribal Bass gradually mutated into Congo Natty, and West himself released some material under this name, before settling on the Conquering Lion name. However, this was not the last the world heard of Rebel MC. Despite his continued success with his new style of music (West is one of the few artists from the first wave of British hip hop to continue recording throughout the years to the present day), West released the single “Junglist” (Congo Natty, 2004) under the Rebel MC name, and followed this up with a greatest hits album Born Again (Congo Natty, 2005)

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