TRENCH’s passionate coverage of grime, hip hop, and newer genres like drill is driven by its founders’ fundamental belief in DIY culture
Over the last few years, UK underground music has seen a creative renaissance, with a new generation of MCs entering the grime and hip hop scenes and packing out venues with thousands of fans, and new genres like Afroswing and drill emerging and flourishing. Still, for all the column inches that have been dedicated to these musical movements, the mainstream media’s coverage has been poor at best, and actively harmful at worst – just look at the gross fear-mongering that’s currently being whipped up against drill by the worst elements of Britain’s conservative media establishment.
TRENCH, however, is on a mission to change that. Launched in September last year by Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson and Laura ‘Hyperfrank’ Brosnan, TRENCH is an independent publication created by and for people who’ve actually spent time in the scene. “We wanted to create a space that actually was invested in underground music and youth culture,” says Hyperfrank. “We’ve seen a sudden spike over the last few years of interest around grime music and grime culture, but half of the reporting around it is lazy, tokenising, and has problematic tones. Most of the journalists and photographers wouldn’t know their reloads from their ‘Woooo Riddim’, let alone understand the effects of their coded language. Rather than look across the underground music scene as a phase and trend, we like to view it as our core.”
JP and Hyperfrank met a decade ago at Dirty Canvas, a grime night that was held at London’s ICA. JP has been a music journalist for a decade and is currently a UK senior editor for Complex, while Hyperfrank is a journalist and photographer who captured many ascendant grime MCs when mainstream voices were still writing the genre off as a failure. “Journalism is our passion, it’s where we come from,” says JP. “It’s a natural thing for us to edit a longread about grime or UK drill at 3am in the morning. There’s a place for the written word, and where black British music is concerned – because we’ve been doing it for so long, people will pay attention to what we have to say, or what our writers say, simply because JP and Hyperfrank is behind it! I don’t say that boast, but when you build a respected name for yourself as a tastemaker or critic – and you do it from the heart – people will draw to you.”
TRENCH’s website is knowledgeable, passionate, and visually dazzling, filling a space that was once occupied by influential but since-defunct magazines like RWD, The Face, and SUPER SUPER. Aesthetically, TRENCH keeps it real, reflecting JP and Hyperfrank’s belief in DIY culture. “We’re not here trying to sell you a fantasy or dream,” says Hyperfrank. “We always shoot on location wherever the people are. We rarely ‘stage’ shoots or project how we want people we feature to look. Take a look at our Daniel Kaluuya feature – we met him in West London for a coffee and popped outside for a catch up and the pictures were taken during our talk.”
Taking things into the physical realm, TRENCH recently launched their first ever print zine. Issue 1 is dedicated entirely to one cover star, D Double E, a grime MC and DJ and a legend in his scene (“My favourite MC and everyone’s favourite MC’s favourite MC,” as Hyperfrank puts it). Besides featuring a longform interview with the artist, the zine also comes with some D Double E stickers. “Obviously, we’re mainly an online magazine,” says JP, “but we felt the need to make something tangible that people can look back on in years to come and still smile at. It’ll have you feeling like you’re 16 again!”
TRENCH’s independent ethos feels particularly vital at a time where big money is increasingly becoming the norm in the UK music scene. When success for artists is being judged by streaming metrics and brand collaborations are happening more and more frequently, it’s essential that there are publications that can look past all that and support what really matters. “We’re inspired by DIY culture, stripping it all back and keeping the core elements, celebrating your passions and making it work by using the people around you,” says Hyperfrank. “It’s so important for us that we interconnect with different worlds and make things accessible for the young creatives coming through.”
TRENCH issue #001 with D Double E is out now