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Mossy Mcdermott, Hugo World, 35MM
Mossy Mcdermott, Hugo World, 35MMPhotography Mossy Mcdermott

In pictures: the new faces of the UK’s underground rap scenes

Working in London and Manchester, Dazed Clubber Mossy Mcdermott trains his lens on the future legends, fans and fashions that define this ever-evolving subculture

There is a timelessness about Mossy Mcdermott’s images of the UK’s underground rap scene. The portraits of its emerging stars made by the Manchester-born photographer and Dazed Club member radiate with the white-hot energy, angst, and passion that galvanises this ever-evolving movement. 

From Lancey Foux to Lord Apex, each artist brings their own distinct style, contributing to what has become an eclectic community of rappers, stylists, videographers and producers. Mcdermott first began to capture the scene in 2022 when he moved to London to attend university and began participating in the city’s thriving scene. “I always feel very at home when I’m at these events,” he tells Dazed. “I think it’s to do with being in a room with such like-minded people, not only with similar music tastes but with creativity – whether it’s to do with photography, videography, fashion or anything in the creative industry.” 

He explains that the openness and punk approach to creativity within the UK rap movement is what has made it so accessible as a burgeoning collective. “There are so many people in this scene who are crazy talented. The work ethic from everyone in this scene is unmatched,” he explains. “It’s also helped by the rappers reaching out to the photographers and videographers in this scene to work on their projects, like everyone helping everyone to achieve their dream.”

Mcdermott‘s photo book, 35MM, suggests the breadth and scope of this underground scene. Inspired by the work of famed Atlanta-based photographer Gunner Stahl, as well as the magazines made by influential lifestyle brand PLACES + FACES, 35MM takes us from stage-side views of gigs to the epicentre of the crowds, showcasing the diversity of both the audience and the artists. “I just think people in this subculture all have such diverse styles and looks, each outfit will represent a bit of their personality and also their music taste will have a part to play,” Mcdermott explains. “It’s a mix of fashion and people’s takes on trends using their unique styles. I also see a lot of people wearing the brands they have made and designed, which is sick to see.” 

The reciprocal exchange of energy between crowds and artists is almost tangible throughout the pictures, with the intimacy of the smaller venues allowing for a tighter connection between both parties. “The rappers have built a very tightly connected fan base by staying outside the shows and talking to their fans makes them feel more involved. It results in exciting energy at the shows,” Mcdermott says. This energy is visible through the rawness of 35MM, from digitally distorted shots of Lancey Foux to the grainy film shots of incandescent crowds watching DAV1D. 

Part documentary photography and part art photography, Mcdermott various techniques in order to recreate the atmosphere of a show and tell the story of those moments visually in the most impactful and faithful way possible, “When I’m editing my images I always experiment many different options to do with layout and colour correcting, using curves and levels on Photoshop,” he explains. “I developed the Len image from scratch by processing the film into a negative to then develop and printing it out onto paper and then experimenting with bleach onto the image.”

Having already begun to carve his own path out within the photography space, he is continuing to look forward to his next projects. “I am currently working on my next book at the moment which is still focusing on the UK underground scene, but making it much more personal by taking the artists within the scene and shooting on location with them rather than at the events,” he says. “It helps me build more of a connection and add a layer of personality to the images as well. I’m planning to release this project by the start of next year.” 

As the scene continues to rapidly grow, the process of documenting and archiving its culture and evolution feels vital. Following in the footsteps of artists like Ewan Spencer and Simon Wheatly in the early 2000s, Mcdermott is not only immortalising the story of the underground UK rap scene and the seminal moments and luminaries of this compelling world, he is helping to shape it. 

For updates on Mossy McDermott’s future projects and publications, you can follow his Instagram here.

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