Music

What Went Right With… Silver Bullet aka Silvah Bullet?

An image of a silver bullet with the name of rapper Silver Bullet above

After releasing a single with group Triple Element in 1988, member Silver Bullet went solo and made a string of enjoyable Hip-Hop songs in the early 1990s. Bullet’s second single “20 Seconds To Comply” was his most popular, reaching number 11 in the UK charts (which shows how varied popular music was back in those days). Amid the sounds of air-raid sirens and the unforgettable Robocop sample (the scene where the ED-209 malfunctions during a demonstration) sampling movies was a relatively new concept back then. There was also a sample from film The Omen which led some people to credit this and Bullet’s follow-up single as “Horrorcore” but for me it’s not quite there. In my opinion however, this faster, confrontational style of rapping over an uptempo beat I’m certain influenced and helped mould Jungle music in the years to come. Even “21 Seconds” by Garage music super-collective So Solid Crew may have been influenced, at least in terms of title, but I guess that’s very tenuous.

Silver Bullet’s first single of course was the brilliant “Bring Forth The Guillotine” which sampled John Carpenter’s Halloween theme during the intro and outro. With an angrily delivered hook over breakbeat elements, this style was later copied by The Fat Of The Land-era Prodigy as they began to move over to a Techno-Punk hybrid sound (remember “Breathe” and “Firestarter”?). For me, these two UK Hip-Hop singles by Silver Bullet actually helped shape a lot of UK Dance music.

Speaking of Dance music, I read somewhere that when Norman Cook (part of Housemartins, Beats International and later to be known as Fatboy Slim) did a remix of his single, Silver Bullet confronted him on the street, apparently he wasn’t a fan 😂. This could simply be an unfounded rumour but if you have any further information please leave a comment below.

Despite crossing over, these two singles by Silver Bullet were hardcore UK Hip-Hop through-and-through. It was tracks like these as well as offerings from other British Hip-Hop artists such as Gunshot and Hijack that led to the term “Britcore” being coined; a faster, harder version of Hip-Hop than being offered by the US at the time.

In 1991 a full-length album from Silver Bullet titled Bring Down The Walls… No Limit Squad Returns was released, an LP that contained numerous memorable joints including “Raw Deal” with its Jazzy horned chorus, and the juxtaposition of the flute against a lively beat in “Legions Of The Damned”. The album was apparently going to be called Hung, Drawn and Quartered which probably leaned too far into “hardcore” territory. Apparently before the album was released, Silver’s label EMI wanted to make him and his DJ (Mo) into a “rap version of Bros.” but thankfully that never happened. Silver Bullet obviously fought his corner but I wonder if this album’s title change was a compromise in order to appeal to his newly-acquired mainstream audience. Again, if you know more about this alternative title, leave a comment.

After his debut album, Silver Bullet didn’t release another LP. He did come back a few years later in the late 1990s with a slightly different spelling of his name and as Silvah Bullet he dropped a few singles with a reggae tinge.

The mean “Dem Beas” was produced by Dirty Beatniks and released on label Arthrob in 1998…

“Righteous Fyah” was a great track that had a Drum ‘N’ Bass beat…

And in 2004 he dropped “Se7en”, this time with a slightly King Just-esque delivery…

When label Arthrob went bankrupt, Silvah Bullet’s follow-up album was shelved so unfortunately for his fans there’s only Bring Down The Walls and a handful of 12” singles out there to buy. Coming up to three decades since the release of his debut LP, all of Bullet’s singles from the early 1990s to the early 2000s are still well worth listening to. It’s a pity that after a blip of mainstream success, most people didn’t follow Silver Bullet’s career too closely and this disinterest may have kept potential labels at bay, but I guess that’s all by-the-by at this point. All that remains to be said is that Hip-Hop, Reggae, and Dance fans shouldn’t forget about Silver Bullet’s contribution to music. You’ve had…

30 Years To Comply.

6 replies »

  1. Re: Silver bullet & Norman cook

    Record Companies would pass a song to a remixer who would ethnically cleanse it to make it palatable to a wider audience who despised hip hop.Many of these enablers.. Norman Cook , Chad Jackson , Derek B , Cj Mackintosh , Coldcut , Dancin Danny D are now defined as legends. However the remixes were terrible as they were out of there depth. This ruined the impact of the track & distorted the acts identity.

    Eg

    Eric b & Rakim – Paid in full remix. (Rakim is rapping about how he used to rob people & Coldcut immersed the track in middle eastern chants )
    Eric b & Rakim – I know you got soul(Endless remixed remixes immersed with commercial samples)
    The Silver bullet remix was terrible & sounded like a bedroom tape.

    Hijack – Hold no Hostage & also Mc Mello – Total Eclipse of the art..Commented on the record companies tactics.

    Silver Bullet worked with Public Enemies Bomb Squad on his second lp & some track tempos were even faster..I liked 20 seconds to comply but rapping fast only sounded good if the mc had breath control. Kamanchi Sly from Hijack & Demon Boys had breath control. but there were so many rappers gasping for breath between words. ( Gunshot & Hardnoise )

    Mc Duke – Final conflict also used the Omen movie soundtrack..

    Silver bullet / Norman cook scan is in my details.

    • That highlighted section in HHC says it all.

      I agree that unconnected, profit-making remixes are soulless. You could argue they take an unheard style to the masses but generally they’re to popularizse the DJ/strengthen their career by hijacking underground sounds. That Ofra Haza sample in the Rakim track raised the profile of two “foreign” sounds in the UK mainstream but I hear what you’re saying: it simultaneously made both works meaningless.

      Peace.

  2. @thelement your argument makes no sense because Rakim was busy doing songs with Jody Watley at the height of his fame. Later he made a song with Truth Hurts which had a Bollywood sample so making something more palatable to a wider audience was something he wasn’t against doing. all the greats have sold out at some point or another.

    • I agree; there’s less and less rappers who haven’t gone commercial/sold out the further time moves on. Although I think the above commenter’s point was “selling out” being forced on you via a DJ remix rather than selling out yourself.

    • Dj’s had an option to be on record label mailing lists & they would send them pre-released stuff. The dj would have to respond & fill a questionaire.

      Hip Hop used to value & respect genuine & authentic artists. Uk Record labels wanted them to dilute the content to crossover & many refused. New studio technologies meant they could get a remixer behind the scenes without consent. Now they could make more versions for different audiences. However the listeners were confused & did not know if those songs were the original or a remix. So the thought the act sold out . The reception would have been different if the act nominated.. or was aware the remixer.

      There’s a dj magazine named Mixmag.. Rakim was interviewed & said he thought the remix was a piece of s….. I’m still searching for that edition to counter the revisonists.

      A dj producer or remixer was supposed to enhance the artist.There are many interviews of Coldcut & their talking about themselves & what they did & not Rakim. Coldcut also had a release named ..not paid enough as they thought they deserved more. That behavior was not respected in that era.

      Take a look at the paid in full.. or the endless. I know you got souls remixed videos . Do those video’s represent the lyrics & vision of a Hip Hop artist?.. It could have backfired & embarrased them.

      The intro of.. Hijack – Hold no Hostage simulates someone snatching the paid in full remix record off the turntable.

      The Jody Watley feature happened because Rakim signed a lucrative contract with MCA & they shared the same record label. Dj quik ,dre ,Truth Hurts & Rakim were on aftermath.Rakim left aftermath because dre wanted him to talk gangster themes.

    • Even though I defended your opinion in my previous comments, I longer agree with you. Like your opinion in my other site, you say you’re trying to “counter the revisionists”. Are you referring to me? Because nowhere did I say a specific artist approved of their remixes.

      You sound like you’re a fan of Rakim to the extent you’ll defend any of his actions even if they’re contradictory. Apparently it’s okay for Rakim to do songs with pop “label-mates” and pop tracks with Hindu/Bollywood samples but if someone else puts “middle eastern chants” on a remix that’s the most offensive thing in all of Hip-Hop. The fact that Rakim himself used the line “Thinking of a master plan” from “Paid In Full” in Truth Hurts’ “Addicted” means he’s not too bothered about watering-down the meaning of his classic tracks.

      I agree with unsanctioned remixes ruining songs but c’mon, Rakim signing with Dr. Dre was a dumb move from the get-go. It wasn’t exactly unpredictable what Dre would do, or for that matter what a mainstream label would do in order to promote Rakim to the masses. Like the other commenter said, the Jody Watley feature is okay by you even though it arguably set the precedent for all the garbage Rap/R’n’B collabos by Bad Boy etc.?

      Bottom line: there is NO infallible musician. And if you want complete autonomy and artistic freedom stay independent. It’s not exactly a secret that major labels are unscrupulous.

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