Little Axe

Who has released records on all these labels: the legendary R&B label OKeh, the nu-blues stronghold Fat Possum, the key rap originators Sugar Hill, Tommy Boy and 4th & Broadway, the innovative On-U Sound, and of course Real World Records?

Which musician has played on records by Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaata, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, James Brown, Robert Plant, Mark Stewart & The Mafia, Sinead O’Connor, and Megadeth?

The answer to both questions is Skip McDonald, and Skip is Little Axe.

Skip made his name as an integral part of the Sugar Hill house band, playing on some of the most influential early rap classics, such as ‘Rapper’s Delight’, ‘The Message’ and ‘White Lines’. As part of Adrian Sherwood’s On-U Sound crew, he has made some of the most adventurous and highly praised UK music of the last two decades.

"We take the tones and feelings of the old blues and put today's stamp on it. We make music you can feel, taste and touch." Skip McDonald

Little Axe is the project Skip started in the early 1990s to reconnect himself with the blues of his childhood. His dad, a bluesman and steel mill worker, taught him blues guitar before he was ten years old. The name Little Axe is both a tribute to the Bob Marley/ Wailers’ song ‘Small Axe’ and also to Wilbur ‘Little Ax’ Broadnax of the Spirit of Memphis gospel quartet.

Little Axe mixes blues, gospel, reggae, dub and funk with modern technology. The ideas and techniques of early album ‘The Wolf That House Built’ was in the words of The Times critic, John Clarke, “copied by Beck and Moby.” And to great commercial success.

Now based in north London, Skip McDonald mainlines the old Delta blues and plugs it into the 21st century. “We take the tones and feelings of the old blues and put today’s stamp on it. We make music you can feel, taste and touch.”

Further reading

Richard Spaven announces new album and unveils single ‘Faded’

The new album, a forthcoming Society of Sound release, was recorded at Real World Studios

The Drummers of Burundi announce European tour

The WOMAD favourites tour Europe for the first time since 2015.

Real World Sessions: Remmy Ongala & Super Matimila, 17 August 1991

Rupert Hine and Stephen W Tayler look back on the 1991 session which yielded Remmy Ongala's 'Mambo'.

And The Beat Goes On: A profile of Remmy Ongala

Remmy Ongala was Tanzania's most famous musician and originator of the bongo beat.