Along with textiles, Seabrooks crisps, and David Hockney, bassline is one of Bradford’s best exports. For plenty of people in Yorkshire, it’s simply referred to as “MC music.” For 21-year-old Marky B, it’s everything.
Born Mark Baldwin, he packs a style both slick and typical, but mixes bolshy boasts with an acute vulnerability — pulling birds in one line, then back at school, struggling with his words in the next. He's part of a loose scene that connects the post-industrial towns and cities that pepper South and West Yorkshire — Sheffield, Huddersfield, Leeds, Bradford — and revolves around dirtbikes, dingers, skunk, and pingers.
The music is fast, and MCs are at the forefront, skipping over organ stabs, skittish snares, and skidding around feminine coos and romantic aphorisms. It’s Yamahas and kitchen sink dramas, small-time grafters and weekend-long afters
Marky grew up in a care home, before moving out aged 16, left to fend for himself. “When I was younger, I had a lot of anger towards my situation,” he says, “But now, as I’ve got older, I sort of thank it, because I probably wouldn’t do what I do or know what I know if it wasn’t for that.” He scratched a living putting up fences and trimming hedges, running his own fledgling landscaping business (and selling bits of weed on the side). Long days were followed by lonely evenings. A combination of teenage boredom and latent anger led him to music. “Where I grew up, that’s what everyone wanted to do,” he says.
He’d rip beats from YouTube, run them through his phone using BandLab’s free production software, then chuck a duvet over his head and lay verses with the microphone on his headphones. “Most of my tunes people listen to now were recorded on my headphones, on my phone,” he says. “When I tell people, they don’t believe me. But I was getting better results on BandLab than going to a studio and paying 40 pound an hour.” Less rags to riches, then, more duvet to dreams.
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He'd put new tracks out every week, building a steady following in the North West and riding in the wake of jackin' house’s 2020s resurgence. Doubters only spurred him on. As his profile on the scene grew, and the producers whose beats he’d been nicking started noticing, arguments followed. He professionalised his approach: working with a loose network of producers, booking studio time, mixing and mastering his tracks properly. Streaming money was reinvested into studio time and slicker videos. Since January, music has been Marky B’s full-time job.
“When I first started making music, it was a good way to release my emotions, that’s why I got into it, it was a good way to channel things,” he says. “The big change for me was starting to earn money off it. I didn’t realise how much money was in it. I want other people to know that you can do what I’ve done, you don’t need these big deals and big recording studios. You don’t need it. If you’ve got a dream, you can do it,” he goes on, channelling some old-fashioned Yorkshire frugality into a hopeful message
Since its mutation out of the four-to-the-floor garage scene of the late-1990s, bassline has been treated as something of a curio by those outside of the North. The odd chart foray, or that fact that ‘Heartbroken’ is nailed on for a play everywhere from weddings to bar mitzvahs these days, hasn’t done much to shake snooty southern perceptions. While the success of fellow Bradfordians Bad Boy Chiller Crew has opened doors and record label cheque books, it remains to be seen whether minds have broadened with them.
But Marky B, with an entrepreneurial eye for detail, notes the capital is where most of his streams are coming from now. The scene’s instrumental-led side has boomed in recent years too, packing out festival tents summer-to-summer. In May, Marky played at Evian Christ’s Trance Party in Corsica Studios, the same place BBCC made their London debut in 2019. “I walked in and I thought, ‘What on earth is this?’” he says, laughing. “I thought, ‘This just isn’t my scene whatsoever.’” He almost walked out. “But I went on, did my thing, and everyone loved it. It was crazy.”
Meanwhile, A&Rs are placing bets on the next big thing to come out of Bradford. Marky's had offers from Sony and NQ (“I turned them all down. They just want my money, y’know what I mean?”), and is currently working his way out of a distribution deal with Amuse. His sights are firmly set on independence — leaving the majors to parachute drill rappers onto organ house beats. He cites Central Cee as an act who’s managed to navigate the industry’s new economy to his own end, and the likes of Tom Zanetti and Silky who’ve built their own mini empires before signing. Time and talent are on his side. He’s teaching himself to produce so he can foster a new generation when it comes around. “This music’s not gonna die out any time soon,” he says. Not if Marky B has anything to do with it anyway.
Will Pritchard is a freelance writer, follow him on Twitter