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Taking rap out of the ghetto Steg G and the Freestyle Master have supported 50 Cent and run their own hip-hop label. But it's more than making records. By Beth Pearson

A sunny day. Blossom on the trees. People chatting in the street, some in shorts. Eminem drifting from the open window of a first-floor flat. A lid-less, half-filled bottle of Coke flying 20ft in the air towards electric fencing.

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A crisp smash as someone drops a glass from a third-floor flat. Spring is indeed upon Govan.

Glasgow hip-hop outfit Steg G, aka Steven Gilfoyle, and the Freestyle Master, Davie Mulhearn, survey Steg's adopted home, between bumping into friends and humouring local kids who ask what they are having their photo taken for. "Crimewatch, " deadpans Freestyle Master (FM), before asking if they've heard his new record. They haven't. Steg tells them it's called Schemes and if they drop into Sunny Govan community radio, where he works, he'll give them a copy. There's a slight air of reverence; perhaps the kids know Steg and FM have supported 50 Cent in front of a 10,000-strong crowd.

Govan is no scheme, of course, but the track is part of their wider ethos of defending working-class youth culture, which began with the release of Anti-Social Behaviour. "We're looking at the young people and hoping that those tracks are going to make them go 'that's my house on a Saturday night' " says Steg, 32. "I want them to think 'my life's valid now because people are expressing it through their art'. Not just looking at it Karen Dunbar-style."

They expect kids from Easterhouse to Castlemilk to identify with the track, sample lyric: "Let's take a walk through the closes and the high flats/where none of us can play baseball but we all buy bats", but it's also receiving radio play in Brighton. "The good thing about Schemes is, we're the first people to laugh at ourselves, " says FM, 29. "It's not all doom and gloom as some people try to paint it. That's why the song's upbeat because it is a pride in what we've got. Hopefully people can take it as an anthem."

Steg and FM are both from Carnwadric on the south side of Glasgow, where FM still lives. ("You need to mention that, I'll never be forgiven.") It was developed as a housing scheme in the 1920s, with five high-rise blocks added in the 1960s. FM's uncle had a bar there, which starred in an edition of the Cook Report, "this was like for gangster stuff, but it was fabricated", says his nephew.

They're hazy about the more colourful aspects of their own pasts - "We've all got backgrounds . . . See what used to go on up there? Crazy, man" - but that's partly because they're still trying to escape it. This makes for an ambiguous relationship with the places they're trying to document.

"It's a culture, scheme-dwelling, to be admired and not looked down upon, " says Steg. "They're stereotyped to be neds, but really they're survivors [indeed, the pair's forthcoming album is called Natural Selection]. They're living on GBP80 a week, cutting up powercards to make two, and really clever at doing it. They don't want to fight or take drugs, but they've grandfathers who never had a job, fathers who never had a job. That culture's in them. Although: get your shit and get the hell out the scheme, you know? Nobody wants to be sitting in the scheme if you've made all your money. Be a role model. Get out."

Steg and FM's route out has been hip hop. Both got into it as soon as the fledgling New York scene reached the UK in the mid-eighties. FM started breakdancing at primary school and tried graffiti, later settling on rapping. Steg saw breakdancing in hip-hop videos, thought to himself "that's tremendous" and "various tubes of Ralgex later" could do it himself. Once his body began to object to spinning on its head, he got into DJing instead. Both believe it stopped them being angry about the situation they were born into and instead made them do something about it.

"It was really positive because we were looking at guys who were in a similar situation to us, " says FM, who recently visited the Queens borough of New York and, despite being completely intimidated by the experience, found it confirmed this early sense of identification. "That in itself meant I wasn't angry because I had something else to channel it into. There are a lot of angry people around here and sometimes you can't fault them, but sometimes they need to take it upon themselves to get out of the situation."

The odds were against them, of course. When FM went to see his careers advisor at secondary school, he explained his passion for hip hop. "They said 'no problem - here's a form for the CITB (Construction Industry Training Board)', " he says, with a residual sting of injustice. "I'm a timeserved tiler, right, I've got my trade, but at the same time, I could have pursued something else. I failed craft and design, for crying out loud, and I ended up a tiler."

As Steg says "sometimes you need to cop the flack" and in many ways they still are. When last year FM won a national rap battle competition live on BBC1 Extra, he received a muted reception from those who had previously supported him. "This newspaper had said to me 'phone us up if you win it' so I phoned them up and they said 'congratulations' then put the phone down on me, " he says. He wrote to the paper and said he knew it was because they were only interested in negative stories about "someone who looks like a ned".

Yet the pair remain positive. Their record label, Powercut Productions, has a small roster of local artists and receives four or five demos each week. It's a very small operation, with extremely limited resources, but they make sure it is a role model for young people. As Steg says, "each one, teach one - it's no just about making records".

This can be through DJ and rap workshops in schools (they mention one workshop where an autistic boy, who never spoke in class, amazed teachers by approaching them after the class had finished to rap a two-line rhyme), but they also have an ongoing one-to-one project in 17-year-old Craig Daley, aka Cad. Four years ago, he sent Powercut Productions a demo that impressed Steg and FM. Then FM noticed he lived round the corner. They met, and he was signed-up. He's been working on his rapping ever since.

"I found their website and I was already into hip hop and they're the top kind of guys, " he says, appearing to be a quiet sort. "I wanted to be like them. My CD was a bit rough around the edges but they seen the potential and that's all I've been doing since. It gets folk like me out of trouble. They help people."

Cad had been behaving disruptively, as the expression goes, getting into fights all the time. "I didn't have to but, " he says. "My area's not too bad, but you just do it to pass the time. But everything changed. They're definitely role models. The track, Schemes, I think everyone in Glasgow can relate to that. If they come from bad areas, know people who come from bad areas or want to find out about bad areas."

Cad's debut, the Steg-produced Badlands EP, will be released in autumn and he leaves school this summer. He doesn't know what he wants to do, but Steg and FM are encouraging him to go to university. If he goes, he'll be the first in his family to do so - his father is a janitor and mother a dinner lady - but he doesn't know what he'd study. "Music is a possibility, " he says, when pushed for an answer. When I contact him a few days later, he tells me he has a place at the business school at Strathclyde University.

I ask Steg about his charge. "He's a moany b******, which keeps us on our toes, " he says. "Cad's got so many advantages on where we were at his age. His growth through hip hop will be accelerated because of that.We're fast-tracking him. He's not made a dime out of us yet, but he's had the life experience that's pure value to him."

He uses the term fast-tracking ironically, of course. Theirs is not a conventional business. As Steg says "I'm no Sony; I'm a guy who sells a couple of thousand records out the back of a motor". That said, they have plans to visit New York again soon, to take on the hip hop establishment, and have just signed an Edinburgh band called Dark Rumours. "There's not enough time in the day, " says Steg. "Photo shoots, interviews, glamour . . ." I jest. "If only, " says FM. "Court dates."

"The court dates we try to stay away from, " says Steg, then he pauses to adopt an earnest tone of voice. "Hopefully people will be encouraged by what we've done, " he says. "Although, we've done **** all, to be quite honest. Well, sometimes it feels like we've done **** all, then sometimes you look at where we came from and it feels like we've done a lot."

Schemes is out now on Powercut Productions, www. powercutproductions. com.

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