From rap-battling teachers to contemporary footie fanboys, this is the tip of the London subculture iceberg.

From rap-battling teachers to contemporary footie fanboys, this is the tip of the London subculture iceberg.

London has long been a breeding ground for subversive and original subcultural scenes that take life in its gnarly streets and spread influence to every youthful corner of the globe.

We’ve had the opportunity to document some of these homegrown communities for the last eight years and here we’ve pulled together some of the most iconic scenes that continue to dominate the underground.

When Irish photographer Niall O’Brien started documenting a group of kids he met on Camden High Street one afternoon in the mid-noughties he began a body of work that made everyone feel nostalgic about their wasted youth. Good Rats – a five-year project about a group of roaming renegades from Kingston, South-West London – recalled the subversiveness and intimacy of raw doc legends like Nan Goldin and Larry Clark and proved that fringes of society still exist if you care to look. “These kids are not fashion punks,” said Niall when we interviewed him in 2010. “They live and breathe it but in a way that’s so unconscious and understated. They just don’t give a shit. They don’t care about anything. They couldn’t be arsed to go to a punk gig. They’d rather spend the money on cans of beer… and that’s pretty punk in itself.”

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Rap Battles
Forget the beat-heavy scenes you saw in 8 Mile: rap battles are nothing like they used to be. For Issue 31 HUCK went inside the world of the battle leagues, and met the fast-spitting, shit-talking comedic emcees who come armed with words and ready for war. Rowan Faife, better known as Eurgh, and his organisation Don’t Flop are at the London centre of a worldwide collection of leagues – others include Grind Time Now in the US, King Of The Dot in Canada and Got Beef? in Australia. They all operate the same way, and they all command a collective, online audience of millions. Top battlers aren’t just local heroes – they’re global superstars namedropped by obsessives like rare bird sightings. A couple of years ago Don’t Flop got catapulted into the mainstream when this teacher-student face-off went viral.

Bike Polo
Don’t let the name fool you. Hardcourt bike polo might call to mind a certain princely sport invented in Persia around 600BC but the urban bike-lovers who take part in London’s version of the reclaimed sport are anything but twee. With its distinctively urban context, hardcourt polo shares more common ground with hip hop, that Bronx-born movement that owes its existence to a confluence of deprivation, ingenuity and improvisation. Cycle couriers are credited with the birth of hardcourt polo, and it’s not hard to see why. The skill-sets they’ve honed to navigate the urban environment (tight turns, stopping on a dime, standing still while poised on pedals and steering through miniscule gaps) are perfectly suited to this modern manifestation of the game. London Hardcourt Bike Polo is the organisation responsible for most of the tournaments in the UK and you can follow them on their Facebook.


Football itself – the ubiquitous world sport that unites as rampantly as it divides – is no subculture but the weird and wonderful fans that rally around to support it are a breed unto themselves. Things started to get pretty granular in the 1980s when the dreams and imaginations of a whole generation were wrought in Deerstalkers and Borg Elites. Club-based battalions were populated by everyone from kids in care to junior City Boys; souped-up Soho mincers to displaced pikeys from the edges of the fens; scouse shoplifters to Borough lads who could never afford the clobber but were mad for it anyway. To show a more deeper, immersive look at footie fan culture in the run up to the 2014 World Cup, Budweiser are hosting local community events – in five international cities – around the World Cup Draw to reveal the fans’ experience of the contemporary scene. What are their dreams and nightmares pre-draw? What are their gut reactions post-draw? And how does the fan culture of different nations compare? First up is this dispatch from our rad capital.

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