Madhat McGore might be wearing a top hat at the Church Street Hip Hop Night tonight (Friday) – so Mad Hatters might be the perfect place to catch him for the first time.
The MC, writer and producer’s work inspired Radio Scotland’s presenter Vic Galloway to coin the phrase "think Eminem meets Begbie from Trainspotting" after inviting Madhat in for a live session a few years back.
But Madhat’s been putting out classy, challenging work for well over a decade and along the way has bagged accolades like best hip hop award at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards in 2012.
For the Dalkeith talent, the first glimmer of what he wanted to do with his life, came early: "Since I heard Gangsta’s Paradise come on the radio, I picked up on it. And even dance music, I liked dance music, but it was the MCing that I liked – the rapping part.
"It’s different from singing, you can do a lot more and it allows you to do things that singing just can’t."
He got a helping hand in the early days.
"My mentor figure was a close friend called Riddlah he was four years older than me, but we started together. He had internet at his work so you could send tracks on and he would be saying ‘I think we should do this’.
"Later, I started doing my own thing, but we are still very much in touch – I was the best man at his wedding a couple of years ago."
"We were in a duo called Dark Rumors, we made quite a decent wee buzz within the Scottish hip hop scene. The content of what we were rapping about had grasped people’s attention, it made them listen, so we ended up being signed to a Glasgow imprint called Powercut Productions. So we went away and started working on our debut album.
"And, down to life, Riddlah was a bit busier than I was, instead of recording the Dark Rumors stuff, I started recording some solo stuff.
"Powercut heard that stuff and decided it would be good to put that out and I’ve continued from there."
Madhat is inspired by ..?
"Just life. I have always tried to rap about life and all the things I see, other music would influence us and even films."
And his home town also inspires – it’s why he would never move away.
"I’m based just outside Edinburgh, but I do a lot of trips to London – I work there quite a lot. I love it, it’s a totally different atmosphere. There’s a buzz and you are appreciated a lot more, but certainly I’d never move down there, I think it would kill it for me."
His album Unvarnished Scribbles came out in 2008 and his latest, The Theophilus Carter LP, on Edinburgh-based label Music Comes First.
"Theophilus Carter was the character the Mad Hatter was based on," Madhat informs you.
But Madhat has spread his wings further this year, invited to appear at the beginning of last month at a festival two and a half hours out of Paris.
"It's a three-week hip hop festival French pioneers on the hip hop scene and it was an amazing experience.
"And regardless of whether they invite me back next year or not, I’m going!
"French is a really powerful language for hip hop and rapping. And out there, everybody accepted it to a different extent than they do out here.
"Rap music here comes with different stereotypes – people that want to be American gangsters, sell drugs and . In France, they accept it and during a street party they had a big mat rolled out and there was break-dancers and 70-year-old men walking out of the pub drunk and going to join in.
"It was totally different. I think we could learn something from the French."
Ask Madhat about the way the Scottish hip hop community is evolving – with names like Stanley Odd and this year’s Scottish Album Of the Year nominated Hector Bizerk – and he says: "It’s getting bigger all the time and that’s a good thing.
"It is bringing a lot of exposure to what we are doing, but it has changed a lot.
"You mentioned the battle thing and I think it is also a lot more cliquey than it used to be and that’s a shame in a way.
"But it’s been changing a wee bit more hopefully. And I think people are picking up on it. Some people have put out some diss tracks recently, expecting one reaction, but they’ve got another – a totally negative reaction to what they have done. I hope that’s the tables turning back to the way they were, cos we all need to support each other. We’re such a small country, so hopefully that is changing."
A while back, one of the Scottish daily tabloids christened Madhat "Scotland’s top rapper?" Had it been a boost or not?
He said: "It makes you want to continue what you are doing and improve yourself. That title has hung about me for a while now – I’m proud of that, I’m really proud of that.
"That was when I had signed to new label Music Comes First.
"The media picked up on that and put me on that pedestal.
"I think being down in London a lot has helped as well because I’m one of the only people to have branched out.
"I think on the Scottish scene, a lot of people are happy to make music for themselves and for their friends. Not that I don’t do that, but down south they have a massive scene and people get number ones in the charts. Working down there, I want to bring a wee bit of light up to Scotland and in the process of doing that, a lot of people have caught on, BBC Radio One Extra, Charlie Sloth. That all helps me keep it going."
Ask Madhat about radio equivalents in Scotland and he talks about a Saturday night community show called The Tempo Of Hip Hop (https://www.facebook.com/templeofhiphopradio), presented by Steg G who will be returning to the Church Street hip hop night on Friday.
"That’s a big platform for artists to get their stuff played. There’s one starting through here in Edinburgh on a Monday night on Radio Saltire called The Hip Hop Chess Box, presented by my engineer Jigs (http://radiosaltire.org/presenters/jigz-madhat-hip-hop-chess-box/). And there’s BBC Introducing, they are supportive, Ally McCrae and producer Muslim Alim."
The chance to see Madhat in the North of Scotland on Friday is a rare one, but he would like to play up here more often.
"When they put Babblin out, maybe I’ll do a wee tour," he said.
But you might be better to catch Madhat tonight, while you can ..."
Ask him when Babblin WILL be out.
Madhat just laughs: "No chance!"
But he is happy to salute his arrival at Mad Hatters in a special and appropriate Madhat way...
"I’ve got quite a lot of hats, I’ve just liked them since I was young. It probably started one summer when my mum got me a cap for the sun and I just loved wearing a hat from then on. And got more hats!"
So he's likely to be the man in the top hat ...
The Church Street Hip Hop night tonight (Friday) line-up is: Madhat, Mog and Steg G, Mistah Bohze and MC Epic, Sherbit, Janski, KD, King Brude, Mathman, Paul Scott and DJ Butterscotch. Follow Madhat on Twitter: @Madhat_mcgore and like on: facebook.com/Madhat McGore