Carlisle’s rap scene is growing. But it’s still small enough for much of it to fit in a Denton Holme living room and leave a few spare seats.

Some people may be surprised to learn that Carlisle has a rap scene, even if its main players currently number just three. Paul Carr, 30, is an IT engineer. Kamuran James, 25, owns a catering business. Dale Edge, 24, is a bartender.

All have other names and other lives. Paul is DJ Ruptcha. Kamuran is Lil Sago: his grandad’s nickname is Sago. Dale is Don Dazzle. (Nice name, Dale).

Paul comes across as down-to-earth, Dale upbeat and Kamuran more intense. They met through Facebook five months ago and have performed and recorded together. Paul creates the beats. Kamuran and Dale rap over his soundtrack.

This kind of music, with its fast-talking blend of anger and humour, is associated with gritty big cities rather than Cumbria.

Dale moved to Carlisle from London two years ago. Last September he hosted the city’s first rap live show, or cypher as it’s known in the trade. This featured artists from across the county and helped to encourage the feeling that rap can thrive here.

“Carlisle doesn’t respond well to new things,” says Paul. “There’s a lot of people that want to do it. They’ll do it in their bedrooms but not on stage.”

“I don’t think there’s enough people that think it’s possible,” says Kamuran. “’I’m from Carlisle. How can I do it?’ A lot of people have said that to me. I didn’t choose to be born in Carlisle. It’s an accident of birth. It shouldn’t change if I can be an artist.”

Growing up in Carlisle provided fuel for Kamuran’s fire. His lyrics include “I run the town. I’m not white, I’m not black, I’m brown.”

“I got bullied a lot at secondary school,” he says. “I was the only non-white kid. Me doing this now is to let this anger out into rap. It’s left a big imprint on me, on where my lyrics come from. It’s my way to say ‘Yeah - look at me now. I’m happy you doubted me. Thank you.’”

Paul has sensed another, less serious, form of racial discrimination. “A big thing we have up here is ‘You’re not black so you can’t rap.’”

Kamuran describes rap as an alternative universe and Lil Sago as an alter ego. “It’s an expression for problems and issues. It is mainly a release. My feelings are speaking instead of me speaking.”

“It’s about getting stuff off your chest,” agrees Dale. “When I came up here there was no rap scene. Even with it being a small city, I can imagine a scene because it is very popular up here at the moment.”

“People like rap here but they don’t want to be seen as ‘the rapper’,” says Kamuran. “I realised I could maybe create a career out of it. I did a year at college in Manchester. I decided to come back to Carlisle. In a small place I can be a big fish in a small pond. Carlisle’s a good place to build a following.”

He doesn’t speak, or rap, in a Carlisle accent. “I’ve got a unique accent. Manchester, Birmingham. I try and blend the Carlisle accent as well as I can but it sounds awful in a rap. It’s not a marketable accent.”

Sadly, Kamuran is probably correct. Best of luck to anyone who tries rapping about gadgies and peeving.

He and Dale stand at the microphone as Paul plays some beats. Dale speaks quickly, eyes closed like he’s in a trance.

“Back then, yeah, things were mental. Now I drink Earl Grey tea with lentil. It was sofa sleeping, Ying Yang sensual, me and a North Korean girl got sexual.”

Later he explains: “Those lines stem from when I was sleeping on friends’ sofas down south. The night I spent with her was the night I realised I needed to take control of my life.

“Pretty much everything I write or record is autobiographical. Sometimes I’ll pick a specific subject and write about that but it always leads back to my own influences. It’s very much a ‘product of your environment’ art form.

“The feeling of telling a story and people appreciating it and wanting to hear more - that’s a great feeling. You might grow up with the feeling that you’re not shown attention. When someone finally does, it motivates you.”

He and Kamuran take turns at the mike, both impressively able to perform on demand. It’s a commercial sound, easy to imagine being heard far beyond Cumbria.

They’re on their best behaviour today, being filmed for the News & Star website. There is a darkness to some of their other work, with swearing and what might be described as adult themes.

Rap does not tend to be family-friendly, largely due to its association with gang culture. Kamuran feels it’s unfair to blame rappers for violence which its listeners might commit.

“It’s like watching a Quentin Tarantino film and saying he’s encouraging murder because it’s in his films. I might say ‘I’m killing it’, but I’m not a killer. I might say on the mike ‘This is a war. With my music I will kill you.’ I mean, I will get rich and happy.

“I don’t want to get physical. I would say rap is quite a civilised way of dealing with problems rather than violence. A lot of rappers are on the opposite side to gang culture.”

Kamuran stresses that it’s possible to write about things he hasn’t experienced himself. “That guy who painted the melting clock. What was his name?”

“Salvador Dali,” says Paul.

“He ain’t got a melting clock, but he drew it,” says Kamuran.

The three pose for photos in a nearby back lane, trying to look serious and sometimes cracking up with laughter.

Back inside, Kamuran says: “Just get ready for it. We’re going to be the first people to professionally do this in Carlisle.”

The three are planning an album under the name C3REE and are keen for more people to become involved in the local scene. Paul says: “We’re on all the major streaming platforms. We’ve got songs and videos ready to go. We want to have commercial appeal so that everyone can listen to it.”

“I love to try and make people think,” says Dale.

“At the same time it’s nice to make people dance,” adds Kamuran.

He mentions trying to make his music appeal to a wide audience, hence some of his songs being about love. “Everyone experiences love,” he says.

It’s then you realise that while these men may be Cumbria’s first rappers, they are following in a very long line of Cumbrian poets.

n Don Dazzle and Lil Sago are among the artists performing at Club Concrete, Carlisle, on Friday April 26.

To contact them email