A terminally ill Scots producer has set up a record label, bringing together some of the UK’s best rappers and beat creators.
There has been a huge outpouring of love for the brave and positive way Del Soulcondor has dealt with mouth cancer.
A former member of Ayrshire crew All Time High, his real name is Derek Grayston and he’s from Stevenston. He created and runs Soulcondor Slices from his hospice bed.
He has brought his heroes together for four tracks he’s pressed on 7in vinyl and all have sold out. He’s also been sent messages from his heroes – including Goldie, Craig Charles and Chubb Rock.
When did you find out you had cancer?
July 11, 2020. I had white patches in my mouth for over 20 years but had always had them checked out via biopsy saying it was leukoplakia, a form of irritation but can be the start of cells changing due to lifestyle habits like alcohol or smoking . Last year there was what looked like another ulcer on the inside of my jaw near the floor of my mouth but I had a bad feeling . So it was back to Crosshouse Hospital via my dentist. I knew it wasn’t right and was proven right a biopsy came back as mouth cancer two weeks later. I was devastated. . I suffered mentally from all the worrying from diagnosis until my massive 12 hour surgery in the middle of November. It was a hard, dark time. My surgery included tracheostomy , removing my bottom teeth, removing half of my gums, cutting jaw bone down, removing floor of mouth and underside of tongue. My mouth was all patched in by a flap and vein that was taken from my wrist and that was then patched by graft from my thigh. Horrible . .I also had a neck dissection where they tried to remove as many lymph nodes as possible to try and stop it spreading and I also had skin graft on leg to patch wrist back in . I was back in the Queen Elizabeth in Glasgow for five weeks – a lot of which was in intensive care. But they didn’t get it all and I was told I needed six weeks chemo at the Beatson in Glasgow starting early January. In the meantime the hospital removed another seven teeth.
Please everyone keep an eye on your mouth for any changes , strange lumps or bumps , white or red patches, please get checked out as mouth cancer is messy and disfiguring. I have been told I’m the equivalent of someone who’s been in a car crash due to what the cancer has done to my neck.
In the seven weeks between surgery and starting radiotherapy another lump appeared on my jaw on same side as surgery. I was told this would be checked at Beatson which came back as another 2cm tumour. So they changed the fields of the radiotherapy in the hope off catching this tumour. I started chemo that night and started my six weeks radiotherapy . Travelling up and down every day thanks to the brilliant volunteer drivers at Ayrshire Cancer Care. That was a horrible painful six weeks of getting my mouth pure blitzed to bits . I suffered it out then had to wait 12 weeks to let all swelling and scar tissue go down before going to next scan.
Back at Crosshouse there was more bad news. The cancer was back and spreading. It was back in my mouth and face in the same area but had also moved into the vertebrae in my neck and it was in the lymph nodes in the opposite side of my neck. Nightmare.
I met my surgeon a week later for his outlook……. incurable……. wow… no more he could do. They were sending me back to Beatson to try immunotherapy to see if it could at least hold it at bay so I started that and had three sessions over six weeks. At the start I felt good and was walking 10. miles a day with my mum but then my neck started to get really sore. Basically I went from walking 10 miles a day to being bead bound the next day.
Back at the Beatson my consultant decided the immunotherapy wasn’t working either and the cancer was crushing my vertebrae causing them to break and endangering my spinal column. By this time i couldn’t stand up for longer than two or three minutes and couldn’t sit. All treatments were stopped and I was moved to Ayrshire Hospice where I’ve been ever since. I won’t get home. But the care I’m getting from the staff in here is incredible .I’ve since had a horrible year with nothing but bad news and unsuccessful treatments.
Why did you decide to release the music?
Before my surgery I had a lovely random video message on twitter from a singer called Greg Blackman saying he had heard about my illness and would I like a free download of his album GB4? I said yes and also bought it on vinyl. I told him I was going to sell my 4000-plus vinyl collection because I wasn’t able to work and it prompted him to come up with a hook for a song, Save the Wax, about saving my vinyl collection. I asked DJ Moneyshot from the Allergies to cook us up a nice beat. I got Genesis Elijah to do another verse and Bohze, a legendary Glaswegian rapper/producer from old school rap trio II Tone Committee to do another verse. It was amazing and I knew I had to do something with it so decided to release it on 7″ vinyl. I approached one of my favourite recent Scottish production duos called the Jazz Spastiks, who make music so far up my street its unbelievable , and they said yes in a heartbeat. They had remix with me before I was even out hospital. I came up with my label’s name Soulcondor Slices and record 001 was born. I sold out the 300 run in a few days.
Tell us about record release 003 – F*** Cancer. How important to get how you felt out there?
It was very important to get that out there. It’s an audio attack on the horrible disease that’s disabled me and going to take my life. I’m extremely proud of the line up on that track , wow , DJ Nappa , Chrome , Phill most Chill , Blade and Specific….. that’s an all star line up. The strangest thing was when I asked Chrome to feat on the track he said straight away and I found out he’d lost his sister to cancer and almost his brother. He thanked me as he had been looking for a chance to write that verse for ages but never got the chance …… till now. The b side of this one is something kinda different by amazing DJ/production crew the Cut Beetlez from Finland with a quite slow guitar and raps by American Dopamine 189. It sold out in three days.
How did you get into rap?
The first song I remember hitting me like a ton of bricks back in 1982 was Kraftwerk’s The Model which is still a fav to this day, pure love it. Then in late primary school I remember a distinct period of being into heavy metal like Iron Maiden and Twisted Sister.But my natural love for rap music / hip hop culture was always bubbling away in the background. Any song I heard in the charts that was sample based or involved sampled drums or a few scratches always caught my attention. I remember buying Run DMC’s Raising Hell on vinyl from Woolworths in Saltcoats in early 87. when I was nearly 12. Then in secondary school there was a girl in my class whose big brother was into rap and she made up some tapes for me – Big Daddy Kane’s first 2 albums , Schoolly Ds Am I Black Enough For You and Ice T’s The Iceberg. I still remember boys at school slagging me off for being into rap at school. But here I am loving it even more 34 years later.
You found success with Scottish hip hop All Time High. How was that?
I think we were slightly different to what was going on in Scotland in the late 90s because we were bringing our west Coast three towns [Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston] patter and attitude. Giz was a top MC and influenced a lot of Scots rappers. We laid the foundations for a successful future scene but we weren’t alone. I know an awful lot of people liked us as a crew and we got to feature on DJ NubMark from Jurassic 5s Hands On mix cd next to some of the biggest artists in the world , we got to support J5 at the Corn Exchange in Edinburgh in front of 3000 fans, supported loads of US artists , did a Radio 1 Live Lounge and made three great albums. I joined in 1999 and left in 2005. I’m still friends with Giz and Taj online but I need to shout out DJ Krashslaughta who has been amazing with me during my illness – Always there, always in touch , always wanting to help and still involved in the music I’m releasing.
Tell us about Del Soulcondor?
I actually have Empress to thank for kick starting me into doing my debut album, Super Dynamite Soul . She asked me to do a beat and i said yes……and didn’t stop until I had an album. My name comes from a song on a breaks album called Nuggets of Funk. There was a song on there by a group called Certain Lions And Tigers called El Soulcondor and I kept going back to it , time and time again. It became a fav song and I later decided that’s it, that’s my name “ Soulcondor “ ideal.”
Has having cancer made you want to do Soulcondor Slices?
Yes, having this illness has defo been a kick up the arse and since making the decision to put the label together its defo been full steam ahead , no messing around. As well as five digital tracks and four vinyl releases we’ve released posters, sticks and 100 amazing Save the Wax t-shirts, a combo project between Glasgow artist Pandah and t shirt company 1 of 100. which sold out in four days. I also want to thank Tim Guiheen who started up a go fund me for me last year when I was mentall unwell and not working. Everyone whodonated thnak you so much.
What does it mean seeing your rap heroes wishing you well?
It’s a real lift. The hip hop community in the UK and US have really rallied around to support me which feels crazy being a wee guy from Stevenston. The biggest buzz i think has been rapper Evidence from LA who was in crew Dilated Peoples but is now one of my favourite solo artists reaching out to me. It’s been great connecting with homegrown artists I’ve looked up to for years like the Task Force lads or speaking for an hour on the phone with Blade. What a scene filled with amazing people helping to make my dreams come true while I still can.
The latest tracks, 005, which are out digitally Flight of the Condor and Final Flight of the Condor are a tribute to you. What a feeling?
It seems that me releasing music during my illnesss is inspiring people in some way as i see the word inspiration on my social media many times a day. It’s brilliant but I’m just trying to put out as many nice records as I can while I can. And it’s hard to stop. Flight of the Condor came about because I’m a big fan of UK artist Uncle Mic Nitros and asked him to feature on F*** Cancer but he said no as he had no close experience with it. But he started writing something based on reading my health story online. He let me hear it it was sounding amazing so I asked DJ Nappa of Phi-Life Cypher fame for a beat. and DJ Mr Thing has done the scratches The b side Final Flight of the Condor is DJ Nappa’s beat with my old All Time High crew member DJ Krashslaughta cutting up beautiful,sublime scratches of my name . It’s very moving.
To get 005 on vinyl, release 006 and do a proper release of my 2006 album Super Dynamite Soul. I only pressed 50 copies and while the album went down a storm I never really acted upon it. So I’m going to release it properly on CD rather than vinyl. The tracks have been remastered by a friend called Rola and hopefully will be available soon.
You wanted to thank people?
Dave Roberts , Tim Guiheen , Oh Pandah , 1 of 100 t shirts, Greg Blackman , DJ Moneyshot, Genesis Elijah, Bohze , Jazz Spastiks , Phill Most Chill , Mr Brown , Mac Mcraw, DJ Nappa, Chrome, Blade , Specifik , Mr Fantastic , Hosie, Rola , Mr Krum , Cut Beetlez , Dopamine 189, DJ Zeeny , Respek BA , DJ Mr Thing , Soundsci , Mak One and No Sleep Nigel , the UK and US rap community for coming together and sending me all those amazing videos and keeping my spirits up , Kyle Meldrum, George Kelly, Dean Wilton and John Simpson. And most of all sending all my love to my mum , my sister my daughter , my nephews and brother in law and just my full extended family. Thank you so much for lifts to hospitals, bringing my mum to visit, keeping my chin up, just for everything . I love yous all very much. Thanks.
Check out Soulcondor Slice’s tracks – including latest tunes Flight of the Condor/ Final Flight of the Condor – at soundcloud.com/soulcondorslices
● Check out Del’s physical releases at freshpressings.bigcartel.com/