Winning rapper inspired by loss of friend

James Duncan, aka Skinny Malinky, left, with friend and mentor MC Dufsta of V2B Heart. Picture: contributed
James Duncan, aka Skinny Malinky, left, with friend and mentor MC Dufsta of V2B Heart. Picture: contributed
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A rapper who first discovered his talents as he tried to deal with the tragic death of a close friend has triumphed in a major competition.

James Duncan, 28, aka Skinny Malinky, started rapping following the suicide of a friend more than a decade ago.

And now, despite having just days to prepare, he has come out on top in a major rap-battle hosted by DJ Tim Westwood.

James admitted the rap challenge held in City Nightclub last Friday was also the first time he had performed at such a large event.

But that didn’t stop him from beating seven other competitors and taking the top spot – and a pat on the back from rap and hip hop aficionado Tim Westwood.

James, who lives in Drumbrae, said: “It was my first big competition and I only found out about it with seven days to go, so it was a bit nerve-wracking. I still can’t believe I won. Tim Westwood was really nice, he congratulated me on ‘doing my thing’ afterwards.”

While James is now riding high on his first big success, he first discovered his gift for writing under heartbreaking circumstances.

“When I was 17 a friend of mine committed suicide. It was a really awful, sad time. I wrote a poem for his mother to be read at the funeral and it was in doing that that I realised I could put words together well.

“I did do a couple of performances after that but I felt I needed a bit more time to perfect my own style. Also, back then if you were a white guy rapping everyone just immediately thought you were trying to be Eminem, and the thought of someone rapping with a Scottish accent was treated as a bit of a joke. But the rap and hip hop scene has moved on a lot since then, and groups like Stanley Odd, who are also from Edinburgh, have really helped break down barriers.”

James, who chose the name Skinny Malinky because he remembers his grandfather singing the famous song to him as a child, began performing again two years ago and his career is going from strength to strength with the help of Edinburgh-based label V2D Heart.

“They’re great to work with and so supportive,” he said.

And his label is also very pleased with its protégé.

Manager Carlito Mitchellotto said: “We’re so proud of Skinny for having done so well in the contest, especially when faced with such talented rivals.”