The rapper and TikTok star reflects on his viral videos and the power of music to transform lives, catalyse obsession and become a better person.
Stepz is running late. Having hunkered down in the studio for a recording session, the multifaceted rapper and comedian jumps on our Zoom call after a typically busy Monday morning. For a man with so many strings to his bow, he’s disarmingly nonchalant about keeping on top of them. “I’ve been working on my craft and making sure I do everything to the best of my ability,” he says, camera off. Despite boasting over three million followers on TikTok, and too many likes to mention, he’s bashful in our early interactions, cautiously answering the questions from behind a blank screen.
Currently in a period of musical hibernation, Stepz has been taking on board the comments of his fans to come back better than ever before. A self-confessed perfectionist, matters of betterment and creative development consistently come up in the conversation. “With art, you want to be able to release what you feel right,” he states philosophically, taking time to mull over his response. He’s in no rush to drop tracks that don’t live up to people’s expectations; improving on his clarity, the rising artist tells me, has become paramount to pushing his sound forward.
Stepz shouldn’t be so hard on himself. Music might have become his bread and butter, but since breaking the internet with viral dance videos, the uncompromising content creator has experienced a streak of acclaim. The numbers don’t lie; he’s one of the most successful entertainers in his field, and much of it is down to his natural relatability. One scroll, and inevitable rabbit hole, on his social media accounts greets you with the ‘POV’ comedy series, where he parodies the world around him with playful observational skits. Snappy dance routines and music snippets are other components of the formula that’s helped him achieve such virality.
His relationship with the internet hasn’t always been so propitious. The 21-year-old, born Samuel Agyei, deleted three YouTube accounts when he was younger, in fear those adolescent videos would be viewed by the rest of his class. If anything, Stepz saw secondary school as a character-building process; it helped him to understand people, rather than inform future career prospects. Of course, the opinions of content creators have changed dramatically over recent years. But back then, public shame outweighed any desire for the artist to pursue his budding YouTube career.
It was during this time that Stepz discovered his natural pen game. “I used to rap with my friends at school and they always used to say, “Stepz your flow is different, you should release music.” Endeared by their comments, the Croydon-born wordsmith remained hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. Like with everything he’s done until now, he wanted a career in music to be calculated and meaningful.
“I said originally that I was never going to release music; it just wasn’t me at the time.” So, what changed? “I started learning how to speak truthfully,” he explains, grateful for the eventual revelation. Plus, the dance videos weren’t earning him any money. “Someone needed to put their foot down, I couldn’t carry on earning £100 a month living in London.” Stepz still hasn’t turned his camera on, but you sense a wry smile growing across his face, as his thoughts digress to less prosperous times.
By the time he mustered up the courage to take music seriously, British rap was booming more than ever. The road rap renaissance was in full swing while new subgenres like UK drill had captured the imaginations of youths worldwide. Coming into the game with originality was always going to be difficult but the rapper knew his personality would breed new possibilities for the scene. ‘Eureka’, his debut single, was released with no manager or label backing; its success was built off the cultish following he’d formed online.
Prioritising aspirationalism and entrepreneurship, rather than the lyrical tropes of its time, Stepz proved to new-gen artists that you don’t need to rap about violence and street politics to be a success. “I’m Christian and so I want to influence people to go to heaven and do good in the world,” he says, signing off the answer with god’s grace.
“I don’t know if what I do is drill, but I feel like that’s the closest thing you could liken it to. When it comes to genre, I don’t really know what I do,” he shrugs. “That’s for the people to decide.” Stepz is right; his style is distinctive and difficult to pin down. Dropping his debut EP, ‘Step by Stepz’, in May, the four-track musical opus packs vibrant melodies and bright-eyed production that draws from all corners of Britain’s rap sphere. ‘Connect’ is a menacing highlight which sees him going toe to toe with grime legend D Double E, who brings all his lyrical idiosyncrasies to the table.
“I’m proud of the project, it’s taught me that not everything is meant to come at once,” the wordsmith says. A natural performer, what the EP did bring Stepz was his first headline show, at the revered O2 Islington Academy. Joining an illustrious list of acts, the venue is known for breaking artists on the cusp of greatness. Lyrical favourites like Central Cee, Meekz and even Tyler, The Creator have performed there before becoming the globally recognised stars they are today.
Watching on from behind the army of sweaty teens, rapping back the verses word-for-word, was Stepz’s mother, who’s a keen supporter of his creative avenues. Encouraging the budding artist to try new things, from a young age, Stepz had a supportive network of family and friends around him. “My mum trusts me. She believes whatever I decide to do [with my life] will work.” Persuading his father has proven more difficult, but no one can deny him the multidisciplinary achievements he’s received thus far.
Though his music has captured an effervescent energy until now, Stepz points to future releases being more introspective. The long-term vision is to encapsulate all aspects of his internationally adored personality. ‘Classy Tune’, a track being teased on TikTok without a release date, is a more serious Stepz. Fans are firing up the comment sections, begging for it to hit streaming services, but they’ll have to wait for an official announcement. As he explains: “Sometimes you need to bring something a bit different in order to move forward.”
Stepz acknowledges that not everyone will understand the new direction, but he knows it’s best for his growth as an artist. “I personally feel like I’ve gained a lot from trying to work on my craft recently”, he reinforces, forgetting the possible repercussions of experimentation and reminding himself of the bigger picture.
Outside of music, Stepz wants to take his acting to the next level. Having starred in adverts, the artist is determined to broaden his horizons and show more of the charisma everyone loves him for. Musicians becoming actors is nothing novel, but you wouldn’t put it past the rapper to make it work. Besides, he doesn’t see music as the only avenue that will help him achieve his goals. “I would say I’m an entertainer. It’s about being an artist; it’s about being a comedian; it’s about being an actor; it’s everything, to me.”