You said you’ve had the whole project done for about a year now, how come you’ve waited this long to put it out?
It took this long because I knew how important it was to me and I wanted to put it out right and I had to go through a lot of industry pricks about this project and a lot of people that didn’t understand it. I’m at that point where I’m not going to do that again, I was saying earlier you come in so humble and revealing and open, and you keep getting crushed and crushed. You’re putting your heart into it, and that’s why I’ve had it for so long because I was like: ‘Yoo I’ve got this piece of art, my community will love this, my people will love this’. You’re trying to sell it, but no-one’s buying it because they’re not from where you’re from. They’re not walking the places I’m walking, I had to remember, they’re just people in an office, they haven’t stepped on these Tottenham highroads or Hackney highroads or Brixton highroads like I have. I had to wash that all off and get to a place where I only have real people around me who want to push my music.
There’s a narrative the industry is pushing that it’s become easier to talk about the realities of growing up black in London, but from what you’re saying that doesn’t seem to be entirely true.
There’s a lot of great black people making money and feeding their families, and I’m happy for them, but there’s also people like myself who don’t wanna do it for the money or whatever. Money fuels me to go studio or whatever, I have to eat, but my main thing is for the generation after, I have a responsibility to help that and nurture that and if they keep hearing these songs on the radio they’re not going to feel like they can be different. They’re going to keep following the same pattern that’s been happening, which isn’t fair. They need to have another narrative.
When I was growing up I had different music to listen to; it wasn’t just one thing. I feel like now there’s one narrative being pushed and if you’re not doing that sound then you’re not in, it’s afrobeats, it’s drill, and it was grime. It’s like ‘yo there are other people pushing something totally different that’s just as important’.
There’s a lot of debate at the moment about that – the narratives and the impact that they have on young people especially with drill, do you have an opinion on any of that?
I think it’s an easy cop-out for people to say… these people are talking about real life stuff, it’s just their versions. Maybe the media hasn’t heard another version, like myself or Kojey Radical. That’s why the media wants to throw it at drill, they need another sound, like ‘this is happening, but this is how we’re looking at it’. [Drill rappers] are going through it, but we’re going through it as well, only we see it differently. Luckily enough I didn’t have to sell drugs or kill anyone, I was able to live my life,. I still saw it around me, but I saw it from behind the wall. I saw it from the inside as well, I’ve never said this an interview but my dad’s open [about it], my dad was a drug dealer you know, my mum had me at seventeen. I’ve seen real things, so those things made me who I am, I know that it’s not glitz and glamour, I know that it’s bullshit, I know that it’s hurting people out here. Some of these kids might not know, they might find it fun, but it’s not fun when you’re seeing it inside your house.
You mentioned Kojey, do you feel part of a wider thing that’s going on with artist like Kojey Radical, 808ink etc.?
Those are my peers; we’re billed on the same line-ups and stuff, so it turns into those things, it makes sense to put us together. We have similar stories, but it’s very different as well. People coming from different angles but it’s easy to group us together.
How a lot of people might know you is through your association with Mike Skinner and Tonga, how did you first get involved with them?
Mike reached out to me on Twitter and I couldn’t believe it. He was using the DOT account when he was doing the DOT stuff, he emailed me as well and just said ‘let’s meet up’. When I was going to the meeting I was like ‘it’s going to be some next guy there, it’s not gonna be Mike Skinner’. From there he’s been a great mentor, he’s helped me out with mixing and mastering some of my songs, he put out a couple of my first singles, teaching me the game, he took me on tour, I’ve been everywhere in Europe, Ibiza, Copenhagen, Berlin, France. He’s shown me how to manoeuvre through the game so when my time comes I’ll know how do manoeuvre. I appreciate the whole Tonga gang, Murkage Dave, Clepto, Smith, Mista Silva, Teeth and Mike Skinner, of course, the boss.
One of your ongoing creative partnerships is with Taz Tron Delix; he does a lot of your videos. The two of you create a particular version of London together…
It’s just someone you find; nothing is a coincidence, it’s just like-mindedness. People coming together, creating art, that want to do things further than just for the money. When I first met Taz the first video we did for pennies, the three-part video I did from Recluse, again, was just pennies. It’s just kids that want to create and add to the world. We want to add; we don’t want to take away from it. Taz is a brilliant guy to work with.
I saw a video he did for someone and just saw something in him, like ‘if we take this and that and then add our elements to it it’ll be sick.’ He’ll tell you the same; he was waiting for an artist like myself to give him that creative freedom to do what he wants.