- Words Miki Hellerbach
- Photography THOMPSON
- Production Studio Notion
We speak to up-and-coming drill rapper S1, whose potent bars and flows are rising in people’s conciousness.
It’s not uncommon for rappers and artists that come from the streets to have a chip on their shoulder, giving them a competitive edge. Some chips, however, are ground down into cliff-like edges from the 10-tonne weight that they carry on their shoulders. Thus, it’s inspiring to see someone with this level of drive and determination prove themselves and their worth to the game of music. West London’s S1 embodies this motivated and hungry spirit. It’s a product of the long road he’s had to walk to get to where he is today.
S1’s come-up was through the drill scene with potent bars and flows that had a slow yet steady rise in people’s conciousness. In 2019 he dropped an elite single in “Pirate Swing” with his new label, Disturbing London. It hit differently and proved the burgeoning rapper is someone whose sound can’t be denied. While it had hardcore drill at its nucleus, the ‘swing’ was formed into a dance move by S1. This levelled up his sound.
S1 moved off the success of that record and just dropped his debut mixtape on Disturbing, ‘Split Personality’. The project has taken his sound to a new level beyond what “Pirate Swing” indicated. The lead single and most memorable and potent track from the album, “Sweeper”, shows S1 in a whole new vibe. Over a guitar sample and melodic trap beat, you hear him sing with distorted vocals in an enticing, harmonious energy. He glides over this type of instrumental, which previous to 2020, had not been truly heard before.
S1 still keeps elements of his drill roots throughout his debut, but the songs on half the record are still in the realm of “Sweeper.” This proves that there is way more to S1 than one might have previously expected. The ‘Split Personality’ title seems to not only represent the multiple sides of him as a human but the numerous possibilities with his sound. He is very literally split between melodic street autotune and hardcore drill. The mixtape is composed smartly to balance each of these elements into a complete body of work.
We spoke with S1 on everything from where he sees himself in the scope of the entire drill scene to sleepless nights in the studio and his “Real Pain”.
Why did you decide to become a musician and rapper? What sparked the dream?
I knew I had something these other so-called rappers don’t have. A real talent. I’m a real artist. From that, I clocked that it was go-time. No breaks.
Your singing voice and rapping voice are seismically different – is that a deliberate choice?
Of course it’s deliberate. That’s all me, you’d be surprised at how much autotune I actually use.
So you like Giggs’ “Walk In The Park” album. Which track from that record has had the biggest influence on you and why?
I wouldn’t say any tracks literally influence me but my favourites were “Let Em Av It” ft Tiny boost and “Pain Is The Essence” ft Dubz.
“Sweeper” goes hard and is different in that it features you you rapping over beats with guitars. What was your creative process like for this song?
I swear to god. My slat Chuckz said he made the beat couple of days beforehand, he literally played it, I just picked up the headphones and started playing around at the mic, that’s how I got the hook, “Pew Pew we gone slang it out, vroom vroom” I was literally just playing but it sounded dope, so we played on it and then yeah I freestyled the verses within 10minutes.
“Sweeper” is short for Street Sweeper as you say in the song. How does that term relate to you?
Where I’m from you either become a trap star or a rap star, locked up or dead. Then there’s the skreet sweeper. You see how Durkio be the voice of the skreets. Well I sweep ’em. I don’t get caught off guard. I’m in and out of the hood, I make sure my streets the same. My peoples good, well the peoples I fucks with, like slat I’ve moved out the hood but I still slide through you know and make sure the pattern is right and ma people straight; definition of street sweeper.
What role do you think you specifically have in the UK drill scene? What do you want to stand for as an artist?
The GOAT. And do you know why, it’s cos I made it cool to be yourself. I made it cool to dance and have that energy, I made it cool to really express yourself, these goofy ass rappers used to laugh and throw shade, they tried to draw me out on socials. Now they are all doing what once upon a time I was being slated for.
I got everyone using my aggressive adlibs stealing my flows. My words, all my shit. I AM THE GOAT. I AM THE KING OF DRILL.
Fuck the views and the plaques and all that chart stuff and all that media-based nonsense! THE DRILL SCENE IS MINE AND WILL ALWAYS BE MINE.
On “She Say” you rap “you say she love me I ask if she mean it?” Does this line stem from personal experience? How much of your music is autobiographical?
Everything I rap about I’ve either been through, seen or experienced it in some way.
But yeah that bar connects with me a bit too well. There is a real story behind that but that’s a story for another time. But every song off of my mixtape come from my soul. All my music is autobiographical. I don’t cap. And those who know me can tell you that.
Many rappers including yourself refer to themselves as rockstars – what does the term mean to you? Especially as you said you went from a Blockstar to a Rockstar?
Shiiiiii I went from being on the block swinging with my folks to being asked for pictures everywhere, I can’t even go to my local shop, I can’t go shopping how man used to, crazy female attention, all the shows, photoshoots all that stuff you know. All the late party nights, Turning up in studio, not sleeping for days, all that so-called fame stuff. Done it. Not all but some. People got to understand that people like me, we come from nothing to something and now we living good, we are not 100% there at the top yet, but we have enough to start feeling like rockstars.
You’ve previously said you’ve done everything on your own – do you take pride in independently growing your career and fan base? Or, in retrospect, would you have appreciated or benefitted from some help in getting where you are today?
Before I was signed I had the fan base, I had the clout, I had everything a label would want an artist to have upon signing. And man done that on my lonely!
Before I got signed I was going ham! Nobody to tame me. Of course, I’ve had help from my managers, but that wasn’t until a bit later when I joined Finesse, and what not but yeah apart from that, the come up is more then real.
One of your songs is titled “Real Pain,” what experiences inspired this song?
Real pain that I felt and was feeling at the time. I ain’t gone say what happened. But it was deep and fucked with me a lot, so I channelled it into my music, but just know the pain and story behind it ain’t no joke. But one day, I’m going to do a documentary and you are all going to feel the pain through watching and listening to my story. Trust me.
You have a so-called “Pirate Swing.” What makes the life of a pirate feel relatable to your own life?
Not going to lie, I have no connection to a pirate, I literally thought of how they waved flags and swords and made it into my own dance, cos you gotta swing like a pirate haha.