- Words Liam Cattermole
Settling into the driver's seat, we sit down with grime OG Skepta to discuss the 'F1 Tracks: Discovery' playlist, fashion week highlights and making a house record for Rihanna.
Skepta’s a difficult man to pin down at the best of times, let alone when he’s flying around Silverstone with F1 driver Lando Norris. Unfazed by the McClaren’s 240 MPH power, the self-confessed “speed demon” calls me fresh off the tarmac, having just filmed a hot lap alongside the racing star. “I wish I was driving” he says, seeking the adrenaline for himself, before making it known, “I’m a Rolls Royce man: The Wraith and the Phantom, I like that kind of energy.”
Staying in his own lane, over the past few years, Skepta’s kept fans on their toes. From Sotheby art displays to PUMA partnerships and J Balvin collaborations, the Tottenham native refuses to be restricted creatively, and why would he? Previous albums like the Mercury Prize-winning ‘Konnichiwa’ have left an indelible mark on British music and showcased grime to the world.
More recently, Skeppy’s become known for his house label Más Tiempo, which he started alongside fellow Boy Better Know member Jammer. Videos of his DC-10 debut flooded TikTok last summer, as the DJ made history in an environment even the most prestigious selectors find daunting. Nights in Miami and London followed, as did an official launch party at KOKO with Benji B, Kitty Amor and DJ Maximum.
Just months later, the duo shut down Arcadia at Glastonbury; Skepta and Jammer took to the explosive spider and revved up ravers with a set for the ages. Thousands bopped below to house classics like Ninetoes’ “Finder” and Más Tiempo’s latest release, “Touching My Body”, featuring Etta Bond.
Heads will remember the singer’s sultry vocals on ‘Blacklisted’, lending her voice to “Mastermind”, which many believe to be one of Skep’s best tracks to this day. Breaking through North London’s noise, and collaborating with some of the area’s biggest names, the singer-songwriter has become one of the capital’s go-to vocalists, making hits with Wretch 32 and A2, among others. Aligning with the artist once more, Skepta’s nominated Etta for the ‘F1 Tracks: Discovery’ playlist, an initiative dedicated to spotlighting emerging talent on the radar of global superstars.
We sat down with the multifaceted MC-producer-DJ to discuss the playlist, go-kart racing with Lewis Hamilton and what’s next for Más Tiempo.
You’ve chosen Etta Bond as a rising star for the F1 Discovery Tracks playlist, who features on your new track, “Touching My Body”, with Jammer. When did you become aware of her music and why did it resonate so much?
I’ve been making music with Etta Bond for years. I can’t remember exactly how I heard of her, but in Tottenham, her name was buzzing. I listened to a couple of songs and knew that if we got together we would make good music. We made “Mastermind” on Blacklisted, which was years ago now, and a few other tracks that came out on YouTube. When I decided I wanted to do Más Tiempo, she was one of the first people I spoke to. When I’m rapping, I don’t always get a chance to work with a vocalist. So Más Tiempo has been great for me to explore this avenue.
Earlier today you filmed a hot lap on the silver stone circuit with Lando Norris, which must have been crazy. Is F1 something that you’ve been a fan of for a while? It was only a couple of weeks ago that you were watching the Louis Vuitton show with Lewis Hamilton…
You know what it is, With everything that I do, people will say to me “Oh, have you been listening to house for long?”. And now, it’s “Have you been into F1?”. You see me, I’m just a sickhead. I’m a child in my mind, so I love driving fast cars and go-karts. If Lewis Hamilton wants to go go-karting, let’s set it up. I’m ready. SK, the speed demon.
Would you beat Lewis Hamilton on the track?
Lewis Hamilton? Lewis Hamilton! He looks like he’s been going to the gym and added some weight, which slows the car down. Listen, as soon as he’s ready to race I’ll get my diet right and then it’s over.
What did you think of Pharrell’s debut show and did you have any other highlights while on the fashion week circuit last month?
The show was great. I feel like he paid homage to everybody he is inspired by. I definitely saw the Karl Lagerfeld inspiration, Virgil, rest in peace, and Nigo too. Even the way he had Jay-Z perform, it was a celebration of what hip-hop has done for fashion. I understand that I’m one of those, ‘See me at the Met Gala’ type of guys but really, I’m just a creative.
Last month, you made your Más Tiempo Glastonbury debut, in the iconic Arcadia spider. As someone who witnessed the event from below, describe the moment to me from above, you pulled a massive crowd…
It was sick. I’ve seen the spider before and I understood what it was. But nothing’s ever what it is until you actually do it in the moment. And so when I walked up, I remember they walked us around to the side of it and one of the security guys walked us to some steps that looked like a bridge to a castle. They went up to underneath the spider. I turned around to say, “Can you just take me up there?” because it was so overwhelming. Like, you could just see the sea of people, and he’s like, “No, only three people are allowed up there at once.” It was probably one of the longest walks I’ve done this year.
When you get in there, it’s crazy because the music is hitting you from all these crazy angles. We turned the booth up to the loudest and made sure the mixes were tight, but it was good man. It was a good experience.
You’ve also played the Pyramid and the Other stage, which both stand as legendary Glasto moments. How did the Arcadia event compare and what’s your relationship like with Glastonbury?
Obviously, I was DJing with Jammer, back-to-back. We don’t really get the chance to DJ together a lot. But to do Glastonbury was sick. It was a great experience. I’m enjoying being a house DJ.
Long before Más Tiempo, and your revered career as a grime MC, you were the DJ for Meridian Crew and your brother JME. Is there an element of nostalgia that comes with setting up Más Tiempo and perfecting your craft in a different genre?
I want to try and elaborate on what you just said. But I don’t think I have anything else to say. That’s exactly what it is. I wouldn’t say I’ve conquered anything because there’s always more to do. It’s about getting into a different space and trying to find my feet again to understand what I bring in this space as Skepta, you know. That’s been fun to explore, for sure.
Over the past few years, you’ve taken a step back from rapping and found yourself on production duties, whether that’s for close friends like A$AP Rocky or Etta Bond. Is there anyone else exciting you that you’d like to work with?
Ah, let me think. I would say Rihanna.
Is a Skepta-produced Rihanna album finally in the works?
Nah, but we made some demos. She’s been busy being a mother, so we’re giving her space and time. I’d make her a big house record. Ellie Goulding, who else? Shy Girl, for sure.