- Words Tom Fogden
- Photography Ollo Weg
- Styling Robbie Canale
- Assistant Stylist Georgia Green
- Production Studio Notion
- Location Wolf & Badger Studios
There’s no one quite like Tiggs Da Author. The Tanzania-born, South London-raised artist’s music seems to be almost limitless in its scope.
- Gucci Knitted Jumper Courtesy of Mr. Porter
Is he a rapper? Is he a singer? Does he make Hip-Hop? Does he make Afroswing? Answering these questions is a fool’s errand – Tiggs manages to transcend all of these categories at once. He arguably makes some of the most original and artistic music in the UK at the moment. Case in point, his first full album, ‘Blame It On The Yutes’, released today, is a brilliant example of both.
“I always had an idea, I always knew what I wanted my first album to sound like”, Tiggs says. “I was always writing music, even before ‘Morefire’ [his previous EP], I was writing songs for the album”.
Tiggs’ long-term approach to the album certainly shows. Its melodies and rhythms sound instantly timeless, while Tiggs’ lyrics are as bold, punchy, and catchy as ever.
“How many lives? How many lives are we gonna sacrifice?/ How many wars? How many wars do my people have to fight?,” he sings questioningly on the hook for “Enough”, the album’s first song.
- Dior Shirt and Dries Van Noten Shoes Courtesy of Harvey Nichols
- Jeans Edwin
Don’t think for a second, however, that “Enough” is a slow, brooding protest song. The beat is fast, driven by staccato snare drums, while the melody features lashings of brass. You’ll even spot a jazz flute during the verses the commotion if you listen carefully.
It’s through these songs that Tiggs is able to express two important sides of his story: His move to London and the impact of his parents.
The creative’s early years in London – following his family’s move from Tanzania – were challenging to say the least.
“Throughout my teenage years, I felt like society was almost just against me, me and my people, me and my friends. You know?” he remembers. “Situations like being profiled, stereotyped, being stopped by police all the time – even when you haven’t done nothing”.
- Dries Van Noten Shirt Courtesy of Harvey Nichols
- Acne Studio Trousers and Dries Van Noten Shoes Courtesy of Harvey Nichols
“The second you move anywhere”, he continues, “you become the new kid and you have to start from scratch and it’s never easy unless you’re a person who’s very social, but I was not that type of person. I was more of a quiet kid. I was always more of a thinker than a talker”.
It was during these formative years of introspection and solitude that Tiggs began honing his craft.
“I feel like, because I didn’t really like talking much, I prefered to think about things and write them down. That sort of escalated into writing a diary and making up stories and poetry. And that’s where I got Tiggs Da Author from because when I was young, I wanted to be an author”.
As time went on, Tiggs “figured out how to put some melodies over the words”, and the fascination with music grew. You might hear that Tiggs’ family inspired him to make music but, as he explained, the reality is more complex.
- Jeans Edwin
- Needles Cardigan and Gucci T-Shirt Courtesy of Mr. Porter
Of course, musicians frequently present themselves as indifferent towards commercial success. But, with Tiggs, it feels different. Throughout our chat, he speaks slowly and confidently. He deliberates over questions, mulling them over in his own mind before giving his answer.
You get the impression that Tiggs understands, perhaps more than most, that he has nothing to prove to anyone and this quiet confidence comes across in his music.
As a result, ‘Blame It On The Youts’ stands quite apart from anything else coming out of the UK. And, as Tiggs explains, it really is a culmination of his life’s work so far.
“The album has been in the works ever since I started writing music, to be honest”, he says. “There are songs that I’d write parts of but didn’t finish – maybe I wasn’t in the right place – but I’m not a rushing type of person. I might write a verse of the song, but until I really get the right inspiration, that’s when I can finish it. So there’s songs that I wrote but I didn’t record until last year. And I feel like, until the story makes sense, from the first song to the last on the album, that’s when the time will be right”.
Fortunately, this long-term view of the album made it easier to pull the record together in the middle of the pandemic.
“I’ve managed to meet the right people along the way”, Tiggs says. “I started working with a producer called John Quarmby and he’s an amazing person. I feel like, without him, I’d still be working on the album now. I’d have all the lyrics written but I wouldn’t have the music and he’s one of those musicians who can play every instrument”.
- Needles Cardigan and Gucci T-Shirt (Courtesy of Mr. Porter)
“My parents had more of an influence over who I am as a person [than as a musician]”, he explains. “My dad was a very principled man. He used to be a bass guitarist as well and he used to sing in Tanzania, but I was too young at the time. So that never really influenced me to want to make music. They gave me this driven mentality and to not be afraid to go against the grain at any point”.
The defiant attitude he inherited from his parents, later manifested itself in the music we get to hear today.
“From the moment I started making music, I decided to be fearless”, he recalls. “I’m not really bothered about anything else, apart from the message that I’m trying to put out in my music”.
“I just take my own lane,” he says, speaking on his position within the music scene. “I make whatever music I feel like making when I make it. What’s more important for me is the message and having my own identity where I’m not trying to be anyone else. No matter what song you hear me on, people can hear my voice. I’m not boxed in on anything, I don’t feel like I’m chasing the charts or popularity, it’s just whatever feels right at the time”.
Despite his laid-back approach to success, Tiggs is certainly no stranger to it. His songs regularly amass millions of views on YouTube while his song “Georgia” has some 11 million streams on Spotify.
- Off-White Shirt Courtesy of Harvey Nichols
“I told him the sound that I want”, Tiggs explains. “Sometimes in the studio with a producer, you tell them exactly what you want but they might not quite understand or they might not be able to pull it off – which is fine, every producer has their strong points and their weak points – but, with him, it was like the perfect mix because everything sounded the way I wanted it to sound and he just understood exactly what I was trying to do”.
Quarmby played most of the guitars on the album but they were also joined in the studio by a live brass section and backing vocalists. “I felt like a proper musician”, Tiggs reminisces.
And, as the world emerges from the pandemic and live shows start up again, Tiggs is hoping to bring that same energy to the stage.
“I’m going to go absolutely mental with it”, he says, smiling, “Like, oh my God, when the live shows come back, I’m going to have to do a headline show and just go tear down the festivals. I’m gonna go all out, like, massive band, guitarist, drummer, bass, percussionist, BV singers, brass”.
Whilst this long-awaited lust for live music could appear simply as posturing, this isn’t the case for Tiggs.
“I feel like, with this album, the live experience is going to make you understand it a lot more”, he says. “Hearing it on vinyl or MP3 is going to sound great but the energy is going to be a different feeling”.
- Gucci Knitted Jumper Courtesy of Mr. Porter
- Dior Shirt Courtesy of Harvey Nichols
“The high tempo [of most of the album] was a deliberate choice. I wanted to capture my teenage years. I feel like they were very intense and fast-paced, a lot of things were happening in my life and without even saying it, just the music alone needs to reflect that”.
And reflect it certainly does. “Zulu Gang”, which follows the exuberant melodies but poignant lyrics of album opener “Enough”, is laced with Reggae influences – from the big bass hits to the off-beat brass. I can’t help but imagine the joyous reaction it would conjure up from the crowd when played live.
Elsewhere on the album, “We Ain’t Scared” is a fantastic pop song above all else. The chorus is infectious: “Mama they don’t care (yeah, yeah)/ Because they left us here (yeah, yeah)/ With no love in the air (yeah, yeah)/ But we ain’t scared”, while the skanky guitars and flashy bass are set to make it a crowd favourite.
“Hands Up” features some hilarious lyrics: “Basically we was drinking suttin/ Went to the club, started milly rocking/ I know we’re in her bed but it’s really nuttin/ How can you say that? She’s like a sister to me”. But Tiggs also uses the more relaxed tone of the song to show off his vocal range. “Suitcase Of Sins” is at a slightly slower pace than the rest of the album with a brilliantly anthemic chorus.
Up next is “Just A Little”, which could be mistaken for a Beatles song if it weren’t for the lyrics: “Chilling in the ends like a shotta/ Don’t wanna be hood but I gotta”, raps Tiggs at one point.
- Shirt Off-White courtesy of Harvey Nichols
Title track “Blame It On The Youts” brings the jazz vibe back with mellow piano riffs and slick double bass playing. “Brand New” is funkier than anything we’ve heard in a while, and, with Tiggs choosing to rap, rather than sing on the verses, it has an almost Grandmaster Flash vibe.
“Chasing Love” is a slower lamentation of unrequited romance with slow guitars and gospel backing vocals, whilst “Thank You” has serious Samba vibes and would make for a fitting end to the album if it weren’t for “Fly ‘Em High”. It’s the only song on the album with a featured artist which, fittingly, is Tiggs’ longtime collaborator Nines.
“He [Nines] is so open in terms of concepts”, Tiggs says, “he’s open to storytelling. Other rappers might not be on that same wavelength”.
From start to finish, ‘Blame It On The Youts’ carries a clarity of thought and bold execution that make it truly stand out from the crowd.
- Needles Cardigan, Gucci T Shirt Courtesy of Mr. Porter
- Jeans Edwin
With an exceptional album and a unique position in the UK music scene in tow, plus some explosive live performances in the works, what’s next for Tiggs Da Author? Might there be more collaborations?
“I like J Hus, Nines, a bit of Headie One, Dave – he’s another amazing guy, I really like his stuff”, Tiggs lists off. “Wretch; whenever Kano drops an album I’m all ears. Obviously, Nines is a given but I’d love to work with some of them in the near future”, he says hopefully.
Tiggs isn’t limiting the scope of his imagination and creativity to music, either. In the future, he’s pondering living up to his moniker and penning some novels or short stories.
“I’m definitely going to explore that in the near future”, he says. “I’ll probably start with a fantasy adventure. I’ve got a pretty crazy imagination”.
We told you he was limitless.