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Music Work

Review – Eskimo Dance

Last Friday, hundreds of grime fans travelled from across the country to the Proud2 venue inside of the o2 Arena to witness the second ‘Eskimo Dance’ of the year, the second since the event was last a regular fixture in the early noughties. Although grime has been remained the rebel of UK music over the past decade, frowned upon by the media and government figures, the event proved to be a powerful statement showcasing how valuable and everlasting grime is in the British music industry…

Featuring some of the best in the scene, WileyJME, Jammer, Newham Generals, Big Narstie, Flirta D and many more took the stage on the night. The event featured The ‘Smirnoff Light Fusion Show’, which saw a giant man in an electric robot suit doing the robot to funky house music, ice cannons and lazers – which gave the venue a real rave feel. BBC 1Xtra’s Target and Cameo, Kiss FM’s Logan Sama and others truly delivered by giving us an authentic grime experience, dropping tracks that took me back to my teenage years from artists like Crazy Titch, Donaeo and Gods Gift. However, newcomers such as Preditah also had their tunes rotating throughout the night, which gave the playlist a depth that showed the past, present and future of grime.

Kozzie and countless others began to flood the stage past midnight, just before we saw the heavyweights take to the stage, which included Wiley himself, along with Boy Better Know. BBK did a great job and the audience definitely appreciated Skepta’s appearance, which was not expected. However, the main set seemed to be over very quickly in a whirlwind of pull ups, but perhaps it just felt this way because I was enjoying it so much.

I couldn’t help but feel that because the event is a rarity in itself, we were expected to lap up whatever was dished out – which we did – but I smelt complacency. It should have been the other way round – they should have made the most of every second of this epic hour. Grime may be a loved, solid fixture in this country, but it has a lot more to prove if it wants to evolve into something more recognized and respected. In this sense, I felt the bar could have been raised in terms of the performance, which seemed to lack structure.

On a more positive note, it was nice to see the myth that grime events are “too rowdy” diminished. The audience seemed genuinely united and elated for the love of the genre. At around 3am, the room was still buzzing with undiluted tension from the main set and the party was far from over, as the crowd continued to blow their horns to the amazing playlist. The previous ‘Eskimo Dance’ finished at 6am, so it was a bit disappointing to see the lights come on at 3.30 am. Annoyingly, the staff also came out to mop the floor at this time – I can tell you, there is nothing more humiliating than tripping over a broom when you’re skanking!

My criticisms of the night felt minuscule compared to the positives, as nothing could take away to the 100% pure energy that vibrated throughout the room. The audience (including myself) were clinging on to every word, unconsciously pushing themselves closer to the stage and involuntarily screaming out the lyrics. The event proved that grime is stronger than it ever was. Wiley tweeted after the event with news that the next one may be in Birmingham. I certainly think it will be worth the commute from London just to experience it all over again.


Categories
Interviews Work

Maz Chats to Youngman

Simon Smith Jr, aka Youngman, has been tearing up the airwaves this year with his latest track, ‘Who Knows’ produced by his friend Skream. Not a new player in the game, Youngman has been dabbling with music since he was able to talk.

Raised with Jungle music and a lover of Soul, his inspirations are clear in his music and with the evolution of UK music now steering in his direction, 2012 is set to be the year Youngman gets his shine. I find out everything you need to know about the Derby bred artist.

What’s with the name, Youngman?

I started DJing when I was about 6… I got into music when I was so young; my family just started calling me Youngman from then.

What inspired you at such a young age?

Initially I got into jungle, which was basically like early drum and bass; that was a massive part of my upbringing. At the same time, my parents encouraged me to listen to R&B, pop, soul and jazz; I loved Stevie Wonder, Al Green and Michael Jackson.

You’re signed to Digital Soundboy. How did that come about?

I’ve been with Digital Soundboy for 18 months. I had 3 record deals before the situation I’m in now. Since joining Soundboy I’ve definitely evolved as an artist; I’ve got such a great team around me now, since hooking up with Benga and Skream. I had a record called ‘One and Only’ and at the time, I used to bump into Shy FX and would always tell him I wanted to work with him. Ironically enough, all the while he loved ‘One and Only’ – he just didn’t know it was me. I sent him a demo and when he heard that tune on it he called me up and was like ‘I didn’t know that was you!’ And he signed me on the phone there and then.

Why didn’t you take the other record deals?

Music is a funny thing; it’s all about chemistry and dynamics. From the managers to the producers to the label – it’s really important that everyone has the same vision. The other offers I had were great for my development but they weren’t going in the direction I was. Digital Soundboy really understand where I’m coming from. Not only do they let me do the music that I love, but they offer so much. It’s a great camp.

Your latest single ‘Who Knows’ has a very fresh vibe. What inspired the sound?

Benga and I just went to get a Nando’s which we were scoffing at the Rinse FM studios, when Skream played the instrumental of ‘Who Knows’. I loved it straight away, so I said live on radio that I wanted the beat and I would vocal it up and return with it next week for the listeners to hear. I literally wrote it the next day in about 15 minutes.

You are currently working on your debut album; tell us about it.

It is called ‘Me and My Music’ and it’s going really well. It’s being executively produced by Shy FX and Benga, which is amazing. It’s also got cuts from Breakage. I just did a tune with MJ Cole and Sam Frank which I’m really excited about. The sound of the album is very versatile; I’m singing and rapping on it. It very cutting edge UK bass music fused with soulful vocals and influences. At the same time there are hard club records on there as well.

You’ve been touring all over the world. How is it going?

Touring wise, I’m having a few weeks off; I just came back from New Zealand and Australia. I love touring, but on that last tour, we worked out that we were up in the air for 4 entire days. That’s a lot. But we can’t complain! We played at New Zealand’s Rhythm festival on New Year’s Eve; we came out after Example to an audience of 35,000. It was such a wicked way to see in the New Year.

What was your favourite destination?

I love Ibiza. It was so magical this summer. Benga and I did about 8 shows there. Ibiza has a magic about it as far as dance music is concerned. New Zealand was so beautiful; I’d never been there before. We did a North American tour as well… It’s hard to choose one destination!

How was the US?

It was great; we had A LOT of ribs and wings! Oh, the wings… the best wings I had were when we literally landed, at this wing house… [We discuss fried chicken for some time]

But back to the music, Dubstep is really massive in America right now, the crowds go mental.

I hear you’re really into fashion as well.

Yeah, I got my fingers in a few pies! I love fashion, I always have. I’ve dabbled with clothes designing in the past and now I’m working on a new line to coincide with my album. So you can expect to see some Youngman clothing towards the end of the year. I will start off with menswear first. I love varsity jackets, chinos, and I love a good shirt as well. I really do have a long-term goal of doing some in fashion. I mean real fashion, not just merchandise.

Tell us about the ‘Music and Life’ workshops you are doing?

I know so many kids want to get into music and it can be really hard to see how to get from A to Z. People can’t understand how you can make music for a living; just because you aren’t all over the TV or radio you can still make music. So I decided to set up a scheme to give people guidance and mentoring, not only relating to music, but relating to real life. I have a Business Management degree, so it’s all about encouraging kids to stay in school and realise that they don’t have to choose, they can have both.

I hear you. So how did YOU get from A to Z?

My journey has been really ironic in the sense that I initially started off doing R&B and soul. Even though Jungle was always around me, my dad encouraged me to do my own thing, so I started DJing old school garage. That was when the two worlds collided, for me.  The best advice I would give is to get yourself out there; do as many recording sessions, talent shows as you can and get networking; get your music heard. In time, you’ll find the right team.

You’re originally from Derby. Are you a mini celebrity there now?

[Laughs manically] There’s a lot of love in Derby. I spend a lot of time on the roads, and I have a place in London. I try and spend time in Derby with my family as much as possible. But I love London. It can be a lonely place, but so can everywhere. I love London because I’m a big believer of positive laws of attraction. The things that you see and the things that you’re surrounded by will motivate you to get to the next level, spiritually and psychologically. Living in a small town, you can’t really visualise being mega successful. I initially wanted to move to London so I could see people driving Ferrari’s and see music artists doing their thing… you need a successful culture around you to emulate that, I think.

What can expect from you in 2012?

I’ve just launched my website (www.iamyoungman.com) so jump on there to see where I’m going to be touring next. ‘Who Knows’ will be released on January 29, which I’m really excited about. I’m also about to embark on a club tour which will be kicking off in Fabric in London on January 20. I’ll be touring with Benga on the ‘Benga featuring Youngman Tour’ which will be crazy; it will be a massive UK tour. In April I will be supporting Example on his arena tour. You can also expect the debut album from me later this year, definitely before Christmas!

Categories
Interviews Music Work

It’s a Brummie Ting: Maz and Shireen meet Lady Leshurr and RoxXxan

It was the filming day for the UK BET cypher and Lady Leshurr and RoxXxan were both outside on a break; it was a blazing hot afternoon. Whilst my Flavour buddy Shireen and I were reporting on location, we got the chance to interview the emcees; so we asked them for some snaps. The photographer asks them to stand back to back, to which they both burst into laughter.  ‘I’m too short compared to RoxXxan, no way am I doing that!’ Lady Leshurr says firmly but sweetly, before they laugh again and change pose.

The ladies both hail from Birmingham, but Lady Leshurr and RoxXxan could not be more different. RoxXxan is sporting yellow khakis and Adidas for the shoot; her hair fanned out for volume. In contrast, Lady Leshurr was quite literally pint sized and girlie. Not only different in physical form but with her smooth and husky voice, RoxXxan’s flows could definitely not be mistaken for the cute, hyper presence of Lady Leshurr.

However, the two MCs do share the knowledge of what life is like for a female MC out of London. We sat down with the West Midlands ladies to talk about the Birmingham music scene, being a female in Grime and why you shouldn’t air intimate issues on bars…

As we talk to both the MC’s separately on how they feel about the Birmingham grime scene their views are quite different, with RoxXxan exclaiming, ‘DEAD.’ The reason for her response is because, “what they tend to do is instead of just supporting Birmingham talent, they bring down all the grime or underground MC’s from London, like your P Money’s.” Leshurr seems to disagree with RoxXxan. “It’s progressive. It used to be small, now it’s like a lot of people are on it and people are doing their thing such as Trilla and Slick Don. There are a lot of people that are representing in Birmingham, and a lot of people that know them down in London too. It’s really good it’s healthy at the moment.” RoxXxan believes that Birmingham don’t support their own artists; that’s why she moved to London. “There’s no BRIT School, there’s no labels in Birmingham only Punch Records which is an artist development, kind of like the Urban Development in London. Apart from that there’s nobody.”

We move on to discuss how their Birmingham accents might be difficult to understand, especially with Leshurr, (who is known for spitting fast) and how it could deter them from getting further, especially in the States. Leshurr agrees that sometimes it’s hard for her to be understood by some. “I mean I know a lot of people can’t understand what I’m saying when I spit fast. I don’t worry when I’m in the booth, I just do what I do and hopefully people can understand me. It’s not just my high-pitched voice like a little kid, but my accent is completely different to London. I know it is hard to understand something’s that I say.” RoxXxan tells us her opinion on making it in the US, “I just believe in good music, look at Tinie’s ‘Written In The Stars’, although it never got No.1, he sold a million records over there so it’s platinum. Although it wasn’t straight away, it’s happened now and he’s very easy to understand. They didn’t really get Dizzee Rascal though, he’s really fast. People accept it or they don’t.” They both agree that good music is good music, they don’t think about people accepting it, they do what works for them.

RoxXxan tells us how she uses her roots in her music… “My family are Irish and Jamaican, there’s a lot of slang, ‘Go On The Horse’, that’s what the Irish say, and ‘Bumbclart!’ for the Jamaican’s. I just have fun with music, I don’t really take it too seriously, unless it needs to be.” Whilst she is often in London to become more integrated in the UK music scene, Leshurr thinks that a permanent move would not be the right decision for her right now. “I did want to, but I don’t think I’m going to now because I know that it’s possible to get back and forth between where I need to go. It’s a little bit of money, but it’s a lot of money to live and stay down here and get a house down here. I prefer to come back and forth, but I really do love London it’s my second home.”

The question of being a female in a male dominated game comes up. Leshurr tells us, “When I started listening to Shystie, No Lay and Ms Dynamite, I knew there was hope and it was possible to get your name out there. People respect you for being a female, as well as an all round great entertainer and artist. Right now though I don’t think it’s hard because a lot of other female MC’s are doing it. It’s a very good time I love it.” RoxXxan explains to us her feelings on the subject, “we are born how we’re born, and it is the way it is. It’s a male dominated scene, it’s hard, you just have to step up and prove yourself. Even today being at the BET Cypher, there were Ghetts, Bigz, Chipmunk and G Fresh, it was hard so as a girl you just have to go all out even just to get noticed. You have to hold your own and become comfortable with it.”

RoxXxan talks to us about another Birmingham female MC… “Can I just say about OG Niki, I just want to apologise to everyone who watched the YouTube video, I don’t even know her personally. I see what’s she’s tried to do, and I just hope it is because she is young. I know she’s trying to create a buzz, and do what hasn’t been done before, or to the extent it hasn’t been done before. I just think respect yourself though, not even respect women, but respect yourself, your 17. Not being rude, but she’s not going to find a decent guy now; you’re not helping yourself. She was on the news looting and stuff.” RoxXxan is a strong believer in keeping her private life private, and how she keeps her image and bars real, “I don’t do the whole sexy thing, obviously I’m 22 I have sex, but I take the Beyonce route in my bars. I think you don’t have to give it all, music is what I do it’s not me. If I couldn’t spit anymore, for instance if I lost my voice, I’d still be able to do me, it doesn’t make me who I am. I love it and it’s in my bones, but it doesn’t make me.”

The question now on everybody’s lips is what these two ladies of grime are going to be doing. With Leshurr’s co-sign on the Neva Soft track, we wonder if the 367 ladies who include herself, Lioness and A Dot, will be doing anything together. “Definitely. We want to do tracks together. Were going to do an EP soon, I told them a long time ago we need to do this, so were definitely going to do it now. Were going to have a launch party for it, I’ve even got a top done up with 367 on it. A lot of people are jumping on the wave. It was a mess about thing, but we’ve got to take it seriously now as a lot of people are saying 367 a lot.”

As for RoxXxan? “There’s a lot of females in the game right now. There’s a lot around now because there’s the space, not even a space there’s spaces. There was Dynamite she’s coming back and she’s still got her spot, because when she came she came so well. I think people are looking for new, fresh and exciting talent. The next step for me is to go total left field. Everybody’s on the dubstep, the drum n bass, the slowie, the popie, whatever. Good music is good music; I’m not knocking anyone’s hustle, but for me just expect the unexpectable. I’m experimenting in the studio, writing an album, trying to bring a completely different sound. Obviously you can’t really do what hasn’t been done before, but I’m just taking it somewhere left field.”

Categories
Interviews Work

Maz Meets Gemma Cairney

 

If you don’t already know about this chick, you must be living under a rock. She is the presenter and official style expert of the channel 4 show Frock Me, radio presenter for BBC 1xtra and stylist to the stars. Yup, you could almost call her superwoman.  I spoke to the gal herself about her latest ventures.

You are a lady of many talents. You have been a TV presenter, stylist and a radio presenter. But what was your main ambition as a youngster?

I went to the BRIT school, as I wanted to be an actor. I did a lot of theatre there which was great fun. But I soon realised that I couldn’t really play any other character but myself! Shortly after my drama experience, I moved to London, where I found myself highly inspired by fashion. It inspired me to get involved. I gained a lot of valuable experiences, meeting loads of wonderful people. But even at that stage I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I thought, ‘how can I combine all my experiences to create my dream career?’ I decided to do a short course in Radio, where I found my niche. After my course I got myself out there on a mission, and radio became my 9 to 5. With radio jobs coming in, the TV followed. That led to my show on channel 4, Frock Me.

What do you prefer, fashion or radio/TV?

I am in love with fashion. It is a great way of expressing yourself; I think it tells a great story. It influences me immensely. But I find that my passion for people over rides that. If you listen to the BBC 1Xtra breakfast show, you will know that I absolutely love to talk! So whilst I adore wearing silly clothes to make a statement, I love interacting with others more, so people win hands down for me. I feel so lucky to be on the radio, doing what I love the most.

How did you get your name out there?

First, I have to say, I feel really lucky for everything I am doing. I honestly never believed I would be in this position. The best advice I have is to always keep an open mind. Do not limit yourself to one genre, one idea, or one goal. There is so much going on in the TV Industry, radio and media in general. There are so many wonderful people involved in all sorts of projects and collectives. So I find if you have an open mind to try new things, it helps you develop your craft and you meet new and fabulous people. The experience also helps you decide where exactly you think your destiny lies. And do not forget about networking! Hand out as many business cards as you can and build up those contacts.

What else have you been up to on the TV front?

I have been everywhere! I have produced some plays; I have set up my own shoots… I remember on one shoot, I had to lug suitcases around Richmond Park, it was crazy! But all those efforts when I had no one else to help me paid off tremendously. I find the way to get into TV is to brave but not pushy. There is a fine line between the two, but you have to get the balance right. Also, you have to have a sense of humour, as life can be ridiculous! Be open minded but never, ever, lose your own values.

So January 2011 is a big look for you, as you are starting your new radio show, leaving Trevor. How does that feel?

It feels majorly exciting! I will have my own slot from 1pm – 4pm every weekday. As I’ve been doing the breakfast show with Trevor, I haven’t had a lie in in years! I have loads and loads of ideas for the show. I’m a random person, so I have loads of random ideas, but we’ll see what ideas will materialise. But I will definitely be changing the afternoon slot up. It will be new, exciting and filled with lots of chatter by me! Not forgetting the amazing music exclusives either, of course…

What is it like working with Trevor Nelson every morning?

He has become a life-long friend to me. He has 15 years in the game, so I learnt from the best, truly. We may bicker in the morning, we may disagree, but ultimately he is like family to me now. I have untold respect for him. It will be very sad not to have him by my side on the radio. He gave me the best introduction to radio that I could have ever hoped for. He is a strict mentor, but a great one. I mean, working at the BBC is rewarding in itself, I have seen so many amazing things. I absolutely love 1xtra, and I do not see myself leaving any time soon.

What is next for you?

I hope to be climbing mountains… I mean that literally! I will be setting up something physically intense next year. I hope to do some presenting at Glastonbury next year. Festivals are a great love of mine. I have been in talks with some TV heads about some shows that I want to do in the near future, I want to do something unique, and not something that has been done and redone, like so many other shows on television. So you’ll have to wait and see…

Check out Gemma’s show on BBC 1xtra from 1pm – 4pm every weekday.

You can read the full Jan/Feb issue of NXG Magazine here.