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 ( 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!


Xclusive Entertain Bulletin 14/7/2011

Check out NXG Magazine’s monthly entertainment bulletin, Xclusive. Script written by yours truly.

Interviews Work

Maz Meets Wretch 32


Wretch 32 has had a crazy year: He was nominated for MTVs ‘Brand New 2011’, and BBC’s Sound of 2011 before releasing his breakthrough single Traktor. The rest is history in the making. The NXG crew and I sat down with the Retro Boy to find out what he will be doing next…

With your new singles, you are in a good place right now. How do you feel about it?

I am feeling really good. I don’t want to plan for too much. I would rather put my stuff out, see how it goes and if it goes well, it means it was meant to go well, you know.Traktor set us up nice for a good year and I think Unorthodox is doing similar things. For me it’s just like fingers crossed, you know. What will be, will be. You are only going to do all you can do, nothing more than that, nothing less.

Urban music is in a great place right now in the UK. How do you feel about people such as Dizzee and Wiley who paved the way?

I think every generation of artist are as important as the last. You know, I think So Solid are as important as Wiley, who are as important as Chipmunk and Tinchy, who are important as Tinie and Plan B… you know what I mean? Without the ones before, there almost is no one after.

We are all learning as we go along, it is a learning curve for every generation of artist. When someone is up before you, you can watch their mistakes and see where they went wrong. I think that is what each new generation should do. Dizzee is a total legend, Wiley has opened a lot of doors… it is just time that people get their heads down and work. The other day, when I found out Tinie Tempah was doing the o2, I nearly fell off my chair! That is MASSIVE! I phoned his manager and said: “I just want to congratulate you on everything that was done previously, and whatever is about to happen.” It is phenomenal; the o2 is a big move. It is definitely a good time right now in UK music.

You came out several years ago and a lot has happened since then. What have been the stepping stones that paved your way to mainstream success?

I think everything has played a massive part. I think being in the crew I started in (The Movement) was a big part of it. We were like brothers, its not that we broke up, we just don’t do music together. They taught me so much. Being in The Movement helped to keep me on my toes so much, it sharpened my skills.

I think you got to learn something from everything, even your mistakes. It is hard to put a pin on specific thing, because it was everything in one, as a whole. Every time I messed up a lyric on radio, I learnt from it, times when I recorded material and heard it back and it was wrong… I learnt from everything.

How do you find performing live?

I try to come out on stage at the last possible moment. My song intro will be playing and I try to wait until the last possible second. I like that suspense. I try and take you through a whole load of emotions. If you catch me in a club, expect to hear a club set. If you catch me at a jazz café, expect to be touched.

Of course we would still do Traktor as well, but I have a completely different set to what I do at a festival, as I cater to wherever I am performing. But I am still giving them me as I will only do stuff that I like or wrote, you know? At a festival, expect it to be hyped! I might give you a little emotion so you know to expect when you come to one of my shows.

What did you hope to achieve with Unorthadox?

We were in a predicament after Traktor. It was like, what do you do now? Do you show your emotional side, or do you do Traktor again? We wanted to do something different that would capture a different audience…


Music Work

Review: Wireless Festival 2011

On the tube down to Hyde Park Corner, the excitement mounted as I thought of the acts I was yet to see. This year was different. For once, there was a strong presence of British artists and not just ones who were ‘fillers’ for the ‘real acts’ i.e – the American artists. British music has had an amazing time over the past few years, which has led to our own sound being spread and eventually accepted across the globe. Although the festivals first headliner was The Black Eyed Peas, I was more pumped to see Example and Plan B.

Fellow NXG team member Emma Knock and I arrived fashionably late, only picking up pace after my sister called me screeching “The queues here are ABSURD, Maz! Hurry.”

Arriving in somewhat of a fluster, the queue had completely vanished, so we walked straight in. Phew. It was my first time at Wireless and I was surprised to see how relaxed it was. Its location told me to expect pure mayhem, constant barging and other typically London mannerisms.

I was massively disappointed to see that we although we had dodged the queues, we had arrived towards the end of Example’s set. I managed to glimpse a regrettably small portion of his performance of Changed the Way You Kissed Me, which was electric. We also managed to have a little groove to Far East Movement’s performance of Like a G6, which was undoubtedly one of the best high energy performances of the Friday. Although I previously doubted their longevity as artists, I could not doubt their stage presence. We then went to explore the park, which was filled with food stalls and bars of extortionate prices. I instantly regretted not smuggling a bottle in my bag as I reluctantly purchased a plastic glass half filled with rosé for £4.

Emma and I then tottered along to the main stage to check out Tinie Tempah’s highly anticipated performance. This was our second time seeing the Plumstead born rapper, after initially seeing him at the Hammersmith Apollo earlier this year. I had expected that the Pass Out star would have perfected his performances with the amount of practise he’s been having. I was disappointed to say this was not the case.  I was taken aback when Tinie freestyled over several current pop chart instrumentals and the DJ set was exactly the same as when he has performed at the Apollo, several months ago. Was he playing it safe or was he simply lazy?  Who knows, but it did not impress me. The rest of the set lacked charisma and confidence, but was overall acceptable. First time Tinie Tempah attenders would have been more than satisfied with the set; perhaps I expected too much.

Dressed all in black, I was boiling. Emma had a spare white t-shirt, so after a change of clothes right in the middle of the park (“Rock n Roll behaviour – thus totally acceptable at a festival” Emma promised) we went to find some munch before the next set, David Guetta. We grabbed a tiny portion of chips for £3 to share and sat down on the eroded grass for supper. David’s set began earlier than I realised, so we hastily finished our humble meal and tried to get a good spot in the ‘rave tent’ which was dazzling with lights, confetti, occasional fireworks and unbearable body heat. We were unlucky in this pursuit (which suited me, I was hot and my new pink shoes had been trampled on enough) so we watched from a distance. With his large audience, I was surprised that he was not on the main stage, but the rave tent was perfectly suited for him; it was almost made for his vibe of music. Mass amounts of bodies grinded, swayed and jumped about to When Love Takes Over, Sexy Chick, I Gotta Feeling and many of his other dance floor fillers.

Restless, we moved along to witness the remainder of Plan B’s set on the main stage. Dressed in his signature black suit and tie, he looked, sounded and acted the part. His song choices had a slight alternative music/rock edge, which prompted me to question which genre his future album will reflect. Although I prefer Plan B’s urban sounds, it was clear that he knows what he can get away with in terms of diverse music and he also knows what he is comfortable with and it works for him. Witnessing his set was to see a true artist perform, one with as many layers as an onion.

Next up was the headliners, what most people were here to see. The Black Eyed Peas.

For the rest of my review, please go to the NXG website where the original article can be found: