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Interviews Music Work

Throwback Interview: Skepta on Kanye West and ‘Konnichiwa’

skepta

Watching the artists you root for on the road to achieving their aspirations is an inspiring thing. The 2015 BRIT Awards were aired last week (February 25) and Kanye West’s performance was certainly a highlight.

Albeit largely muted live, ‘All Day’ saw ‘Ye rap surrounded by around 50 dudes in all black everything – including the likes of Skepta, Stormzy, Novelist, Krept & Konan, Jammer and other notable faces from the grime / UK rap scene.

It took me back to when I caught up with Skepta in the autumn of 2013 for MTV. “If there was one person I could work with it would probably be Kanye West,” he told me.

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Music

The Time I Went Ice Skating For The Love Of Music

chimpo

‘It’s a mixtape, not the Geneva convention’

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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.


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Interviews Work

Grime Special – Back to the Future

Over the summer, me and my Flavour Magazine colleague Shireen went to the filming of the UK BET Cypher and had the pleasure of speaking to some of the best artists in the UK urban scene. The interview was for Flavour’s Back to the Future issue, so we reminisced with Wretch 32, Mic Righteous, Ghetts, Lady Leshurr, Roxxxan, Mz Bratt and others on their favourite (and not so favourite) moments…

Mic Righteous

S: Favourite childhood memory?

Wow, probably leaving school! Yeah that was my favourite childhood memory, my last day of school.

M: Favourite childhood film?

The Terminator 2.

S: Fav food?

My mum used to make this dish called subsi but you won’t know what that is…

S: I do actually…

[looks very excited] You know what it is? That’s sick! Do you like it? Oh I love you!

M: If you could bring a memory back from the past what would it be?

Wow, that’s quite hard… I remember one time, my brother took me out and we emptied out coke bottles, cut them and put them on our arms so it was like we had guns on our arms…

[Shireen and I look confused]

Cause the bumps at the end look like a machine gun? We took them out and pretended there were aliens in the field – then we shot them.

M&S: LOL.

M: Favourite album?

Marshall Mathers LP.

S: Favourite old school tune?

[Ponders for some time] Tupac ‘Hit Em Up’ or ‘Holla at Me’ by Tupac. Or ‘Dead Mama’ by Tupac. Or just Tupac ‘Greatest Hits’!

M: First kiss?

That’s kiss and tell, I ain’t doing that! [after some gentle persuasion] I think I was in primary school, in like reception.

S: Most embarrassing childhood moment?

Probably when you’re out and about and a bird just squats on ya. In Margate there are a lot of seagulls and one will just decide to squat on ya and it will land on ya face or something. Thats pretty embarrassing.

M: Favourite lesson at school?

English.

S: Worst childhood telling off?

One time I had a fight, my first fight, and I got told off because I didn’t win it, so I wasn’t allowed home. I was so pissed off I went out, found the kid and slapped him. Then I went home and my dad was alright!

Lady Leshurr

S: What would you take from the past and bring to the future?

I’d like to have my Granddad back because he passed away a long time ago.

M: Favourite old school tune?

Sister Nancy ‘Bam Bam’. That’s what made me write. Then I found out about Eminem and started to take it seriously.

S: Favourite album?

Lil Wayne, but I can’t say one in particular because he’s just incredible. Or maybe Eminem ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’.

M: Most embarrassing childhood moment?

We were in school, lining up to go into R.E and this bird just flew and poo’ed all down me! Everyone was laughing at me and it was really embarrassing…

S: First kiss?

That IS embarrassing. Damn! I was about 17… I was a late developer and I was into football and basketball, I wasn’t interested in kissing then!

Ghetts

S: Favourite childhood memory?

The Lion King is one of them, definitely. Going on outings with my parents; sick memories. My dad teaching me to ride a bike; that’s an important memory that you have to pass down.

M: Favourite food as a kid?

Rusk biscuits. Dun Kno.

S: Favourite film?

I had a favourite book as a child. What was it called, you know my man… was it the mad hatter? Dr Seuss!

M: If you could take something from the past and bring it to the future, what would it be?

My friends that have gone.

S: Favourite album?

‘2000 and Life’ – made by some artist called Ghetto, he’s sick still. You should check him out…

M: Favourite old school tune?

[starts singing] ‘Never Gonna Let You Go’ by Tina Moore!

S: What item would you bring back from the past?

Do you remember that toy when we were kids and you would press it and it used to say swear words? It was like a voice box thing. Trust me it was a mad ting, but yeah, that toy there.

M: First kiss?

When I was 2! The first kiss I can remember… I swear I slobbered something down early, like in nursery times! How old were we in nursery? Cause I had a ting in nursery and I still know her now!

S: Most embarrassing childhood moment?

You want me to tell you the truth? Nah, it will come back to haunt me…  Nah I ain’t got none.

[we wait expectantly]

I ran into a goalpost once!

M: Favourite lesson at school?

Religious education.

S: Your worst childhood telling off?

We never got told off, we got beaten! The worst ones can’t go on record – my mum will get arrested! I had bad ones man, but I deserved them all.

Mz Bratt

S: Favourite childhood memory?

When I went to Italy with my dad, I was about 6. He went raving and left me and my sister on our own, but it was fun!

M: Favourite childhood film?

Ooh! The Goonies and The Lion King.

S: Favourite food?

That alphabet spaghetti!

M: Favourite old school album?

When I was little, I used to love The Spice Girls. But now, it wouldn’t be The Spice Girls! [laughs]

S: What memory would you take from the past and bring to the future?

None, really, I am happy with my present at the moment. I think it’s nice to look back…

M: What item would you bring back from the past?

I used to have a microphone that would echo and I used to sing into it with my little keyboard as well… that was fun.

S: First kiss?

Ooh, on the lips? All my friends were advanced, but I was late with this stuff. Probably secondary school, maybe year 9 or 10.

M: Most embarrassing childhood moment?

Probably when I got stuck in a box and my mum took a picture, so now when people come over they can see the picture of me stuck in this box…

S: Worst childhood telling off?

It was probably the first and only time I ever got smacked by my mum. I got into a strangers car, I was like 4 or 3. I didn’t know what I was doing but she went MAD!

M: Favourite lesson at school?

English; I used to love English.

S: Favourite old school tune?

Because it’s sunny today, I’ll say Roy Ayers ‘Everybody Loves the Sunshine.’

Wretch 32

M: Most embarrassing childhood moment?

Probably getting caught stealing biscuits…

M: If you could bring an item back from the past, what would it be?

My childhood. That’s not an item though… so I’d take my Mega Drive.

M: Favourite all time album? 

Jay Z – The Black album.

RoxXxan

M: What is your all-time favourite old school tune?

Missy Elliot – Supa Dupa Fly.

S: Favourite old school album?

OMG! I gotta say ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’, Bob Marley ‘The Legend’ and Pink ‘Can’t Take Me Home’.

Bigz

S: Favourite childhood memory?

Getting my first pair of Nike Air Force when I was about 7, like the ones Michael J Fox was wearing in ‘Back to the Future’ but they had aluminous green lights.

M: What would you bring back from the past?

Music. I think music was better then. I liked 90’s RnB; I’m a soul brother.

S: Favourite album from back in the day?

It was the first album I got; Run DMC – ‘Raising Hell’.

M: What item would you bring back from the past?

Avia trainers, I’m tryna bring them back. They were hard.

S: First kiss?

I had a girlfriend in nursery called Kirsty and that’s the truth! I was exposed to things when I was young that I probably wasn’t supposed to be exposed to… I probably kissed a girl for the first time when I was 5 with tongues an all! It was crazy; I was a naughty young kid.

M: Favourite lesson at school?

History.

S: Most embarrassing childhood moment?

There was one time me and my brother bunked off school and my mum found out. We were in secondary school and she took us to school for a straight two weeks and brought us back, shouting at us on the bus and stuff, it was embarrassing. She done that on purpose after being advised by my aunty.

M: Worst childhood telling off?

I can’t even disclose that but mum knows what she done to us! Mum knows…

 

 

You can also check out my full interview with Lady Leshurr and RoxXxan for Flavour Magazine here 🙂

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Interviews Work

BET Hip Hop Awards 2011 – Behind the Scenes of the UK Cypher

The BET Hip Hop Awards 2011 are coming to our screens this Saturday, October 15 at 8pm.

British music has made a big impact in America and across the globe over the past two years, with artists such as Tinie Tempah breaking records and pushing our music forward with a powerful force.

We’ve heard American artists being heavily influenced by dubstep and bass beats that sound like they have come straight from the UK; from Jay Z and Kanye’s ‘Who Gon Stop Me’ to J Cole’s ‘Nice Watch’. Since the UK music scene is doing it so big, it was only right that the BET Hip Hop Awards included some of the biggest names in the game to star in their own UK cypher.

I was one of the lucky ones invited to attend the filming and speak to artists about being involved in the epic cypher.

As I arrived at St Catherine’s Dock a security guard seemingly emerged out of nowhere, asking “Are you looking for those rapper guys?” Apprehensively I said yes and he led me into a car park and I followed him to a dinghy door.

As I opened the door and said goodbye to the blazing sunshine, I entered a grand room which was delightfully cool and full of superstars that I had admired since I was a teen. I was a little star struck, to put it modestly.

So, I know ya’ll want to know the line up. In the building was Chipmunk, Wretch 32, Akala, Ghetts, Mz Bratt, Lady Leshurr, Bigz, Gfrsh, Smiler, Roxxxan and Mic Righteous. It was kinda epic.

It was a long day, so artists took time out of filming to get some food and a dose of sunshine.

I had a chat with Mz Bratt as she went for a break, asking her how she felt to be a part of the cypher (something women are rarely included in – Nicki Minaj was the first lady in the US). She was graceful, humble and ever so polite, which was a pleasant surprise after listening to her fiery bars. She said of the cypher: “It’s amazing; I’m so glad to be a part of it. The UK movement is pushing through and the world knows it.”

The line up was awesome, but I couldn’t help but wonder were Grime greats such as Dizzee Rascal, Giggs, Tinie Tempah, Tinchy Stryder and Skepta were; I felt they were missing from what would have been a perfect team otherwise. I had definitely expected to see Giggs there, considering he won the Best UK Hip Hop award back in 2008. Maybe they had other commitments, maybe they were not invited; I am yet to know why some important names were lacking from the line up.

Ghetts and I went outside for a spot of sunshine and as soon as the sun rays hit us, he began stripping his shirt off. Apparently I glanced over for too long, as he said with a smile: “I never got this when I was skinny!” Once my blushes were held under control, we spoke about the relevance of the artists who had been invited to spit their bars. “I get myself gassed bruv; I KNOW I should be here. And I got massive respect for my peers who are here, and should be here, today.”

Akala came over to say hello and I got the chance to ask him how his day was. He sighed then smiled, saying: “It has been a long day. But I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’m used to the long days. Anyway, it’s all good when you’re working amongst friends.”

Although many artists forgot some lyrics and scenes were filmed over and over (and over), the bars were big and the flows were on point, making me confident that the UK cypher will impress people world over.

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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…