A little while back I did a Q&A with the beaut Neelam Gill, which was pretty exciting – this girl be killing it. The Coventry-born 19-year-old has already made an epic move in her career when she became Burberry’s first ever Indian model, joining names such as Cara Delevingne and Kate Moss. We talk about her most memorable runway show thus far, favourite Tupac lyrics and not being afraid of dancing for a dare.
So I interviewed YouTube star IISuperwomanII earlier this year and it was one of the most interesting chats I’ve had in a while – I genuinely feel like I share something with this woman, I can relate to her in many respects. We spoke about her rap career before #LEH, her role in Dr. Cabbie which got her juices going for acting and eating ice cream with M.I.A BECAUSE SOMETIMES LIFE GETS REAL.
I’ve re-posted it from MTV right below – enjoy and that!
He’s been compared to Omarion and Usher and his latest single, ‘Key To The City’, has been busy racking up YouTube views. He was in one of the UK’s most innovative R&B bands, Fun*dmental, and was signed to Ne-Yo’s label before deciding to fly solo. I chat to the singer on behalf of MTV…
The Wrap Up: Hi Jermaine! So, after being in Fun*dmental, how does it feel being a solo act?
Jermaine Riley: There is a lot more freedom. I was in a group for 10 years, so a huge part of who I thought I was as an artist is missing now. But I’ve replaced that with a different type of confidence. Once you find your own signature and you know what you wanna represent, it makes it a lot easier. I think the first stage of me being a solo artist was difficult, but I found myself when I put out ‘Key To The City’ – which is why it is so significant to me, in terms of the look, vibes and feel. I’m a lot more comfortable now and now I feel that I can do this. I feel like I’m ready.
TWU: The Fun*dmental sound was definitely ahead of its time, yet never really reached mainstream success. How do you feel about that?
Jermaine Riley: I feel that we were recognised by our peers and fans, our following was huge! But people lose sight of the business side of things. The business side of it was not taken care of the way it should have been and our team wasn’t right. I don’t think we had the right players representing us when they needed to. We bounced from being with independent labels to major labels to Ne-Yo and all that, but it didn’t work because the team wasn’t right, regardless of our situation. Our talent couldn’t over-shadow the business side, and that is ultimately why I left the group. Not because I had beef with the guys, but because I didn’t agree with the way we were moving forward. I had to do my own thing and find a new team.
TWU: So, what happened when you went to America?
Jermaine Riley: Before Ne-Yo came on board, it was pandemonium. We went on a school tour for four months around L.A and we really saw the potential of what we could be in America. When we joined Ne-Yo’s company and it was kinda their responsibility to take us to that next level and help us create an album that would blow up globally. We recorded an album in Atlanta with Ne-Yo and were going to start touring with him in Europe. But, again, it was the business stuff. The label didn’t pay the money to get us on the European and Japanese tour. It just didn’t work out.
TWU: Describe your sound in three words…
Jermaine Riley: Fun, distinctive and emotive.
TWU: What did you hope to achieve with your album, ‘Hello Earth’?
Jermaine Riley: I wanted to achieve respect as a songwriter and to build my fanbase so that people take note that I can do this by myself. That’s all I wanted to do with the album, which is why I didn’t mind releasing it for free. People were like, ‘Are you looking for a record label now then?’ I was like, ‘Not really!’ That wasn’t the purpose of the album, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it, and that wasn’t to get signed. I think I’m achieving what I wanted now, my following is growing and the respect is growing. My video for ‘Key To The City’ debuted on MTV Base and that was without a label or a budget behind the project, it was just people who believed in me, so I’m really thankful.
TWU: And lastly, where do you see yourself in the next few years?
Jermaine Riley: Last year taught me that so much can happen in six months. Ideally, I’d like to be in the seventh row at the Grammy Awards – not necessarily for my stuff, but for something I’ve been involved in. But I don’t wanna put my dreams in a box, as anything can happen. Other than that, I’ll be continuing to write for other artists. I’d also like to sign and work with other artists and just generally stay creative. For now, though, I’m just going to carry on doing a bunch of shows, live my dream and provide for my family.
I’ve dug up another interview out of the NXG Magazine archives – check out what Baby Blue had to say when I spoke to her in January.
Meet the U.K’s female rapper of the moment – Baby Blue.
The Grime scene is definitely a man’s world. Females have come and gone, but ultimately, the dudes have been dominating the scene from day. Thanks to certain UK female artists, things are changing. This inspirational artist has traveled all over New York, collaborated with Estelle and John Legend, and gained respect from her male peers, even collaborating with some of them, such as Sway. Her new single, Paper Haters, is a monster in the music scene and everyone is waiting for the release of her debut album. Baby Blue is here with us today to talk us through her journey.
Hey Blue. How did you find your passion for rap?
When I was younger, I used to listen to Nas and Jay-Z, I have always loved rap. A few of my friends started a crew, but they had no females, as usual! They asked me to write some lyrics, as they wanted me to be like the Lil Kim of the crew. Initially, I thought ‘no way!’ But I gave writing a go and when it came to rapping for them, they said I had something. So I carried on practicing and got better. I felt I had finally found something that I genuinely loved. I then started a college course in film writing, which actually helped me write some raw lyrics.
What was your childhood dream?
I wanted to be a Hollywood actress! But when I got into music, nothing else mattered. I would like to get into acting one day, and I will pursue it when I have the time. I am too in love with music right now, and I wanna put all my energy into my album.
When did you receive your first big break?
I guess it would be when Estelle picked me up in 2005. She took me all around the world, and I was her hype girl on tour. It was incredible. She took me to New York where I met John Legend and loads of other stunning artists. In New York, it was my first time in a proper studio, meeting with real producers… that was the first moment I felt like I was living the dream.
How did you meet Estelle?
My manager sent her some of my material, although I think she had already heard of me. I had wanted to work with her for some time, as she was really doing her thing. When she got back to my manager, I ended up meeting up with her and that’s when I became her hype girl. We spent a lot of time together; it was a once in a lifetime opportunity which has helped shape my career.
How was British Rap received in the US?
It is getting better now. Back in the day, most Americans said they couldn’t understand what we were saying! We rap quite fast in the U.K in comparison to them, so most of the time, they would say that they really liked it, but they simply couldn’t understand it… But now days, a lot of American artists are hopping on to grime tracks and dubstep, it is becoming more popular and accepted across the pond. Just look at Diddy’s grime version of Hello Good Morning featuring Skepta! That was a major step forward in the grime scene.
How difficult has it been for you as a female in the game?
You have to work ten times harder than a dude just to get to the same position as him. A lot of people will not take you seriously, you are criticised on the way you dress and how you appear, as well as your vocals. What I hate is that females often get put in a box. I do not want to be compared with other female artists. The media always have to turn women against each other. All I ever hear is, ‘who is the best female mc?’ I just want to be compared as an artist, not a woman. For me, I just concentrate on putting out hot verses. On the plus side, as a female in the game you do stand out, people listen more. There are so many guys in the game, that as a woman, if you play it right, you can really shine.
Who has been your favourite collaboration to date?
My track with Estelle and John Legend was a massive accomplishment to me, as they are both amazing artists.
Who is your dream artist to work with?
Jay-Z all the way, every day! I absolutely love him and have always looked up to him. I think he’s always consistent, he is a great business man, and he delivers sick bars. I love Nas as well, but my dream collaboration would be with Jay Z.
So what is next on your horizon?
My main task at the moment is finishing my album. I have done a lot of features and mixtapes, so I definitely think it is time my album came out, so I can give my fans some real material. I have recorded so much. I was due to release my album last year, but it has been pushed back to 2011, as I wanted it to reek of perfection…
Finally, what advice do you have for up and coming female artists?
Work hard, be persistent, and do not let the knocks you receive hold you back, keep trying and you will win. Make sure you have a good team behind you, a team that support you and let you make your own choices. Never let anyone steer you away from your instincts, always do what feels right to you.
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…
Talib has been standing strong in the hip hop scene since 1998, when he and fellow rap genius Mos Def released the classic album Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star. Since then, the Hip Hop general has released four albums, worked with the legend Mary J Blige and with Hip Hop’s favourite rapper, Kanye West. I chat to Talib to find out what he has planned for us next.
Hey Talib. What have you been up to recently?
My focus at the moment has been all about Gutter Rainbows. I am about to work on the album Prisoner of Conscious for Blacksmith. I am excited about the group Strong Arm Steady’s new album, Arms and Hammers. have also been working on Jean Grae’s Cake or Death LP and some more Idle Warship material with Res.
You have a loyal but exclusive UK fan base. Do you plan to try and break the mainstream UK market?
I do concerts in the UK at least twice a year. I sold out at two concerts last year; I did Roundhouse in Camden in October. I am not sure when the next one is, but I will keep you guys in the loop for sure!
You have worked with major artists, such as Kanye West. How was that experience?
I happened to meet Kanye when he came to my recording sessions looking for Mos Def. Back then, he was just a producer making beats for everyone. Nobody knew he had it in him to rap. It was great to work with him, we had and we still do have a lot of mutual respect for one another.
You also worked with Mary J Blige. How was that?
Mary was one of the most gracious, professional artist’s I have ever worked with. I would love to work with her again.
You quite a socially conscious rapper. What influenced you to take that alternative path?
The music I make is not alternative hip hop, it is REAL hip hop. All that other stuff they play on the radio is the alternative…
What advice would you give to up and coming rappers?
Ignore the industry and create your own legend.