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