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The Time I Went Ice Skating For The Love Of Music

chimpo

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

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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

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!

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Maz Meets Maverick Sabre

At only 21 this eclectic singer, songwriter and guitarist already possesses a carefully crafted talent that extends way beyond his years. You’ve heard Maverick Sabre on collaborations with Pro Green and others, now he is getting ready to unleash his debut album. I went to Mercury Records in London to have a chat with the MOBO nominee about his new music, growing up and female inspirations…

Hey Maverick, how are you?

I’m good, a bit hungover but fighting through it! [Laughs]

So, let’s start from the beginning. You were born in Hackney, you then moved to Ireland… which one do you class as your hometown?

They are both home to me, I’m definitely just between the two; I’m London – Irish, you know. My home is different places all the time; my home is on stage with my guitar really!

So, Maverick. Can I assume that is not your birth name?

Nah, it’s not! My name is Michael. When I was 14 I was setting up a MySpace page and I thought my name was too plain, not edgy enough to get people’s attention. So I looked in the thesaurus and found two words under my initials which would match me as an artist and a person. It said ‘Maverick’ was someone who thought outside the box and the meaning I found for ‘Sabre’ was someone who puts on a hard front to get through hard times. I think that everyone has to do that at some point of their life.

Listening to your music, I would never think you are only 21. What has given you the insight that is reflected in your music?

Ummm, I don’t know about that, I write from my heart and soul, I write about things that I need to express and things I feel need to be spoken about. It just comes from my heart.

Growing up, did you always know you wanted to be a musician?

I always loved music but there were times when I thought ‘shall I do something else?’ and I worked a couple of small jobs; I never went to university or anything… But I knew in the back of my mind I always going to do music, I loved it. I didn’t see the point of having a backup plan; I just wanted to put 100% into music.

Not only a singer, you also play the guitar. Do you play anything else?

I dabble with the piano… I would like to be able to say I can actually play it but I can’t!

When did you learn to play guitar?

When I was about 8. My dad’s been a musician all his life so I’ve been brought up listening to Blues, watching him play the guitar, going to his gigs and rehearsals… So I asked my dad to teach me and then I started to write my own music and it all went off from there.

What are your thought processes when you write?

I could hear a beat here and write an idea for it, I could be in a car and hear something and wanna write something down. Most times, I sit alone, close the curtains, turn most of the lights off, turn my phone off, maybe have a little drink and get into it. Normally I sit in darkness, with just enough light to write and just go in. Sometimes I don’t eat for a couple of days, I just write, write, write.

Does any particular lady inspire your music or are you currently single?

I am currently single… right now! But no one specifically inspires me, just the women of the world. I love women, no matter where they’re from, all shapes and sizes! Women just inspire me, all women.

I’m sure you hear this all the time; your voice is unusual. What influenced the tone in your voice?

I found my voice; it took me a while to get it. I was singing from around 8 years old and then I was MC’ing on the Irish Hip Hop scene when I was around 14, then I started singing with my guitar. I’m heavily influenced by everything from traditional Irish music to Blues, Hip Hop, Reggae, Soul, Funk, everything. So there’s a mixture of everything in that.

Okay, so saying that, if you had to class your music under one genre, could you and what would it be?

Nah, I’d make up my own one! It would be Hip Hop Inspired Soulful Folk music. I say Folk as in folklore; I like to tell a story with my music. Then there is the soul side, as everything I sing is from my heart. I wanna try and connect with people because I feel if you are real to yourself and you express your raw emotions, everybody else can connect with that. Even if they are from a different background; everyone goes through similar raw emotions in life, innit? Then I’m a Hip Hop head, so all of that is then inspired by Hip Hop. I love Hip Hop.

Wow, that takes eclectic to a new level. Top three favourite artists?

Tupac Shakur, Bob Marley and Bob Dylan.

Nice. So your album is coming out soon. What can we expect?

It’s coming out hopefully in January and it’s called ‘Lonely Are The Brave’.  Like I say, it will be a mix of every genre. I’ve had mix tapes and EP’s but this is like my first real stamp on music, where people can go to the shops and physically buy it. I want people who listen to it to get a better understanding of me; it’s kinda like a diary entry. I wanted to make an album that could be listened to in 50 years’ time and would still be relevant. I also wanna push forward a positive message in my music.

Where can people see you live in the future?

I’ve got my tour starting October 25. Delilah is confirmed to support me at the moment. It will be all around the UK and Ireland, my first proper tour; I’m really looking forward to it.

How is your music received overseas?

Well I did a show in New York, Chicago and Austin and I hope to go back over there next year, I loved it. They have such an appreciation for home grown music over here, especially because you have Adele, Jessie J and Tinie smashing it over there, they are craving more.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Everything as a whole, to be honest. Growing up in a small town in Ireland and coming up through the Irish Hip Hop scene, I just see everything as an achievement for myself. A major point was when I sold out the Jazz Café; I had one of the best shows of my life there. Everyone knew the lyrics and I had my close family and friends there. It was a proud moment.

And how has your life changed over the past year?

You get a lot of people saying hello to you that never did before! One thing in the music industry, with the success and failure it can bring, you really see who your true friends are. The people who are real will be there when you fail and will also be there for the good times.

Who are you feeling in the music scene right now?

I’m listening to a lot of up and coming MC’s like Benny Banks, Mac Miller, English Frank, K Coke… I love Erykah Badu, I was listening to her last night. But mainly at the minute I’m listening to a lot of up and coming MC’s. There’s a group from Dublin called Walking Class Records, they are really pushing the Irish Hip Hop scene forward at the minute.

What’s next for Maverick Sabre?

My single ‘I Need’ is out on November 7 and you can check out the video online now. The tour is starting in late October around UK and Ireland. Then my album is out hopefully in January.

Exciting stuff.

Yeah it should be good! [Excitedly] and I’ll just be pushing my music out in between all that.

So, finally. What advice would you give to up and coming artists trying to break the scene?

Know your limitations; know what you are bad at and what you are good at. That might sound obvious, but you see people on the X Factor and stuff and they don’t know what they are bad at, even though they have good vocals. So yeah, know your limitations, your capabilities and what you are good at and push that. Have 100% faith in yourself.  If you know what you are good at and you know you don’t ever wanna do anything else but that and there is no question in your mind then push ahead with it. Don’t follow a crowd; you will have one Tinie Tempah then about 15 million people trying to copy him! Do what YOU want to do. Don’t follow other people cause then you’re just gonna make bland boring music. If you do what YOU wanna do, then you’re always gonna be on the road to something good.

This interview was originally printed in the November issue of Flavour Magazine. See the digital version here.

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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…