Like the proverbial bus, you wait ages for one to come along....
But it is true. After the era of Eve, Kim, Trina and Missy, there was a dearth of female rap. And if it was bad in the US, it was even worse in this country. Post Ms. Dynamite and Lady Sov, we had to make do with the fantastic but commercially challenged No Lay, Lady Fury and Shystie. Great female rappers they may have been, but no one was tying to sign chicks that spit back then.
Following the breakthrough of the almighty Minaj though, not only do we have Brooke Candy, Katie Got Bandz, Azealia and Angel repping for the new wave of US rhymers, but over here Lady Leshurr, Paigey Cakey, RoxXxann, Ms. Bratt, Baby Blue and Lioness are at the forefront of British rhyme.
Having worked with Kano and Ms. Dynamite and having recently signed to Virgin/ EMI, we caught up with Ashley Charles to talk Peter Andre, wearing dresses and shocking her Granny.
How did you finally get that EMI/ Virgin deal? You've been independent for a long time, right?
I’ve been doing my independent grind for quite a while and then I did an EP last year called Short, Back & Sides and it shows the power of supporters cos they got it into the Top 20 Hip Hop on iTunes. For someone at the time who had 9000 Twitter followers, it felt very early to be able to do something significant through people supporting it. The guy who’s now my A&R heard the EP. He was randomly in Sweden and it was on a Swedish website. He contacted me saying he was in Sweden and that he wanted to hear some more of my stuff. I’ve been into labels before, and it’s always ‘Yeah you’re good but go and build up your underground, core fanbase and develop yourself a bit more’ so I didn’t really think anything of it. I had no expectations. And three weeks later, I signed a record deal.
Who do you count as influential figures when you're in the studio?
My influences include Timbaland in terms of sound, also Jay-Z, Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, Salt N Pepa, TLC…
Who would be your dream collab?
If I could work with anybody in the world it would be Kanye West. He’s just that guy.
After a host of mixtapes, what can we expect from your album?
The album for me is a body of work and I want to have that kind of synergy. I don’t think any studio session is time wasted, even if it’s not a song that makes it because you’ve developed new ideas or you’ve taken your brain somewhere. Every thing I’ve done so far, because we’re quite far along, feels like I've gone somewhere. A mixtape doesn’t need to have that coherence. It’s a collection of songs that you hope people will enjoy. Your debut album needs to be a story almost. It needs to feel like you’ve gone somewhere from beginning to end so only certain songs that are going to fit into that sequence. So far I've worked with Ishi, Fraser, Chris Loco, Show N Prove, who’s killing it. It’s a real broad spectrum. I'm also working with people I was working with before I signed. I was glad that the label were like ‘We liked what you did before we’re not going to pluck you away and make you work with strangers’. So far it’s been an amazing experience.
How do you describe your style?
Tomboy chick. Trademarked! I don’t think I’ve worn a dress since my First Holy Communion. I was asked to be a bridesmaid recenly. I still haven’t given my answer to that request. You can’t rock down the aisle with a trackie on, can you? I guess if someone put a gun to my head, I wouldn’t die. I’d just be #awks in a dress.
Who's the most randomly famous person in your phone?
Peter Andre. That's random. Do you know why? I was out, and he was out, and he came up and said ‘Mate, I really like your hair, can you text me your hairdressers details’. I don’t think I ever texted him. I was so in awe, the excitement was too much. How do you phrase that text? Do you put a kiss on the end? Two?
What's the toughest part of your job?
Probably separating friendship with business and knowing just because you’re my friend doesn’t mean you’re the best person for the job. It’s tough but it’s better to do those things and keep your friendship.
What's the most shocking thing you've seen or done on tour?What happens on tour, stays on tour. I’ve seen some things that would make my Granny cry!