Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Time For: Skepta

He's been making music since the days of Jungle, but it's as the King of Grime that Skepta's most famous. As both a producer and MC, he's created some of the scene's most classic moments, from Too Many Man and Nokia Charger Wire, to Duppy (Doin' It Again), infamous freestyles with Wiley and JME on Westwood to Rolex Sweep, Cross My Heart and Rescue Me. Thanks in part to the latter three, he's cracked the charts, travelled the world and had millions of views on YouTube. 

His last mixtape, Blacklisted, was perhaps his most accomplished yet, displaying both mind-blowing lyricism, distinguished flow and pretty excellent beats. And introduced us all to new ad-libs including #MEEEENTALLLL. 

Now, 'Young Shabba' is ready to drop an album proper. Titled Konnichiwa and featuring 8-bit beats, the recently released summer jam Lay Her Down featuring Kano, (above), is intended to bridge the gap between the two projects. We caught up with the 'St Paul soldier, Northumberland Park next door neighbour/ Eskimo raver' to find out about Grime's descent, his dad, hightops, Jessie Ware and being misunderstood.

Joseph Junior Adenuga. How are you?
I’m cool man. I’m really settled with what I’m doing. I feel like I’m in control again. I felt like I lost control a little bit when I was working with labels and stuff. The stuff that I was used to doing and overseeing, I didn’t have that anymore and that p*ssed me off for a little while. That was the whole turning point for me. I was like ’Hold on, this is not all it’s cracked up to be. I don’t like this'. I see myself as someone who can adapt to my surroundings but still be myself... Like when there was all 'Grime Time' and everyone was super-lyrical and fast, I was like ‘Do you know who I am? I’m Skepta and I can smash raves to bits’ (laughs). I just played that position and then when everybody started going commercial...  But yeah, I felt like I lost control a bit. Like, the scene was so shit.  I stopped making music pretty much the whole of 2011, 2012. I stopped and I listened to a lot of Theophilus London and Dev Hynes and Jessie Ware. I just felt like the whole scene was so shit.

I felt like I lost control a bit. Like, the scene was so sh*t. I stopped making music pretty much the whole of 2011, 2012

Nothing was going on here. It all became too YouTube based; it became more of a look than about the music. It went from music and was taken to being a fashion show. Not to say I don’t get dressed in mad clothes myself, but it became about what you looked like and what you wore, rather than the music. I didn’t do no music for the end of 2011 through 2012. I did a few features but I wanted to look at the music a little bit and that’s when I made Blacklisted.

So what were you listening to?
I took a look at what was going one. Like, back in the day, no one knew what an MC looked like. Whatever came out of the pirate radio, that was what you loved. That’s why people like D Double E were so sick cos he took the microphone away from his mouth and said ‘Ohh (Uhh)' and made it sound like an echo. Like, ’This is f**king beautiful’. People put effort into the sound that was coming out, rather than what they looked like. It sounded like a load of noise. Plus there was no adult. See when I was 30, I had a whole midlife crisis. Like ‘Where’s the adult in grime that I can look to?’ In rap, everyone looks to Jay-Z and says ‘Yeah, maybe one day I can hang round with Obama’. But me, I didn’t see anything. I thought I might have to stop doing music soon. I can’t be 30 years old prancing round like an idiot. So I thought about the people who I thought looked like cool adults when I was a kid. I’d think of cool songs and then I’d ring my dad at like 3am on a random one like ‘Dad, who sang that song’ and he’d be like ‘Cameo’. I’d sit and smoke and listen to Cameo, Michael McDonald, Shabba. That’s how I found Theophilus London and Dev Hynes. By going back. Taking it all back. Solange, Jessie Ware.

Grime became more of a look than about the music. It went from music and was taken to being a fashion show. 

Have Dev Hynes and Jessie Ware heard the lyric?
Yeah, he DM’d me today saying he loves it. Like, Jessie Ware is following me now. I don’t know what Jessie Ware thinks. I hope she hasn’t taken it in a rude way, because it isn’t meant that way. I meant it like ‘Pharrell and the Clipse’ type thing. 

So they were a big inspiration for Blacklisted?
Yeah. If anyone looked at my playlist I looked like a old man. It became a challenge to go as far, far back as I could, thinking of sick old ones and phoning my dad to ask him what it was. At my age, my dad was in this country with two kids. What do I have to show? I know that I’m a musician and I live a crazy life of drugs and partying but I have to remember I have to be a man one day. I just started wanting to be a cool man.  I thought of Shabba Ranks and those kind of brears. So that’s the difference.

Lets talk ad-libs. Like 'Sold out Wembley - sexxxxxy'.
(Laughs). Yeah, but when I do my ad-libs, they might not have anything to do with what I’ve just said, but it’s about how it’s made me feel. Like ‘Man are selling out Wembley’. If I think of myself selling out Wembley, I imagine a picture of me that would be from selling out Wembley and I’d probably look quite sexy, so that’s how It makes me feel (laughs).

I’ve always been weird in my dress. I think from young I’ve just loved clothes.

The Fuchsia pink suit in the video – it’s a strong look.
I think that all the Americans have all started dressing quirky, so when I upload a picture it’s like ‘Oh, he’s trying to dress like Kanye, he’s trying to dress like A$AP’. If you ever knew how long I’d been wearing furry hats, long jackets and crazy… I used to get kicked out of school for wearing my off-key Moschino jackets. I’ve always been mad. I think from young I’ve just loved clothes. I think that’s probably the reason I went mad on Ed Hardy. When I first got money from music, I wished that I could teleport myself back to my youth and buy every Moschino garment out. The only thing that I saw that remotely resembled Moschino was Ed Hardy. I think me going mad on it was payback for myself, a pat on my back to say ‘Well done’. 

Remember when you wore the Ed Hardy dressing gown onstage at the RWD/ Kano adizones Indigo 02 show?

(Laughs) Oh, the Ed Hardy bathrobe, yeah. That’s what I’m saying. I’ve always been weird in my dress. I don’t want to be Shabba, I don’t even know what he’s doing now, but… My dad is the reason for all of us when I think about it. And my mum, with her love of music. When my dad DJ’d he played all of that 70, 80s stuff; Michael McDonald, Cameo, classic reggae. He was that guy.

The song namedrops Dev Hynes and Jessie Ware. Have you heard from them? 
Yeah, he DM’d me today saying he’s loves it and Jessie Ware is following me now. I don’t know what Jessie Ware thinks cos I hope she hasn’t taken it in a rude way, because it isn’t meant that way. I meant it like ‘Pharrell and the Clipse’ type thing.

It was a skit on Blacklisted, but now it’s a full single?
Yeah it’s not even a single, it’s more of a bridge tune. I got to the English summer, if you can call it that, so I was like, What’s my summer tune? I wanted something to bridge the gap between the two albums and I thought ‘Yeah man, Lay Her Down’. I was wracking my brain as to what rapper could go on there. I thought of Wretch, Big Snoop could have been sick on there. Wiz Khalifa could have smashed it and then I thought of Kano. And then being practical and with the timescale I had... Wiz would have been a myth cos I would have had to go through the proper channels, Snoop I know his PA and Wretch is a mate and obviously Kano is a good friend. So I thought ‘Let me shout Kano’.

Why Kane?
I don’t know. Any of those guys would have been sick but Kano heard it and was like ‘Yeah , I get what you’re trying to do Skep’. I took kind of a left turn after I released Underdog Psychosis where I was just speaking to the camera for like 25 minutes. After that, I took a diversion with my music and I didn’t think people would get it. But Kano heard it and he sent me the verse back. That verse you hear on there is the first take. First take… Guy is a legend man. He’s got… flamboyance.

I love music so much, it doesn’t let me sleep at night.  

What was the most shocking thing that happened on the video shoot?
The car that we had yeah, it was an old-skool BMW. The license plate was K285 KNO. Kano was born in 1985. I got there before him and I’m looking at the car like ‘What’s going on here’. He turned up like ‘Bruv, look at this license plate’. It was just a random car they got for the shoot. That was so weird.

What can you tell us about Konnichiwa?
Why did I call my album Konnichiwa? Oh yeah. My little brother Jason is proper into the old-skool anime and Japanese music. He’s always been saying ‘Junior, why don’t you do some 8-bit sounds, some computer sounding music?’ I was like ‘Yeah I want to do it, but I don’t want to force it’. Blacklisted was my thing to the media to let them know that, whether you lot slander me or block me out or ignore me, I’m going to make noise regardless. When I released it, it was all over the radio, two songs got playlisted, and I didn’t do no press, no radio interviews. That was  my statement; I’m going to be dong this whether anybody likes it or not. That was my outlook. If I did that again for this album, it would be a bit cutting my nose off to spite my face. You can’t do an album properly without media. So I want to go into the 8-bit sound, and also like the Japanese fashion, I love how they style themselves. Lay Me Down is a bridge track, that will be on the album too and the first street single is called Konnichiwa.

It sounds quite experimental?
Yeah, it’s like Super Mario brothers. JME’s done it before, Devlin sampled an Japanese computer sample on London City. You’ve got producers like Joker... it’s just a different approach. It’s a different angle. I can’t do Blacklisted again. Obviously, I want to talk about deep subjects again, but I want it to be more lively and fiery.

I need someone to represent what we’re about; I don’t think anyone’s doing that. 

Who’s on it?
NASTY Crew, Roll Deep.. Nah, I'm joking. I’ve got Kano on there. I asked Jammer about it and he said get loads of old-skool people on there. So I’ve got Kano and I want to get D Double on there, I’m going in with Giggs. Just the greats really. I need someone to represent what we’re about; I don’t think anyone’s doing that. I mean, I don’t fault anyone, everyone’s got different things in their lives. Sometimes you can’t tell people to not go pop or not go commercial cos that’s what they want to do. If one day they want to stop, that’s their problem. With this album, I want it to represent the UK; the rappers, how we sound. Those wishy-washy commercial tunes that aren’t about the artist, they’re about making songs to get on radio, that’s what I don’t feel. I believe that longevity is the key for me. I don’t music so people can take pictures of me or for money or for any of that shit. I couldn’t stop making music, it would be impossible. If I said to myself ‘I’m going to quit, this is my last album,’ I’d be lying to myself and everyone. I love music so much, it doesn’t let me sleep at night.  Every sound I hear I think, 'How can I sample that'? Every person I see, I think, what story can I tell them about my life? I just want to set myself where when I’m 45, Jay-Z’s age, I need to still be rapping. So rather than go for a quick buck now, and kill myself, I’m going to set myself in stone and be like ‘You know what, Skepta’s in his own lane, he does his own shit, he enjoys himself, don’t bother him. If you don’t like it, leave him alone, if you do, go party with him and that’s it’.

I believe that longevity is the key for me. I don’t music so people can take pictures of me or for money or for any of that shit.

What's the toughest thing about being Skepta?
The toughest thing about being me is this f**king hair (laughs). When I come out the barber shop my hair looked MENTAL. It was all up high, it looked sick! The day I went to bed, I woke up the next morning I’ve got lean to the side! I’ve got to wear a hat until I next get a haircut!

That’s the price you pay young Shabba…
I know. It's so crap.

No comments:

Post a Comment