After the success of Wretch 32′s debut, Black & White, and the appearance of a very very good mixtape in the form of Wretchercise, the London MC is coming back with a new single ‘Pop’ and a highly anticipated second album.
HOW DOES THE NEW RECORD DIFFER FROM BLACK & WHITE?
It’s definitely a progression from Black & White. I feel like lyrically I’ve got better, and we’re trying new things. Of course, having everything change in my life, I have a whole lot more to say, taking you through the journey. It’s definitely a step up in life, musically and lyrically.
CAN YOU GIVE US ANY CLUE AS TO WHO YOU ARE GOING TO BE COLLABORATING WITH?
The record will definitely have collaborations. I’m not sure as to whom yet because I’ve still got to finish quite a few bits of the production before we add anyone. I’m really sitting in on this record and making sure everything sounds right before. Sometimes you send out a record and it’s half-done and an artist might not get the vision. So we’re just tightening everything up before we sort out the guest vocals.
IS THAT THE GENERAL PROCESS – DO YOU WRITE THE TRACK FIRST AND THEN BRING IN THE FEATURING ARTIST AFTERWARDS?
Sometimes I have them involved afterwards and sometimes we have a session when we work on something together with a producer. This time it’s more of a case of me just making sure that everything’s right. Sometimes you have those sessions and you’re not on the same page and it doesn’t work out. Working this way, an artist can be like, “I totally relate to that” and then they come in and we can change whatever from there.
OUT OF THE ACTS OUT THERE WHO YOU HAVEN’T YET APPROACHED TO WORK WITH, WHO WOULD BE YOUR DREAM COLLABORATOR?
I’d really love to have Damian Marley. I’ve got two records that I definitely think he could vibe on.
WHAT PRODUCERS HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING WITH ON THE NEW ALBUM?
I’m still working with the same guys that I worked with on Black & White and new guy called Knox Brown. What I like about working with producers that are familiar with me, even if they didn’t work on the first record, is that they all have listened to me before Traktor. Six years ago they were listening to me so they understand what music I make and what direction I’m going in. It’s still nice to go in with someone who has only heard me as of recent but the problem I find with that is that they’re more geared into making singles. I’m more about finding a balance.
YOU’VE HAD A LOT OF NEW TRACKS RECORDED FOR A LONG TIME – AREN’T YOU ITCHING TO GET THEM OUT THERE?
Beyond itching. I’m the type of person that just throws things up on my YouTube channel as well, so at any given moment there might just be some surprises.
IS THAT WHY YOU DECIDED TO PUT YOUR MIX-TAPE OUT FIRST, TO GET SOME OF IT OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM?
Yeah, cos there’s so much on my laptop. There’s like one million records that I’m looking at and I want them out there, rather than on my laptop. There are some songs that I know if I don’t throw them out now, then next year I’m not gonna use them. It doesn’t make sense to sit on them.
IT MUST BE PRETTY EXCITING TO HAVE THEM THERE THOUGH, AND HAVE THAT POWER TO JUST PUT ONE OUT WHENEVER YOU WANT AND CAUSE A STIR?
Yeah it’s nice. It’s also nice to see the label’s face when you do that! They’re not a fan of that.
WHICH MCS INSPIRED YOU WHEN YOU WERE HUSTLING ON THE UNDERGROUND SCENE?
Definitely artists like J2K when he was making a lot of mix-tapes. Twist from So Solid. Kano.
ARE THESE PEOPLE NOW YOUR CONTEMPORARIES?
Of course the new record from myself, Pop, actually samples Kano. So that’s me paying respect and homage to Kano and to the UK underground music scene.
ARE THERE ANY UP AND COMING MCS THAT YOU’RE TIPPING FOR MAINSTREAM SUCCESS?
I think there’s a few that are gearing up right now to have a good crack. I definitely think Krept & Konan, who are two rappers who are now supporting Devlin on tour. There was a lot of support from artists that were in better positions when I was coming through. So I’m very active in supporting new artists and collaborate with them on my mix-tapes. Tweeting, giving advice, whatever I can do really. I also think it helps the scene evolve and continue to churn out new talent.
IS THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF AN MC TO MAKE IT MAINSTREAM?
The ultimate goal for myself was just to be heard by as many ears as possible. I don’t think it’s the right mentality to say I want to be in the mainstream or I want to be famous.
DOES THAT NECESSARILY EQUATE TO DESERTING YOUR ROOTS, AS YOU SUGGEST SOME PEOPLE SAY IT DOES IN YOUR NEW RECORD POP?
I realised that the moment an artist becomes commercially successful, it’s kind of deemed that in order to get that success they’d have had to change or adapt. In actual fact, a record like Traktor I’d have made ten years ago on the underground. The only difference was then I didn’t have the team that puts me on the radio and TV, and gets me on the festivals. Now I’m able to give a record to the radio, get interviews by people like yourself, get it on the TV next to Rihanna’s videos. That’s what equates to the success.
DOES IT BOTHER YOU THAT SOME PEOPLE HAVE MADE THAT ACCUSATION THOUGH?
I don’t get it that much if I’m honest. People are alright with me and they realise that I’m making the same music as I did before. But what was getting to me and the reason that I was saying “I’m not a pop star” in the song is because I was noticing that the terminology ‘pop star’ meant that once you’re a pop star, you’ve made it. But if pop is standing for popular in pop star, then what happens when I’m not longer popular? Am I just a star? In actual fact, when I started rapping I said was a rapper, so now I would still say I’m a rapper because once you lose the popularity then what do you become? If I continue to say I’m a rapper – I’ve been a rapper for ten years – but now I’m just a successful rapper. When you watch X Factor and they’re like, “You’re great, you look like a pop star” – what does a pop star look like? I really actually don’t like that term. I am a rapper.
YOU SAY IN THE TRACK YOU’RE NOT A POP STAR – BUT IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULDN’T DO BECAUSE IT WOULD BE “TOO COMMERCIAL”?
There’s quite a lot of records that we turn down. Features. Loads of features actually. Because it just doesn’t fit and sounds like it’s trying to be a hit. There has to be feeling and emotion behind the song. My whole thing is I’m not here to be a famous face. I don’t want to be papped. I want to make music. If you notice, on most of my art work my face is turned to the side. I’m on the front of RWD magazine with my hand over my face. I’m always quite sheltered.
SO DO YOU FIND PHOTOSHOOTS SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO DO RATHER THAN SOMETHING YOU WANT TO DO THEN?
Exactly, that’s exactly it. Imagine if you worked in McDonalds and you like food and frying. There’s that part of the job where you have to take the rubbish out (laughs). In regards to photo shoots I’ve had to get used to it but it’s not what I’m here for.
NO MODELLING ASPIRATIONS THEN?
We’ve turned down loads of stuff like that because I’m very skinny and tall.
YOU’RE FEATURING ON CHERYL COLE’S FORTHCOMING SINGLE “SCREW YOU”. HOW DID THE DECISION TO WORK WITH CHERYL COME ABOUT?
I’m not sure if they’re going to go with the single because the Girls Aloud thing happened earlier than expected. When I first looked at it I was like “Cheryl Cole? Huh? What’s this gonna sound like?” But when I heard it, it came from an honest place and was a good record. She’s cool, very professional and smiley.
MANY BIG NAMES IN MUSIC HAVE SAID THEY ARE FANS OF YOUR WORK. WHICH WAS THE MOST FLATTERING?
Probably Sade or Chris Martin. I met Chris Martin at the Q Awards and he literally took me out of my seat and was like “that Black & White album was a masterpiece”. I didn’t really know what to say and tried to play it cool. I’m a massive fan of Coldplay so to have that nod really meant a lot.
With Sade, she actually rang me. For half of the conversation I was contemplating if it was some kind of prank and was waiting for Jeremy Beadle to pop out. No one ever came so I knew it was real. I was quite shocked…she probably thinks I’m a weirdo because I was so quiet! We worked on a record but I’m not sure what’s going to happen on it.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ALBUM OF ALL TIME?
That’s such a huge title. Probably Jay Z’s Black Album.
YOUR TRACKS HAVE SOME BRILLIANT LINES. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LINE FROM ONE OF YOUR TRACKS?
That’s another difficult one. My lines mean so much to me, and I take so much pride in them, it’s like asking me who is my favourite, my son or my daughter! I like different ones for different reasons but I couldn’t even pick.
IS THERE A PARTICULAR TRACK OF YOURS IN A LIVE SHOW THAT YOU REALLY LOOK FORWARD TO PERFORMING?
I really like performing a new record called “Blur”. We’ve been getting great feedback from it and it’s a good vibe. The band play it well and it goes with the set.
TELL ME ABOUT SOMETHING YOU WOULD SAY YOU’RE “OBSESSED” WITH.
I think I’m obsessed with my phones.
ARE YOU TEAM IPHONE OR BLACKBERRY?
I’m both. If my battery dies I feel like the world has ended. I can’t focus. I really need my phones.
ARE YOU INTO THE WHOLE SOCIAL MEDIA THING?
Yeah I tweet and use instagram. In the beginning I got bullied into doing them. Then I started liking it and started getting obsessed by it. But it’s cool because I’m nosy and I like to see what everyone’s up to. It’s good for the fans. It can be a bit much at times but I suppose at the end of the day you don’t have to have it.
YOU MUST GET SO MANY TWEETS A DAY, DO YOU GET A CHANCE TO READ ANY OF THEM?
I read quite a lot on long car journeys.
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP YOUR SENSE OF STYLE WHEN IT COMES TO FASHION? WILL IT EVOLVE AT ALL FOR THIS RECORD?
Possibly. I’m really into fashion. There’s a lot of stuff I look at and like, but I wouldn’t see myself in it.
YOU APPRECIATE IT.
Yes a million per cent. I think that looks wicked but wouldn’t look wicked on me. I went to a few fashion weeks this year. I look at it like fashion is a different form of expression and expression comes under the category of art.
WHERE DO YOU THINK THE POWER LIES IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY RIGHT NOW?
I think the power always lies within the fans, regardless. If you’ve got enough fans then you don’t need anything else. If you have a million fans that buy everything you put out you don’t need a radio station, you don’t need a TV, anything.
NOW YOU ARE LINKED TO A MAJOR LABEL, HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO MAINTAIN YOUR CREATIVE CONTROL OR IS THERE A COMPROMISE NOW?
Yeah, 100 per cent! If they had come to my house and signed me from when I was six years old, and said this is who you are and what you’re going to make and this how you’re going to be successful and then they made me successful, then it would be a different story. But we had had music out and done shows so they came to add to what we do. Of course they have ideas because they’ve been in the game longer but when it comes to making music they’re not going to be more experienced than me.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE NEXT FEW MONTHS?
Work, work, work. I just wanna work man. There’s a few live shows at the end of the year too.
WHO ARE YOUR IDOLS?
There are a lot of people I look up to. My first idol was my dad. Then Michael Jackson. Ian Wright. Reggie Yates.
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