Interviews

Ard Adz & Shallow 

Wretch 32

EXO

Fekky

Big Chess

Fem Fel

King Zion

Shaun White

Shaun White, once “South Solider” but more recently turned “Hook King”, is the man behind the melody. We meet him at his studio in South London, a place he spends almost every waking hour. This is the hive of activity and is where we want to be.

Shaun White, Once South Solider, Recently Turned Hook King

Before long we realise sleep around these parts is a rarity. He and his two producers who sit quietly in the corner of the room have been working in the dim light for almost 24 hours non-stop. Thankfully, as tired as he must be, Shaun is more than happy to pose for the camera. He is a natural but tells us he doesn’t like pictures.

Understandably music is more instinctive for Shaun, he’s been doing it a long time now. In fact you may remember ‘South Soldiers’, a grime collective put together by him back in 2004. The outfit fronted 2005’s ‘Don’t Trigger Campaign’, toured up and down the country, and their record ‘Heads Up’ (an anti-gun crime track) received widely acclaimed success across the capital. Shaun and fellow South Solider Big Ven then went on to create ‘FR3E’. The duo’s biggest hit came in the form of their funky track ‘Tribal Skank’, which in 2009 saw the pair P.A. over 200 times nationally.

Fast forward to 2011 and Shaun has released his first solo mixtape ‘Hooks and Verses Vol. 1’. It is a project of incredible perfection… but we would not have expected anything less. The collaborations’ list is enormous and there are not just any old features. The remix to Fr3e’s smash single ‘Round Here’ (originally featuring Young Spray) is sprinkled effortlessly with tones of UK’s best rap talent in the form of Cerose, Jaja Soze and Blade Brown. Stand out tracks are aplenty, the Young Money ‘Bedrock’ sounding ‘Pleasurable Pain’ boasts humorous verses from Big Ven and M Dot E. ‘Like You’ is one of the more personal tracks on the mixtape, serving as bio of Shaun’s life, where as other tracks, such as ‘Tag’ showcases a lyrically entertaining “to and fro” between himself and Big Ven.

What is clear is Shaun can turn his hand to most things. The hooks are catchy and sung well, his lyrics truthful, and at times emotive. He tells us his hooks are more melodic than anyone else’s and we wouldn’t disagree, even Shaun’s rap verses are jam-packed with melody. In his craft he oozes originality and feeling, a feat that certainly sets him apart from others. And guess what? Excitingly we are in for more of a treat very soon! Indeed Shaun plans to release ‘Hooks and Verses Vol. 2’ at the end of April. Shaun speaks of collaborations with artists Ghetts and Skepta. We are now itching even more to hear what he has got hiding.

As our interview draws to a close most apparent is Shaun’s passion for his profession. As he explains there is a damn good reason why he grafts so hard, “I’m trying to be a music mogul in this game”, he articulates confidently, “I want to be not only an artist or a musician but a business man. I want to create my own empire, my own lane and my own path in this.” Undisputedly Shaun will get there and it should not be too long either. He has all the cuttings of a successful young man; talent, drive and the mindset of a winner. “A lot of people break through and get noticed but whether they have longevity is another question.” Shaun needn’t worry about longevity, he has that mastered.

Article & Interview Written by Jada Guest
Photography by Alexa Claire

Shaun White Is Interviewed By Our New Feature Write Jada Guest

Shaun White’s Hooks & Verses Vol. 2 will be available for download around the end of April. You can download Shaun’s Hooks & Verses Vol. 1 directly from ukrapmusic.com via the link below.

Fr3e’s follow up single to ‘Round Here’, entitled ‘Be Ok’, is on Shaun’s Youtube channel now (link below), an official video for the track will be dropping very soon. Big Ven’s mixtape, as yet untitled, is due for release in April.

Gabriel Heatwave

As I wait outside Holloway Road Station I suddenly clock. Gabriel, The Heatwave founder & DJ, has no idea what I look like… nor am I any more clear on his appearance. I stand there. T-mobile tells me he’s unreachable and I wonder how on earth he is ever going to know who I am.

At this point I’ve never seen Heatwave play out. I have, hasten to add, listened to them go MAD at various Hot Wuk’s since. Contemplating my next move I am approached by a young man who moves hesitantly in his path. He asks politely if I’m Jada. I smile. This is my guy.

He suggests we go to a pub he knows just around the corner. We pass Arsenal’s home turf and his suggestion looks like it gave last orders a long time ago. On our detour we talk about his recent business trip to New York. I complain about the ridiculous price of flights and finally we arrive our destination.

The reason I’ve brought him here, to this rather dingy pub in north London, is because I’m nosey (when it comes to music anyway) and because I love the kind of stuff he deals with. I can tell immediately Gabriel has a serious passion for dancehall.

I am always curious to find out how someone so obsessed with music got so into it the first place. For a lot of the people I talk to it is an engagement with music, in some form or another, from a very young age. Gabriel it seems stands as no exception. His father was a jazz musician, and like he says, there were always musical instruments around the house.

A tell tale sign I now find, for those setting their sights on the music world, he also began making mixtapes for his friends at a young age, 14 to be exact. By 19, he had begun djing out, running nights for the student radio in Bristol- spinning the likes of Mr Scruff, Jah Warrior and UK dub reggae for the revellers.

He then spent a year in Spain, a period that played an extremely important role in converting his formerly hip-hop heart, into one of reggae. On the prow to find somewhere he could play Gabriel came across a reggae club in Valencia. He began hanging out there almost constantly, and met many other DJ’s, singers and musicians. The year was meant for university study, but as he admits, he didn’t do much studying at Uni. Instead, he studied reggae, a far more wholesome line of education.

As time flew over in Espana, the strings of 90’s dancehall tugged at Gabriel for his attention- and, thankfully, they got it. The “Dwali Riddim”, a catalyst for his journey into the wonderful world of bashment soon came, and on his return to London a year later he was quick to notice one major flaw. The capital was in desperate need of the dancehall experience. Luckily, he knew just the guys for the job, and The Heatwave was created.

They’ve been putting in the elbow grease ever since. 2008 marked the release of their CD “An England Story Compilation” through Jazz Soul Records. Tracing the journey of the British MC from back in the 80’s to the present day, it was a big hit.

I ask him about the influence of 80’s dancehall, Saxon Soundsystem in particular, on him and the pretty much the whole urban scene today. He speaks with great enthusiasm. “Tippa Irie, General Levy, Papa Levi, all those veterans, you listen to their records now and they don’t sound shit. You listen to a lot of 90’s hip-hop and it just doesn’t work or sound good”. I nod my head in agreement.

The guys then got their very own show on Rinse Fm, broadcasting live every Sunday night from 1-3am (Monday mornings really). They call it Bashment Sunday’s, simply because they showcase the biggest, baddest, and most exclusive in dancehall music.

As the interview continues I get even nosier. I want to know everything. The biggest dancehall tunes of 2010… Hold Yuh- Gyptian and Clarks- Vybz Kartel. I could have guessed. His favourite artist: Vybz Kartel. “Definitely in terms of hits. When I get a tune stuck in my head it’s often a Kartel one” he says.

I save my favourite question right till last. I like putting people on the spot and I am intrigued about his answer. I ask him why he loves dancehall music so much. He pauses for less than a second and continues with an answer I love. He speaks fondly of the energy it creates and the fact it’s built for dancing. “Tunes will do well if people can rave to them and get so excited that they get countless forwards” he explains. “If your reaction to music is so powerful that you have to light a flame in the it’s obviously got crazy energy”. LICKWOOD!

Lady Chann

How influential would you say 80’s dancehall, for example, Saxon (Tippa Irie, Smiley Culture etc), Unity, and others were/are, firstly on you as an individual (your style, what you learnt from them in general) and secondly,  on today’s uk music scene as a whole (mc clashes, dubplates, soundsystems etc)?

In the 80s British dancehall was actually running the scene, and the British acts were scoring massive hits commercially, chart wise and over in Jamaica. Just think it taught me that perseverance of something you love will translate into your music, and this will be interpreted all over the world.

Clashing in dancehall is just like battles in hip hop. Its healthy competition… I don’t involve myself in any of these clashes as I think that I respect and have learned from a lot of the top artists… I’d only ‘clash’ if maybe I was verbally called out and disrespected somehow… lol!

Dancehall doesn’t always receive the most positive press, coming up against against a fair bit of controversy within the media both here, and in Jamaica. Recently Vybz said “dancehall in its purest form is very intolerable but that people want it.” Would you agree/disagree and why?

Dancehall is very opinionated… and I basically think that the culture that we as West Indians come from, is that we tend to speak our minds, maybe a little too much haha! And we are real people, and we say and address some of the issues that others are too afraid to state or say. I agree with Kartel, it can come across as intolerable, but it’s a lifestyle and it will never be changed I hope!

In a recent interview with Vybz the interviewer suggested that “dancehall hadn’t really been curbed in such a way to be presented on an international scene without offending people?” What would you say in response to this?

Errrrrmmmm… possibly true yes… and id like to think that I could attempt to change this mad and sometimes negative perception of dancehall.. All around the world where I’ve travelled to, dancehall music and reggae are in very high demand, people love it.. but acts like Rhianna who are at an international star status, help it to become more accessible and adaptable, and I hope I can build the bridges with others that normally wouldn’t associate themselves with the whole dancehall scene.. I’ve seen it change towards this direction gradually, and it does put a massive smile on my face! :0) see? Lol!

I love dancehall because of its pure energy and the fact that it’s built for dancing. Why would you say you love it so much? (Assuming that you do!)

Of course I do!!! Lol! Dancehall is and always was apart of my childhood, my father was in Exodus sound System and travelled all around the world… it’s a lifestyle, i live it, breath it, and sleep it…but I do love all genres of music… I just love music… dancehall is so energetic, it connects with your soul, your sexual side and draws it out of you, its very liberating… I love it! By the way… there are too many dances, i’m not up to date on a lot of them… as I concentrate on the lyrical side of things and listen to other styles of music, so I even sometimes lose track with what’s going on in the scene, as it moves very fast!

And lastly, a journalist at the Daily Mirror described your flow as an “aural explosion”. Your voice and flow is very unique and immediately recognizable- but what would you say sets you apart from other female MC’s?

Well lets be fair I have an distinctive voice because my style is Jamaican and we are in the UK… I’m one of the only few females that flow in ‘real’ authentic Jamaican style… I’d even say i’m the only ‘real authentic’ sounding female Jamaican mc no disrespect to the others… but I live it, come from the group Suncycle and our patois is on point! So when I hear others attempting to do it, to non patois speaking people, they sound Jamaican, but to me, they are grammatically incorrect and their accent is almost disrespectful! Lol! I’ve always said; just because someone flows with a so called Jamaican accent, does not automatically mean they are a dancehall artist!  But hey… i’m here to do me, and keep it moving. Real recognizes real. xxxxx

Messy

The week before we meet he was graduating. This week he’s here with me discussing a budding music career and various business adventures on which he hopes to embark, including his own Production Company. Before I can even take the first sip of my tea he is talking of new management, videos, and collaborations. In fact, I realise after only a few minutes that he doesn’t stop talking.

For some he will be just another name, however, some may already be musically acquainted. Either way the 23 year old, graduate from South-East London has the same history, one rooted in Grime. If you were not tuned into pirate radio during the mid-2000’s you may not be so familiar with Messy. If, however, more recently you’ve got your ‘Grime’ on you may know a little more. Luckily I am about to fill you in.

Whilst music has always been an important factor for Mes, he hasn’t always taken it so seriously. Just like most secondary school boys interested in music it was at first a case of strictly playground business. By the age of 16, however, Messy had begun appearing on pirate radio, firstly with his own collective TMS and later the ‘Merc Boys’. Before long he had hooked up with SLK and Flirta D, joining them for regular sets on Hot Blaze (formerly Raw UK), one of the biggest stations around at the time.

Subsequently he became a member of the ‘South Soldiers’ who, as a collective, regularly appeared on the popular pirate station ‘On Top’ fm. If you knew Grime back then, you knew South Soldiers. If you didn’t you may at least of heard their 2006 ‘Heads Up’ hit promoting anti-gun crime, a record that received widely acclaimed success, particularly in South London. As a result ‘South Soldiers’ became a house-hold name within Grime; however this was as a collective- not as individuals. It helped, but as Mes agrees he has had to pave his own way as an individual. As a South London boy I assume it had been harder for him to make connections within a scene largely dominated by North and East London MC’s. ‘Definitely’ he replies without much hesitation, but it seems he chanced upon connections through a combination of networking and luck.

As he openly admits however, his University years proved somewhat intrusive on his musical ambition, and for the most part, ground his progress as an artist in the UK scene to a premature halt. Somehow I’m not at all surprised- prioritising between a degree and music must have been tough. ‘The first year wasn’t so hard’ Messy admits, but as deadlines arose it began to take its toll. He couldn’t put any music out and subsequently lost most of the buzz he had worked hard in creating previoulsy. But, he wasn’t going to get right to the end to fail, so he put the work in. Thankfully, for him, it proved to be no-more than a temporary interruption to his musical schedule.

If, by chance you are quite unfamiliar with Mes’s older work, collaborations with the likes of Wiley and Tinchy Stryder, you may, more recently have stumbled upon him collaborating with artists such as Ghetts or Rebler. You might even have caught his face on Grime Daily; he’s a regular nowadays so it’s more than likely, and his F64- surely you’ve seen it? He grins when I mention his, ‘I’m not guna lie…’ he says confidently, ‘But I went in’. Without doubt he seems pretty chuffed with his performance. In this line of work it does not pay to be introverted or modest, in fact it’s almost certain to hold you back. As an artist if you don’t think you’re the best- then there’s a problem.

I ask him which quality he believes makes him stands out most as an artist. Certainly he has as a very distinctive voice- but what else? ‘I’m a well rounded artist’ he says ‘but I think it’s my word play’. It’s a listen-to-and-rewind-back-too-many-times-so-you’re-certain-to- catch-everything situation, and when one of those arises I’m certain to take notice. With Mes, whilst you may pick up some lyrics the first time round a lot goes over the head and comes back later. Attach no negative connotations here-not every MC is fortunate enough to possess this quality. I certainly sympathise when the lyrics an artist has included ‘to make the other bits sound better’ as Messy puts it, are picked up on more frequently that the ones that are even better. That’s the downfall of being too lyrical I suppose.

As our interview draws to a close, my questioning begins to lack any sense of direction but I’m glad that’s the case. Instead we just chat which is far nicer and I begin to see just what he’s about as a person as well as an artist. I apologise for not asking him the questions I bet he gets asked every time, the ‘how did you come up with your name’ sort of one’s. He tells me its better that way but to be honest I’m now regretting not asking him at least that question- he’ll have to get back to me on that one. As I head off back to work I think over our meeting. I like what Mes is about. Importantly he has drive and positivity and with this in tow there should be nothing stopping him. Plus he has the material to go with it. Messy he may be, but it looks as though he’s certainly capable of clearing up this year. I for one certainly hope so.

{If you like the sound of what you read I am pleased to inform you there’s an awful lot in the pipeline! Not only is his old mix CD‘Messinterpretation’ available for digital download right now but he’s been working on an EP that’s coming very soon. There’s a whole load of remix volumes too. And, as if that wasn’t enough he’s got videos and collaborations coming out of his ears. If you’d heard whisperings about a collaboration with Wretch- you’re sources informed you well and hook up’s with artists such as G-Frsh, Mike GLC and Fix Dot are certainly not out of the question either!}

One comment

  1. Pingback: Chann & Glamma MONSTER « Jada Guest

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