- Thu, 2008-10-23 01:55
Blak Twang is one of the leading figures in UK Hip-Hop. His achivements include a MOBO, a Kora, and a Best International Hip-Hop Act nomination from The Source. He has worked with numerous talent including Roots Manuva and Estelle and has just released his 5th album Speaking From Xperience. Hailing from London, his lyrics reflect life in its truest form, his latest album is no exception, tackling the ups and downs of making it in the music industry.
I Like Music caught up with Blak Twang to talk about Speaking From Xperience, the music that he is into and the messages he casts out through his work.
"I Like Music because… it touches the soul. It lifts you up when you are in the dark. It is incomparable.” Blak Twang
ILM: What's the vibe of your new album?
Blak Twang: It's a documentation of my experience of the industry as an artist and a person. I've been doing this for the last twelve years. This is my fifth album. It talks about the highs of my career so far, it talks about the lows. It's an honest dipiction of things that have happened to me.
ILM: What would you say were some of the key things you have learnt from being in the industry?
Blak Twang: A lot of people think it is easy. But you have to be aware of yourself. The trust level goes down a bit because you meet so many people. You need to take the praise and the criticism with a pinch of salt. The album offers advice for artists on things to look out for within the industry.
ILM: What advice would you give to new artists looking to follow their dream?
Blak Twang: Trust yourself. Trust and belief in yourself is really key. I'd rather fail doing it my way than work in a way that someone else is telling me to. Of course you must take on board things that people tell you but, at the end of the day, it all comes down to you and your career. Be the architect of your own fortune, or misfortune.
ILM: How do you go about writing your lyrics? Do you have a set technique?
Blak Twang: I tended to write in the middle of the night. Three or four in the morning was when I produced a lot of my best work. But then, you know, having kids it doesn't work that way any more! I need to be up in the morning. Right now the middle of the day is when I write a lot of my stuff, when I have time to reflect.
One of the first tracks from the album that I wrote was 96. That was the year that a lot of people started to know about me, I won a MOBO award, I had a new album. That track set the tone for the rest of the album. It brought up a lot of memories that I then began to write about. Since 2005 and my last album, so many things have happened in my life, on a personal level and on a business level. From my previous label going bankrupt without me even knowing about it, being in dangerous situations on a personal level, losing family members, as well as some of the things that have been going on around the UK and around London with gun crime. I just put my thoughts onto paper. I don't have a method, I just get into that frame of mind and then write.
ILM: As an artist, how do you feel about being on a platform and passing a message to hundreds, thousands of fans?
Blak Twang: Based on my career, my life, my music is from a personal perspective. I've never been a fantasy rapper. My message to people is keep your head up and stay strong. My life has been a struggle, from being born, living in Manchester and Birmingham until I was five and then moving to London to live on another estate. It goes to show you that with hard work, perserverence and determination you can make it. There have been a lot of people who have sent me letters, fan mail, met me after shows and it is the poinancy of my lyrics that have touched them. I don't write to get that response. I write for me. It just shows you the parallel between peoples lives.
ILM: What is your process for making music?
Blak Twang: I have a studio in my garage. Sometimes, in the morning, if I wake up with a melody in my head, I'll just run to the studio and record it! As far as the music process goes, with this particular album I had made some of the tracks but then I met other people along the way too. For example First Man who had done a remix on my last album, then gave me a CD of tracks. I really liked the CD, it complimented my style too, so I wrote for them.
It would be a case of waking up with a melody in my head, going into the studio and just developing it from there. I have such a vast collection of records as well that I have inherited from my Mum and my Dad. We always had music in our house, loads and loads of vinyl. Listening to old records inspired some elements of the new record.
ILM: What is your earliest musical memory?
Blak Twang: Being in the house with my older sister and Dad and being around loads of records, I can't remember exactly which ones! As I got older, eleven or twelve I remember Michael Jackson, Thriller. Boney M was another favourite of mine! There was a lot of Funk in my house, a lot of Reggae, a lot of Pop music, Nigerian music, because I'm from Nigerian descent. A very eclectic collection.
ILM: What is in your CD player at the moment?
Blak Twang: I listen to Reggae a lot of the time. Kano's album. Sway's album. A bit of a mix and match. I was listening to Boyz II Men at the weekend!
ILM: Chilling out on a Sunday, listening to Boyz II Men...?
Blak Twang: Yeah! But all in all I listen to everything.
ILM: You've done some amazing collaborations over the years, do you have a dream collaboration?
Blak Twang: A track with Nas and Rakim, they were my two favourite artists growing up. So yeah, Nas and Rakim, and a chorus sung by Anita Baker.
ILM: What do you look forward to most about playing live?
Blak Twang: The crowd. Their buzz and their reaction. Being able to put across my records. You are able to take it to the crowd and really explain it. Why you wrote this particular song. Sometimes people mis-interpret your work, or read reviews that have not understood it.
ILM: You're able to look into peoples eyes?
Blak Twang: Absolutley. I try not to wear sunglasses on stage. I like to connect with people. I love to see them enjoying themselves, watch the people that know the tunes rapping along, that's a really great buzz for me.
ILM: What is the most memorable live gig that you've ever been to?
Blak Twang: Man, so many! So so many! I remeber seeing Biggie Smalls, that was quite amazing. There is just so many! Snoop Dogg at Brixton Academy, that was incredible as well! Other ones would be Big L at Subterannea which was mind blowing. I never got to see Tupac, which was quite upsetting. MCD was was quite amazing.
ILM: What are your future plans?
Blak Twang: I've already started writing new material.
ILM: What is inspiring you at the moment?
Blak Twang: Some of the responses to my records. I'm trying to do something different. I hate repitition. I don't want to write another Speaking From Xperience. I'm conciously trying not to repeat myself. In terms of what is inspiring me, I suppose it is other artists. We have so many coming out at the moment. You can have one or two coming out a year and say that the scene seems strong, but we have one or two coming out a month, which is impressive. People like Sway, Kano, Dizzee, Estelle, Chipmunk, they are all doing so well and they inspire me to keep on doing what I do.