- Tue, 2010-05-18 11:02
Stephen Manderon is Professor Green, one of the brightest new lights of the British rap scene. With celebrity fans including Lily Allen, with whom he’s toured, and Mike Skinner, by whom he was signed until the label went under, he has just released his new single I Need You Tonight through Virgin. With an album due to follow shortly, it’s only a matter of time before he goes galactic.
I Like Music caught up with the Prof and spoke about how he discovered his talent by chance, the influence of London on his music, attracting the attention of Lady GaGa’s manager, and partying with Muse on a four-deck yacht.
“I Like Music because…I don’t like music; I love it!” Professor Green
ILM: What is your earliest musical memory?
Professor Green: I guess that would be Michael Jackson’s Bad. I had the vinyl. It had all the dance moves on the inside! That’s probably my earliest musical memory, but as far as when I got into rap music, I think the first song that really, really hooked me was by Biggie, and it was the One More Chance remix.
ILM: Do you remember the first time you put pen to paper and started to write?
Professor Green: I didn’t even start writing, I started freestyling. I was 18, and at my mate Carl’s house. They’d all been making music since they were about 12, and I just got put on the spot! So I spat a lyric and everyone was like “what? You can rap?” So I was like “um, no I can’t!” So that’s where it all began, just freestyling with them when they were rapping.
ILM: Is freestyling still a big part of things for you now?
Professor Green: No, I freestyle once in a while, but the way I write doesn’t start off with a freestyle. I just play the beat and I’ll usually get a four-bar or an eight-bar in my head and then write it down so I don’t forget it!
ILM: Have you been experimenting stylistically lately?
Professor Green: I listen to quite a lot of different music, so there are a lot of different inspirations in my record. This Sunday I’m working on a track with a band called Fink. He writes with John Legend, but he makes mostly dub. There are a couple of dubsteppy bits on the album. I like quite ambient dance as well. Trip-hoppy stuff.
ILM: You’re based in London, do you think that’s affected you as an artist?
Professor Green: Completely. We are who we are mostly because of our experiences, y’know? It’s probably the strongest influence in my music. I’ve spent my life here. Obviously I’ve had experiences in other places, but the majority of my life has been spent here. It’s pretty much everything I know.
ILM: How do you approach live performances?
Professor Green: I just get out there and give it everything I’ve got. Grab the crowd by the scruff of the neck and make them get into it!
ILM: What have been the most memorable shows you’ve done?
Professor Green: Probably the first time I ever did a show, which is just memorable because of how different it was, how nerve-wracking it was. That was the beginning of the learning curve. More recently, I’d love to say the first time me and Lily performed together but my memories of that are pretty much just the YouTube clips of it! There’s proof on YouTube it happened, otherwise I might have questioned whether it did or not! Apart from that, a lot of the shows with Lily I’ve played have been amazing, and the other day I did a show with Tinie Tempah. There were about 1500 people packed in shoulder to shoulder singing every word of I Need You Tonight. I’ve not had that with a song before.
ILM: How did you feel when you came off stage?
Professor Green: Amazing! Just buzzing! It’s cool to really see the work paying off now, ‘cos I’ve been at this for years.
ILM: What would you say to anyone who wants to make it to where you are?
Professor Green: You know what, it’s hard work to get here, and it’s harder to stay here. I can feel that already. I’ve worked hard to get in the position where I can work harder. If anyone thinks it’s easy they’re in the wrong business. But that’s been the most amazing part of it. I’ve really got the opportunity to work as hard as I want now. There’s never an empty hour.
ILM: Where are you taking it next?
Professor Green: The single’s just dropped in Australia, so it’s starting out there. America’s itching for me at the moment. William Morris, Lady GaGa’s agent has given me a year long schedule, so they want me to go out there.
Professor Green: Yeah! It even includes some Playboy parties so I really want to get out there! It’s going to go international. The album will be wrapped in two or three weeks. Then I’ve got a lot of promotion to do over here, so I can’t jet off yet, but it’s gonna happen. I’m definitely excited!
ILM: Sounds like it’s going to be an amazing journey, how do plan on staying grounded?
Professor Green: Everyone has an ego, no matter how humble they are, but I don’t really think music is a place where egos should exist. Not how some people are anyway. Doctors and nurses are saving lives, they’re the ones who should be allowed to have egos. They don’t get any praise for what they’re doing, but we’re just musicians. We’re just lucky enough to be able to support ourselves by doing something we love.
ILM: I suppose ultimately it’s just about making amazing music…
Professor Green. Yeah… but not for some people. Some people don’t even like their own music. How can it really be personal song? A lot of people are just part of the machine.
ILM: You must be starting to sample the celeb lifestyle, what have been some of the stand-out moments?
Professor Green: There’ve been a few parties! One thing that stands out is when I was in Australia with Lily at Big Day Out and Muse were headlining. They took us out in a massive four-deck yacht. It was food and drink on tap. That was one of those amazing moments. I was like “what the fuck is going on? I’m just a little kid from Hackney!”
ILM: What have you been listening to recently?
Professor Green: The new Bonobo album. Rap is my favourite, but I try not to listen to it when I’m writing music. I don’t want to be influenced by what someone’s done already. Listening to people like Bonobo and Cinematic Orchestra inspires thought in me.
ILM: Do you think your music might take some twists and turns down unexpected routes? Collaborations with those artists perhaps?
Professor Green: Yeah, definitely! I’m really up for that! I’m actually going to be working on a track with Lauren Pritchard. We’ve got a mutual friend so we’re gonna get into the studio and put a song down. I think the end of May we’ve got booked in. She’s incredible! I’ve been listening to Wasted In Jackson over and over again!
ILM: Who have you seen live that has really inspired you?
Professor Green: I tell you what, the best gig I’ve ever been to was the Prodigy at Brixton Academy. I went there with Plan B, and a mutual friend Craig, and Phoenix. It was…yeah! I was off my trolley, so were the other 4999 people in there! We were all raving together!