- Thu, 2010-07-01 10:40
Skepta, aka Joseph Junior Adenuga, is shaping up to be the next big name in UK grime. Part of the Boy Better Know crew, set up by Skepta, his brother JME and godfather of grime Wiley, he produces, raps and manages his own label. Also part of the infamous Roll Deep crew, he’s been rubbing shoulders with the luminaries of the grime scene for a long time. Now it’s his turn to step forward into the limelight.
I Like Music chatted to Skepta about working hard, the importance of his crew, travelling to the US and what it takes to be an MC.
“I Like Music because…of that feeling you get when you first hear a song that you like. You just feel alive.” Skepta
ILM: Your new single Rescue Me has a strong message; the story of your journey within the music industry so far and the struggle that goes with it. It's quite hard hitting...
Skepta: For a year we’ve just been trying to make things happen and get to the forefront of the scene. We were making loads of hits, but the radio wasn’t supporting. We weren’t getting support from anywhere really. We were just doing everything by ourselves, using the money that we had to make it work. We started to tour with Chipmunk. I was the support act, and we had the single Bad Boy. It did quite well, but that was with no radio support and no major backing; it was just me and my manager running around doing the work.
ILM: What made you decide to address that in Rescue Me?
Skepta: Rescue Me was given to me by the same producer as Bad Boy. When he gave it to me and I heard the chorus on it, I thought it was perfect for the time. I’d been trying so hard but couldn’t see no love. When I went to write it I didn’t even have to think about it. It was so from the heart. Then we were thinking about the video and we decided to have me in a mental asylum and just have me trying to get everybody to play football, play connect four, have fun. Then the people come and take away the ball and tell everyone to get back inside. So, I’m trying to do good, and they come and strap me down onto this bed…they’re just being out of order basically. It’s just one big metaphor, and I’m just happy that a lot of people get the metaphor. A lot of people tweeted me and were saying it was really emotional and that.
ILM: Has that struggle had an affect on the way you write and make music? Or have you always approached things in the same way?
Skepta: Before I did grime I was rapping, and the one thing I didn’t want was to be pigeon-holed into any sound. All the songs that I’ve done, I’ve always tried to be different. I’m predominantly a live artist, so I just want to make songs that people can join in and sing along to. All the time that we weren’t getting no support from the radio, I told my manager “I don’t care if I don’t get support as long as I keep making big records and can do shows. I’ll survive.” With Bad Boy the radio realised they should have supported it, cos it got to number 23 in the UK national chart with no radio support or anything. So they’re thinking “if he can do this by himself, maybe we should be supporting him.” So with Rescue Me we’ve had quite a lot of support. I don’t think it affected me. Even if the radio weren’t supporting me now I’d still be making hits, hits, hits.
ILM: How do you like to work when you’re putting songs together?
Skepta: I’m really freestyle with my work. A lot of my ideas come to me when I’m lying down in my bed about to go to sleep. I’m assessing my day, what’s happened, where I am, what I want, what am I missing? I’m lying there having that little ten minute think, and something will come to me and I’ll put it into my phone. Not a lyric, but an idea. I’ll think like, “I feel like I’m not blowing my own trumpet enough.” I’ll write that down in my phone and wake up the next day and write something about blowing my own trumpet. People give me beats, but I produce my own beats as well, so if I like one I’ll vocal it.
ILM: You're from London, what influence has that had on your music?
Skepta: London’s got a distinctive lifestyle. I go to different cities around the UK and I think you can always tell London attitude. You can even tell when someone from another city has been to London for a little while. It’s a stuck-up, hard-faced city. Learning how to deal with it, you’ll be ready for the rest of the world. You’ll be alright if you’ve lived here!
ILM: You’ve travelled to and performed in loads of places outside the UK. Of those places, which have had the biggest impact upon you?
Skepta: Every time I go to America, when I come back I feel really inspired. It’s so big! It’s such a big place but we all speak the same language. If you can MC and be understood internationally, that’s a gift. I’ve been to Eminem’s radio station and MC’d and I’ve had feedback from the listeners, which is really great. I like Australia a lot as well.
ILM: Your crew, Boy Better Know is starting to get a lot of mainstream attention. How have you pushed it to get where it is?
Skepta: I just try and mention it a lot in my lyrics and wear the t-shirts in my videos. I don’t want to become a mainstream, commercial artist and be well known but my crew not to be known. I wouldn’t wanna be some big MC by myself. Right now, I’d rather Frisco and JME could have a word with you, not just me. We’re all together and are enjoying it together cos we’ve been doing it together from the beginning. For me to just go on by myself wouldn’t feel right. Plus, JME’s my blood brother; same mum, same dad. So I always try to mention it in my lyrics and just keep promoting it. It’s good that in the early stages of me becoming the artist Skepta in the UK, everyone, like you, is asking me about Boy Better Know. A lot of artists try to bring their crew a bit too late.
ILM: What are the future plans for Boy Better Know?
Skepta: This is the year that they’re all establishing themselves as individual artists so there are no tag-alongs in the crew when the album comes out. Everyone will be known as an artist in their own right. 2010 is the year that everybody gets themselves a platform. We’re working on a Boy Better Know album bit by bit as we speak. We must have about six tunes for it, so it’ll just be a case of finishing it up when everyone’s got their own album out the way.
ILM: What’s your advice to fans that look up to you and want to do something similar within the music industry?
Skepta: If you really believe in yourself and you know that one day you’ve got a place in the world of music, that it’s not just a hobby; then treat it as a job. That’s what I do. This is how I live. Just be yourself, really believe in it. Put everything into it, every last penny that you’ve got. There was a time in this music industry when you could show somebody your record and they might sign you or show you to someone and they’d be like “yeah, this is the new guy.” But there are so many people doing it now. If you showed me your song and I liked it, I could put it on my twitter for you and appear in your video, but that might not help you.
It’s really about you flooding the industry. Go and attack it. Know that it’s what you want. Get your videos on Channel U and Youtube, get on these websites like Grime Daily, get a twitter…Promote. Just go for it. There’s so much competition, and there isn’t any room for someone who doesn’t think that they’re the best. If you’re doing it for doing it’s sake then you have to accept what you get. There are people out there MCing just for the sake of it, and maybe they’re good artists, but if that’s why you’re doing it then you won’t be at T4 on the Beach, or Party In The Park, or Glastonbury. But if you want to be at those places then put your all into it.
ILM: What’s your music collection like?
Skepta: I listen to loads of music! As I said, I produce as well as MC, so I listen to different people for different reasons. I listen to Biggie Smalls and I like all the Boy Better Know stuff cos we MC clearly and we have little jokes in our lyrics. I listen to Giggs. Loads of people that I think are really doing it authentically. I found an NWA CD in the car recently. I like their kind of stuff. I like people who are speaking from the heart. For music and sounds I listen to loads of different stuff that some people wouldn’t think I would listen to, like Spandau Ballet and Basement Jaxx and stuff!
ILM: What live shows have you seen that you’ve really taken something away from?
Skepta: I like Dizzee Rascal’s live show, and N-Dubz' too...