- Mon, 2011-01-31 12:06
After years of climbing the ranks of the underground urban scene, Jermaine Scott (aka Wretch 32) has finally forced his way into the charts with his jaw-dropping, hip-swaying single Traktor. Dubbed The Metaphor Man by fellow artist Devlin, his ability to drop fresh beats with infectious melodies has already taken the mainstream by storm, and the hype around his name shows no sign of slowing.
We caught up with Wretch to talk about breaking through the glass ceiling of the underground scene, using cans as instruments in the studio, and wearing his heart on his CD…
“I Like Music because…it makes me feel me. It makes me express myself, it makes me feel good about myself and feel good about life also." Wretch 32
ILM: Hey....just heard Traktor played out on Radio One…
Wretch 32: Wahoooooooo!
ILM: Congratulations, it’s a massive tune! Everybody’s talking about it!
Wretch 32: Thank you!
ILM: Even though you’ve been making music for some time, Traktor is the first introduction to your music for quite a few people. Can you tell us a bit about the track?
Wretch 32: When I was making my new album, Traktor was one of those beats I got sent over, and it had a lot of elements that I like: it’s got a reggae element, it’s got a cool, classy element… So we put a vibe down, then said “let’s add to it.” I thought it wasn’t finished without the bridge so I said “let me come back in, let’s add some soul to it so it’s got all the genres of music that I like.” So it’s kind of got the bounce, but it’s still soul-ish and it kind of catches you. We spent a lot of time making that record to make sure it was right, because we thought we had something special there. We didn’t know if it was a single. We knew it was a nice feeling track and that’s the kind of vibe that I go for. It’s about the feeling.
ILM: What has it taken to get to this stage with your music?
Wretch 32: It’s been a great journey. I couldn’t have asked for a better one. I started off doing my own mixtapes a few years back – well a couple of years ago – and just kind of climbed the ranks in the underground. From there I got radio behind me. 1Xtra were really supportive and started playing me. From there I started playing a lot of shows, I linked up with Scorcher, Devlin, Ghetto and Mercston – we formed a little rap group for about a year and a bit, The Movement, and put a CD out. I did a free download CD, then me and Chipmunk did one together… I’ve done quite a lot of CDs, about seven. Just to keep my name floating on the underground, you know? Then you kind of get to the glass ceiling and you've just got to smash through it; hopefully the Traktor single is helping me do that!
ILM: How do you keep pushing yourself to stay fresh in the studio?
Wretch 32: For me, I’ll be real honest; I fancy myself as a comedian! Everything for me is about fun and vibe. So when I’m in the studio, you got to take it serious ‘cause it is a job, but sometimes we’ll come up with some crazy ideas. I’ve been working with some producers, Wizzy Wow and J-Flows, and they come up with some crazy ideas. While they’re producing the beat they might just hear something in their head and say “let me go put that down”… You know sometimes he’s actually using his mouth as the instrument, sometimes it’s cans, and we’re just getting weird sounds and pushing the boundaries. We’re never too serious in there, we’re just getting it right.
ILM: What can we expect from your album, is it finished yet?
Wretch 32: I’m just over halfway through. I want to make sure I have a very good CD, so I really took my time. But yeah, we’re definitely over halfway. I know I’ve got to wrap it up kinda soon because I’m going to be doing the Example tour in February/March, and that’s gonna have me down and out, so I literally need to get it finished before then and hand it in. But it’s gonna sound nice, it’s going to have cool, club, edgy sounds on it. So expect a lot of Traktor sounding records, a few other more melodic sounding records…Just good music really, that’s my main focus.
ILM: Devlin nicknamed you The Metaphor Man; which lyricists do you have respect for?
Wretch 32: I think Devlin’s one of the sickest. I think Sway’s also really good, as are Scorcher, Chipmunk, Professor Green… I think right now there’s a lot of people that have kind of got through the glass ceiling and there are still some underneath. I think we’re getting to the level now where there are artists that are good at different stuff. Like you got me, I might be great at metaphors, Devlin might have a great flow, Scorcher might have phenomenal delivery… And I think this is the place where we need to be, we don’t all need to sound similar and we don’t all need to have the same strengths. I like different artists for different things, and I think everyone’s coming up with something strong now so it’s the best time that we’ve ever had in the UK.
ILM: How do you feel about weaving your personal life and history into your music?
Wretch 32: The good thing about me is that I’m not afraid to do that. I can wear my heart on my CD, not my sleeve! I think about being kicked out at 16; I’m pretty sure there’s probably 100,000 kids that has happened to. That’s how I help people relate to my music, and despite everything that happened to me, I still found the positive in the negative. If that influences even one person in a predicament to do something positive then I’m doing my job. It could be one person, it could be 100,000; as long as it touches someone in the right way then I think I’m on the right path. I think it’s good to talk about real life, ‘cause at the end of the day we all live a real life, that’s what helps people relate to situations.
ILM: What can we expect from your tour with Example; what do you like to do on stage?
Wretch 32: I try and treat all my shows like “this is the last show I’m gonna do.” So I don’t want to come off there without sweat dripping from my forehead. I don’t want to not feel tired and exhausted. I try and give it my all. At the end of the day I realise that it’s not every day that people get to see their favourite artist, so once you’re in front of them you’ve got to give them what they wanna see. It’s up to me to deliver and represent my music in the best way I can, and I think giving a great performance is the best way I can do that.
ILM: What have been some of the most memorable live performances from other artists that you’ve seen?
Wretch 32: I like Pro Green’s presence on his tour. I learnt a lot from him. I like the way that Tinie’s really abstract. Shifty’s got a great emotional part in his show, when he does his emotional tracks I really feel that. I think that when you just watch other artists, you see where you’re different, maybe what you could have done or what you could change or whatever. You never want to steal anything from anyone, but it’s just nice to know where you’re at in terms of performance. So I just go and watch everyone’s show. I really like Kanye’s show. That was a really good one. Alicia Keys, her show was good. I go and see different types of artist, like Mr Hudson. I think he was incredible.
ILM: When did you first realise that music could have such a big impact on you?
Wretch 32: I think it was around the time I started receiving money for music! In the beginning you’re spending money for studio sessions, printing up CDs, videos etc… And then once you start getting paid for it, you’re like “hold on. This is very, very soon going to turn from a hobby into a job.” And it’s something I never even thought of because it’s what I love doing. I used to always hear people say “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” So just being able to get paid for it and just the reaction of people being touched by my music, that was really the defining moment for me, ‘cause I was like “wow, this is what I wanna do, this is where I wanna be.” And actually making a living off it, I feel like I’m in paradise right now, I can’t lie!
ILM: What are your future plans?
Wretch 32: It’s weird because with me – my manager and my team will tell you – I actually only care about making music. If any other situation arises around it, like I get to make aftershave or something, then I’ll go with it. But I think everything’s got to start with the music. When you’re making great music, you go to great, great places; when you’re in a great place, great opportunities arrive. So I don’t have a plan for the second part, I just plan to make the good music and then whatever happens, happens. To be honest it’s literally just about making great CDs, that’s my main focus.
ILM: What have you been listening to recently?
Wretch 32: Right now I’m listening to The Script. Really like that record. I’ve also been listening to Tinie’s album and Pro Green’s album. I’m still playing a bit of Alicia Keys. That’s about it really. I check out what I check out!