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Interview with Skepta

Tamar Smith comes out charmed and unharmed after meeting the King of Grime at knifepoint

Written by . Published on February 7th 2011.


Interview with Skepta

Ahead of this week’s MOBO Awards in Liverpool, a grime music squad led by British MC Skepta, has been touring the UK. Grime, for those not entirely down with the kids, is a genre of urban music that first emerged from London at the beginning of this decade.

I was there from the early days. I am grime, I make grime. Even if I make 12 pop tunes tomorrow, I am grime.

It was seen as a darker, more aggressive alternative to UK Garage at the time but has since crossed over into the pop charts and seen artists such as Skepta rise from the underground.

Otherwise known as Joseph Junior Adenuga, Skepta is best known through his crew (that’s the grime version of a boy band), Roll Deep. He has also had recent solo success for his collaboration with Diddy (formerly known as Puff Daddy and P.Diddy) on the grime remix of the US rapper’s track ‘Hello Good Morning’.

We sent along Tamar Smith, a fan of Skepta and follower of the grime scene, to try her hand at an interview in his hotel room before his performance at Moho Live, Manchester as part of the MOBO tour. Now it’s often assumed that rapper types carry weapons and Skepta is no exception, however, the King of Grime certainly has his reasons...

Skepta: Hi nice to meet you, you alright?

TS: Hi. Yeah, I just feel a bit awkward.

Skepta: Why do you feel awkward? Are you scared? Do you want people to get out?

TS: No it’s fine.

Skepta: Is it cos I’ve got a knife?

Skepta proceeds to scrape out the inside of the hotel room kettle with a big kitchen knife.

Skepta: When you say it’s awkward, what’s up?

TS: I just feel weird getting my piece of paper out...

Skepta: Okay, nah don’t worry, chill out. I’m just trying to make my honey and lemon for my voice.

TS: Is that honey in that cup?

Skepta: No it’s not honey in that, it’s ginger.

(Skepta points at the kettle) It’s all scaly and that. I need to get it out.

Feeling overwhelmed in a room full of rappers who seem more concerned with hygiene than hip-hop, Tamar takes a seat, joining Manchester MC Trigga who is a close friend of Skepta.

TS: I’ll get going then. How do you think Manchester will compare to the other gigs you've done and are going to do?

Skepta: This isn’t my first time performing here. I’ve done a lot of stuff in Manchester throughout my career I think they’re very receptive and I’ve got a good fan base here. I always have fun here. Here, Liverpool, London. I’m looking forward to the show. I love coming to Manchester. I was here for a little while back in the day, about three years ago, just on the street and that. I’ve met a lot of people and when I come here the love is second to none.

TS: Headlining the MOBO tour is a big thing. How does it feel for the media to refer to you as the King of Grime?

Skepta: King of Grime. I said that a couple years ago. I used to say it ‘cos I felt like saying it, but I feel like this year I’ve put a lot of work in for grime. Out of all the people in grime I’m probably one of the ones who have stuck to the blueprint. If they’re calling me it, I’m happy. Hopefully in 2011 I can do some more reppin’. I did a track with Diddy and my thing that’s out right now is a grime track.

TS: You’ve got your song ‘Cross My Heart’ out on Sunday haven't you?

Skepta: Yeah, when we perform my new track on tour, they love it.

TS: How do you think people who liked the raw grime of your Microphone Champion album will react to your new album, which is perhaps more mainstream?

Skepta: On my new album there are lots of tunes that grime people will like. I’ve never really made tunes for other people. I kind of make it for myself and if other people feel my wave and they’re like ‘yeah, I like that guy’, then yeah. I was there from the early days. I am grime, I make grime. Even if I make 12 pop tunes tomorrow, I am grime. People are pedantic about everything. I’m just trying to broaden my horizons you know?

TS: Is grime the type of music you like to listen to?

Skepta: Logan Sama’s show on Kiss 100 in London is THE grime show. I always listen to it and keep up to date with what’s happening and shit. My mum always told me when I was younger 'You need to know when to leave something'. Know when to leave; that goes for music, girls, being in a fucking casino...just know when to leave. I can’t stand around in the grime scene forever. How long do I want to do that for?

TS: When you feel like you're producing the same stuff time and time again?

Skepta: Yeah, you know I want to change it, man. My CD’s grimey, my new CD’s grimier than anything anyone’s brought out on the grime scene except for Lethal B with raw tunes like ‘Pow’, but my song’s grimey so I just wanna carry on going. Once I’m in Europe, when I’m selling out Germany and shit, then I’ll be happy.

TS: You said you worked with Diddy?

Skepta: Yeah, he’s a sick artist.

TS: Is there anyone else you’d want to work with? I know that you were excited about the fact he’s American, and to get an American voice on the track.

Skepta: If I was to work with another American artist it would probably be Timbaland. He’s just like me, you know, he’s a hip-hop artist, he’s a rapper, but he'll make a song with like Justin Timberlake, Drake or Nelly Furtado. He just does what he wants. No one is saying 'You - you’re a sell out man, shut up'. He just does his thing. I feel like my new album is going to put me in that category - like ‘Skepta just does what he wants and when he touches it, it turns to gold.’

I did a track with Trigga and I merged drum and bass and grime together. That’s like one of the biggest tunes in the UK coming from a grime artist. If I didn't have that mentality, I’d never have made that tune. If people hear Trigga and Skepta on a tune that is major, we might just do another one. Pigeon holes are for pigeons and I’m just gonna keep on doing what a human being is meant to do.

TS: Are there any other Manchester artists you like, besides Trigga?

Skepta: It’s really Trigga for me. I like Wrigley but that’s probably about it. He’s with Wiley a lot and I listen to some stuff Wiley does.

Trigga: That’s it with Manchester grime. There’s lots of people doing it but you don't hear them.

Skepta: You don’t hear them. I mean, I listen to Logan’s show a lot and I’ve had a lot of people, not even just from up north but from all over, saying 'Ahh, now no-one in London don't bring us through’ and shit like that. All they’ve got to do is get their stuff on Logan cos that’s all anyone listens to.

TS: Thanks, that’s pretty much it from me. I hope you manage to clean your kettle.

Skepta: Yeah, too much scale in the kettle's not good for a human being.

Skepta is nominated for Best UK Hip Hop / Grime Act at this year’s MOBO awards in Liverpool. The show will be broadcast on BBC3 from 9pm on Wednesday 20 October.

Follow Tamar on Twitter TamarSmith or connect via Google+

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Barry ScottOctober 19th 2010.

I was there, but took the wrong product, next time Grime kids, next time!

Anon tooOctober 19th 2010.

I'll certainly be looking forward to more 'reppin' from Mr Skepta and his chums.

SalesmanOctober 19th 2010.

I go reppin' all the time, I didn't realise he was a connoisseur of the salesman's art

user50271October 19th 2010.

who's the blonde babe in the barbour jacket? ;)

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