One of the UK's most popular rappers spoke to us about where he's at, how the recording for his highly anticipated new album went, Terra Firma and the deal with Kyza's departure.
How's life treating you at the moment?
It's a deep question. I'm pondering on it. It takes pondering… Life is doing its usual shit, but life is alright man. There's people within the context of life that are making life a bit unbearable at certain points. But its real. It's a constant struggle, hussle and tussle. But to be honest, I am thankful for where I am at the moment. Things are looking up.
How did the recording sessions for the new album go?
The bottom line is that it wasn't supposed to take as long as it did. It was meant to take a year, but there were long periods of gaps in between me going up to Nottingham which is where I recorded all the stuff. There were little bits of arguments in between, so although at first it was supposed to be a year long project, it ended up taking 2 years, which is just terrible. Nothing should take 2 years. Only rock band shit.
How did you decide on the title? What's the beast?
That's what I'm saying. There are many levels of beast. You have internal beasts, the system is a beast in a sense, and you've got female demons like lust demons. Every day is a tussle, struggle, hussle, etc etc.
Do you think your sound has progressed since Sagas and Focus Mode?
Yeah, definitely. I'm not trying to stay on one thing. In this album you have me rapping over steel pan beats. You got me rapping on 'Terrorize The City' which is a bit more club orientated in a sense. It may not be jiggy but it's a banger. On the album there's also a song called 'Refuse To Die', which is in a similar vein to 'Jamrock', a reggae instrumental with me doing my double time flow on it, but you've also got me singing on it as well. The backing vocals, the main vocals, everything. So yeah, I keep it moving. I don't stay on one thing for too long.
How was it working with Joe Buddha?
It was beautiful God damn it! He's like a big brother. He's a calm guy. We didn't have any arguments really in terms of the studio sessions. The arguments came when some of the product was done. Outside influences getting hyped up. Oh my God, this could be something so big. Whatever.
The bottom line is that we are two straight brothers. We could be cousins and shit. If music wasn't involved, he would be my cousin from Nottingham and I'd be his cousin from down London, you get me? And everything would be blessed. We'd be bunning weed, watching DVDs and just having fun together. But obviously the music is a bonus. We're like family.
It was stressful at times. Stressful on his relationships, stressful on my relationships. But yeah it's family. It's pure love and I learnt a lot by him bringing me and teaching me all the ways. Things I didn't think of. For example, there are certain lines that he's made me change, like 'maybe you should say that, and not that'. I'm open to it. Not a lot of people could really tell me that about my shit. Skriblah can tell me that, but hardly anyone else can. Buddha showed me a lot.
You hooked up with Kool G Rap. How did that happen and how was it to work with him?
I didn't work with him. He sent me his vocals. One of them ones. Generic. But I'm a big Kool G Rap fan. The truth be told, he sent me vocals, we paid. That's the truth. It doesn't take anything away from the man, but I still feel like he gave me a bit of a dash away verse. What I mean is that he gave me a throwaway verse. I'm being honest. That man is Kool G Rap. That brother's sick and to me he didn't really take it there. But the verse is still nice. It's Kool G Rap. I guess I expected more. Does that sound bad? It's not an ego thing. I don't wanna battle Kool G Rap or anything. I'm a fan. It's all cool.
Your song 'Question' mentions that Nas has a lot of discipline. Was he someone you looked up growing up?
So why did you include him?
Because nuff people look up to him. At them times, I was thinking, 'who could I say?' We've already got Jay Z on the intro'. If you wanna talk about top rappers, there's not really that many. Nas is a pioneer of a sort. There's not really many of them left. To say like, point at him and say yeah. I'm not saying he made the best albums either. Whether it's Nas, Jay Z, 50 Cent. Whatever. They didn't make it over night. To be someone great or to be someone who is looked up to as a good person – it takes discipline. It doesn't just take a bling chain!
Your songs are deeply personal. Is it hard to reveal so much of yourself lyrically?
Nah not really, no. I don't know whether you wanna call it a blessing or a curse but that's one sort of talent I have, and that is expressing myself and talking well. To be honest, that's the way I've been since I was young. People used to tell me, you shouldn't tell people about shit. That's how I was when I was young. I'd sometimes tell people my deepest shit and I suppose at the time I was looking for help in my own little way.
I know that there are a lot of black guys coming from where I'm coming from who find it hard to express themselves. A lot of people in general find it hard to express themselves on a truer level, because the system is just geared to pushing you into being what you're not, as apposed to being what you are. I try to go against the grain. Fuck, you can hear me crying on the track, laughing on the track, hear me get vexed on the track. Whatever. It's just life. I'm just trying to express my avenues, my angles and crevices.
What drives you? How do you get motivated to write?
That's a good question, because it's hard to motivate my black ass, God damn it! I'm joking. My people around me motivate me, and my children. Knowing that, certain times when I fall down and feel like fucking it all off, I think to myself, my eldest son is 11. He's gonna be going to secondary school at the end of this year. And I'm thinking these kids are going around shanking each other, and shooting each other and I need to put him in a position where he can just think about education and not who's looking to shank him or rob him because of the bad-mindedness.
So that drives me a lot because I wanna put them in a good position. I just wanna be comfortable and secure, so that drives me to know that you can make money from this. There's a lot of dough to be maximised from this game. People are not really doing it and I haven't really done it myself, but it drives me knowing I can make a mill' from this.
Do you organise time for writing or does it just come to you?
Back in the day I'd write spontaneously, whenever I wanted to. But now it's a bit harder because obviously the business side sometimes takes precedence over the rap side. Someone might say 'I want you to write to this particular tune', or 'let's go to the studio on this particular day to do some writing'. It's a bit more formulated now.
Is there anything in the pipeline for Terra Firma?
Terra Firma has just begun. We dropped 'The Foundation'. That's the first official Terra Firma product. Kyza kicked the fuck out, via email I might add! Whatever. There you go. It's nothing at the end of the day. Just remember, Terra Firma didn't start with Kyza and it ain't ending with Kyza! I wish him luck and all that shit. Other than that, you got Skriblah DanGoth coming. He's taken a backseat for a while. I don't think he really got his shine.
I definitely say he's come of age so to speak, if that's the right way to describe it. He is definitely gonna shine. You heard him on 'The Foundation'. So, we've got his album coming which we're working on which is definitely gonna be big. Very big. We've also got Diamond Ruff, Sparrow and D.ablo, the top boy who has got an album out this year. There are a lot of members involved in Terra Firma. We have also got new members and affiliated ones as well. It's not over. That's the bottom-line.
What are your overal plans for 2007?
To take over everything. take it back, destroy and rebuild and that's about it. Just bring forward the new era of talent. It's not a UK Hiphop thing, it's just a good music from the UK thing. There are a lot of different people, so it's dealing with talent, not just hiphop per say.
Anything you wanna add?
You know what time it is. 'Foundation' has sold 8,000 already over 2 months, and that was without any promotion in terms of shows. We couldn't do any shows because Kyza left. Many different reasons, but I can't really expose him like that. You'll have to ask him I suppose. It's the pressure of the game.
Check out Myspace.com/officialklashnekoff and buy the new album 'Lionheart; Tussle With The Beast' on the 26th of February!
Interview by Natasha Nazi-Angileh