We spoke to one of grime's most successful rappers, Lethal Bizzle. The artist dropped knowledge on his forthcoming album, the state of the scene and David Cameron's treatment of rap. Check it out.
What's Up Lethal, how's it going?
Cool, I'm good, just chilling.
What should we call you?
Lethal Bizzle, Lethal B. That's cool.
For those that don't know, tell us a bit about where you're from and how you got into rapping.
Well I'm from the East side of London. Got into pirate radio back in the day about 7 years ago. From there I built up my street cred. 2001 saw More Fire Crew blow up and that was just an introduction to me.
Who were some of your biggest influences when you started out rhyming?
Probably Wu Tang Clan, Michael Jackson, Nas, Biggie. They're probably my main influences.
How did you end up getting signed to the major label V2?
On the back of 'POW' really. After 'POW' in 2004 caused homegrown street buzz, a major label wanted to get behind it. But I was still starting up my independent label, Lethal Bizzle Records, and making my album whilst 'POW' was going on and then Fire Camp happened.
Did being on a big label restrict your creativity in anyway? Were you told what to do?
No it hasn't you know. The good thing about being me is that they signed me because of what I was previously doing. The label doesn't specialise in the urban thing. 'POW' was a big collaboration on the urban circuit and I've got that in the palm of my hand. I've got good ideas and can experiment with stuff. I like the situation and I'm free to do what I like. If I wanted to make an album of grime I could but it wouldn't sell.
What advice would you give a young artist out there hoping to get signed, or being tempted with a contract?
Artists shouldn't think about signing. Just get with music. With 'POW' I just wanted to make the music. Make music and create a fan base like what I did. Create that and when you get to a certain level on the underground, people will come to you. Focus on the music. Music is what will give you a career.
How did you feel the album was received and looking back, are you happy with the material on there?
Yeah, the 1st album is the easiest one to make. Got signed off 'POW' and Fire Camp and the initial thing was to do what I was doing previously. So 1st album resembled 'No' and 'POW'. It was more of a grime album. But I'm really happy about it.
Are there any tracks you would have done differently or not included if you could get in a time machine and do it all again?
No. Nothing, especially with 'POW'. There were people on 'POW' who were even meant to be on there so it's all been good. I believe that everything happens for a reason so I wouldn't have done anything different.
What have you been up to since you dropped the album and what projects are on the way?
I've been working on my new album 'Back to Bizznizz'. I'm feeling really good about it. Been working on the Fire Camp album 'Great Fire Of London' due out this summer, so that's taken up a lot of my time. I've got a couple of new projects that I'm doing at the moment but the 2nd album has been the main focus.
What can you tell us about some of the lyrics and beats on your new material? What vibes are you coming with?
It's definitely a more mature vibe, lyrically stepped up, concept stepped up. Got some signature Bizzle tracks. I've expressed a lot of my taste in music. There is a lot of stuff that I'm into that not a lot of people know about. On this album I've been able to do a few experiments which have been good, but just expect banging Bizzle beats.
Who's been providing you with beats and what other producers do you hope to one day collaborate with?
Dexplicit's got a few tracks on there, Statik. A producer called J Sweet has got some tracks on there. Akira the Don, Mr. Hudson and Youngstar are on there as well. Top of the list to collaborate with would be Dr Dre definitely, and then probably Pharrell and a producer called Hi-Teck.
There's more grime artists every day. Does the growth of the scene make you dig deeper to drop a heavy track?
Yeah, but I think I'm in a class of my own. There isn't anyone who's in my league. My position is to make big club bangers. That's me and there is no one who does that one after the other. They may put out one or two tracks out there but they're not consistent. Sometimes I wish I did feel more pressure. Then I would go on to make even better stuff.
What releases and artists are you particularly feeling at the minute?
Same old people really. 5O Cent, Snoop, and Just Jack. I'm really feeling him at the moment. N-Dubz are the only new artists really that have caught my eye. Dirty South stuff I'm feeling as well, and that Rich Boyz track is heavy.
Tell us about the status of the More Fire Crew. What are the members up to and will another group release get made?
Another More Fire Crew album will not get made. Me and Neeko don't talk anymore so I couldn't really say what he's up to. I think he's making some tracks but not sure. Me and Ozzie B formed Fire Camp and have an album coming out but More Fire Crew is definitely done.
You wrote a really great response to David Cameron's attack on rap music recently. How did he annoy you?
I thought he was out of order. He attacked something that he didn't fully understand. I felt it was only right to voice my opinion. These guys have all the power and it's all one sided. I wanted to show this donut that we're educated and we're not dickheads, despite what he thinks. The kids are not gonna listen to someone like David Cameron. They're gonna listen to me. Cameron hasn't lived in the endz so he won't understand anything that we go through or anything that we chat about.
Why do you think rap music always gets the blame whilst other genres like goth music and stuff like violent films get left alone?
I don't really wanna go into racism but I think it's got something to do with it. Racism has some part to play. There is not anyone in the hierarchy who represents black music. There's no one to back it up. Other genres and films don't get called upon because people who run the country want to see this shit. They took a 50 Cent poster down because he had a gun and they said it was violent but they allow James Bond posters up with the same sort of image. Same with performance. When it's Black kids they're rioting but when it's white kids they're having fun.
Do you agree though, that if an outsider to rap turned on Channel U or heard a typical grime track, they'd see a lot of aggression?
No. They would see a lot of energy and lots of people on the street expressing what they know. They're putting on the track and talking about what they know and believe in rather than actually going out there and doing it. Music is just like art, just like the movies, it's all about expressing how you feel, but does not mean you're necessarily gonna do it. The kids are just talking about what they know, what they live with and see everyday.
Do you think it's more about what mainstream rap music outlets play rather than what the rap scene creates? There's mad positive hip-hop being made but certain DJ's only seem to play the negative stuff.
Well the whole world is negative. Negativity spreads faster that positive things. It's a dog eat dog world as they say. DJ's only play what people want to hear. Negativity is funny to people and we wanna see people fail. DJ's have to keep people happy, that's how it is.
How do you think misconceptions on rap music could be broken down?
To really understand the music you have to understand where the music is from. We talk about what we know. If someone is stabbed, it's not their fault. We only talk about what we know. In the urban community it gets turned bad but in the rock industry they talk about all this stuff. Cameron needs to talk to the kids and find out why they are doing it, not come down on them.
The streets are mad, kids don't wanna carry guns etc but there is this 'me or you' attitude around and you have to defend yourself. But people don't think outside the box. They got to think about how the guns are coming here. Blame the Government. They're bringing guns into the country. We aint so, it's got to come from somewhere.
Where can fans see you live next and what can they expect from a typical Lethal Bizzle performance?
They can see me in Texas. I'm performing at the SXSW Festival. London gigs, just holla at my Myspace. I should be touring this year.
Have you got any messages you wanna round this up on or plugs you wanna make?
Yeah, make sure you get the new album 'Back To Business' out late May. Make sure you get the Fire Camp album out summer. Big up all the real fans and supporters.
Lethal's new single 'Mr' is out now. Check his official website and tune into the Comic Relief special of BBC's Top Gear on 16th March, in which the rapper will be featured!