Dane Bradshaw chats with Terror Danjah and Loudmouth about the Aftershock crew's new album 'Shock To The Sytem', the Grime scene in general and politics at 679!
Tell us about 'Shock To The System'?
Terror Danjah: It's something like a Soul II Soul album, but for 2007. Different styles, different artists and people talking about what's happening in our society.
What direction do you see grime music going in and do you see yourself going in that direction?
Terror Danjah: I see myself in every genre. Grime to me is more or less like UK Hiphop now. It's a fusion of garage, Hphop and dancehall. Basically it's poetry for the urban community. A new age of Hiphop.
Loudmouth, how do you feel as a rapper coming from a Hiphop background but now being part of a well known Grime collective?
Loudmouth: I listen to more Grime than UK Hiphop so it's quite natural for me. A lot of Grime MC's are based in East London which is where I'm from. Me and Terror Danjah know a lot of the same people. He went to college with a lot of people that I'm friends with so there's that mutual appreciation between us and for the music we're making. As a producer, he's like a mentor to me when he shows me certain techniques when it comes to making beats and I'm like 'Ok, that's how you get that sound' and things like that.
How did you hook up with Aftershock?
Loudmouth: I joined Aftershock at the back end of the recording of the album and I did a few features before I was even in Aftershock. I did 'Reppin' and 'Don't Mess Around'. Terror was always saying to me 'You're gonna join Aftershock. This is your home!' and it is now, but I didn't know that then. But for me now, I'm working on my own 'Hand 2 Mouth' project which is like a collaborative production effort in the camp. We're also going to have a few people from outside of the camp like Wretch 32 and a few others who I don't want to say just yet. I've also got a tune with Shola Ama coming out very soon which I produced.
With the whole promoting aspect of the Aftershock album, it's been a good experience and I've got a lot of love for the team. There's a genuine sincerity and appreciation of each other's music. I feel relaxed in my environment because I've got room to breathe and be myself, but it's still competitive. If I go on a track with Triple Threat, he'll take the piss on the track and I'm thinking 'I've got to re-write my verse now' like he did the other day. There's a lot of good producers in the camp.
Terror Danjah: I'm in fifth place. Him [Loudmouth] and D.O.K are fighting for 1st place now!
Being a label with a big number of artists, how do you go about nurturing talent?
Terror Danjah: Everyone's got their own lane so no one's really conflicting. You've got Badness and 2Nice who may have a similar style but with Badness, he's grittier and 2Nice is smoother. Bruza speaks for himself. He's cockney. Loudmouth is the rapper. Mz. Bratt is the female of the group. You've got Triple Threat who's more of a deep poet. You've got Youf who's coming up. He's very introspective. You got Tinie Tempah who's got the girls on lock with his thing. So, it's a lot of people doing different things so it will never clash.
Why did you decide to do an album and not a mixtape?
Terror Danjah: Mixtapes are long. It's a wasted effort. Mixtapes should be 6 or 7 tracks done in a couple of hours and that's it. Do what you do and put it out. With an album, it's more of a story and it's supposed to be something that takes years. You're supposed to be taken on a journey. When you make a beat, you tend to make that same kind of beat in that period of time, so you need to get the best out of that sound and move on.
In the grime scene a lot of the producers are MC's as well. Do you think not being an MC has ever hindered your progress?
Terror Danjah: I don't think so. With producers that try to do everything, they're not masters of their trade like me. I'm mastering my trade of production. I write a lot of tunes. I wrote 'So Sure' by Sadie Amaand Kano, and Shola [Ama] wrote the chorus. I wrote the hooks of 'I Try', 'Future's Bright' and 'Street Life' on the album, so I'm like the film director of the music in a way. For me to spit, what's the point? Because if I spit, I'm gonna take the best beats and then everyone's gonna suffer, innit? So when I hear producers spit, I think to myself, why do they produce then? Unless you want to be a one man band. If I do become an MC, that's when I make millions, innit? I would go on Rinse FM and get a few things off my chest.
Zumpi Hunter has been the first version excursion in a while where everyone has vocalled their own version. What made you do that?
Terror Danjah: The truth is, I was listening to some of the tunes and I felt the quality went down. The mix downs have gone down and my album was done at the time. People were saying that I've lost it so I thought, let's shock 'em up and that's what I did. I just put Aftershock artists on it at first.
Loudmouth: I vocalled it first by the way! Terror made that beat in about ten minutes. Look how quick he made that, and that's a classic.
Terror Danjah: A lot of people were underrating the Aftershock artists so I thought I'll put my artists on it as well, like Badness, Mz. Bratt, Bruza and obviously Loudmouth. Then after people started to catch on to it and I had people like Skepta phoning me saying he wanted to get on it, then Wiley got on it. Hyper messaged me saying he's wanting to get on it. There's people who have vocalled it that I don't even know. I go on Myspace and I hear a version that I never knew existed but I don't mind.
Has the decline in vinyl sales effected you as a producer?
Terror Danjah: In terms of instrumentals, I'm getting back on it now. Even though vinyl sales have slowed down, downloads haven't. So if people want to get my tunes, I'll make them (the tunes], go on Rinse [FM], batter it and then they can go to A-shockmusic.com and they can download it from there. It makes sense now because the dancefloors aren't there but the tunes people like or want to dance to are still there, so I'll sell the song via download and get Badness or Bruza to vocal it and see what we can do with it. I'd rather sell a hundred copies on the website than sell 500 single copies on CD because you might not even make back the money.
So now there isn't much of a club scene, do you make less club aimed music?
Terror Danjah: There is a club land but it's not really just Grime. It's more of that dirty pop sound and that's what I'm going to go for next, so big up Sticky! He's showing me a couple things but if you look at the Yates' type of venues and they don't play our music, it will be years before we get there. And with guys like Kano, it will be years before we get ten Kano's. We've only got one Dizzee Rascal, one Kano, one Wiley and one Lethal Bizzle. So that's four albums. How many albums am I going to be on? It's long and if they don't sell then what am I going to eat? Cornflakes without no milk!
Speaking of Kano, his new mixtape contains a lot of US Hiphop beats and being that he came through the Grime scene, what do you think about Grime acts trying to do the Hiphop angle?
Terror Danjah: It's long. It's the record label that's telling him to do that. They look down at us [the Grime scene] like we're not equipped. But when these artists are coming through the Grime scene, they're well equipped aren't they? That's the scene that made them. They just don't see the potential so that's why I'm putting myself in the forefront and in a couple of years when a mixtape is coming out, they will be calling my phone and getting the instrumentals off me.
They see UK music as not credible. They probably think Wiley's beats are just about credible and when they think of me they think maybe, but they're still unsure. It seems once certain artists get to a level, they forget. They think they can't use certain producers because they're still street but Kano got through because he was street. But now obviously he's trying to go for that different audience, which is a good idea, but we'll see. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe he's right. I hope it does well for him because it will attract more attention to us but if it doesn't it will be another setback, because they still say he's representing us so we won't get another chance if he fails.
Loudmouth: It's like collectively we flop but divided we succeed, because even if Kano doesn't do anything with anyone from the Grime scene, if he flops, we all flop.
Terror Danjah: When Dizzee Rascal did well, they the media, were knocking on all our doors asking (in a posh voice) 'oh did you grow up amongst Dizzee? How was it growing up with him?'. But when it all goes quiet they don't want to know. It's sad though.
So seeing that the UK industry tends to be quite erratic, do you still feel awards like the UMA's or the MOBO's are relevant to your scene?
Terror Danjah: No. The MOBO's don't call me. They don't know who I am. They probably know who we are but they don't call us. Fair enough Kano won one and Lethal B won a couple and that was a good day but apart from that it seems like the MOBO's ain't supposed to be British music. It's music of black origin instead of music of British origin. It's all money innit?
If you haven't got the money then… Bruza was supposed to be on there two years ago, then Kano's press company bought the whole slot that was originally reserved for Bruza so when the awards came on, it was just Kano. So it's when things like that happen, it makes it look like we're not credible, then it makes it look like Kano's the one. It's all staged, so now I hope that he does well because if he doesn't, all that hype would be for nothing.
Loudmouth: There's a lot of blocking in the scene that you don't realise until you're in it. That whole label, 679 Records, I've had enough with.
Yeah you mentioned a few names from The Beats and 679 Records on 'Problems vs. Solutions' right?
Loudmouth: What happened was The Beats asked me to do a remix of The Streets single 'When You Wasn't Famous' with Doctor and Bearman. So I did my verse, then my manager at the time rang them up and asked them what they thought of it and Ted Mayhem said 'It's good but we're not going to use it this time because we've got too many versions'. But then Professor Green has his own solo version and obviously Professor Green is their artist and they want to support it and I can understand that, I've got no problem with that, it's business.
So I was cool with that but then the Doctor and Bearman version came out and I wasn't on it, so what's that about? Then to make it worse, I saw that they had put me on another version and sold it on Itunes and didn't even pay me, so that's when I had to chase them up for the money. I did get the money out of them in the end but it was just out of courtesy. I bit my tongue a little bit and didn't say much at the time.
Then Professor Green asked to me to jump on his remix for 'Before I Die'. I did it, then I find out a video had been shot for the same tune, and again I'm not on it but Plan B and Example are. So it's a thing where Plan B is on 679 and 679 is the parent label to The Beats and Example is signed to The Beats so that's just politics. Originally the 'Problems vs. Solutions' track didn't have that verse about 679 on it but the day I found out what had happened, I re-wrote the verse and put the tune out there and I will never do anything with that label again.
The way I see it now is that I'm not on their side. I would have done stuff with them but I told Professor Green that I can't do anything on his album because I don't like his label. Now it's a thing where I feel, 'why am I putting my energy into helping them?' That's their whole marketing strategy. The Streets did a remix for tunes with guys from the Grime scene and that makes him [The Streets] credible with the roads and it looks like he's doing the scene a favour when he's not.
Terror Danjah: Why didn't he put us on the album? Like for example, when he said he wanted to sign Bruza and we actually chased him up about it, the label didn't know anything about it. But in magazines he's saying it just to give off the impression that he cares about the scene.
Loudmouth: That's why you have so many features on albums because you can cross over markets but now it's not even just that. It's talking. So if Mike Skinner talks about certain guys, he gets in with their crowd.
Terror Danjah: So when Mike Skinner says he wants to sign certain people it makes people think you're about to be signed and it makes other labels lay off you because they don't want to bid for you because they think there's going to be a price war. It controls the artist and it's another form of shelving. All the record companies are friends and they all talk and they'll ask each other 'are you really signing this person?' and the other record label will say 'nah we're just saying that to keep the market'. All the labels are linked now so they don't care where you go now.
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