Check out this interview with one of the best rappers in the UK scene right now. He talks on how he got into rap music, why the current mix tape and what's on it, the forthcoming LP, what he thinks of the scene right now, who he's feeling and would like to work with, plus tons more stuff.
I'm sure they all know, but for the few that don't can you start by introducing yourself?
I'm Doc Brown from the Poisonous Poets click
What were some of the very first artists and records that motivated or inspired you to want to rap?
As a youngster I liked all different types of music- Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Kurt Cobain, Burning Spear, Peter Tosh, Terry Hall & The Specials really inspired me to write lyrics which I always did in poetry form… In terms of rap it was ATCQ, Brand Nubian, NWA, Kane and them, then Nas really blew me away, but I think that hearing UK stuff made me think it was possible for me to actually rap. I'd say London Posse, Demon Boyz, Katach 22… Really and truly though I would say Blak Twang. When I heard Paralytic Monkey with Fallacy whenever that was- '95 or something, that made me think, "Yeah, I wanna do this properly".
When did you first feature on a release and how long have you been a part of the UK rap scene?
I consider myself to have been a part of this scene since I first started entering the competitions around '97 /'98, like at Mudlumz which was basically like school for me. I learnt about battling, freestyling, open mics, PA's… I learnt how to control a crowd. Of course I was shit though. I'd get up and get trounced in the battles, but you learn from losing you know… I remember Sway Dasafo tearing me to shreds back in the day. I learnt a lot from emcees like him and Reveal, Chester and Skinny. I learnt about hosting and stage personality from people like Intenz and Jonzi D. Anyway that was when I first got my name out there. Then in late 99/early 2000, I had some crap little demo that somehow got put on the "Raw Materials? compilation. Please don't hunt it down. It's rubbish.
How'd you describe your music to people in terms of the general vibes and the subject matters touched upon?
My music is just basically uplifting, soulful Hip Hop. The subject matter is observational, I think I'm best at picking out those little things we do and feelings we have and expressing it concisely, whether that's about love, hate, family, youth, street life or whatever. My stuff is very honest I reckon.
Out of everything released so far, what'd you say would be the one thing people could pick up for a good indication of you as an artist in general?
Until the album drops, you gotta cop the CITIZEN SMITH cd, which is a good example of what I've done so far. It's got loads of original songs on there, not just a bunch of wack verses over US beats. I wouldn't call it a mix tape as much as a collection of songs. It's like "the story so far" you know?
Can you talk us through the current mix tape a little? Why you chose the title, some of the tracks and guests on there?
I chose the title because my government name is Smith and I feel like an average Joe, you know- just another Citizen. Not coz I'm a wannabe revolutionary or anything, I don't rap about shit like that. I hate those rappers who rap about politics and the world and shit but they don't actually do anything outside of rapping about it. That's weak. I've tried to make an entertaining CD that will hopefully have more longevity than a quickly made mix tape with some lame London version of Lean Back or whatever the hot beat is. I got beats from DJ Snips, Rodney P's producer The Sea, Sway Dasafo, Nutty P and a bunch more. I got features from some of my favourite emcees right now: Mr Ti2bs, Pyrelli, Luc Skyz, Lowkey, Yungun and of course Poisonous Poets. There's some real standout flavours on there like Decisions, Decisions which is a cautionary tale, Welcome Home which is like an open letter to Hip Hop culture, Memories Mindgames & Migraines deals with the loss of some young friends, We Know is a little conspiracy theory, Its On has real party vibe. There's something for everybody on there so buy it!
The release is pretty close to your proper debut album. Was it a matter of having so many tracks recorded that you didn't want to see go to waste?
Yeah, partly. I know it's not ideal. Ideally, I would have had Citizen Smith out in the summer, but I funded this project myself, 100% and it was fucking hard. I don't live with my mum, no handouts from daddy, so it took a long time just to get the dough together, then there were a lot of jokers who were doing the artwork, fucking it up and shit like that, so it just kept getting pushed back. It was well annoying at first, but I got there in the end. But, in answer to the second part of your question, yeah, I feel that a lot of UK cats make good tunes and just sit on them coz they get too precious and they want them to come out in the perfect way. What they need to understand is that if you keep waiting and waiting, your time might just pass. We're rappers. We're like footballers, we only have a small window of opportunity, so I just flung my shit out there before the songs got mouldy.
When is the album dropping and is it still being called The DOCument? Can you give us some gossip on the tracks, guest spots etc?
The LP is my pride and joy. The paperwork is sorted with the record label (Janomi), the Distribution Company (Pinnacle), the PR Company (Sainted) and my management (Creation- yes, that Creation). I've got a seriously strong industry team and I'm ready to go. The Document drops in March 2005 with the first single "Do It" dropping in February when I'm also gonna start a tour. No gossip about the tracks other than the fact that they are some of the strongest songs UK rap has ever seen.
What producers have you worked with for this project and who's beats would you like to rap over that you haven't had the chance of yet?
The only big name producer I've worked with on the LP is C-Swing who did a lot of the beats for Jamelia and Terri Walker, other than that I've got a hand picked team of geniuses with genuine talent, all of whom the world will revere this time next year. As for dudes I'd like to work with but haven't… I'd say Nappa from PLC, Baby J, Joe Buddha… Um… Just Blaze!
You mentioned the album's coming out on Jamomi. How did you end up being an artist for them?
They just basically always believed in me. From way back. I knew an emcee who was down with them and it just started there. Even when I was signed to BMG, Janomi was there, waiting!
How long has the album been in the making and have you got any anecdotes about the long hard struggle most UK artists talk about having in finally getting a full length project released?
The actual project didn't take any longer that you would expect a proper full length to take. What took long was finding my feet in this game. There's just a lot of brers who chat shit and make promises that aren't kept… There's a lot of brers who want to eat off you. The music biz is cutthroat! What every single rapper needs to understand is that no-one will ever be as genuinely passionate and appreciative of your art or your project as you are while you're on the come up. Once you've learnt that, then you just need to grind. Get your face, name and tracks EVERYWHERE.
Could you tell us a bit about Poisonous Poets? What's been released so far and when do you reckon new stuff will be coming?
Its Reveal, Therapist, Tony D and me. My crew is basically the 4 tightest rappers in the UK. Hands down. There isn't a click as thorough. Name one other click where every rapper is good, not just one or two, EVERY rapper? Check the Poisonous Poetry Mix tape for proof. We've got Volume 2 coming real soon, plus Reveal and Therapist are dropping a mix tape soon, so is our DJ, Snips. Holla at us on email@example.com for more info.
What past and present UK hip-hop releases have been most enjoyable for you and who are some of your favourite domestic artists?
My favourite artists out now are Sway and Skinnyman. For me they're the only one's putting out entertaining, complex, interesting and high quality hip hop. Proper songs! I'm proper feeling Terra Firma, Mr Ti2bs, Yungun and Lowkey too. In terms of my favourite UK releases, I'd say Council Estate of Mind by Skinnyman, Stone Age 2000 by 12 Stone, and Dettwork Southeast/ 19 Long Time by Blak Twang. Those are the best albums the UK has ever produced.
Off these shores, what artists and producers are you feeling?
Right now? I'm feeling Saigon, Cormega, Nas, Ludacris, Jigga, Masta Ace. I like Angie Stone and Jill Scott and that philly soul shit. Producers? Just Blaze, Alchemist, Havoc, LES, DR Period and whoever does all the heavy beats for the Diplomats.
Is there anything in particular you'd like the scene to be doing in order to improve itself or is it all good as it is?
People gotta be more professional man. There's millions of rappers right now but no-ones trying to be professional. Dudes can't make meetings on time, they don't know how to approach industry people. Plus a lot of people's songs and videos aren't being approached professionally. The scene is strong in terms of numbers but not in terms of quality and approach. Plus, no-one can rock a fucking crowd anymore! Everyone's got their mum to buy them a G4 and rappers are multiplying like gremlins out of their bedrooms with whole albums but have no idea how to perform. That's crazy! And lazy. Also, the hating has to stop. I host open mics and I meet hundreds of rappers all the time. Hardly any of them are happy for Taz, Dizzee, Wiley, Jamilia, Estelle… Its like, just coz they're British and they do urban music they have to have "paid dues" to this tiny little scene for ten years like the rest of us? That's bullshit. We should embrace the success of these artists because they open the world's eyes to what we're doing. Yeah, you might think Dizzee isn't "Hip Hop" but he raps and he raps UK style. And he's EVERYWHERE. Estelle was on Later With Jools Holland, you know? Dizzee was on Band Aid for fucks sake, think how many people now have the idea of "British Rap" in their heads just coz of those two bars? That's good for us regardless. These guys are our pioneers- I say big up to anyone who made it out there.
Do you like much of the garage 2step etc genre's that spin off from hip-hop? Ever been tempted to make a track in those styles?
Yeah I like a lot of that stuff, Therapist showed me a lot of shit coz he spat like that with his Boyz in the Hood Click. He showed me about Doogz and them. There're some heavy emcees in that scene. I can spit double time and all that, and I've ridden2Step riddims a few times I'm all for progression man. Hip Hop over here can't be exactly like the States. We got different flavas bruv. We got the whole dance scene and the whole West Indian influence that America just doesn't have so its only right that our music branches out you know?
Have you got any live dates lined up yet that you want to let people know about?
I've got loads but I can't remember them right now and by the time this is published they probably would have already happened so… My LP tour start on Feb 24th though, in Exeter!
Any shout out's and final plugs?
Yeah shout out everyone that took unpaid time out to help me on Citizen Smith and the Document. Watch out for Luc Skyz, Lowkey and Poisonous Poets. MARCH 2005: THE DOCUMENT on Janomi Records!