The musician and graffiti writer fielded questions about his relationship with hiphop, the records he's most fond of and what projects are in the works.
When was your first taste of hip-hop and what was it?
I think the first Hip-Hop I ever heard was NWA. We thought it stood for 'No White's Allowed' but basically, we just loved the swearing. Before that I was well into Guns N Roses' 'Appetite For Destruction', but we all listened NWA & Ice-T when we was at school. Then I got well into Rave, and from there I got into UK Hip-Hop cos my mate ran a pirate station playing nothing but Son of Noise, Gunshot, Blade, Standing Ovation, Hijack, Katch 22 etc, so after the rave show, we'd cop his rap show. The first gig I ever went to was to see Gunshot play in Leicester when I was 14.
What area of the world do you live at and what do you think of the domestic hip-hop scene there in general?
I reside in Sheffield, North England. There's a few people making music round here, but we all tend to get on with our own thing so in that sense, there's no real 'scene', which suits me fine. I like the quiet vibe and how modest the cats are round here cos the music is all of a real good standard. I tend to record music in Brighton with Req One. It's a different vibe all together down there with open mic nights all the while and plenty of freestyle cats. They're lucky in many ways as there's so much going on, but it can also get political – so for me, I prefer to have the best of both worlds.
Can you name a few of your biggest rap role models?
Beastie Boys, New Kingdom, Biz Markie and Ramm:Ell:Zee.
If you had to write a job description for what you do, how would it read?
Microphone-rapper-inner, wall-sprayer-oner, full-time-mucker-abouter and early-doors-drinker.
What records have you put out so far and which do you hold most closely to the heart?
I've put out a couple of LP's on our own label, Invisible Spies. A few singles and a couple of LP's with my group, Toah Dynamic. I'm proud of my last LP, 'Council Pop' – not so much cos I think it's an amazing album, but more that it's when I actually realized what I do and with that as the blueprint, I've been building skills and pulling my socks right up ever since.
How would you describe the music you create to a person with no ears?
It's somewhere between by artwork and a night at the pub.
You've been thrown in jail for being cool. You can either take graffiti or music making as your hobby class. What's the choice to be?
I'd make music I guess, kids love to hear rappers on lock down eh?
What rappers, producers and writers do you respect most highly in the UK right now?
All the ones that are doing their own thing, not giving into trends and actually making records themselves rather than just talking about doing it all the while.
If you could collaborate with one human being in the world, whom would you take that opportunity to choose and what'd you do together?
I'd like to work with Edan on an album project.
How long have you been into the visual side of things and how long did it take to develop your artistic skills?
I've always drawn, but I started writing graffiti when I was 12. Graf is a self-taught thing; you just get on with it til you get good at it. We all started out as toys.
Can you name-drop some artists that you respect and an area of the UK that is hot right now for street art?
I doubt it, I wouldn't know where the 'hot spot' for street art was.
All your artwork is super funky, something that can't be said about the majority of records these days. What's your favourite piece of cover
One of my favourite designs was a 7" sleeve I did for The Vines just before they got big over here. I've not done many black and white sleeves, but it just worked out really well. At the time they were on EBay for up to £80, which was a nice thing I guess.
Can you explain to the readers that don't know, who Zebra Face is?
Zebra Face is a two-dimensional super hero who only got the face of a zebra and a diabetic sidekick to help him fight crime. It started off as a one-page strip in my old fanzine, and ended up as a 100-page book we published a couple of years ago. You can cop that shit online or from Magma Books.
I read in an old interview that you were planning a film of it with UK rappers handling the voices. Is it still happening?
It's been lying dormant for a while now, but recently we've managed to get things underway with the help of some outsiders.
What projects are you currently working on and what can you tell us about them? Any release dates yet?
I'm recording my 3rd solo LP right now, it'll be going out on Lex Records as soon as I get the fucker finished. I'm happy with the results so far and it's nice to be working with some different cats this time round as well.
How did you find yourself doing design work for Hip-Hop Connection magazine and how do you rate the rag?
They interviewed me when 'Council Pop' came out and then asked me to start working for them. HHC has changed so much over the years, but I think it's at one of the best stages it's ever been, cos it's so diverse right now. When I started buying it, it was the only insight into Hip-Hop and graffiti I had. There were no other graf mags, no internet and Westwood was on Capital, which I couldn't even pick up. I remember Steam doing the 'Piece Book' section and how influential that was to me, so it's real nice to be in a position where I can let all the talented, but often overlooked writers have a little shine…
Check out the official website at www.invisiblespies.com
Photos by Ian Newcomb