The South East London rapper talks about a ton of things, including his introduction into rap music, getting a record deal, grime music and his forthcoming album.
Stylah is a rapper from South East London whose hype grows day by day. After some appearances on various mixtapes including DJ Skully's Bring It Back and the #1 US seller Catch 22 Presents New Day Pt. 2 hosted by Maino and Capone of CNN, Stylah's name is beginning to reach the masses. Now officially the newest member of the Poisonous Poets (Doc Brown, Reveal, Lowkey, Tony D and Therapist) and doing shows up and down the country with Lowkey including a performance to 60,000+ people in Trafalgar Square it looks like 2005 is shaping up to be Stylah's year. Already receiving a lot of label interest for his forthcoming project Treading Water, with his video Warfare 2 getting some good rotation on Channel U and his mixtape Prince Of Thieves reinforcing his street buzz, Stylah took a few minutes out from his takeover bid to answer some questions for rapnews.co.uk.
How long have you been rapping for and what are your key releases so far?
I've been spitting for a minute now. I kind of grew up in a raw British culture so back in the day I spat to Jungle and then Garage and finally found myself in rap a few years ago. I've only been proper serious about rap for about a year.
Who were the first rap artists that really captured your imagination and inspired you to try it yourself?
Nas. When I heard the way he fuses poetry with pain and reality I thought 'shit', this is amazing.
Could you drop us some scoops on your forthcoming album? Title, some of the tracks, producers etc…
It's called 'Treading Water' and it's about my life and views now, which through being on the road and whatever I understand is the general consensus amongst struggling, modern Britons. It includes production from Caramac, Snips, Fusion, Nutty P, Chemo, DJ Mentat, Beatbutcher, Eric Lau, Budgie, S-type, Sivey and probably another couple of high profile UK producers. It also features the lyrical prowess of such talented bastards as Poisonous Poets, Reveal, Lowkey and Tony D, Mike GLC and some other secret weapons who are very well known rappers in this country.
How long have you been working on it and when's it likely to come out? Has it been hard work?
As it reflects my life you could say that I've been working on it all my life, but as for actually writing and recording, around 2-3 months. It hasn't been hard at all. I could never call rap hard work. It's like a footballer playing football. If you truly love it, it's never hard work.
What damage do you expect the album to do when it drops? Big expectations?
I expect to be dubbed a cult hero, uniting the masses of underprivileged children from different races and social backgrounds all under one giant umbrella of togetherness. Joke. But if it gets the recognition it deserves, which I thoroughly believe it will, then it's due to cause more than a noise.
Have you decided on a label to release it with yet? I heard you've caused quite a bit of interest.
I haven't decided yet. I'm looking for the right package in a label. Remember this whole thing is about the art and if you don't put a value on your art from the start, somebody else will and the chances are it won't be what your looking for. I value my art highly and I wouldn't want any label thinking of getting involved to think otherwise.
You were on the big selling New York mixtape Catch 22. How did you end up being a part of that over there?
You should know Stylah aint just a London ting. It's global. I rap with universal themes so naturally when my management team put me on the phone to a well-known American promoter, they were interested right away and were like, boom, lets get this ma'afakka own some shit. Since then we have been doing a lot of shit with them and are featuring on DVD's, mixtapes and all that. Through these links, I became part of an international network of rappers, DJ's, producers and industry heads which is actually called Catch 22, and includes artists like Kool G Rap, Immortal Technique, Scram Jones, Elite (Ruff Ryders) etc from the US and myself, Lowkey, DJ Skully and DJ Snips from the UK. Definitely watch this space.
Is it possible for you to single out one or two of your tracks released already which offer the best representation of you as an artist?
If anyone's heard 'Warfare 2' which is airing on Channel U 'Video No 233' then I would say that's a fair representation of my style although that track was recorded a fair while ago and I have come on a long way since then. 'Devils', which has been played by Dan Greenpeace on XFM and Skully On Kiss FM, is another track which represents me as a person. I would say though, a true artist couldn't really be summed up by 1 piece. For me, each individual track represents a captured moment so you would have to listen to a whole project to get an idea of what I'm about. Hence, 'Treading Water'.
Are you feeling all the current hip-hop spin off's like grime and 2step at the moment? Gonna record some?
Boy, I don't watch the label of the genre of the music. I just listen and if it sounds heavy, I feel it. If I get sent beats (Grime, friggin Indy, whatever) and they sound dope, would you want me to turn them down just to preserve the purity of something which no one even owns to begin with? Fuck that. I'm making music.
How did you become a member of the Poisonous Poets crew and what's gigging with them been like?
Well first and foremost I'm a fan of the music and the first time I saw PP was on Dark n Cold's video and I was well impressed. Then I saw Doc Brown hosting Deal Real and thought, 'shit, these man have got their shit together'. Through Deal Real, I also met Lowkey before his hype and we clicked through both being sick lyricists and what not. After that, I was introduced to the rest of them man and I was like, 'fuck, this is the best collective of rappers in the world'. It just made so much sense to be part of this movement. Doing shows with them man is sick. There's so much different styles in one place and where people already know their names, it's a good stage to showcase my stuff.
Which artists are you currently rating the highest on the UK hip-hop scene at the moment?
I think the UK is fucking hot right now. Asides from Poisonous. Sway, Sincere, Skinny, Malik, Chester, and Tef-co are all bubbling right now and it's a beautiful thing to watch evolve.
What was the last record you bought or blagged?
I saw Pro-v (Formerly of Street Politics) on the road and he blessed man with a copy of his new solo mixtape "The mis-conception". It's easy listening and personally I thought it was heavy.
Have you got any shout out's or plugs you'd like to drop before this wraps up?
My initial release 'Prince of Thieves' is getting a brush up and a re-release with new tracks and a much better mix. Cop that shit. Nuff Luv to everyone that's finally starting to see the light. I aint going nowhere so get used to me. (At this point Stylah does an evil laugh) Ha ha ha ha ha. Check out www.myspace.com/stylah for news and music.