The Associated Minds artist talks about his new CD 'Lyrics', his rapping skills, films, the quality Cardiff scene and his freestyling world record.
First up, where are you from and what's your area saying in terms of hiphop happenings?
I live in Cardiff and you're asking the question at the right time. There's a golden era feel in Cardiff right now 'cause all the main artists with some sort of name for themselves are good and they all sound different from each other. I could break it down. It's like my sound is well unique, Junior Disprol's got the big word style, Humurak's real slangy, Ralph Rip Shit's just crazy hip-hop, Blaktrix got the thinking man shit on lock, the way Mudmowth spits is fun, PLO's a classical perfectionist lyricist. There's this brer coming up called Skamma who's sharp as fuck, Beatbox Fozzy is a killer beatboxer even though he's only 17 and Ninjah is one of my favourite artists in the world, even though he transcends any genre. So it's special round here. And I gotta draw attention to Optimas Prime, who make some of the wickedest production in the area. So to anyone new in the area coming up. it's important to bring your own style when you spit so you don't spoil the atmosphere there is now.
Your new release starts with some dialogue from The Matrix films. Are you, as the Oracle would say, 'the one'?
Yeah. I swear down, you've never heard anything as close to a lyrical ninja in your life.
There's also some Donnie Darko thrown in. Are you big on films and would you agree there's a cinematic edge to your material?
You got it bro, I love films. I love the experience of checking out a new film. I love seeing if the director's up to the challenge of keeping you transfixed. You know, in life I just react to whatever's new, even if I don't like something I'll naturally notice when someone's done something new, so if I'm watching Star Wars, I'm paying attention to the new sounds they've synthesized or I'll be analyzing the 360 degree shot in Swordfish, but not so much for the technique but the emotion it creates. If you think 'cause my shit's based around skills it's not emotional, you're wrong. But I hate it when I go to the pictures and the film's shit. I'll start grumbling and shifting about in my seat and spoil the shit for you if you're sitting next to me. But yeah, I'm definitely cinematic. I think my word imagery is better than just about anybody in the world. That's my strong point.
How long have you been rapping and what are the key records and artists that had you fix up and start getting creative yourself?
I've been spitting for dumb long. You know, I was like into hip-hop and Treach was the first emcee I paid attention to that I didn't just like but fascinated me with the artform of what he was doing with words. I started rhyming but the thing that lit a fire under me was the day I went to my friend Ben's house and heard 'Here To Save You All' by Chino XL. I'd never heard someone who was spitting that viciously so I thought 'I'll have some of that' and now I am!
Could you give us a run through of your rapping CV so far and tell us about the new 'Lyrics' CD?
There's a few bits and pieces. Big up to my good friend Johnny B, and I'll always be happy with all of them, but 'Lyrics' is all you need for now. It's an all-out skillfest. I just bash you from every angle with some of the illest lyrics you've ever heard in your life. It's a full satisfaction release 'cause every line is crafted and shaped and moulded. You're not dealing with an amateur here. I'm a leader in my field. It's a CD where you can tell I actually give a fuck about the listener 'cause it's my job to keep them stimulated. Listeners don't have some obligation to pick up my CD. I am supposed to make them listen. 'Lyrics' is an achievement. I love the shit and I hope all you lot love it as well for years to come.
How important was it for you to get 'Lyrics' released rather than go straight on with putting out a full debut album?
I always had a plan for a 3 track 12" to show people what I'm about, from when I been sitting around being slept on, and Mayor, who runs Associated Minds, was saying 'Nah, you need to hit people off with a CD' , like the 12" wouldn't be enough, but I couldn't come out in a way that wasn't official, in a hip-hop sense, so when the mixtape phenomenon grew to be a valid hip-hop entity I realised he was right and put together 'Lyrics'. He emphasized how important it was to have original material of my own on there for the release to have longevity, so with 'Lyrics' I've split the difference between a mixtape and an album. It's got that raw feel and it's got structure still.
You produced a few of the tracks on there yourself. Is this something we're going to hear you do more of?
There's some crazily tight vocals on the CD, showcasing quite a variety of approaches to lyrics and flow. How naturally did your emcee skill come to you, and how much have you trained for it?
Thanks man, I really appreciate that. This came to me very naturally 'cause English Language was always my subject. I walked an A in my GSCE's and I was screwing you couldn't do an A-Level in it at my school. I was delighted if they ever gave a creative essay to write 'cause I'm a day dreamer- 'no problem!' And yeah I've trained for it. This is the only thing that's ever made sense to me. You don't know how inspired I get when I see a film like 'Hero'. I just see what I wanna be and it makes me wanna give up all my days to perfecting these lyrics and verses. I'll tell myself I'm not on it enough and do more. I see that shit and I'm like 'it's not just on the screen, that's real bruv!' All that fairytale and glory shit is real. I'm in it. Life is not 9 to 5 depression, it's 'Crouching Tiger' roof jumping if you want it to be and being an emcee is the best hobby in the fucking world. You can convert nothing into your own entire planet. I've got a Neo complex. Any emcee worth their salt should have a Neo complex.
Your label 'Associated Minds' seems to have a really tight relationship with its artists. How did you get involved with them?
I'm one of the founders. It was Mayor's idea initially to get me heard, then we picked up Ralph Rip Shit, Barny Rumble, Mudmowth, Paul B, Fozzy and PLO,and we're a team that likes each other. X that, loves each other. You did a review of 'Lyrics' on this website and you called AM 'consistent and interesting' and you've nailed it there bruv. We're all hip-hop obsessives and we're committed to putting out shit that isn't boring.
What effect does being part of a crew including other dope rappers like Mudmowth and Ralph Rip Shit have on your work?
I'm not in a crew. They're label mates but they keep making shit that makes me think, 'Rah, I wish I'd thought to do that' so that's the Frosties secret formula right there. Good jealousy. You're gonna love Mudmowth's album, by the way.
I've heard good things about the live shows you lot do. When are you heading back to London and what can the audience expect?
I love rinsing it out on stage. I come with a real raw live show. I stri-stri-stri-stri-strip it down. That's for anyone who loves 'Listen And Learn' on 'Lyrics'. Erm, I'll be in London when I'm booked.
You're the record holder for world's longest freestyle. What time did that finally clock in at, and didn't you get bored doing it?
10 hours and 34 minutes. No, nothing was more exciting to me than continually having to keep coming up with lyrics and turning my mind over and over for that whole time. Anything to do with rhyming, I really enjoy as long as I make it feel like an event, you get me? This is how much I love hip-hop.
Does the recording of the record exist anywhere and are you gonna put it out there for people to hear for themselves?
There's some bad quality footage on video. I don't like putting out shit that's not constructed so the world record freestyle can remain a piece of legendary folklore.
What artists are you feeling in the UK and who'd you like the opportunity to collaborate with in the future?
Generally, MSI & Asylum, The Colony, Foreign Beggars. I heard this grime tune that Orifice Vulgatron did that is the ugliest shit on planet Earth. If you see him, beg him to hear it. Dear me. I love Ralph Rip Shit and Baron Samedi's 'Spit Happens' CD is the best album from this country I've ever heard. It's a masterpiece.
I have to say, Grimlok is a fucking hip-hop machine. Fucking robot hip-hop encyclopedia, it's scary. When he comes out, it's all over. I'm the hugest fan of Jargon. When it comes down to it and you strip all analysis away, he's probably the one I'd like to listen to most. Just for pure rhyming satisfaction, and some of his punchlines give me a feeling that I don't get off no one else in the world 'cause they come the fuck off. David J The Pugilist is the most underrated emcee in the UK, even more than me and let me tell you he ain't an emcee. He's a fucking magician from space. Put him up against Ras Kass and you watch, and the best emcee here to me is Mystro. He drops shit exactly the way it's supposed to be dropped and look at his consistency. Listen to his last verse on 'Tellin' You'. The shit's sick. Ain't no one rhyming their syllables as good as him in this country. He's number one.
As for collabs, I don't like collaborating with anyone I'm not friends with or don't have a connection with so there's plans but you'll see when they happen. It's real good to me that 'Lyrics' has no guests on it. I'm coming out and proving myself alone. On another note, I'm completely obsessed with Fresh, the drum 'n' bass producer. I'd fucking die to do something with him. He makes the best music in the world or something.
Not being a part of what some people coin 'the elite London scene', what part does the internet play in terms of exposure?
The internet? It's a tool. It's like saying 'what do you think of the phone'. You don't think, you just use it. I hate being in front of a computer screen for more than 2 hours though. Not to say that I don't. It's addictive. Or it was, maybe the novelty's worn off by now. The internet connects the whole world. It's obviously an amazing invention even if Tony Blair's just trying to barcode us.
What's the most obvious problem that needs addressing for the UK hiphop scene to progress, and how can this be solved?
Questions like this.
Do you want to make some shout out's or plugs?
You know what? Shout out to everybody out there busting their balls like me just to live and try and do what you wanna do 'cause life is a motherfucker if you let it fuck your mother, you get me, you get me, you get me? So just hold your fucking head up. My pain is your pain. Love is love. Uphold you and yours and try to make shit better for more than just you 'cause no man or woman is an island and I feel for anyone who struggles 'cause I'm a struggler, word to life.
'Lyrics' is released and in stores now!
Visit the official Associated Minds site at www.associatedminds.com