The South London artist talks on everything from early influences and his latest release 'I'm Not That Guy' to the UK scene, future projects and more.
First off, please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us where you're from.
Hello readers. My name is Verb T and I'm a Capricorn, currently living in South West London.
What was your first experience of hip-hop and what records were key in you wanting to become a rapper yourself?
My first expierience was hearing 'Lodi Dodi' and the show by Slick Rick and Dougie Fresh, and that was also the record that really started it all. I wanted to be like Slick Rick and it just set a whole new part of my brain working at a very young age. I also remember at my primary school, we had a flat roof with a fence built round it which was the second playground. One day there was a guy who desparatly wanted to look like Ice T (might of even been him. I didn't know who he was at the time) who was filming some kids rapping. I remember thinking 'I could do that better than them' because I was alredy doing my little Slick Rick impressions.
I think the most key records, not nessesarily my favourites were Slick Rick 'Great Adventures'. Was my favourite and I think the way he flowed, his character and storytelling on that album are still unrivaled in many ways. De la Soul '3 Feet High…' and 'Stakes Is High'. '3 Feet' was probably the first album I really got into and it made me look at hip hop in a different way for the first time, in that it was alright to make fun of yourself as well as others. But '3 feet' isn't really something I would listen to that often these days where as 'Stakes Is High' never got old for me and I can listen start to finish to this day.
Dr Dre's 'Chronic'. Snoop's 'Doggystyle'. What Dre did for these albums is just classic. My Dad lives in L.A so I go there whenever possible to see him and it's like a second home. Seeing as I been going there since a young age, I like a lot of west coast hiphop, but these albums for me were the best of it. I think Snoop had such a tight flow on these albums and a way of talking that was very catchy to the mass public. In fact he still does. He started all that izzle talk, and people laughed but everyone does it.
Souls of mischief, '93 'Till Infinity'. Beats and flows so far ahead of their time. I think 'Never No More', 'Make Your Mind Up' and '93 Till' are some of my favourite hip hop tracks ever. Jeru, 'Sunrises In The East'/Group Home Livin' Proof'. Gangstarr, 'Hard To Earn'. These albums for me show the best of Premo's production and are the epitomy of east coast undergroud in the mid-ninties, and Jeru was also one of my favourite rappers at that time. And all the Wu-Tang stuff. Rza is the man basically, and I think these guys changed how a lot of people rapped. Can't forget Mobb Deep. Sick beats and I think 2 very good emcees.
And last but not least, pretty much anything Jay Dee has done. I think I would have to say he's my favourite producer. It's real sad to see him ill at the moment. I really hope he makes a full recovery as I think he is very important to hip hop today.
Could you give us a run through of all the other material which you've put out there over the years?
1st record was "Ill Lyrical Behaviour" produced by Harry love with me and Kid Fury spittin'. We were young but I think it was decent. Then it was 'Show Bitchness', again with Harry which got a mixed response. Loved and hated, but I still think it's a good track. One of my favourite beats that Harry's had out. Then there was the double EP/album on lowlife that me and Kashmere did. That opened a few doors. Also, I featured on my man Ghost's tracks 'Exactly' and 'The Payoff', both with Asaviour. Oh yeah, and I was on the 'Harry Love Presents' thing with Mystro and Yungun. The tracks were 'Surprize' ' and 'Live From London'. I think that's it.
How did you hook up with DJ Juice and why did you decide for him to produce your latest release 'I'm Not That Guy' entirely?
Juice got my number from Harry and called me about sending some beats. He did, and I was feeing the production. At first we were just gonna do a 3 track single but he played me more and more beats and I ended up writing like 13/14 tracks. I think the mix works well so as well as the EP on wax with instrumentals, we decided to put out a 12 track CD. Also though, when I collabarate with producers I like to do more than 1 track because you get to see different sides of their work that may inspire you to write in more interesting ways. It's just the same as getting to know a person. The more you talk about, the more you will know how much you really have in common.
A lot of his production is quite laid back and chilled. Is this the type of beat you prefer most, or will we hear you on mad energetic stuff too?
I think laid back beats better reflect my personality, but there are still tracks on this project that have a lot of energy when performed live. I have definatly been working on other material that is a bit more hype though, and I think as Juice releases more material, people will see he has many different styles.
How do you feel the latest release has been accepted by the UK scene and what forthcoming projects have you got planned?
The feedback so far has pretty much all been positive. I think because the tracks are more laid back they didn't strike people the way more hype stuff would've, but our aim was always to put something out that had longevity anyway, so that remains to be seen but I'm confident on it. The next project for me is the Verb T and Harry Love album which will be out in the new year, and also look out for the single "Delusion" out in Jan/Feb '06. I'm also featured on a few tracks on the forthcoming album by Ghost. And a lot more to follow after that. I'm constantly recording and writing.
Your lyrics suggest you put particular focus on offering scenario's or topics to the listener. How would you describe your rap style and content?
My style is influenced by people like Slick Rick, Snoop and Jeru (among others) who really didn't try to yell their points across. They just used a more natural tone and benifited from it. I think there is a definate emphasis on flows and I try to make good songs that convey a point or meaning but that aren't too overly lyrical or wordy. I also like to include my dry childish sense of humor in my tracks where possble. I would say all in all, I'm confident but I never take myself too seriously because anyone who thinks they are always right is foolish, and people that can't take criticism will never grow as artists. In my opinion, I could be wrong…
A lot of rappers get caught up trying to be too complex and advanced with their wordplay. Would you agree that you keep things more simplistic, and therefore more accessible to hear?
I think I try to work with the vibe of a beat and ride it properly rather than stick out, but that's just what works for me. I think what people pick up on is when you open up and speak from the heart rather than show boat, but as with everything, it's all about finding the balance that is right for you individually. There are times when I will try to put more effort into creating lines I know people will react to, but I always look at tracks in the context of an album and to make a good album you can't be overly complex.
You've got songs like 'Life Is Rigged' but then contrasting moods like 'Fresh Air'. Do you think it's important that UK hip-hop puts out uplifting stuff as well as the more grey vibes?
I think the grey reflects our surroundings. Grey is usually the predominant colour you see in England. But yes, as I said before, I think it's important to have the balance, but I don't think each person has to do an album that has happy tracks as well as moody ones. I don't think your art has to reflect every part of your personality because people are inspired in different ways. I think it's more down to the listener. For example, I would have a Mobb Deep album for when I was more moody, then a Pete Rock and CL Album for when I was in a better mood, so it's good that you have different people conveying different moods.
Did you and Juice ever return the voice messages from MC Tru' Say or are you still darking him?
I thought Tru Say was nuthin but a bitch untill I heard some of his material. He's sick and his album will amaze people. It's called "The Smashathon". I think Juice is actually gonna hook him up with some beats as well.
What's your assessment of UK hiphop's current scene? What's the most positive and negative aspects of it all right now?
Overall it's good. It's more competative and I think the quality at the top end is good. There is some wack stuff being made though, let's not lie about it. I think the positives are that people are taking things into their own hands more by pressing their own shit and starting their own labels, and there is some genuinely inspiring music being made. There are negatives. As an artist it's frustrating sometimes, trying to get on with work when there isn't a good infastructure built around us, meaning there are good labels but we don't have enough and there aren't always a lot of avenues to sell your music, but as I said, it's positive that people overcome that and sell things themselves.
What's your position in regards to the sounds of garage and 2step etc. Are you embracing it and calling it hiphop or staying away?
To be honest, I don't really know much about that type of music. I hear people driving through my block playing it and I got friends that like it, and from what I've heard, there are talented emcees but I'm not gonna lie and say I like that type of music. I would say though, if you define hip hop as just a form of music where there is a beat and an emcee over the top, then grime is hip hop, but then wouldn't that make drum and bass hiphop too? Like the British version of Miami bass or something?. I don't mind if people see grime as hiphop because it's better than some hiphop, but for me hiphop is not only about the music. There's more to it.
Do you perform live much and what goes down at a typical Verb T set. Do you dabble much in freestyle?
Yehh, I perform quite a bit. Now I've got more material about to drop, I'm gonna get out even more. I don't freestyle so much at live shows but it really depends on the vibe. I like to put a lot into shows though, as I enjoy performing a lot. It's also nice to meet the people that actually spend money on my music (well usually anyway).
Are there any other elements of hiphop you've moved with such as graff or breaking?
Nah. I'm crap at drawing and have terrible handwriting so graff is out and I like dancing but I've got dodgy knees and the back of a 60 yr old, so breaking is out too. I've started to make beats though.
How do you feel the internet helps the exposure of UK Rap, or should people log off and get out there more?
I think it's good. It helps with the whole comunity thing and is a good way of spreading information. Word of mouth is very important. I think there are a few twats who use it as an excuse to hide behind a false name and talk shit, but really I don't look at the hip hop sites that much because I've got a shit computer.
Do you prefer dealing with press enquiries and interviews via email or face to face, and what's the ad' and disadvantages?
The e-mail thing is cool because I can read and edit my responses, although it lacks the personal touch.
What rappers and producers from the UK or abroad do you most dream of the chance to collaborate with?
Well one dream would be to do an album with Jay Dee but I'd settle for a few tracks. I feel lucky to have worked with a lot of really great artists in the UK. It's hard to say because I might like someone as an artist but it doesn't mean I'd work well with them on a track.
Do you wanna make any shout out's or drop some promo messages to end this on?
Get 'I'm Not That Guy' out now on CD and 12" on Pepa Records. Look out for Verb T and Harry Love material coming in the first half of 2006. Hope everyone has a productive rest of the year and I hope we can save the world from destruction. We will have to work together. That's the key.
Check out the official Pepa Records website for the latest news on the label's releases, some useful production tips, an arcade and more.