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Skepta Fader magazine

FADER magazine takes an in-depth look at Skepta's career and how the North London MC is leading Grime into the future. In the cover story he talks about his upcoming album, growing up in Tottenham, working with Drake and more.

On his upcoming album:
That reverence for the genre’s history is palpable on the 11 tracks Skepta has recorded for his album thus far. One of them opens by sampling a legendary 2001 onstage lyrical clash between Pay As U Go and Heartless, two of the biggest crews in grime’s parent genre UK garage, the skippy 2-step or 4x4 club music movement. As the clash proceeds, things start getting more and more heated, and amidst audibly mounting anger, a then-young Wiley grabs the mic and implores, “Lyrics for lyrics! Calm!”—four words intended to remind his fellow MCs that musical beefs ought to remain that way.

Skepta Fader magazine cover
The clash occurred at a pivotal point in Britain’s music history, when UK garage was splintering between syrupy chart hits, typically with female singers on the chorus, and a darker and more ominous variant of the sound, accompanied by (mostly) young male MCs, like those present at the infamous Pay As U Go and Heartless clash. Over the following two years, this darker garage would morph into grime. Incubated on pirate radio—a network of illegal and hyper-local FM stations that were vital to grime, just as they were to dubstep, UK garage, and jungle before them—the new sound was disseminated by a new generation of teenage MCs and producers making sparse but devastating beats, often using cheap home PC software or video game consoles. By 2003, Wiley’s protégé, Dizzee Rascal had exploded onto the popular consciousness, winning the Mercury Prize for his debut album, Boy in Da Corner, and introducing the world beyond London’s council estates to the sound.

On working with Drake:
"When talk turns to Skepta’s upcoming album, Konnichiwa, Acyde asks whether the imminent sessions with Earl Sweatshirt and Drake are going to change the direction of the record. “Bruv, I put P. Diddy on a fucking grime tune,” Skepta says, perking up a bit as he refers to the time the American rapper recruited him to produce the beat and write a verse for the official “Grime Remix” of his 2010 single, “Hello Good Morning.” “I don’t care what they feel about it. They have to come on my wave—that’s the only thing that’s going to give my album what it needs. I understand the objective now, and I ain’t going to fucking America to shoot a video. They need to come to the roads with me.”

Skepta Fader magazine

Growing Up In Tottenham:
Skepta was born Joseph Junior Adenuga, to immigrant parents from Nigeria. The eldest of four siblings—including his partner-in-grime Jamie, who MCs and produces as JME—he grew up on Meridian Walk estate, a housing project in Tottenham, in north London. Beneath the adult Skepta’s thoughtful seriousness, you can sometimes detect a certain shyness, and it’s one that dates back to his formative years. “In school, I wasn’t like the cool guy who had all the new clothes and had all the girls,” Skepta remembers. “I felt like the world saw me as an idiot.” Some of that stemmed from being a second-generation African immigrant, with a surname that challenged some of his teachers. “In school, when a teacher would try and read my name, as soon as she goes to try and say it, I’d be trying to say it first, to stop the embarrassment of her not being able to pronounce it,” Skepta says. “I remember one day when I was about 15, my mum told me, ‘Junior, your name means something—just because your name isn’t some standard English name.’ I remember going back into school, and it started to power me up. Bare self-hate vibes was pushed into me as a kid at school, trust me.”
Musically, growing up in Tottenham meant “reggae in abundance” for Skepta: Barrington Levy, Gregory Isaacs, and Half Pint were on permanent rotation at home, until his dad bought him Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle on cassette when he was 12 and he had his mind blown by hip-hop. At school in the early 1990s, he got into the frenetic London sound of ragga jungle, a fusion of futuristic rave music and Jamaican dancehall. “When I first heard jungle, I understood it immediately,” he says. “To make something this bless sound this hype was just sick.” In his later teens, Skepta began hanging around pirate stations, eventually landing his own show DJing on Heat 96.6 FM.

Skepta Fader magazine
Helming the radio show, Skepta was unapologetically pragmatic when it came to getting hold of the best tracks to play. “If I heard a DJ play a song on the radio and I liked it, I’d record it,” he says. “I’d copy from radio to tape to minidisc, then from minidisc to [vinyl] dubplate, and then play it on my show.” Eventually, he began incorporating his own instrumentals into the show’s mix of early grime, UK garage, and American rap. He’d started making beats in his bedroom using “any program I could get my hands on,” including Mario Paint on the SNES and Music 2000 for PlayStation. Perhaps owing to grime’s Jamaican heritage, in the first few years of its lifespan, the genre consisted primarily of instrumental riddims. “What people forget, before the MCs vocalled them, instrumentals had names,” says Skepta. “We’re talking about a name that the whole country call it by. [Wiley’s classic riddim] ‘Eskimo’ was called ‘Eskimo’ before an MC spat on it. And the tracks become so big that even if an MC spits on it, or adds a chorus or whatever, people are still going to call it ‘Eskimo.’”

Check out the full article HERE

Follow him on Twitter @Skepta

Follow on Twitter @GrimeCulture

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