One To Watch – Shawalin Interview
In the next installment of the “One To Watch” omnibus looking at the current state of underground music at home and abroad, I speak to Shawalin, a young MC & singer (also a Cambridge student) from London who talks about his inspiration for songwriting and having a preference for Antibacterial Gel.
Can you give us some background info for those who aren’t familiar with what you do?
I’m a 20-year-old rapper/singer from North-West London. I make a lot of light-hearted urban music but also do spoken word poetry.
Where did you get the name SHAWALIN from?
It’s a combination of “Shower” (slang meaning impressive/flash) and “Shaolin monk” (the ninja). When I was 15 made up the word Shawalin and people started calling me that.
What’s your earliest individual memory of music in a performing or listening capacity?
Music’s been in my life for as long as I can remember. My mum always used to sing to me and play records all day. Every day was a performance for me because I was always singing for girls in school and on the estate.
How did you get into Mcing?
I started songwriting when I was 13 and I tended to stand out, so writing rap lyrics was a natural transition for me. I was alternative in that I wanted to say something different to everyone else but two problems were that I was crap and had nothing substantial to say. When grime took off in 2005 I couldn’t stop writing so it didn’t take long for me to stop being crap.
What inspires you to write and sing songs in such a humorous manner?
Life is just hilarious, I’m sure everyone else goes through the same stuff as me but it’s all about perception and interpretation. My brain just makes everything funny to me so what I experience gets communicated in that way.
Were you surprised by the warm response ‘Dedicated’ and your mixtape ‘Memory Bank Vol.1’ received?
I was more reassured; I thought some of the stuff was a little left field and it was nice to see that grime fans could get involved with the joke songs like ‘Dedicated’. Especially people who had never heard me before, I was happy to see the YouTube comments where a lot of people who don’t know each other could just agree that the music was good. I worked hard on the mixtape and gave an honest representation of myself so the positive response felt like a pat on the back.
Red Hot Entertainment made the humorous ‘Junior Spesh’ a few years back. Do you think local chicken shops such as Sams and similar chains etc. play a key part of urban London life?
Yeah everyone knows about them. Chicken and bargains is a great way to bring poor people together. “Junior Junior Junior Spesh!!!”
A lot of the themes you talk about in your discography reflect an upbringing which many youths and older generations in London and other major urban centres have experienced. How important is it for you to use music as an outlet to tell your state of mind to people who haven’t been subjected to such a livelihood before?
To be honest it used to matter more to me in the past. I felt like no one was adequately representing the inner-city experience in a way that could be understood by someone from the outside looking in, so I wanted to be the spokesman in that respect. But now I’m questioning how useful that is; I’m sick of people in the hood crying out for attention and sympathy, I’d rather inspire change.
Bit of a generic question I’m gonna ask but do you think the Internet has provided you with a great platform to gain greater exposure toward your music?
If I could kiss the internet I would. Overall I’ve got over 90,000 views in the space of ten months. To an extent the internet is a level playing field for artists like me who don’t have friends in high places and any budding performer would be a fool not to utilise it.
Recently a number of high profile hip hop and rap artists have been giving away free music on a weekly basis i.e Kanye – G.O.O.D Fridays and Wu Tang – Wu Wednesdays . What’s your opinion on this means of marketing and would you consider releasing personal material so readily to the public?
I think it’s a necessary evil. More and more people have access to free music now and if artists aren’t prepared to accommodate for that budget-wise then a lot of avoidable losses will be made. I’ve been giving away free music for a while now; as an up-and-coming, the hardest bit is getting you to even listen to me. But it’s all good.
Any plans to release new mixtapes and material anytime soon?
Travelling to Uganda and starting university slowed me down a bit but I will be back with a bang next year (cliché, I know).
Are there any artists or producers out there you would like to collaborate with in the not too distant future?
I won’t name names but just know I am the most open-minded MC you will ever meet, if I contact you then I’m willing to work in a free capacity.
What are you listening to at the moment and Is there anyone readers should look out for?
I’ve been listening to a lot of old school Ghetts just to fall back in love with grime (pause). Readers should watch out for this guy called Crisis, he’s talented, another one is D-Bo (best in the scene?) and of course my guys D.I and Manidi. Support UK music not for the sake of it but because it’s actually good.
Spurs or Arsenal?
LOL Spurs who? I don’t even watch football I just said that to piss my bredrin off.
Chicken Shop or the Colonel?
Colonel when I got money, Sam’s when I’m in the ends.
Breast or Wings?
Ask your girl.
Hand Wipes or Antibacterial Gel?
That gel is a lot you know I just used it 10 minutes ago.