When I think of West London, Notting Hill, The Westway and the iconic Hammersmith Apollo encapsulate my headspace quicker than a posse of boozed up footballers spotting a kebab shop post-Mayfair nightclub. All three landmarks are synonymous with the rich musical history of Blighty. From reggae and dub soundsystem culture at the forthcoming carnival; punk rock legends The Clash name-dropping the “new-age” yellow brick road in their song “London’s Burning” and hosting sell-out tour dates to some of the world’s biggest names. For SamueL, the journey to reach such an audio ascendency is still in it’s infancy but the homegrown hip-hop infused MC remains resolute and ready to step up to the M.I.C.
Wat U Sayin recently spoke to the young blood on the battle of being a white rapper,his debut mixtape Pleasant Surprise and resisting the temptation of rhyming with an American twang.
Introduce yourself to the people and feed them with a starter on how you started out.
Sup, my artist and birth name is SamueL and I’m a spitter from West London just trying to put my heart into my art. I started as just being a fan of Hip-Hop, and not just one style, like conscious backpacker stuff or ignant thugged outish, I like a dose of pretty much any sub-genre of Hip-Hop that you can think of, as long as the music is authentic and done well I’m good with it. I still feel like a fan just trying to make the music I love. I’m very fond of a good conceptual solid album and that’s what I set out to do with my first project ‘Pleasant Surprise’, I just wanted to get my debut ‘baby’ out the way and take it from there. Unfortunately there’s no sexy story why I started out, just the pure love I have for the expression.
Which record or musical moment inspired you to take your craft more seriously?
Hmmmmm, I’ve always had a passion for lyrics and words and had the dream of becoming an artist like the ones I admire, but I didn’t have a whole lot of self-belief. I don’t really like to admit and bring race into it but being a British white boy whose favourite rappers, bar the man Marshall Mathers, were predominantly black Americans, I didn’t initially feel like I had it in me to make music with such soul and style as they did. It really took a certain person to come into my life and change my way of thinking for me to get my art off it’s arse and believe in myself, and I will always appreciate them for that.
I’ve been listening to your first mixtape, Pleasant Surprise for the last few weeks now and it’s promising to have another homegrown artist making his way. The title striked me from the off mind. Is it linked to the old saying ‘Never judge a book by its cover’, as some wouldn’t see you as a rapper in the ‘Conventional’ sense?
First off, thanks for giving the project a proper thorough listen, it’s tough to get people to give your album a chance when most folk these days are just looking for a single they can bump for a week until the next hot track drops. I guess the title does refer to that saying, and that probably relates to my last answer, but mainly, by the point I renamed the project to that title, I had gotten over the fact that I’m not the traditional ‘rapper’ looks-wise and had become quietly confident that what we were working on was going to be of a certain level. A level that I don’t think even my friends and family thought I was capable of, which is why I felt ‘Pleasant Surprise’ was such a suitable title. The project wasn’t meant to be mind-blowing, overly innovative stuff, but just good music that would be an enjoyable pleasant listen. Not many people around me even knew that I rapped so that was where the ‘surprise’ came in, I’m just glad that I made damn sure it was a ‘pleasant’ one!
SamueL – BANGER! (Prod. by JZA)
There seems to be a heavy Boom-Bap, 90’s Rap element on the mixtape with the samples and your laidback but potent punchline flow. Was there a conscious element to retain a British feel with the lyrical content or did you want the tape to be accessible as possible?
All I did was try to make music that was to my personal taste, and I’d safely assume the fact that I’m really into so-called ‘old school’ Hip-Hop is why the project has that feel to it, but I wanted to keep it real and that meant repping my home when it came to the substance of the spitting, which is why I don’t shy away from using our slang and sayings, or allow my accent to stray and sound like I’m from the States. There was no conscious effort to be accessible to anyone in particular, more like be accessible to everyone by just trying to produce ‘good’ timeless music that really shows mine and the producers’ love for it. It’s a shame that there haven’t been more Hip-Hop artists from the UK that I could say have influenced me so far because I am actually very proud of where I’m from and I do want that to shine through.
SamueL – Sweet Rapport (Prod. by JZA)
Support the rising MC via the links below and till later…stay F.L.Y
In the second and final part of Wat You Sayin’s interview with rising Canadian Producer High Klassified, he talks about his rapper brothers, his love of The Neptunes and why upping your swag is important in this age.
In the last two years, there seems to be a very strong Southern hip-hop element across electronica and hip-hop itself. What’s your take on it and has it subconsciously influenced your music?
I used to listen to a lot of A$AP Rocky and I had a laidback beat flavour a couple of months ago but now I just go with the flow. I don’t know if I had a lot of inspirations but I used to listen to a lot of Neptunes and use their chords. I don’t really like listening to EDM Trap which sounds like Hardcore. I’m more into keeping that real Trap flavour from the US, as there’s a hip-hop trap and there’s a dubstep trap but I listen to a lot trap artists like Waka Flocka and Gucci Mane.
It’s funny you mention the Neptunes as they’re my favourite producers too. What are your favourite tracks from them?
Toni Braxton and Loon – On The Freeway?
[laughs] Yeah Yeah!
Toni Braxton & Loon – On The Freeway
That’s a sick track. You know The Neptunes Presents Clones is almost ten years old?
It’s making me feel old man!
You’ve worked with rappers BB-Boy and Green Hypnotic and I’ve listened to k-os, K’naan and the more obvious example in Drake. What’s the rap scene like in Canada and is there anyone I should be looking out for?
BB-Boy and Green are my brothers.
Yeah. Actually Green is pretty much doing his thing now. I don’t really follow the hip-hop scene, there are a couple of local artists and don’t know about anyone whose about to blow but there is a pretty good artist in Montreal called I.Blast and he’s doing his thing.
I.Blast – Money Is A Drug
Your recent beattape artwork evokes an ethereal feel almost like you’re a glutton for the galaxy.
I’m more into world stuff that looks like the galaxy and a greater space image.
That personifies itself on the following tape ‘Neo ReFlexion’, which was shorter than Flexury as well. Was that more a case of you wanting to release music or just to keep eardrums fresh about your output?
I had some mixing problems with Flexury, as I had just started using Ableton and there were a couple of problems with the software. There’s a normalizer when I render my beats and shit, so Flexury had some mixing problems concerning the mastering. I just dropped Neo Reflexion to show that there was an improvement in the mixing and to have a tape which was a laidback flavour. As Flexury was a taste of both, there are quick beats, slow beats, hard beats, soft beats and my next one is going to be more aggressive.
High-Klassified – Neo ReFlexion
When you say aggressive, does that entail more rappers being involved or improving the vocal sampling?
I’m gonna do both. I’ve got this track called Scopola which is a really hard upper Calyptic track and I’m gonna do a visual for it and drop it. I’ve got some beats with voice samples too but right now I’m really into faster trap beats.
When will you release something new?
Actually in two weeks, a beat called the BabyFace. It’s a kinda soulful trap and I might drop it, as it’s getting a bit warmer. It’s Summer Trap and hopefully next month drop the visual for my next beat Scopola.
Have you already filmed it?
We just had a meeting last week to film it, so we’re gonna start this weekend and I’ll shortly be doing a 20 min mix for Music Is My Sanctuary.
When are you crossing the pond i.e Flexin’ in London ?
I’m playing in LA at Low End Theory next month with Beat Cinema but it’s not confirmed yet. So from there, I’m gonna peep for bookings in London after that!
Are you doing any festivals in the summer?
I’m doing all the festivals in Montreal and Quebec and that’s about it.
No doubt someone will pick you up.
Word. No Doubt.
The producer is gaining more prominence than a vocalist in recent times and people have a genuine interest in finding out a great deluge more information on those behind the scenes. How do you feel about that?
With the internet now, it’s harder to be an artist as you gotta be a good artist and a good-looking artist [laughs]
[laughs] Is that why you got the swag going on?
Yeah my agent is really making me understand how important it is for an artist to have a good image and to be musically good too, as this is what will make me look different from the others. There are a lot of good artists but there are also a lot of SoundCloud stars too. So you have to show yourself, make visuals for beats and take good pictures for people to relate to me.
Are you still in college?
How do you balance the books and the beats?
It’s pretty hard…I don’t sleep a lot. Music is my job too, so I have to finish beats for clients and then wake up and go to school at like 6 in the morning and I come home at 6 at night to work. It’s kinda hard but I’m almost done with college, so I just can’t wait to get done with that.
Are you at all surprised by the reception Kaytranada has received?
He has worked for it and really deserves it for real. He’s a really good DJ and a good producer.
Are you guys going to collaborate again soon?
We collab a lot and we’re playing a night together soon. We’re really good friends and I think he’s doing a Euro tour next month too.
I’ll have to get down to that. Are there any new tunes I should be on the lookout for?
Dilemma by Mr Carmack and LongliveASAP (Lakim Trap Refix)
Dilemma – Mr Carmack
A$AP Rocky – Long Live A$AP (Lakim Trap Refix)
Hopscotch by him is a banger as well.
Yeah he’s good.
Is he from America?
I think so but his Twitter is not so clear.
You’ve got an agent and dress fly too but some producers prefer to be anonymous and let the music do the talking. Do you reckon you’ll ever do that?
I’m really like into having attention and fashion, so I like playing with my image differently from other producers. Some like to be low-key, others like to have good swag but not a super fashion swag like me. I just like to go out and when I play I just like to go nuts and vibe out which is cool.
Thanks for giving me your time after this long Tom & Jerry chase.
Word Man. Take it easy.
Mr. Carmack – Hopscotch
J Dilla – Trucks (Gary Numan has never sounded this gooooood)
James Blake – Life Round Here DA FRESH TING
k-os – Mojo On
Daft Punk – Get Lucky (ft. Pharrell)
John Legend – Green Light (ft.Andre 3000) (Annie Starlight Remix)
ItsNate ft. GFrSH,Catch’Em x Phaze One – WSLTA (Remix) Directed by the man like H.Houdini
Montréal. The City of Saints is a musical menagerie built on a healthy harmonic hotbed with the likes of Leonard Cohen, Arcade Fire, A-Trak and more recently, Lunice, showcasing the firm base and burgeoning breadth of musicality. Yet, the city has been at the forefront of the new age hybrid of experimentalism fused with hip-hop and soul via the rising Piu-Piu beat scene in tandem with the Alaiz crew over the last two years. A marauding myriad of beatsmiths have originated from or assimilated to the francophone fabric such as Musoni, Kaytranada, Bueller, Kenlo Craqnuques and Da-P to name a few. One such native Kevin Vincent aka High-Klassified makes riddims which induce you into intergalactic reverie and ring your sweat-laden t-shirt out (post-skank) in equal measure. In the first instalment of this Fresh Produce edition, Wat You Sayin caught up with the young producer to talk about his breakthrough beat, the Piu-Piu movement and his home city.
Introduce yourself to the novices and knowledgeable folk.
I’m High-Klassified, real name Kevin and I actually started making beats about three to four years ago making beats as my brothers are rappers, so I was kind of into music at that moment of time. I actually started how to learn on FL Studio then started to learn my keys via YouTube Videos and by ear. So now I’m here in 2k13 working on beats again I guess!
What record did you first hear which made you want give producing a go?
I’ve been doing beats for a moment and never took it seriously. My state of mind was like the minute I start college, I’m just going to drop everything and just do my shit at school but since I started being a part of the Piu-Piu Movement, people have been fucking with my music a lot. So around 2k11, I was really into this and thought I should do it as a living.
I’ve been listening to mixtapes by yourself, Kaytranada and Da-P for a while now. What’s the whole back story about the Alaiz collective and the Piu-Piu movement that have helped the experimental hip-hop scene in Montreal grow?
In 2k11, I started to chill with Da-P, so he was like my partner in crime and we used to make a lot of beats together and then I met Colin Musoni. He’s a member of the Piu-Piu movement and made a beattape with him called 90’s Babies. After that, we just chilled together and went downtown to music festivals then we met Kaytradamus [which is Kaytranada now] and we started making beats together. It was more about meetings in music festivals and hip-hop karaoke’s.
90’s Babies Vol.1 – High-Klassified x MusoNi
It sounds like it grew organically from friends making music for fun to the present. Did you ever think at any point that it would go global?
Actually, I had no idea. When I dropped 90’s Babies, it was nice as some people from the US added me and others from the UK. Then Lunice dropped this beat I made called Drama Trap in a couple of his sets and that was kind of a huge start for me, as more people started to get in contact and asked for some beats.
That’s the first time I heard your music in one of his sets at Notting Hill Carnival.
Yeah then Baauer played it in his Rinse FM mix.
High-Klassified – Drama Trap via BBM Vol.1
Previously your city had artists such as Leonard Cohen and Arcade Fire emanating or coming to the city to showcase their talents originally and now there is a burgeoning wave of hip-hop related folk. We’ve talked a little bit about you guys coming together as part of Piu-Piu but how would you describe Montreal as a rich musical setting?
Actually it’s kinda recent that Montreal has been into that beat scene because people used to be scared about producing beats and being different. So since the Piu-Piu movement started around 2k11 and 2k12, people have started to come out of the basements and be more creative musically.
Is the Booty Bakery one of the main parties people from the scene play at?
Well I played a lot at the Booty Bakery as the founder of the movement is a friend of mine.
Would you say those nights have a similar vibe to a Low End Theory night in Los Angeles?
I’d say it’s not that huge but it’s a nice place for us and our community to showcase our new sound. In Montreal, there are a lot of clubs but they are playing a lot of Dancehall, Hip-Hop and Reggae but the Booty Bakery really gave us the chance to go out there and do what we really do. So this is what makes it different from all of the other nights in Montreal.
Cool. Flexury was your first solo beatape, what was the inspiration behind the title and how you compiled those tracks together?
I usually describe my music as music to flex to and it’s about going nuts on it.
Spazzing out and shit?
Yeah and my character has a luxury image to it, as a lot of beatmakers here are really grimy and I’m actually one of the most physically cleanest producers [laughs]
Are we talking in terms of swag, beats or just the whole shebang?
My swag, like the way I dress is just seen as luxury. I wear designer clothes and people..
I think I clocked you wearing some Jeremy Scott’s and thought there must be some fly shit going on!
[Laughs] Word. I wear a lot of Jeremy Scott and Givenchy, that’s why I have that kind of luxury image and mentality, so I just mix the luxury and flex.
What made you name your track “London Flexin” on the tape?
Actually a guy from Mad Tech Records (Owned by deep house honcho Kerri Chandler) came to me and asked if I was down to remix a song of one of his artists and I said yeah for sure. MadTech Records is a label from London and they suggested let’s call it Europe Flexin and I was like “No, No, let’s call it London Flexin, since it’s flexin’ music and it’s a London voice sample from Kashii’s Make This”.
I’ve heard your recent smooth Rihanna Stay remix. Do you have plans to do any more soon?
Yeah sure. I’m just searching for acapellas at the minute. Since Flexury, I’m more into using vocal samples for refixes and remixes.
Rihanna – Stay (High Klassified Trap Remix)
Stay primed for part two of the High Klassified interview next week.
The thirteenth edition of
Fresh Frost Ting Friday is by no means an unlucky affair, so buss up the speaker and let it roll (a la Crazy D) with the selection below.
Kidkanevil x Tehbis – Saturday Cartoons
Mono/Poly – Voyage On
Jessie Ware – If You’re Never Gonna Move (T.I.P Remix) Cascading Aquadrops…Woooooi!
Mary J Blige – Real Love (Shash’u Remix)
Yoin – Digits
TLC – Creep (Kaytranada‘s Creepier Edition)
TOKiMONSTA feat. Kool Keith – The Force
Q-Tip – Go Hard
Mr.Carmack x Arnold – Muney (Gimme Dat) DEFROSTING
Nokia – Kick
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you so far?
One time I was playing back to back with Apostle but we had two separate bookings. I was about 100 miles out and he was the same too. We were going to the same place after our individual sets and he phoned me saying that he’s left his CD’s. By this point, I’ve finished my other booking and driven home to my house. I then jump back in my car and drive all the way back up the M1 to Barnsley. I then open my boot and I’ve left my CD’s at home!
What happened in the end?
He didn’t get paid and I put fifty pound petrol in my car for no reason. It was just a joke! [laughs]
Are there any homegrown or US producers you’d still like to collaborate with?
In Grime, all the people I speak to now are the ones I’ve always looked up to and they’ve had a big influence on my music. People like Dexplicit, J-Sweet, P-Jam and Terror Danjah. Now I’ve had my little releases in the scene, they’ve started speaking to me and I’m cool with them. In America, I’d love to work with T-Minus and ‘40’, even Just Blaze too but out of all of them, it would probably be J.U.S.T.I.C.E League and T-Minus.
K-Os – Faith ft. Drake (prod. by J.U.S.T.I.C.E League)
Are there any particular tunes you wished you produced?
Pffft. There are a lot of T2 Bassline tunes as he was just an absolute monster and was too sick. I think Joker as well. I used to listen to Joker a lot and when I started speaking to him, I couldn’t believe he was younger than me (only by a week) but I told him “You were making those tunes, when I was in school?!” I wish I made Gullybrook Lane.
Joker – Gullybrook Lane
At the moment, there’s this obsession with trap. What’s your take on it?
I think Redlight tweeted the other day that Trap is turning into put a donk on it and I thought that was very true, as since Lex Luger has leaked his sounds everybody is using the same snare, the same bass and it’s becoming really rinsed. I loved it at first but now everyone is using the same sounds and chords, it’s become really predictable and bland.
I recently spoke to some producers from the US and Canada and I was really conscious of using that label to describe the music but then you go onto Soundcloud and there are a million and one people trying to replicate that sound.
Loads of people just wanna sound like Lex Luger. When he first did it, he was so sick as nobody sounded like him but now it’s just the end. Even well-known massive producers in America were copying his sound and I’m like what’s going on? It was almost like cheating and I couldn’t rate it, even though I got deep into 808 hip-hop, I could never get deep into trap as it’s too like cliché. Hudson Mohawke and them man are sick, they are completely different from Lex Luger.
TNGHT – Obsession
What do you have coming up in the pipeline?
I don’t really like talking about it but I’m in the process of sorting out management at the moment but I’m keeping things wrapped up ready for the new year. I never really like gassing like others and then nothing comes out. You have to be humble until everything comes out.
It reminds me of the classic lines you get from people on social networks in the run up to the new year, “ 2013’s gonna be my year bruv. Me and ma dags are gonna go HARD”
[laughs] I was having the exact same conversation the other day about all this bullshit. I was thinking “This year’s gonna be my year” and all this bollocks. “I was shit this year but this year’s gonna be mine ya get me” Come on man, you’re supposed to go in regardless what time of the year it is. That’s all gas man and I’ve even seen a few people tweeting already… f**k all of that!
STOP PRESS: A snippet from his forthcoming mix CD Legs 11
Rihanna – Diamonds (TRC 4×4 Remix)
Girls: The new ‘IT’ series (which coincidentally has Roy from the I.T Crowd appearing in it)
Girls? I don’t know if I like them and I’m unsure if I could be one. You maybe reading this thinking a) Has he had a homosexual epiphany after years of denial in an all-boys comprehensive? or b) Is this the second coming of Ru Paul? The answer to both questions is a fortunate no but my dormant intrigue with the opposite sex has been slightly engineered by letting the retinas retreat to the first season of Lena Dunham’s Girls in that slug-like sequence just after Christmas waiting for the annual celebration of premature ejaculation that is New Year.
I’ll say fair play to her. The last woman that had me fixated was Scorpio from Gladiators who did an autograph session in Woolworths on Walthamstow Market when I was six. I happily persevered to the end to grasp a sense of the hyperbole and while all the acclaim wasn’t warranted, there was a familiarity with the Greenpoint,Brooklyn setting (akin to Dalston, the ‘Ditch’ and Brixton), the obligatory alfresco ankle minimalists and the worldly British girl whose so ‘like totally free-spirited’ and saunters around in getup so dodgy it’d make Lily Savage look normal. It resonates with fluid twenty-somethings (not exclusively females) who simultaneously sell artisan bread and search for sustainable job vacancies on the web.
Dunham’s character Hannah is brave, apologetic and overtly laid bare (If her copious sex scenes had a Russian voiceover, you’d be hitting your TV thinking did your old man really order the XXX package). She’s struggling to be a writer (who isn’t ha), has had a weirdo fella who casually walloped her (He also must have gas bills going through the roof as the geezer is forever topless like a Page 3 model in his flat) and somehow her working and seemingly stable mate Marnie takes pity on Hannah’s rent being long overdue like an injury to Van Persie.
It captures an abyss which many graduates are sucked into and finagle a smokescreen on social networks where everything is fine but I feel it succinctly concerns a privileged white select (most of the lead cast have a famous parent in the entertainment and arts industry) and there are much more richer tales to be told bar a generic discourse. It’s not a bad start and we shouldn’t forget Dunham is drawing on personal experiences that are forever political and remaining unsolved in real time.
Forthcoming home-grown comedy series Drifters has a similar all-female lead cast but I’ll be interested to see how it portrays the post-uni epoch and working in jobs far removed from the rhetoric that had your pits sweating in a hot rush to complete a personal statement for your UCAS application.
To the rebellious birds inked on your arm and honesty in front and behind the lens, I salute you Lena, even if I don’t find you that funny, I may just admit to liking Girls one day.