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