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I was walking out of Gutter, the divey Williamsburg bowling alley. There was a fire exit left of the stage that the Boy Better Know MC, Skepta had given his second Brooklyn performance of the night and had quickly disappeared from. I get to the door and someone opens it for me and it’s him. The first thing I say is, “I’ve been trying to get ahold of you.” We duck into a back hall and I explain I’d seen interviews where he’s visibly bothered by media pressing about an album drop date, as that’s partially why he still hasn’t signed a record deal yet, and by questions regarding what Kanye and Drake are like in the studio. I wanted to give him the opportunity to talk about what’s important to him.
The following day we meet. He’s just left his first visit to HOT 97 after a day of running around in late summer humidity of New York and is expectedly tired. We have a little less than an hour before he does his third performance in Brooklyn in roughly 24 hours before heading to Toronto for the final date of his sold out ‘SHUTDOWN’ tour and to participate in last night’s legendary closing of OVO Fest alongside the 6 God, Drake, Kanye, Future,Travi$ Scott and Pharrell.
Although he is no where near new to the game, he’s humble, and he’s visibly guarded below his rounded brim hat, under an unreleased Supreme hoodie at the Ace Hotel in Manhattan. You’ll hear him repeat in every interview, probably even mumble it if you stand close enough, “this is like a dream,” and he sincerely means it.
You’re not a new artist. You’ve been in the game for about 12 years?
Something like that.
Do you think that there is anything going on with the state of music in the U.S. that you’re suddenly getting all of this additional attention, interest in your work and in Grime?
Hmm. (Laughs) I just think that all the bullshit in the world is evident. It’s easy to see. And because the bullshit is easy to see, all the stuff that’s really real is just resonating with people. Like, yeah, it’s just easy to see people doing cool shit and I think that’s why I’ve started to do what I’ve done, not just in America, but worldwide. Everybody is listening now because the bullshit is just bait now.
You have one date left on your ‘SHUTDOWN’ tour. You sold out every show, two of which were in New York (among other performances here), so obviously, I want to say congratulations.
Which date has been your favorite and why?
Aww, nah I don’t have a favorite. (Laughs) No, I don’t have a favorite. They were all sick man. They were all sick. The whole thing has been one dream man. I’m looking forward to go to Toronto because people say it’s like London. They say it’s like London and obviously on my Twitter and on my socials, on my Instagram, people are letting me know its going to be fucking sick. I’m looking forward to that.
People always want to ask about big US artists you’re working with, namely Kanye and Drake, but you’ve said the first US-based artist you started worked with is Dev Hynes. He brought you out a year ago at MoMa PS1, almost exactly to the date of your performance there last week. How did you two get connected and can you speak to the difference a year has made?
Oh, yeah, in the beginning Dev was a big inspiration to me because, yeah, he lives here but he’s originally from the UK. He was just an inspiration to me, not just his music, not just his style, but just what he did. To just pick up your bags, go somewhere and do something and live that movie in his head. You know, we ended up connecting online, meeting up in person and making music together. He’s just always believed in me, get what I’m saying. He put me on his album. Stuff like that. He showed me this person, been supporting side stage, like standing in the crowd of my shows going crazy, like in the crowd. He just showed love from the beginning. It means everything for me to come back a year later to do it and he’s still there. He’s there, side stage, in the same place that he always was. I just support him. He’s a good guy.
That’s dope that you guys could connect, inspire each other and develop the relationship you have. You’ve also said you love that music has afforded you the ability to travel in addition to doing what you’re passionate about. Is there one thing that you make a point to do in every city?
I always want to connect with people that are doing stuff in the city, on a ground level, on an independent level, on a real organic level. That’s exactly what we do in our city. Know what I’m saying, we just like people that have a talent and just do it. We just do it, no matter how much we’re getting paid and whatever climate, or attention or whatever. It doesn’t matter. If nobody’s looking or if everybody is looking, we do this thing that’s really, on the street level. So, when I go around the world, I like to connect with people that are the same, as me.
I heard, this week, you were rocking this Tame Impala project.
There’s one song on there I really like. “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.” That song is just sick. It’s really sick. I like music that’s based on riffs because Grime is very riff-based, like about instruments just making a loop or just knowing that song is known for that instrument. There are not a lot of songs out there that do that. Like trap music, there isn’t many melodies that you could tie up on like a polyphonic, ringtone, like Nokia 3310 days.
What were you listening to today?
Yea, I listen to it all the time, yea, just all the time. It’s got good energies in it.
Is there anything specific going on in music industry today that’s exciting to you?
In the music industry?
Yes, outside of what you’re working on. Is there anything exciting?
Um. (Pauses) No. The music industry is bullshit.
Will you talk to me about that status of Konnichiwa?
Yea, its coming out. Its coming out soon but I just have to finish this tour and go on back to the studio, finish up and bring it out. (Laughs) I don’t know when.
Why Konnichiwa? What does the name mean to you?
Its the greeting of life. Its the start of everything. And plus, hello is a good one because it’s the start of everything and to be a Japanese word. I think I got that one because my little brother was always around me because my studio was in his room. So, I just used to have a lot of anime stuff around me and listened to old 8-bit sounding songs and shit. He just fucking drummed that whole vibe into my head. I ended up coming with that name.
What would you say is your most memorable or important moment in you career so far?
The most memorable moment in my career so far has been (pauses), I don’t know my career’s been kind of crazy. (Laughs)
Do you want to pick two moments?
There’s so many. That’s all I really do it for, moments. I always chase moments. I love that. Like sometimes something can happen but there’s no reaction to it, you get what I’m saying? It’s not good, it’s not bad. But that’s what beautiful art is, art that requires, it demands a reaction. You get what I’m saying? You either hate it like, “ew that’s fucking disgusting.” Shit, picture. Shit I would never pay 5,000 pounds for that. Or you fucking love it. You get what I’m saying? You have to have it. But if you look at a drawing and it doesn’t do anything to you, listen to some music and you don’t feel any way towards it, or you watch a film and you just really feel like you’ve wasted your life, that’s shit art. And that’s why I only create moments. I just search for moments. I’ve got so many moments.
If we’re going to say this year, then it would definitely be coming out at Wireless in my own city with Drake for my friend that passed away, with the Boy Better Know, OVO t-thirts with Lukey World on the front.
That’s a huge moment.
Yeah. That was spiritual. That was sick. That gave me some powers.