Only few would disagree that Skepta is synonymous with the rise of grime’s international appeal. This month saw the long-awaited arrival of his latest projet d’art, Konnichiwa, which has received strong support from latest Boy Better Know-signee Drake. We caught up with the London native moments for a minute just moments after shutting down Public Labo’s Block Party at Tokyo’s Harumi Passenger Terminal with the official Konnichiwa album release party. The 36-year-old artist offers more insight into his video game-inspired approach to the album, which is set to move him beyond the status of pioneering the modern grime sound.
You just performed a great show in Japan — right before the drop of your new album, Konnichiwa. What made you choose this title?
It basically all started with my little brother, Jason, who’s currently in Japan. His whole life, he’s been obsessed with everything related to Japan. Whether it is computer games, the language, style, or lifestyle. My brother and I, we have a good relationship, so we sat down together to come up with an idea for the title. Initially, we were going to make a whole 8-bit computer game-type of album, but as time went on, different things happened and different people came to collaborate. The sonic direction of the album has changed a bit, so it’s even more amazing to see to what it has ultimately become.
A lot of grime is inspired by 8-bit.
(Laughs) Indeed. As a kid, I used to play a lot of computer games — sometimes up eight hours straight. Although I don’t play any instruments, the melodies of the games would resonate to me and get stuck in my head.
“Ladies Hit Squad” features D Double E and Nast — an OG grime artist and an up-and-coming A$AP artist. What made you put these two together in the same song?
The story behind the song is quite extensive and detailed. But it aligns with the vision I have for my music and work. I care about what I create. To each song, there are layers of production processes, which all need a great deal of attention to detail. I put in A$AP Nast in the song because he’s talented and a friend. At the same time, however, I wanted to provide the song with a true London vibe, so it made sense to invite D Double E to the fun. At the end of the day, it comes all down different kind of elements that I need to somehow make fit together. I work for my hometown London and for the world in general. I try to put as many aspects into consideration as possible when I make my music.
Besides Nast, you also have other American artists, such as Pharrell, on your album. Do you have any regional approaches when putting together your album?
Konnichiwa also features a Chinese artist, Fifi Rong. I have different artists from different places. I consider myself a worldwide artist. I take every city and country into consideration. So my music is not just directed to the American or British audience. Pharrell is a good certification. Since I am such a left-field, conventional rapper and for Pharrell to say, “Yeah man I fuck with rapper. I co-sign Skepta.” is a true blessing to me.
What about the art direction for the album cover?
First class bro. UK sh*t. London sh*t.