Since Skepta has hit the scene, he’s proven time and time again to be a maven, not just with music, but in all corners of his lifestyle. The grime superstar and fashion anomaly is one of North London’s greatest creative exports, accumulating precision skill and sagacity over the years. His singular impression on culture is the result of the artist following his instincts to yield bold results — an approach that has transcended his native city to captivate a global audience like few U.K. rappers before him have done. As Skepta’s crossover success has grown, so has his appetite for new heights and imaginative measures. Most recently, his cross-disciplinary interests and never-stagnant nature have been encapsulated into one fist shaped-bottle — his all-new Diesel Sound of the Brave fragrance.
In fact, Sound of the Brave may be the only time Skepta’s been bottled up. From starting out as a DJ and producer alongside his brother, fellow U.K. rapper JME, in their now iconic Boy Better Know independent record label; to dishing out wrath with his legendary clashes in tapes like “Lord of the Mics 2;” to putting a dent in rap circles with his fiercely cold freestyles, nothing about Skepta is contained. These days the artist embodies the name of the scent in different ways, showing bravery by diverting paths after pollinating the mainstream with two critically acclaimed albums, or suiting up in designer garb, or more likely, staying home with his two-year old daughter, River.
His spirit comes through in the “Sound of the Brave” fragrance collaboration, showing off his love of storytelling and idiosyncratic symbolism. He had a heavy role in creating the scent, landing on a sophisticated mix of bison grass accords, combined with an aged lavandin essence that blends in spicy juniper. Lemon essence and warm amber woods top off the fragrance that’s as distinct as Skepta himself. Consider it an olfactory expression of the love he shows when talking about his daughter, the passion he emits when speaking about music and the style he displays when he steps out.
As Diesel celebrates this love for music and breaking boundaries with the Sound of the Brave scent, HYPEBEAST caught up with Skepta to discuss his grooming routine, ushering in the new era of U.K. artists, his famous underdog psychosis YouTube monologue, Dad Skepta and the new Diesel Sound of the Brave scent.
HYPEBEAST: So what’s Skepta’s daily get-it-together process look like? What has inspired your taste for fragrances and certain products over others?
SKEPTA: To be honest, I don’t do anything too fancy. I got black soap from Nigeria and my shea butter from Nigeria. You know, we’re here in London and it’s gray most times — most of the year, it’s cold. So, I use some black soap and some cold water to make the swelling go down. Then you put some shea butter on to lock in the look. It’s just an African man thing, you get me?
With the Sound of the Brave, what made this specific scent and campaign appeal to you?
We had a group meeting of the minds and that’s where we came up with the fist [shaped bottles] because that’s the power and the [name], Sound of the Brave, since my music is that bravery music. The final [piece] was the scent and how it smelled. Anything I do, my whole team is with me, so I’m not trying to have my whole team walking around the world, just stinking. It’s not gonna go down like that. So, once everybody gave it the thumbs up, we were good to go. And truthfully, I’ve always wanted to do something with a fragrance. You know, I’m on my cigars, my suits, the Rolls Royces, so the fragrance was imminent, but it had to be right. And Diesel was just perfect.
When true personal style comes together, it feels like a marriage of worlds and experiences. In creating your own world with your music, fashion, sneakers and, now fragrance, how do you carve out this space?
I’m always trying to create worlds and also evolve with it. I [put out] tracks with the hood, in the trenches like “Shutdown” and “That’s Not Me.” Then I gave them the freestyles, back to the essence camera videos. A lot of people have been influenced by that. I’m not one of those people who gets bitter by that— I do stuff to influence, so after I’ve seen the influence spread like it has, I’m moving on now. I’m on my Black James Bond ish, so that’s why you see me with the suits. Now we got the cigars, boats, Rolls Royces, we flying properly and obviously a fragrance fits in that mix.
But, I’m constantly trying to learn about myself as a man and even just look at myself at certain points and be like, “bro, you been in the trap for too long. It’s time to move up, it’s time to help the up-and-coming generation,” rather than me just being on camera rapping about how fly and how great I am. It’s about stepping up and giving people another name to say, because you know when we get into business, people always want to say “oh, you on your Jay-Z.” Why is it that we have one Black man’s name to say? So, I’m constantly evolving and this fragrance is a part of that.
You touched on something important because you are an O.G. in the U.K. grime scene. What has it been like forging this path for the younger artists in the U.K.?
I can’t lie, sometimes I just wake up and I think, “why me?” But then I’m like, well, why not me? I think back to 2013 and 2014. I went out to New York on an ESTA visa and I told myself, I’m a real dude, so I’m just going to find guys that — if all this got taken away — we’ll be good regardless with each other. I wanted to stay base level and create something that was real and stay in touch. I wanted to make something authentic in America. Even on my last album, Ignorance is Bliss, I did a track with [Cheb] Rabi. That’s my guy that I met when I was [in the U.S.], so we’re always gonna stay with each other, because you got to remember people in the U.K., especially rappers, feel like if they want to get big in the States, or worldwide, they have to collaborate with big names. But no, people need to feel your aura.
How would you describe being brave? Who represents fearlessness in creativity more than anyone else for you?
Fela Kuti. That’s my hero. Rest in peace, the legend. Being Nigerian, but born [and raised] in London, there’s a lot of identity crises and crossroads that you come to that are constantly trying to get wiped away from you. When I found out about Fela, it was like, wow I can be unapologetically African no matter what.
Over the last few years, things have changed a bit for you. How has it been being Dad Skepta?
I was scared before [my daughter River] was born. It was my first child and I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it was over — I wouldn’t be able to write anymore songs, my swag is gonna turn into a dad swag. Bro, I was losing it. But as soon as she came, I knew it was locked in. Most of my madness in the past was me feeling like I didn’t have a purpose, but after I had a daughter, I finally had a reason to say, “that’s why I’m doing it.” She is the biggest blessing and the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my life. Bigger than everything.
I have to ask about the famous underdog psychosis monologue. What made you make that video, and looking back, are you happy you put it out there?
At that point, I was like at the end. Have you ever just been in your crib and you’re just frustrated? You just want to bug out? Well, I did that video at that precise moment. There wasn’t even Instagram at that time, so me talking to my camera was like crazy. [Laughs] I thought it would just get 100 views and people would say, “he’s lost it, he’s gone mad.” But they had it in the Tate Modern Gallery just playing on the screen and people had headphones on watching. I was walking through and I saw them standing there mesmerized. I’m just like, yo, that’s fire!
It’s really art though, that’s why.
Yeah I guess so, it’s crazy!
It’s been two years since the last album, Ignorance Is Bliss, and five years since Konnichiwa. You have such an eclectic range and it’s always unpredictable. Where did you learn to engage with so many different styles and what can we expect going forward?
I have the EP “All In,” and I made those songs last year during the pandemic in 2020. I think on the flip side of that question, I’m blessed to be British because when I was in school, we had literally every culture in the school, it was ridiculous. Airport vibes. Since I was young, it’s been all about learning other people’s cultures — the similarities, the differences — and just accepting everyone for who they are. I suppose that translates in my music, but I don’t have like one thing. You can kinda always tell that it’s Skep, but I’m always coming from a different realm. That’s a blessing of being British, we’re very eclectic in everything we do. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the music we listen to, et cetera.
Okay, so, will Cancun with Playboi Carti ever come out?
Listen, listen. [Gestures writing.] Ask him.
The all-new Skepta x Diesel Sound of the Brave fragrance, part of Diesel’s Only The Brave collection, is available now on the brand’s website.