Skepta, From Meridian Walk to the World
Skepta, From Meridian Walk to the World
Skepta, From Meridian Walk to the World
Rapper, DJ, artist, director, designer, big brand collaborator. Skepta is a modern day Renaissance man and he’s just getting started.

Joseph Adenuga Jr. is a modern day Renaissance man. Born in London to Nigerian parents and better known to most as Skepta, he has steadily become one of the greatest artists to emanate from the UK in a generation. From his earliest days DJing on pirate radio and creating some of the most seminal grime tracks on his PlayStation, to becoming a Mercury Prize-winning songwriter with five studio albums to his name. Skepta is arguably the most successful MC the UK has ever produced, as his impact on culture is undeniable.

His body of work speaks for itself: after his first records, Greatest Hits (2007) and Microphone Champion (2009), Blacklisted (2012) was Skepta’s moment of reinvention — a reinvigoration of sorts that set him on a course to becoming a globally-renowned star. It all started with him pivoting into his own blueprint. That’s when everything changed.

Dialing the clocks back: Skepta grew up on Meridian Walk in Tottenham, North London, which would later lend its name to the A-side of the first release from Boy Better Know – the record label he started with his brother JME. A multicultural hub, Tottenham has historically been home to one of the UK’s largest Afro-Caribbean communities, as well as having one of the highest unemployment rates in London. Exposure to the capital’s beauty, along with its harsh, ugly side would have been inevitable.

Skepta, From Meridian Walk to the World

“This is funny, but true. A motorbike instructor once told me to look at the lane I’m turning into because the bike will always go where you look. I use that advice in my day-to-day life, I do not have time for distractions I only look at where I’m going.”

At 17, he and his family were evicted from their home in an event that would become a defining moment in his life. “The police took all my vinyl”, he tells Hypebeast, “I feel like that was a turning point in my life where I had to think that success was the only option.” Skepta’s prolificacy, then, may be better explained through the context of success being akin to survival.

Skepta’s relentless work ethic keeps him on the road, albeit, firmly in a lane of his own. On the day of our shoot in London, he arrives at the studio straight off the red-eye from New York. He’s been busier than ever in recent months, stealing the show during London Fashion Week last year for the relaunch of his fashion line MAINS, as well as preparing for the launch this week of his first collection with German sportswear giant PUMA.

“There has been a lot of trips to Germany,” he tells us, “we’ve spent a lot of time looking through the [PUMA] archive making sure no stone was unturned.” This isn’t his first rodeo with a sports brand, either, having previously collaborated with Nike on several occasions – most notably on the Nike Air Max 97 Ultra ‘17 Skepta from 2017. Speaking to why he chose to partner with PUMA, Skepta explains it was mainly a creative decision. “They give artists more space to work,” he said, “in all aspects.”

“…it’s not just about the idea, it’s about the team that I can put together.”

Style has always been part of Skepta’s DNA, brought to life through his lyrics and the clothes on his back. From creating his own garments growing up in Tottenham to putting on UK designers like Nasir Mazhar and Cottweiler, Skep has always kept an original sense of style. As his career evolved, so did his independent sense of style and he forged close friendships with the late Virgil Abloh and the designer Matthew Williams, as well as recent HYPEBEAST Magazine cover star, Ye, who – at last year’s Burberry show – asked Skepta if he could look over his PUMA contract before he signed it to make sure everything was cool.

Outside his usual sartorial and musical endeavors, Skepta’s boundless curiosity found him dabbling in art during lockdown. His search for new creative avenues eventually manifested into Mama Goes to Market (2022) — a 41.25 by 49.25 inch oil on canvas painting that caught the eye of Sotheby’s who invited him onto a guest curatorship of its “Contemporary Curated” auction in 2022, where he featured and sold his very first painting.

“Designers who inspire me at the moment are Martine Rose, Matthew Williams and John Galliano.” After being welcomed into the PUMA family as a brand ambassador in 2022, Skepta has finally unveiled his debut collaborative collection. Meticulous with the design process from start to finish, the collection is custom-built for Skepta, utilizing a stealthy color palette and premium materials. Looking back into the brand’s archive before bringing it firmly into the future, Skepta and PUMA’s first collection features apparel, accessories, and a brand-new footwear silhouette, the PUMA Skope Forever.

Skepta, From Meridian Walk to the World

Just like the Eagle motif that flies throughout the PUMA collection, Skepta has had a birds eye view over a number of creative disciplines since day dot. “I don’t want to be an ‘advisor’ to them,” he tells Hypebeast, “but I definitely want to be someone to all the young G’s, that if they call me I’m gonna pick up and I’m gonna listen to what they’re saying.”.” It’s no surprise then, that some of the biggest names to emerge from the burgeoning UK scene in recent years can trace their success back to a Skepta cosign – from rappers Dave and Stormzy, to the artist Olaolu Slawn and streetwear’s emerging prince Clint of Corteiz.

Earlier this year, Skepta made his film directorial debut with Tribal Mark (2024), a short film that explores the mental and emotional toll of migration through the eyes of its titular character, Mark. A dirty word in some circles of public discourse today, the film challenges false narratives around migration and reaffirms the universality of human suffering. “Pain is the only true feeling in life,” the film boldly proclaims, “it either breaks you or it makes you.” Co-directed by Dwight Okechukwu, the coming together of creative minds felt natural.

Asked about his creative process, Skepta stated: “I just think of ideas,” before clarifying that “it’s not just about the idea, it’s about the team that I can put together.” Gesturing to a keyboard on set, he continued, “God will put certain people around me and, with these people, I could make a keyboard. I’d make a keyboard, release a keyboard, and I’d be promoting the keyboard. Just like that.” He ends this musing by saying he’s “lucky to be in a space where I’m around so many creative people”, but it seems like luck has nothing to do with it. Rather, Skepta is fulfilling the promise he made to his 17 year old self, surrounding himself with people who share his vision and creating a legacy that will live on forever.

Editorial Director / Felix Young Lead Creative Producer / Catriona McCormick Art Director / Alba Susagna-Palle Senior Creative Strategist / Kevin Arulrajah Executive Producer / Henrietta Hitchcock Production Coordinator / George Sampson Creative Director / Joe Iley Partnerships Director / Milun Kumar Talent / Skepta Publicist / Anna Meacham Associate Director of Fashion / Kiki Kaur Photographer / Will Arcand Digi Op / Giles Smith Photographer Assistant / Georgia Williams Photographer Assistant / Celia Croft Retoucher / Upper Studio Stylist / Johnson Orchid MUA / Shanice Croasdaile Hair / T Styles Set Designer / Georgia Currell Set Assistant / Isaac Ashley Set Assistant / Luke Marchant Set Assistant / Charlie Fairs

Felix Young
Contributing Editor
Jacob Davey, Shawn Ghassemitari
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