Grime is hard to describe. One could say it is a mixture of the techno music from the 2000s, with a dash of gangster rap and Jamaican dancehall music. It is a subculture in itself, with a strong following in London, a rap battle and rave culture, a particular way of dressing and lingo with accents that some would find hard to decipher.
Novelist, a 19-year-old London MC and producer is one of the youngest artists in grime. After having a stellar 2015 with a shortlisted album for BBC Sound of 2015 and a very calculated organic growth online, he is emerging in a scene where a lot of the MC’s are in there 30s. Coming to Australia after massive hype for fellow British MC Skepta’s tour, which included a headline performance in front of 20.000+, Novelist provides an interesting perspective on genre that he grew up in and wanted to be part of for most of his life.
Would you say Skepta has opened up grime as a whole to the international scene, letting people take their chances with it?
No, I wouldn’t even say that. It’s funny because I’ve got a UK perspective. Skepta has always been the man from way back. It’s been something that’s been brewing over for a long time. Skepta is one of those people who has used it to his advantage. But I don’t feel like just him by himself has opened the door.
But I appreciate all that he’s doing, because people have gone to the US before, people have gone to Asia before. People like Butterz, who are a group of instrumentalists who have being touring overseas for a long time. I’ve been touring internationally as well, but Skepta is the first to truly make that US link which is significant. I appreciate that everyone is paying attention now.
When major MC’s in your scene like JME and Skepta as well as other are in their early 30s, does being young give you an advantage?
Being young allows me to bring that young jovial energy. The youth feel that most of the older MC’s are not advocating for them. So it’s an advantage in that it’s something that young people can relate to. I enjoy being young and being able to talk on young subjects. However, there is a mutual respect for those older MC’s.
Do you feel as an artist it’s important to have a close relationship with an instrumental, whether that be as a producer yourself or extensively working with another producer?
100% I feel I need to be close with any sound that I put my voice on. You need to have some say on how you want it to sound. At the end of the day, apart from being an MC I’m a producer and so are many other in the scene. The music and the sound is the actual expression of everything and it’s very particular sound.
Do you feel that there needs to be a separation between social media and your music? Is that a throwback to a more traditional sense of music?
Yes and no. I believe that my music is art. People look at it like it’s a business, when it’s actually art. In an art gallery you can’t write on pieces. You have to look at it, observe it and come to it without bias. I want to give people the chance to look at it, and if they like it they like it, if they don’t then don’t follow me. I want people to respect my music as art.
Most of my songs I only Tweet them like once ever and the growth from that happens naturally and people can come to my music that way.
We’ve had a lot of grime artists come through in recent months such as D Double E, Wiley and Skepta. Why do you think Australia is obsessed with grime? Do you think they gravitate towards it more than the American sound?
I believe when you make noise, people become interested. When artists do tours, people want more of it. I’m making noise over here, so I’m sort of like a candidate to bring the sound over.
It’s kind of funny and ironic that a lot of guys do well with the British sound instead of trying imitate the American. When you bring something new to the table, no matter where it is, someone is going to like it. If it’s representing the UK, people from the UK and closely related places are going to like it. Now we’ve got our own thing amongst ourselves to be proud of.
Do you still feel the battle and callout culture is a valid part of grime?
I respect someone who can clash. I don’t promote violence, so when it comes to clashing I’d rather do it with friends. I’d rather it not be warfare. If it’s going to be like that, I’m not going to write a song or talk about it. It’s more I’ll see you when I see you. I don’t really like the animosity.
What can Australian audiences expect from a performance by you?
Sweat. Energy. Anything that gets people hyped. When you see me perform live you got to have your feet off the ground and your phone away
How do you feel about people imitating the London sound around the world?
I’d take it as a compliment. It wouldn’t or couldn’t ever sound the same because you’ve got to understand every single aspect of what grime is. If you do, then good. That’d be wonderful. But people get it misconstrued thinking it’s only 140 BPM with a Wiley (another MC who is considered to be the godfather of grime) sound in your beats. They’re not really doing grime the right way.
FRI 1 APRIL – Oh Hello!, Brisbane
SAT 2 APRIL – Platform One Nightclub, Melbourne
WED 6 APRIL – Jack Rabbit Slim’s, Perth
FRI 8 APRIL – Neck of the Woods, Auckland
SAT 9 APRIL – OXFORD ART FACTORY, Sydney