New Things We Learned About Skepta From His Interview With Fader Magazine
MOBO Award-winner Skepta is the cover star of Fader magazine’s June/July 2015 issue. Today, the publication released a revealing cover story, where he opens up about working with Drake and Earl Sweatshirt, growing up in North London, his Nigerian heritage, being independent and offers more details on his upcoming album, Konnichiwa. Skepta may be on the verge of global recognition, but this interview shows that the British MC will always stay true to the sounds that got him to where he is today. Check out the highlights below….
On whether the imminent sessions with Earl Sweatshirt and Drake are going to change the direction of his forthcoming album Konnichiwa:
“Bruv, I put P. Diddy on a fucking grime tune. I don’t care what they feel about it. They have to come on my wave—that’s the only thing that’s going to give my album what it needs. I understand the objective now, and I ain’t going to fucking America to shoot a video. They need to come to the roads with me.”
Growing up, Skepta says he was quite shy and wasn’t always the cool kid in the school:
“In school, I wasn’t like the cool guy who had all the new clothes and had all the girls,” Skepta remembers. “I felt like the world saw me as an idiot.”
Some of that stemmed from being a second-generation African immigrant, with a surname that challenged some of his teachers. “In school, when a teacher would try and read my name, as soon as she goes to try and say it, I’d be trying to say it first, to stop the embarrassment of her not being able to pronounce it,” Skepta says. “I remember one day when I was about 15, my mum told me, ‘Junior, your name means something—just because your name isn’t some standard English name.’ I remember going back into school, and it started to power me up. Bare self-hate vibes was pushed into me as a kid at school, trust me.”
On how he started he started off his career as a producer:
He’d started making beats in his bedroom using “any program I could get my hands on,” including Mario Paint on the SNES and Music 2000 for PlayStation
On being proud of his Nigerian heritage:
“When I was a youth, to be called ‘African’ was a diss,” Skepta remembers. “At school, the African kids used to lie and say they were Jamaican. So when I first came in the game and I’m saying lyrics like, I make Nigerians proud of their tribal scars/ My bars make you push up your chest like bras, that was a big deal for me. All my early lyrics were about confidence. I can hear myself fighting back.”
On the success of Boy Better Know:
“It was so DIY back then,” recalls Skepta. Each time he played Heat FM, he would pay £20 toward the running of the station. Even in the short term, it was an investment worth making: he says he sold “literally thousands” of his white label vinyl instrumentals in London’s record shops, typically driven straight from the pressing plant in the back of a friend’s car. “It was a priceless hustle, man,” he says of his success marketing and selling his own music without the support of a major label or management team. “Pirates were like the sickest, most rebellious type of pop-up that you could ever have.”
On why he has no regrets for releasing a succession of dance singles between 2008 and 2012:
“In my head, Dizzee and Wiley were the people that I was looking up to,” he says. “That was all I knew! If my man makes a dance tune, I’m making a dance tune. But then I came to this point in my life recently where I was like ‘Rah, I’m a man—like, maybe I’m a leader? Maybe I should make a new path?’ And that was when I just stopped looking to Wiley and Dizzee as the blueprint. You’ve got to fucking take that baton and run with it, to make your own blueprint.”
On why he had to go back to his roots:
“I’m on Tottenham High Road, bro, and I’ve never seen anybody topless with all their chains on, outside a brand new convertible, popping champagne,” he says. “And as soon as I realized that, everything started going well.”
On why the popularity of Afrobeats makes him happy:
“It makes me happy to see all these kids today just love Afrobeats, because since the start I’ve been trying to fucking fight for this ting, for them to be able to stand up,” he says.
On why Konnichiwa, with the exception of one beat, is produced entirely by Skepta:
“I want anybody from around the world to be able to listen to the album and know it comes from London,” he says—“from the beats, not just the vocals.”
On why he delayed the release of Konnichiwa:
Konnichiwa had initially been scheduled to come out in March 2015, but all his success this past year, in addition to a new management team, have forced a new strategy: he wants to take his time and get it right.
On if he would ever sign with a major label:
“Somewhere in my heart I feel like I’m way past a record deal now,” he says, as we sit in his car at the end of our drive together, back outside his parents’ old house. “It’s pointless to me. I believe in my talent so much, it’s crazy. It’s not about a record label to me.”
On his parents seeing his success:
“I see my mum sometimes in a Boy Better Know T-shirt,” he says, smiling. “It makes me happy, man, because I know that they’ve seen so much. You’ve got to imagine: my mum and dad have been in Nigerian wars and shit. So you move to England to make a better life for your children.”
“I want to give them that house in Nigeria,” he says. “Finished, done, built. For them to look back on this and say, ‘You know what? That’s what we went to England for.’"
Check out the full interview on FADER
Photo Credit: Samuel Bradley