How did you start writing Nick?
My Dad bought me a rap CD when I was 9. It was Puff Daddy ‘I’ll Be Missing You’ and I thought he was the greatest rapper ever. I was 9 so bear that in mind! But I’d never heard anything like it…I don’t know why my Dad bought it…I think it was because it had the Sting sample and my Dad quite likes Sting!
It was the first time I’d heard of rap music and absolutely loved it. I started trying to rap myself and the lyrics were as good as you’d expect from a 9 year old… but I just got into it from there. When I got into secondary school all my friends were doing it. Grime music was coming up in East London and it felt like it was ours! But I was always the posh kid so my mates didn’t really let me rap so it was a bit of a secret…I was the DJ but was writing lyrics on the sly!
Considering you didn’t really have your friends backing you up on this, who inspired you to pursue it?
Do you know what? It was never something I really thought I was going to pursue but I eventually shared my lyrics with one of my best mates and he told me I was ‘alright’ and that I should keep going. So they took me on a right of passage to the ‘olders’ on the estate on my road and they made me rap for them. They told me I was good, and they started taking me to this amazing studio in Walthamstow. They use to give me beats and free studio time. It just went from there.
And now you got your own EP! Four Miles Further which includes quite a few collaborations: JP Cooper, George The Poet and Little Simz…what was it about these artists in particular that inspired you to work with them?
I think with the subject matter in my music it’s not necessarily what every other rapper is talking about; it’s not generic stuff. I think carefully about who I want to be on my music. George The Poet has been a friend for a few years and what he stands for, and the message he is saying…for me it was a no brainer; when I started making the song I knew George would be perfect for it and I knew that we have similar aims and goals with the messages we’re trying to share. Same thing with someone like JP Cooper, he’s just super talented and wants to say something meaningful-that plays a big part in who I choose. And Little Simz I just think she’s sick! I’ve known her for a while and I think she’s so sick!
Yeah, she comes in pretty swiftly on the verse in ‘The Drop’. In this track you do talk about your memories, not wanting to conform to the stereotypical male rapper… What struggles have you encountered in regards to that?
I think my initial struggle was just being comfortable in myself; I wanted to be this cool rapper but I’ve just never been that guy. It was a real process of realising that I didn’t have to be this super cool, suave guy…you can still say something! So it was just a case of working out what I really wanted to say and just growing.
I knew I wouldn’t catch on like say, the ‘gangster rappers’ might because, having worked with young people, I know that they can idolise them. So I knew my music would be more of a slow process but I was OK with that because I knew I had something to say.
That’s what was important to you. You do express social reflection, which is great, but when people have to think about something it does take a little longer to process than those snappy, hot bootie lyrics!
Exactly! I love all sorts of music, and I love all sorts of rap. I love songs that you can put on and not think about and just enjoy it but I also love the stuff that you have to listen to again, and question ‘What are they saying?’ So hopefully, as my career develops, I’ll be able to show both sides of that.
You’ve recently released the video for ‘Miss Online Superstar’. How worrying, or saddening do you find this ‘selfie’ culture which is represented in the video?
I find it really strange and it’s something, that if I’m honest, I can struggle with. I mean, you can build a whole personality online!
I had a friend who I got to know personally and when I got an iPhone I started to follow her on Instagram and she was this whole other person with thousands of followers, but it wasn’t in line with the person I knew her to be.
I think there is nothing wrong with taking a selfie but I feel like it’s a problem when it becomes a form of security. The song doesn’t just refer to females because males are just as guilty! It’s something that I’m aware of; the feeling of getting loads of retweets or likes on your photo. But it’s about not allowing it to become an addiction.
What other social issues are you inspired to talk about?
I’ve never thought ‘Right, I’m going to sit and write about something political, or social’ but I just see things in my life. Whether it be something I’ve gone through, or a friend has gone through, whether it be domestic violence, gambling problems…or whatever, I just have a load of stuff that hits something within me and I wish I could say something so writing lyrics is the way I can do that.
I’m not trying to preach to anyone, but if I can say something that people can enjoy on a musical level and then maybe even take away something, then cool!
In regards to the music, I love how you have these jazz undertones and different musical genres playing their part, so where does the music beneath the lyrics come from?
I’ve got my Dad to thank for that. He’s always played the guitar so taught me that. I gave up because my friends said it weren’t cool but I’ve started picking it up again now, and I use to play the drums. I just love music so I’ve always listened to all types of stuff; George Benson, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Incubus…just loads of different bands.
Brandon Boyd…I was in love! Coolest guy ever!
Yes! Coolest guy ever! I always thought that if I was a rapper, people would think I only listened to rap music because it can be quite a niche genre. But as a like a load of different genres and sounds, I just thought I’d incorporate them.
The producers who have produced the whole EP are called The Confect, and they can play loads of instruments so we just listened to loads of different styles and just tried to incorporate loads of different bits. I love that jazzy soul live feel but I also love grime and proper hip-hop so I juts tried to infuse all of them.
Right, here comes the quick fire!
You love food yeah? What’s your favourite? Meat! Meat in general!
Favourite drink? I’m not t total or anything but I’m not a big drinker…a lot of my older friends will sit around drinking whiskey and smoking cigars whilst I sip on a green tea! But I do like a beer, bit of JD and coke…
Pub or Club? I do love clubbing, I love dancing! I’m an Essex boy so I do love Faces, which is our local club. Last time we went we didn’t get in…
Best advice you’ve been given? As simple as it is, my Mum and Dad always got into my head that I can only be myself. As cliché and as cheesy as that sounds I really struggled with being myself and through my teenage years I was always trying to impress the wrong people so just learning to be comfortable in my own skin-which is definitely a process but that’s the best thing I’ve learnt.
What makes you laugh? My friends definitely. Saw The Inbetweeners 2…that definitely didn’t make me laugh though I like The Inbetweeners. Oh, I love Karl Pilkington! All the Xfm old school podcasts…Ricky Gervais…just all 3! And Pilkington reminds me a bit of my Dad, so my Dad makes me laugh, and all my friends laugh too! He’s a bit cooky and weird.
Watch Nick’s new video, ‘Fall From Here’ featuring Naomi Scott
Words: Irune ‘Rue’ Chamberlain