Archive for February 3rd, 2013

February 3, 2013

WRAP UP AND WATCH OUT: RATLIN [Interview]

Ratlin only been on the scene for a tender two years, yet the lyricist’s authentic style and lyrics grabbed the attention of the underground – which saw him pocket an OMA last year, hailing as the ‘Best Newcomer’. With his third mixtape ‘Crown Me’ dropping in December and the ‘Infinite Possibilities’ EP already sorted for 2013, The Wrap Up’s Shireen Fenner speaks to Ratlin about future projects and the idea of getting signed…

The Wrap Up: Hi Ratlin. Let’s take it back in time – your dad was a producer. How did he influence you as a musician?

Ratlin: My dad played a major part of me getting into music. As you said he was a producer; he’s worked around many artists. He did give me that spark to start rapping, but it was more of a self-decision. It was the people I was around – life experiences and what I’ve been through in my short period of time gave me the power to talk. [It also] made a lot of people want to listen.

TWU: Tell us about life after dropping your first mixtape ‘Youngest In Charge’ in 2011.

Ratlin: That was the crucial biting point for me. If I thought the people didn’t like it enough, I don’t think I would have continued making mixtapes to that extent – I maybe would have carried on making music, but not as seriously. ‘Youngest In Charge’… I loved it, everyone loved it, I done a few videos and in no time ‘Summertime In Mexico’ came out. Off that I won the ‘Best Newcomer’ Award at the OMA’s in 2011 – I’m just getting over that, I was happy about that! This December I’m dropping a mixtape called ‘Crown Me’.

TWU: You have quickly built a name for yourself in the scene. How do you think a rapper maintains a good reputation in the UK?

Ratlin: Stay positive and keep being yourself; don’t change for anybody, that’s what people want you to do. Once you change, you fall off. If you continue being yourself and making the music people liked in the first place, you’ll have no problem as a rapper.

TWU: What is it that you love about the UK music scene that sets it apart from the US and the rest of the world?

Ratlin: We’ve got our own sound, a traditional sound. That’s what some artists in the US are trying to catch onto now. We need a bit more unity; if we had that there would be nothing stopping us. There’s not a lot of support, if you’re not already a team no one is willing to give that extra hand. [But] we’ve got our own sound, that’s what keeps us different.

TWU: What is your take on getting signed?

Ratlin: Getting signed… that’s something that comes with how talented you are and how much work you put in. I have no problem with getting signed, but it’s getting signed to who and for what. If a deal comes along down the line then I’m grateful, but right now it’s just music. You can get far on your own, but it depends how far you want to get and where your dream lies – it depends where you want to be as an artist. I’ve only been in the game for two years so I ain’t rushing anything.

TWU: A lot of the content in your songs focuses on how little you had growing up and how hard you had to hustle to get by. Has music saved you from a risky path in life?

Ratlin: Not just yet, I’m still me and I’ll continue to be me. I wouldn’t say I had a hard life coming up, but I went through a lot of stuff coming up. What I’ve been through has made me who I am today. I’m a very smart guy; I would have come up with something else to do. I didn’t plan to start rapping, I started music as a hobby and people started liking it; I saw the business in it. I would have come up with a plan B.

TWU: Your new mixtape ‘Crown Me’ is out in December. What’s the idea behind the name and what can we expect from it?

Ratlin: ‘Crown Me’ is about the fact that everyone wants to be the best and everyone thinks they have got talent. Me personally, I don’t think rappers are touching me. They don’t hit the subjects I hit; they can’t switch it up, they’re not versatile like me. They might have a few hits out there, but they don’t reach out to the people and touch people’s souls – they just make people like [their] music. ‘Crown Me’ is something completely different to what every other rapper has thought about – my dreams are something crazy. I want that crown; I want to be crowned a legend.

My other mixtapes had a few features, but I’ve never really reached out to other artists. On this mixtape, every single track apart from two have features; I’ve got around 20 UK artists on there. I’ll be premiering a lot of the songs soon on BBC 1Xtra. I’ve got people like G FrSH, Squeeks, Benny Banks, Harry Shotta, Blade Brown, No Lay, Sincere, a singer called Karina from Birmingham and a singer called V.

TWU: Following that, what is next for Ratlin?

Ratlin: After ‘Crown Me’, ‘Infinite Possibilities’ is going to be out, my seven track EP – it’s already finished. I’m just waiting on the right release date and talking to a few majors because I’ve got a few signed people on there. It’s gonna be more of an iTunes thing, so get your 79p out because I’ve given away a lot of mixtapes – now it’s time to get a little bit back so I can continue. There’s a lot in store, don’t sleep on me. Next year I’m [also] planning on releasing a mixtape called ‘The Lost Tapes’ – that will be another free mixtape with every song that I haven’t released yet – it might be a double CD, it might be a triple CD.

Words: Shireen Fenner (@Shireenxoxo)

February 3, 2013

WELCOME BACK: LORD OF THE MICS 4 [Feature]

Battle rapping started in the 70’s in the inner cities in America, then as grime was born in the UK, artists created their own version of battle rapping, known as clashing. This is what Lord of the Mics is all about. The Wrap Up’s Shireen Fenner recently went to east London’s Boxpark to speak with founders Jammer and Ratty as well as three of the MC’s on Lord of the Mics 4 – DiscardaJaykae and Lady Killer

With chart-topping names previously being featured on LOTM such as WileyKanoTinchy Stryder and Skepta, it shows how big of a platform it is. Jammer tells me, “It helps the artist get out to a wider audience and be accepted in a wider audience. It’s what they do after that, its bringing awareness to the artist, once that’s there they can use it.”

Discarda agrees with Jammer that it helps push MC’s into an audience where they might not have been seen before, as he explains; “There is a new fanbase now, a young fanbase that will hopefully see me. If they like me they like me… they might not like me but it still introduces me to their fans.”

Lady Killer also spoke to me, revealing what she wants to do next: “I’m not going to let this opportunity slip; I’m going to use it to its full advantage. I’m going to release a mixtape in early 2013. I’m in the studio recording tunes and making sure they are good enough for the people.”

So what does it take to make it onto the DVD? Co-founder Ratty tells me simply, “You just got to be making a buzz for yourself and have talent. If you’re being noticed then we’ll take notice.”

Jammer says if you are working hard, then you “deserve the chance to be on there and get the promotion to the wider audience.” Other factors for him that come into it are ‘work ethic, talent, flow, and quirkiness.”

With clashing, it’s also about entertainment and how MC’s can use their lyrics to get to their opponent – usually giving the audience some laughs along the way. Last year’s edition saw a few of those ‘incidents’ and Ratty reveals, “There are loads of funny moments.”

Jaykae, who clashes Discarda, says he doesn’t take the disses personally: “I know it’s not true. Obviously he’s going to have to say a few things he don’t mean and I’m going to say a few things I don’t mean. Invasion are the best in Brum.”

In terms of preparation and content, some of the MC’s I spoke to had been clashing for a long time and weren’t nervous at all. Jaykae said, “A lot of people say that’s what I’m built for and that’s where I shine the best, I’m real good at clashing. I made loads of food in my house and smoked weed, chilled out and wrote loads of bars.”

Lady Killer gave an insight into the content she focused on for clashing Shocker, saying: “I wanted to focus on the fact that I wasn’t going to call her a tomboy and what people expected; I was going to say that ‘you’re not really that, you’re a girly girl and you wear skirts and nail varnish so don’t pretend.’”

Discarda went for a different approach and used his humour: “I’m a bit of a comedian, I just think of funny things. He’s got Sox in his crew, who’s well known established MC; I brought him into a couple of bars to hype it up a bit.”

This year will be the first time that LOTM feature females, namely Lady Killer and Lady Shocker. I ask Lady Killer why she thinks she was picked as one of the first: “I think I’m versatile; I’m different to a lot of female MC’s. I’m a unique MC. I’ve got a totally different flow; I change my flow every two minutes.”

However, she admits: “It’s a male dominated game really. I do think males don’t take females as seriously as they do other males MC’s.”

One of the most talked about clashes this year is between Jaykae and Discarda; Jay explained why the pair were put against each other: “I understand why they put us together because in London he is the person who will shut down the raves and in Birmingham I’m the person who shuts down the raves. Us two banging heads automatically – that’s going to go off.”

Whilst many participants on Lord of the Mics went on to release commercial hits, such as Wiley, Jammer says he is not interested in diluting their music: “It is bringing back the element of the big underground smashes, unmixed, edgy bass music. It just brought back that element, it’s the raw talent in its raw form and it’s exciting again.

“People are into it because it’s natural, it’s not manufactured. That’s how it was back in the day… someone would make a track then it would go through to the clubs, blast there and a major would take it on. Then it would come out in the mainstream and cross over.”

Ratty concludes: “It keeps the real essence of grime; we don’t try and make it into the mainstream. Hopefully the fans will buy it and it will get into the charts.”