With Dub Police's new compilation 'Past, Present, Future' out now and chronicling nearly 10 years of releases, I managed to catch up with label boss Caspa and Riko for Clash Music. The pair collaborated on new track 'Mad Men' which I featured as Clash's track of the day last Monday. I'll post the full interview transcript on Uncle Albert next week.
I was given the opportunity to choose Clash Music's 'Track of the Day' for the first time in a while today and opted for Caspa & Riko's throwback smash 'Mad Man' - think dubstep as it used to sound with Riko on shower down duties. Lethal.
Thought I'd put the full version up on Uncle Albert for those interested to read more - see below - enjoy!
"Is this gonna be about clashing?" are the first words P Money greets me with, as we sit down to talk at the Rinse FM offices; make no mistake about it, for all the big name collaborations and sell-out worldwide shows, he's never left his roots. Touted as one of the best of his generation when first making waves back in 2007, P has grown to embody the best of the old and new schools in what has been a difficult period for grime MCs trying to make their mark.
As a keen performer, a big part of his success has been matching studio diligence and a penchant for radio with meticulously executed, high-energy live shows. Musically, his appeal is as far-reaching as it gets too, with his sound not only incorporating grime but dubstep, collaborating on tracks with a whole host of the genre's big hitters and demonstrating, although not to everybody's taste, a versatility that few others can match.
It's this versatility that remains vitally important to his fans too; where others have been criticised for experimenting with new sounds, P has retained the faith of his core grime following, whilst discovering a completely new fan-base thanks to the global success of dubstep. Striking the right balance between raw, gully grime MC and commercially viable artist has therefore not only enabled him to appease fans, but also flourish creatively and from speaking to him, you can tell that he's fully in control of where he wants to be. Now a big part of Rinse's thinking too, it feels like this is just the start for P Money. With a new EP in the offing, we got chatting..
Where would you say you're at as an artist right now?
"There's different stages of your career I think. The come up days were back with 'P Money Is Power' and 'Money Over Everyone'. I was actually having a conversation with Logan Sama about this yesterday. Around 2006, maybe 2007, I was on his show with Griminal, Chipmunk, Little Dee and back then we were classed as the youngers of the scene - we were the young guys with all the hunger just wanting to do everything. Now I guess i'm at the stage where I'm representing grime as one of the bigger, more established artists, a big dog really (laughs). To be honest though, it's only just starting for me now. These EPs and my album are the first proper P Money releases. Earlier in my career, I'd feature on lots of tracks but nothing was ever mine, nothing was ever a straight P Money release. Now, everything feels like it's falling into place."
How do you think you've developed since first breaking through?
"I've still got the same hunger and determination but now I think about things a lot more. Before, when I was younger, I'd write something and record it without a second thought and without proof reading anything. Now, I make sure every lyric makes sense and that everything is clear, especially when I'm recording. It's also really important for me to make sure everything I say in the studio, I can also do on a stage as well, because the two environments are very different. Aside from that, working with different producers and engineers has helped me see things in other ways too."
You've managed to bridge the gap between experimenting with new sounds but staying in touch with grime - how do you think you've managed that?
"Subconsciously, I think people realise that I've been involved with different types of music from the get go. My first mixtape was full of different stuff - I had dubstep on there, an RnB track, even some old school garage, but i still attacked every tune with the same hunger, the same passion and I think people took that on board. It almost felt like i was introducing fans to new music, rather than just leaving them behind and I think some people can forget to do that. When I go to Germany say, I'll play 'Eskimo' or 'Pulse X', watch the crowd go mad and then let them know that this is grime from 2004. The same goes if I play a dubstep tune, I make the point of letting the fans know and that way, I keep them with me."
What do you think makes it so hard for MCs coming through now to bridge the same gap?
Tunnel vision to be honest. I think the MCs now see certain things and forget others. Look at Eskimo Dance - every young MC's dream is to get booked for Eskimo Dance and get a reload but then what? They don't see other guys like myself performing all over the world. They don't think about radio or songs or writing lyrics that cater for everyone - you can't just run around using the 'n' word expecting people to be comfortable with it anymore. I think all of that holds people back. Then again, it's up to us in certain positions to show them that there is a bigger world out there."
You invested quite a bit of time working with a variety of dubstep producers - what was that like? Is there a different energy? Did you have to adapt much?
"It showed me a lot actually. Obviously they're very bass-orientated and you have to understand the scene, I think you need to be a fan to make a track with it really. Knowing when to stop, when to let a tune breathe is one part that springs to mind - it's ok to let people feel the beat. I used to think MCs were the only thing that mattered but dubstep made me realise that the instrumental is equally as important. Producers are similar to MCs in that world too; they're very proud and they know exactly what they're doing and how they want things to sound. They're not afraid to advise you to try new things either, where as with grime, producers are generally less hands on in that sense. There's definitely a business mind to lots of them as well."
Your track 'I Can't Stop' testifies to the amount of time you spend performing. Do you think that's played a part in how you've developed too?
"One hundred percent. The live shows are my favourite bit really. You feel the energy of a track when you see it and hear it live, you get the full package. A tune on it's own is great but you get everything there in front of you when it's being performed live. I can act out my lyrics, I use gestures to emphasise certain bars, I go as mad as the crowd. They've been a big part of my career definitely … and that's also where you get most of your money (laughs)."
Grime MCs were originally brought up on pirate radio and jumping on sets whenever an opportunity arose, where as now, as you pointed out in your interview with Despa recently, things are more geared towards the YouTube generation. Where do you feel you fit in? Are you more old school in your outlook?
"I think YouTube had a massive impact on us all but I think people have got lost in it. We never had it before and we still made tracks, we still made money? That whole way of thinking has just taken over now though. Don't get me wrong, it's an amazing promotional tool to use as an artist, but it doesn't guarantee you an income or a career just because people can see you on a screen."
You're also heavily involved with Rinse - how important have they been in your career?
"It was the station to be on long before I even made it here and still is today in my eyes. Everybody chases after Radio 1 but for me personally, I always say to people you need to get on Rinse. I mean Rinse hosts regular raves, sick shows and they've made people the artists they are today, given people that platform - it's the home of the underground really. Personally, It's always been the goal to get on board but even since I've been here, it's never stopped. The team are always moving - just look at Katy B, Skream, Benga and where they are now. All of them have all played here, started out here - that's got to say something about the place."
Your new EP 'Round The Clock' is out via Rinse soon - can you tell us a bit about it?
"It's the best EP in the world (laughs). Nah, I think first and foremost it shows a bit of diversity. If someone was to compare it with something, i'd probably saw it's a bit like some of the stuff Dizzee Rascal did with 'Boy In Da Corner' in the sense that it's just quite raw. 'Round The Clock' is essentially a diss track and the chorus is full of swearing, but you can still rave to it. 'Mad' is just straight grime to be honest which was something I wanted to put across with the EP. 'Changes', which features C4, is more about me and what i'm going through and experiences I've had. I really like that track actually. The last track 'Missing' is more dubstep and it's based on a girl and what not - there's another track that'll be out soon that it links in with actually. Everything I release from now until the album next year fits together like a story. There's also the Cause & Effect remix of 'Round The Clock' on the EP too and that nails the garage and house vibe, it really goes off. I don't listen to house that much but that garage element really brings it out."
As you pointed out, C4 features on 'Changes' - is he someone you've been impressed by? Are there any other names you've been keeping an eye on?
"Yeah, I've seen him quite a few times and we've been on radio together. I like the way he works, I like his choruses and I can tell he takes his lyrics into consideration and how they represent him. Merky Ace is another, his heart for grime is so pure - you can't help but just take it all in and vibe to his music. I listen to a million producers too but I work with and listen to Swifta Beater the most. I've got a lot of time for TRC and his younger brother CRT as well."
Instrumentally, the genre's flying at the moment - what do you listen out for when it comes to thinking about tracks to vocal?
"Bass (laughs). I like instruments a lot though, I like to hear tracks that build slowly with loads of different sounds. If you hear 'Round The Clock' live, it goes off but if you sit and listen to how it's produced and all the elements that come together, you realise how well it's been made and I love that."
Looking ahead, what can we expect going into 2014? Can we look forward to anything with OG'z?
"Yeah, we're working on an EP and we might do an album but if not, it'll definitely be a mixtape. As far as myself goes, you can expect more videos and more releases in the run up to the album, which should be out in March. I'm also launching my own brand / night at the moment called 'MAD#', which I want to build into a community in a way ideally. It might not always be me headlining, but the idea is to great residents performing with local acts, as a gig that moves around venues across London. It'll hopefully give people a platform and help the scene in the process because I don't feel there's enough events out there, especially for young MCs. Having new talent perform alongside big names will do the scene a lot of good I think - unity is the key."
In October's 'Life at 140' column for Clash Music, I took back at grime post-war dub and summarised the best releases and events, as well as picking out my top five tracks of the month. Look out J Beatz (pictured) and Sorrow - his latest EP 'Warring' is absolutely lethal.
I wrote a few short words on MssingNo's debut EP for Goon Club Allstars over at Sonic Router that I doubt do it all that much justice. Up there with Rabit as best debut of 2013 - a game-changing record.