Last week the Red Bull Music Academy rolled into Manchester for the final leg of its UK tour before the academy sets up shop in Paris for this year’s event.
Red Bull laid on a veritable smorgasbord of events from lectures to club nights, kicking off on Thursday with a no-holds-barred in-depth lecture from one of grime’s biggest players, Skepta. Originally scheduled to take place at Gorilla, the event actually took place at The Albert Hall due to the demand. Hosted by ID Magazine’s Hattie Collins, Skepta spoke candidly about his journey from inner city estate in Tottenham to performing alongside Kanye West at the Brits last month.
“that was the album that made me think ‘yeah I can do this’.”
The often outspoken grime MC told his story, warts and all, and recalled the first album that triggered his desire to become a musician and MC. “I was waiting in the car outside Edmonton Shopping Centre, when my dad came out and handed me a tape,” he explained. That tape turned out to be Snoop Dogg’s seminal debut album ‘Doggystyle’, not only did the music inspire him, it was also the album’s adult-themed artwork too, “you know the cartoon one with the loads of rude pictures of boobs in the sleeve, that was the album that made me think ‘yeah I can do this’.”
Skepta talked about how in recent years he had become dissolusioned by the state of the UK grime scene. “At one stage when I felt that the UK music scene was going a certain direction, I wasn’t happy with the music I was producing so I purposely took a risk to go back to square one and took a risk for people to say ‘oh Skepta fell off’. People said I was shit, I got called weird,” it even got to the point, he explained, where he was being called out as some form of grime hipster. “What the fuck is that? How am I a hipster?”
“What the fuck is that? How am I a hipster?”
Skepta spoke highly about his love of Manchester and its MCs, he credits the city as a huge influence on his fashion too, and stated that one of his favourite MCs was Manchester’s MC Trigga, “Trigga’s style is so sick he’s the epitome of Manchester gangster.” He touched on his forthcoming album ‘Konnichiwa’, admitting that he’d finished 8 tracks, but wasn’t sure when he’d finish the rest as he was unwilling to compromise and make tracks over email, something he felt had become all too common in today’s internet society. “I fucking hate email music where I’ll send you my verse and they send there’s over. Nowadays I think you can actually hear it when two artists weren’t in the studio together.” He was unwilling to play anything from the album, but did admit that he’s been working with a raft of rappers from the US and said that he hoped to get Earl Sweatshirt on the album.
Skepta’s talk was hugely inspiring and it was really refreshing to hear an artist speak so freely, from start to finish during the two-hour talk he constantly came back to the idea of being true to yourself and not compromising in any way. “We’ve had loads of record deals offered, but it has to be the right one, everyone around me believes in me and I believe in myself, and when you have that you feel like you can do anything, it’s all about building that British dream.”