Photo: Patrick Kinzonzi
Revisiting grime’s formative years on a journalistic level was often a job reserved for those looking to pinpoint reasons for the genre’s shortcomings, not its successes, but re-tracing steps on a purely musical level confirms that the foundations have always been strong. In a week where one of grime’s foundation lyricists in Ghetts, charted independently at number 23 on the Official UK Album Charts with new album Rebel Without A Cause, there can be no denying that rather than fight to shed it’s past, grime artists – both as producers and MCs – are now looking to embrace it.
For all the mind-numbing strands of re-hashed club edits, mediocre dance music and woefully plastic, utterly uninspiring pop tracks that have dominated the charts for far too long, there can be no substitute for music with substance, something grime has never been short of. Even on an underground level, instrumental grime has flourished amidst a backdrop of flattened techno and repetitive house because people suddenly want music that’s real and purposeful and raw.
It’s this gap in the market that Rapid, a pioneering member of foundation crew Ruff Sqwad, was quick to spot back in 2012 when he released the gulliest of instrumental memoirs, White Label Classics. Not only did the CD put Ruff Sqwad back on the map, but it opened eyes to the forgotten early sounds that trod the path for others to follow. An unparalleled success by most accounts, it inspired Rapid to announce his return on a mic too and we were lucky enough to catch up with him recently on new EP Turning Point, Future Brown and how things have changed since the days of ‘Tings In Boots’…
Sonic Router: How would you describe how things have changed since you first started out?
Rapid: The scene’s got bigger and broader since I first started and grime has divided into so many other sub genres since 2002. In 2014, you can hear that trap has had a real influence on grime music for instance. I feel that in 2014, music is a lot like fast food; you release a song, it’s hot for a week and people are on to the next one, whereas before a song might bubble round for a couple months.
Back in the day, there used to be a lot of pirate stations to help artists promote their music and everyone was just having fun with music. Now, I don’t think that pirate stations are as important because our music has been accepted a lot more, so we get some play on mainstream radio although we are still not in the position we should be. Internet radio stations and YouTube and sites like Soundcloud have helped push the sound to a different audience though.
Obviously the release of White Label Classics helped put you and Ruff Sqwad back on the map to some extent, but what made you decide to release Turning Point? Was it an easy decision?
White Label Classics was one of the best releases for 2012. I felt that the people who had been supporting and grew with Ruff Sqwad needed a place to go to for some of our most popular and most loved songs. All the instrumentals had a story of their own so it’s a body of work that’s almost like a greatest hits collection. I think a lot of new producers can turn to White Label Classics and say that’s where they got their sound from.
I wanted to bring out this new EP because I felt like a lot of blogs and websites thought it was the end of me after Ruff Sqwad went their separate ways but I still have so much more to offer musically. I haven’t even started yet…
Did you anticipate White Label Classics to receive the level of support it did? Why do you think that was?
No, I didn’t anticipate it at all. There were just 22 instrumental tracks on there, no vocals and to be honest, I had a feeling the Ruff Sqwad supporters wouldn’t want just instrumentals. I saw there was an audience and a market for instrumental grime though and I think the door for instrumental grime has definitely grown, even since then. The response was really good though and I was happy with it. I think for a lot of people, the old school tracks brought back memories for them; I think the oldest beat on there was ‘Tings In Boots’ which was about 11 years old in 2012.
Talk to us a bit about the thinking behind Turning Point…
The thinking process behind Turning Point was to bring the Ruff Sqwad sound up to date and mix it with the current sound of 2014. It was a merging of afro stuff, trap and grime. You can almost look at it as similar to ‘Guns and Roses’ 1 & 2, but this time the lyrical content is all from me and about what I have to say.
How does it measure up in relation to music you’ve released in the past?
I think this EP is a stepping stone and definitely progressive from the music I’ve released in the past. The structure of the songs is better in the way that I am implementing my singing with the other lyrical content, which gives my sound a variation and a bit more natural balance. It’s a new style for me, something that I haven’t done before and it shows I’ve definitely grown as an artist.
You recently featured on ‘World’s Mine’ alongside Dirty Danger and Roachee, a track produced by Future Brown. How did that collaboration come around?
Tim and Barry from Just Jam TV introduced me to Future Brown. They told me that Future Brown liked my stuff and that we would complement each other if we worked together. From there, we emailed back and forth, they sent me the ‘World’s Mine’ beat and I loved how old school it sounded – it reminded me of the old beats I used to make when I first started. I thought Dirty and Roachee would suit the track too so I initiated that, we got them on the beat and just made it work.
Do you think their global reach is a good indicator of how grime’s new found appeal? Did you enjoy performing with them on their UK tour dates?
Yeah, Future Brown are originally from the US but they play all around the world, in places I didn’t even know knew about grime music. It’s been a really positive experience for me and my sound. They still play lots of my own productions too, which from the videos they send me, seem to get a really good reaction.
Performing with them at their UK dates was really fun, it was good to see the crowd’s reaction to some old school grime mixed in with the new wave stuff, and I got to bring some of my people with me to perform which was great. J Cush and I have a really good rapport and I like the fact that he still plays a lot of Ruff Sqwad instrumentals, it makes my job a bit easier!
Any plans for Ruff Sqwad to releases as a collective again?
Not at the moment, there’s been no talk about anything like that. Everyone still keeps in touch but we’re all focusing on our own projects. That’s not to say we won’t ever be collaborating again though..
What can we expect from Rapid going forward?
You can expect more EPs and another major instrumental release in the next year. I also run an education service called New Build Creative Resources based in Bow, which teaches 16 – 25 year olds about the music business and employability skills. I’ve built it up with my business partner into something we’re both really proud of.
Prince Rapid’s ‘Turning Point’ EP is out March 31 on Ruff Sqwad Entertainment.