Big Narstie is the man with a big personality who is far from being ‘Narstie’, and the multi-talented star is one of the few men in grime that your mum has probably heard of.
Mixing between being an MC, Presenter, and as of 2021, a CBD Recovery Gym Owner, Big Narstie is full of stories from all aspects of his fascinating life, and as it’s Big Narstie we are talking about here, he always has lots to say.
“First of all I’m a Twat”, “I’ve managed to do all of this still smoking weed!” and “I smashed up a Driving Centre and got a £2000 fine” were just a few of the sentences to come out of Narstie’s mouth, and that was within the first ten minute’s of the interview.
Of course, as it’s 2021, GRM caught up with Narstie via Zoom, and the star gave a glimpse of his pristine Essex home and his huge dog named ‘Ultred’, who even has his own Instagram account, before diving into the success of The Big Narstie Show, his latest EP Smoking Grown Folk OG, fatherhood, and his time within the grime community over the years.
Despite being a grime pioneer and a national treasure, Big Narstie remains humble and down to earth, and you’ll feel as if you’ve known him for years when you’re in the presence of his raspy and loud vocals, which have become one of the UK’s most popular voices on tv. Check out what he has to say down below and I guarantee you’ll be able to sense his personality through the screen.
Narstie has settled down in his family home in Essex, and the full-of-life personality has clearly made his mark on the county.
“I failed my driving test you know, I’m banned from a test centre in Essex, and I can never do a driving test in that area. I smashed up the driving centre and I got a £2000 fine!”
Despite making an even bigger name for himself within Essex, the south-east hasn’t always been his home.
“I grew up in Brixton and that made me grow up very quickly. Brixton in the 80s would take away a youth very rapidly because you’re open to see a lot of grown and mature things. The one thing I love about that is, and this goes for black and white ghetto kids, have you noticed ghetto kids never ever get abducted by crackheads or anything because they’re taught from a young age that they’re crackheads! Telling them to not be like the crackheads! It’s really funny innit! It’s like, we know they’re crackheads, you know that they are there, and you don’t do that. It’s mad you see a different society.”
Narstie seems to have been destined for stardom due to his many talents, and the artist honors God for his achievements.
“I come from a religious family. My mum’s religious, one of my granddads was a Reverend, my grandma was a pastor, and she had her own church, so I’ve always been brought up with a very strong religious faith. I say it’s God that’s given me the opportunities that I’ve had. Not just this sexy face, look at the eyebrows, I woke up like this! There are still hundreds, thousands, and millions of people still today just like me who didn’t get an opportunity, and I got an opportunity. So, as much as I love my eyebrows, I’ve got to say that rah, God gave me a chance to have an opportunity.”
The Big Narstie Show is the much-loved talk show hosted by Narstie and comedian Mo Gilligan, in which the duo are uncensored and hilarious as they interview a variety of guests, as well as shedding a light on the grime community.
After he publicly questioned the absence of black UK artist nominees at the 2016 Brit Awards, Channel 4 commissioning editors noticed Narstie and suggested he make his own chat-show. Narstie expressed his desire to concentrate on music, but the producers persisted for weeks, and in the end, Narstie settled on the condition that he must do it his own way, and that’s when The Big Narstie Show was born. The show has clearly established a fanbase across the UK, as it received a National Television Award this year.
“I’m not a presenter, I’m not a TV person. I just naturally do what I do. My happiness comes from being myself. This is 110% bird’s eye, it’s Tyrone, it’s Narstie. So the fact that my personality has shined so well is a blessing. Sometimes it pisses me off because my passion is music, I’m a musician, that’s my strong point. But then, it’s not like my music is not recognised either, I’m fortunate enough to have two sides. Instead of just being like a girl with a pretty face and no rack or back, I’m someone who’s got the whole package!”
With over 1.5 million views on Youtube, The Big Narstie and Kano freestyle featuring Monkstar and Sir Spyro is one of the most popular clips from The Big Narstie Show, and luckily, we will get to see more performances like that as The Big Narstie Show will be back on our screens this year, with even bigger guests set to appear.
“Remember, what I was doing with The Big Narstie Show is making TV that normal people can watch. When I say normal people, there are demographics and I will say I cater more for the middle class, working-class England. I’ve just started to sprinkle into the luxury part of England and the upper class. My whole BDL movement has always been for the common man, and also being highly proud of my culture and my race. I’m an English Jamaican Caribbean boy. My parents are of Jamaican heritage and I was born in St Thomas hospital, God bless the fucking NHS. I was so adamant to have a show that represented that grime culture, where I come from, and the music, and that’s my obligation to do that. I’m just thankful and fortunate that it has worked as well as it has.”
Mo Gilligan, a social media personality, comedian, TV presenter, and co-host of The Big Narstie Show has enabled the growth of the chat show, and Narstie believes that God brought them together.
“Mo wasn’t always my plan, but it worked out good, back to what I said about God, it just happened. I wasn’t on Mo’s radar, Mo wasn’t on my radar. However, our paths connected and the energy was good. So I’m thankful that happened.”
It’s been a difficult year for musicians, particularly for a people person like Big Narstie, who works in a variety of sectors within the entertainment industry, but Narstie says his children have helped him get through the tough times. We also can’t forget the friendship between Ed Sheeran and Narstie, with Ed being the godfather to Big Narstie’s child.
“Um, first thing, I’m a twat! But I keep motivated. The kids, Daddy’s concerts is epic. Oh my God. I say sorry and use a lot of beeps in my lyrics, the hardcore words that change to unicorns. Well apart from that, I’ll perform for anyone who’s anyone who will listen to me! My kids actually do like music, but right now they’re just kids, you know, they’re really big into the Trolls franchise, The Trolls World Tour. So there are songs on that so my daughter has got musical streaming from that, my son, he mostly spends his time trying to bite the dog’s tail.”
Narstie’s latest EP, Smoking Grown Folk OG, is the product of his excellent work rate, and as it’s Narstie’s first release of 2021, the EP gives us a preview of what’s to come for the rest of the year.
“For my EP Smoking Grown Folk OG, I said to myself, I’m 35 and I’ve got two kids. I’m in a whole different space in my life from when I was 16 making angry, confused music. I’ve been fortunate to have some success, I’ve experienced unconditional lovemaking twice. Five years ago was the first time I can actually say I understood how my mum feels/felt about me. My mum is a clingy, clingy person, I’d be like ‘Alright mum’. Now I’ve had a child and I’m like fucking hell, that’s how my mum must have felt when she hugged me.
So, in this part of my life, I refused to be an artist talking about one segment of my life when it was really hard and I was doing fucked up things. I mean I’ve progressed so far from that, I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity, I’ve been blessed to see things, I’ve been blessed to have a fan base, I’ve been blessed with businesses. I’ve made new music and I still managed to do all of this still smoking weed. Still smoking! ‘Smoke weed every day.’ So to every person who’s thinking ‘Ah that young kid who’s smoking weed is going to be a dosser’ look how that’s turned out, I smoke lots of fucking weed while still being a fucking twat!’“
Despite having a variety of iconic tracks, Big Narstie brings it down to two of his all time favourites from the brand-new EP.
“There are two tracks off the EP right now that resonates a lot, “Judas” and “Thinkin’ About Now.” My “Thinkin About Now” song is like the male version of Beyonce’s “Independent Woman.” I want you to write this in bold is that is okay? Remember that we’re in the 21st-century world where old-school obligations of male and female are no more. Women have fought so hard not to just be seen as objects, to just stay at home and cook dinner, and just to raise loads of kids.
“Men now look for a woman who doesn’t just have a pretty face or to have loads of babies with them and look after them. They go for women now who can look after themselves. As guys, we don’t talk about this a lot, but there are guys out there who try to always impress women hence the clothes they wear, the car they drive and the watch they want to get. Now, my thing is this. If I can afford the Range Rover and I can afford the watch, and I can afford this, why should I give it all to you just because of the pure fact we have sex or not?.”
“I don’t care if you have a Range Rover, even if you got a Ford KA there has to be some trade commerce. If guys feel that they have to go out of their way and break their back to make all this stuff to look after a woman, what does a woman feel like she has to do in order to deserve that? I want to know if the person that I want to give my last fiber to if anything ever happened to me or was in a situation, I want to know when I’m laying in the bed, looking at the back of their head spooning, that they would do the same for me.
“In the new 21st century, a lot of men have to step up the game because a lot of women are self-independent, they have their own power, they got their own house, they got their own business. So do you feel because you got a nice watch and a decent size penis that you can just have everything? Do you know what I mean? So that’s the reason why I like “Thinkin About Now”, its definitely something topical.”
Starting his career in 2002 as a member of grime crew N Double A, Big Narstie has been within the grime community for years, and has seen the shift in the media’s coverage of the genre, with the music becoming more mainstream over the years.
“The whole underground music culture has changed dramatically, people try to break it down into segments into rap, grime, hip-hop, but the whole underground music culture has changed. The reason why is because, no offence to a journalist, I exclude you out of this one, when people tried to break down all the scientific stuff about how the scene has changed etc, it’s called evolution.
“What does popular music mean? It means music that is popular. Popular because the masses like it. grime, jungle, drum and bass, when all of this stuff happened it wasn’t out to the public masses, because the gateways of that music into the public masses were closed, The Radio Ones and all the big frequencies where you could get that type of music to them. Remember though, until satellite, if you go back 10 years ago yeah, if you wanted a person in Birmingham in a factory to hear your music, Radio 1 could do that.”
“No matter how hot you are, unless you’re on the radio, all those factory guys on shift, all those radios in Sheffield and the outskirts of England would never hear your song. Unless you’ve taken the wrong smugglers route, a CD! So music has changed because more people have heard music who liked it. But then, like when anything becomes popular, music doesn’t really become about the music, it becomes about the brand.”
“For every gift, there’s a curse. The gift of that drill music becoming more popular, and the UK grime scene becoming more popular, we have to watch out for culture vultures now, professionals who know how to build a brand. Remember the pioneers of these things are just local ghetto kids who the professionals don’t give a fuck about. They have no university education or business structure, they didn’t start the business for 20 years, they’ve just been given a raw gift and talent.
“So, in the hands of the pens who grabs it first depends on which way will it go. Or the person to get hold of it, do it and use it in the right way, but the most important thing is what’s happening. What no one can change is shown insight of belief. The first time people saw Michael Jackson slide across the floor backward, everyone can walk forward but some people can slide backward from their feet. It’s as simple as that, and that little spark is what the drill scene does, drill music is going to every country right now, and it shows people who don’t see themselves as athletes or anything with any talent can make themselves something from spitting their pain. Hope is a very powerful thing.”
Big Narstie is here, he has a musical legacy to maintain, and he is proving that grime is not a dying genre, and that it’s more popular than ever.
“Grime is that same slut you’ve all fucked the shit out of and have a good weekend with, and she’s still in the same place waiting for a phone call. Can you make sure you write this in big letters? GRIMES STILL THERE. She still remembers the nice time she had with you guys, she’s still there when you are a bit lonely and reaches out. The problem with the UK music scene is that they’re a slut for success.
“So if tomorrow a song comes out with a trumpet sound, everyone then thinks that’s the sound you must go for to get a number one. When Oasis heard Moby, they didn’t say ‘Fucking hell “Wonderwall” isn’t good music anymore we should jump out of the acoustic band, and start fucking doing some Moby or David Guetta’.’ This is because they understand their music is their music, and they love their music.
“Coldplay didn’t do that, Adele didn’t do that, they stick to the music they like and focus on it and push it. Grime artists are back to desperation because the grime industry didn’t have any infrastructure, so the furthest as grime infrastructure goes is the pirate radios. The reason why grime can’t die is that any artist you know when their career starts to go down they will be able to do a grime set quicker than they will be able to do a drill set and a hip-hop set.”
“As an independent artist, grime is the only thing you can do without any money to get yourself big off of spitting. We had Pirate Radios so the infrastructure was at a small stage, it wasn’t on the big stages. Now, it has progressed. Tinie Tempah’s song “Tears” with DaVinChe, Dizzee Rascal’s earlier stuff, all of these people were close, they’re pioneers. They just found the popular music, and it makes sense, you’ve got to think of the infrastructure.
“So the influx of drill music has made drill music spark over the whole of England, hence why the impact is so big, and grime did the same thing. Everyone knows about grime, grime has never had good platforms to carry on pushing through, hence why I always made that my obligation with whatever music I do to always promote grime. Grime’s not a dying breed. If grime was a woman, she would say ‘Lads, I remember those lovely times we had. It was epic, you used to fuck the shit out of me, I’m still here, it made me.’”
With the lifting of the lockdown measures finally upon us, we can now see festivals and gigs are on the horizon, Big Narstie has some big plans for the rest of the year. You can see him perform for four nights in Tenerife presenting the ultimate UK grime set.
“I got a weekender coming to Tenerife from the 19th to the 24th of August! Also, I’ve got a CBD recovery gym in Enfield, a Muscle-based gym. So for people who have bad backs, anything like that, focusing on CBD medicine. I’ve got the first-ever CBD steam room in the country. Come on down!”