Cristale is an exceptional artist, she has the energy and originality of a real star which is why her journey has been such an incredible one to watch. From her viral videos to her catchy songs and effortlessly cool freestyles, Cristale oozes talent, energy and style. From listening to her music it’s clear to see she has lived and witnessed a variety of life experiences. The young rapper’s lived experiences make for impactful lyrical content, they also have shaped Cristale into a very mature and grounded individual despite her very young age. She seems balanced, confident yet humble, mature yet youthful, grateful for her journey but with an incredibly strong sense of where she would like to be.
Along with a great amount of self-awareness, Cristale possesses an insane amount of talent. A talent that has grown an audience across various social media platforms. Her videos are creative and inventive, and her songs are intricately and carefully put together. Each one showcases a new element of her incredible talent that we’ve not yet seen.
In a very open conversation with the young artist, we talked about upcoming music, uni life, growing up, anxiety and more.
So when did your interest in music start taking shape?
“I know it probably sounds ridiculous to say since I was born, but literally, growing up with my mum raising me, the type of music she would play like Teedra Moses, TLC, Ashanti, that genre. I’ve always grown up on soulful music, I was kind of born into it in a sense.”
When do you think that started turning into realising that you had a talent for it?
“When I was younger my uncle and I wrote my first bars together, when I was about three. I spat the same ones throughout the whole of primary school and used them for everything and everyone would be astonished, but I was just saying them for the sake of saying them. I’ve only genuinely realised that I have a talent recently. As in the last few months. From me actually developing a fan base and understanding that people listen to me, relate to me and want to hear what I have to say and want to keep track of my life and what I’m doing. That’s made me realise I must have talent.
“Obviously, I don’t have any clout and this industry is based on clout. Thank God, I also don’t have any negative clout around my name or anything like that. I’m not in the blogs, I’m not in anything. So I know that the following is genuine. If it’s genuine, that must mean that people actually respect my art. They must actually believe that I have a talent. I’m not saying I only realise this because I have fans. Because aside from that, I make music for myself. I don’t make music for anyone else. I think about how I feel, what I’m going to do, what I’ve done, the people around me and the different things that we’ve been through. So I make music for myself.
“Some days I’ll just sit and I’ll go through what I’ve already done. There are loads of songs in the locker that you won’t hear for a while, but they’re there. When I’m sitting down, I kind of have to occupy the space of a consumer and listen to myself like it’s not me. And if I detach myself from myself, and I still like the song that’s how I know like, cool, you’re doing something right.”
Watching your videos, it feels like things come naturally to you. Is it important for you to be seen in the space as a musician, as opposed to a media personality who makes music?
“I feel that everything in this life is down to perception which is subjective. Who am I to say how I want people to view me? The most I can do is present myself in a way that is natural. That won’t get received in a negative way, but it’s down to the person. I can’t say I want you to look at me as an artist because you might go from my Instagram and realise that I can play football. You might follow me on Snapchat and see that I’m funny or TikTok and see that I’m creative.
“So for you, I’m just someone that you like to pay attention to. Then you discover oh she makes music. I like to listen to her music, I feel like I know her as a person because I follow her on social media. But then, there’s another set of people that just heard my song on the radio. This is Cristale. I’m going to look through all of her music now. Cool, I am a fan… oh what and she plays football, she’s got a personality too. It’s a catch 22 Yeah, and I’m not in control of that.
“I can’t really say I care if people view me like this or view me like that. As long as I’m not viewed in a negative light then I’m good. You can view me as a media personality, an entertainer, an actress, footballer, musician, poet, orange, apple, whatever you want! Just as long as my general presence isn’t inflicting any negativity on them, I’m calm. You can look at me as whatever you want. Just as long as even though I’ve never met you, the relationship that we have between the phone is good. My music, my personality or my influence makes you feel happy then I’m good.”
That is such a grounded and well-rounded answer and there is such a sense of contentment and freedom in your sound. Where does your inspiration come from and how do you approach your creative process?
“My inspiration comes from life. I do my day by day and when it hits me that this is something, then it becomes something. I could go into the fridge and go to get an orange. Then the orange drops on the floor, but because I’m overwhelmed with uni stuff I’ll start talking about the fact that I was actually holding out very well until I peeled my orange and it just ended up on the floor. And then literally I’ll just write a song about eating food from off the floor and make a metaphor for people that are above you but instead of helping they make you beg.
“It’s literally whatever comes to mind at any given time, and this is all based on experience. Nothing that I come up with or that I say, none of it’s a lie. None of it is fake. Even some of the road stuff that I talk about. Yeah, fair enough, I’ve been through certain things and experienced certain things or seen certain things, but I pray to God every day, and I’m thankful that I haven’t had to experience anything mad like that. That’s why you hear me talking in the songs about the fact that I’m telling a story. And I’m clearly telling them that it is not me that went through it. But right now, I’m the voice for people that can’t speak on what they’ve done. But they’re going through trauma because of it.”
Now you mentioned you are at university and studying. What are you studying and how are you managing to balance everything?
“I’m studying illustration, and I hate it. I started off going to Uni…yeah cool, because remember I wasn’t gonna be a rapper. I wasn’t gonna be verified on Instagram. I knew I was gonna make money by any means necessary. I always made sure that my grades were tight in school. I made sure that I passed my GCSE’s, A’s and all of that. Even though they switched from letters to numbers, right? So instead of A to U, it was one to nine and it was confusing, but I still made sure that my grades were on point. Then I went to Sixth Form and did the same thing.
“Obviously, grades aren’t everything nowadays, but back then we didn’t know that. Yeah, so I wasn’t about to take the risk. But then it’s half and half because I also told myself that I’m not going to go to uni and spend three years doing something that I do not enjoy. So the subject that I enjoy the most, the one I put the most into, was art and design. So I thought I’m going to go to uni and make something of myself. I’m going to study illustration so that I can go into any field that I want, and the field I originally wanted to go into was architecture.
“I was going to do all of that and then boom, Instagram freestyles, then it’s people noticing to me, and then I’m doing collaborations and I’ve got music videos and photoshoots and then I get signed, and I’m actually signed, and I’m thinking what the heck is going on? Now, this is my job. Now the thing that comes naturally to me, is my job. It’s my calling. It’s what God’s called me to do. I write my music and everything that I put into the music after watching what I say because it will influence a generation…potentially.”
How long have you got left at Uni?
“Couple months!!! I’m in my last year, this is what I mean. That’s why I can’t stress about that. It’s all well and good, but it’s the last year that counts as well. So it’s just like, why am I crying let me just deal with it. Let me just do it because quitting now is totally pointless, even though uni definitely sucked all the fun out of being an artist.”
Yeah, I can imagine it creates boundaries to your creativity.
“Yeah, you can’t teach art. So I am going to the Uni and I feel as though they’re not teaching me anything. So why am I here? Plus this isn’t even my career path anymore. It’s just meant to be an outlet for me. Now my career path fluctuates between being an outlet and being a headache. But it’s only a headache because I’m also doing Uni. If I wasn’t doing Uni, me going to these things and going to these events and performing and doing these types of interviews, where I can just speak my mind whilst answering questions today, I wouldn’t have a reason to be stressed.
“I’m just I’m being normal. And I’m getting paid for it. My normality is getting to be on a platform to the point where people can take me in as a normal person. There are a lot of misconceptions about the life of an artist. Me, talking from someone starting from the bottom. And I’m not really up there like that. But you see all the drip and the money and all the other things, it means something. Yeah, it does. Because obviously, you work hard for your money, you work hard, you put all your pain into the music and you reap the benefits, of course.
“But a big misconception is that…that’s what we care about. Well, me personally it’s not all I care about. I don’t just care about getting the money and the clothes and whatever. Course I’ve got a one-two Stone Island but I buy them for occasions. I buy new stuff to look nice on stage and look nice on Tiffany Calver. My mum told me from a young if you’re gonna go somewhere, best make sure you represent yourself properly. Not saying I need drip to do it but that’s work clothes!”
Right! Like a uniform…
“A uniform right there… and it’s not free. So I’m investing back into myself. It’s not just the image that I’m investing in. It’s the essence of normality and being able to treat yourself. I’m a regular person. I’ve still got bills to pay and I still have Stone Island. I also still have a Nike tracksuit. I still have to go to uni and I still have life problems. I still experience normal things like happiness and heartbreak and sadness. We all go through it.”
And are the people around you on your course aware of you and what’s happening for you?
“My tutors are. I don’t go into the University anymore. Because in my first year, that’s initially when I first started my Instagram freestyle. When I went back the other day everyone was just looking at me like, “Oh my gosh, we remember you”. I’m just like, breda. I’ve been on the same course as you lot. But COVID hit and I haven’t left my house. But they’re not talking about that. They don’t mean that I look different. They’re talking about the fact that they’ve seen me without seeing me. I haven’t had to come into Uni for you to see me, because I’ve gone viral like six or seven times since I haven’t been into uni.
“Plus it’s all well and good, but this last time I went into uni, I got terribly sick. It wasn’t COVID, but it was a terrible illness. I had a chest infection and it was horrible. I had just got over it around the time of the Tiffany Calver cypher. I was heartbroken. Now I’m scared to go to Uni. And I still suffer from anxiety and stuff. I remember before I started this rap thing I went into uni one day, I got to the bus stop and I just broke down. I absolutely just broke down and I can’t say why. But at the time I was stressed about things like work. My manager was working me to the bone. I was working in a small shop. She used to take liberties with me a little bit as well.
“So I was just stressed and I just broke down at the bus stop and I had to turn back and go home and I just stayed in my bed. People don’t think that artists go through that stuff. And I don’t think anyone thinks that I go through that. I suppose because of the way I present myself. And it’s not an act or anything. It’s having the ability when you’re in a situation where you can express yourself using the medium that you love. It’s like my art if someone was to watch me draw. I don’t know how I react, but I feel like it would just be like when someone watches me perform on stage or perform in front of a camera. It’s just something that I love. So I have no reason to be afraid. And I know what I’m saying so I have no reason to be silent.”
That’s a lot to have on your plate, at any age let alone at such a crucial age. Then to also still be committed to finishing your prior engagements and then with the nature of the internet thrown on top… Outside of music and drawing do you have another outlet for switching off from everything work-related or do you find yourself very immersed all the time?
“No, I’m just always in it. I don’t escape. The escape from uni is music and the escape from music is uni. That’s it, nothing else.”
Now I know that visual art and music often go hand in hand. So with covers, photography, videos, the things that accompany a release are you very hands-on in those aspects?
“Very. For the “Militant” artwork, I drew the sketch of what I wanted it to look like, I found the font and everything. Then I just gave it to the graphic designer and he changed the colouring of it officially. But I’m very hands-on with everything. All the concepts for the music video, come from me. It’s why a lot of people say to me now Cristale you’ve got to start having your name as co-director on the music video. It’s like you see the directors have done a very good job, but that doesn’t come from nowhere. I create a very clear blueprint, and then we bring it to life through film.”
You get those credits. It’s worthwhile that people know they are witnessing your creative vision…
“Yeah. Look at someone like Teyana Taylor who does and directs videos for other people. She’s an artist herself, she’s been able to do that through people knowing that she does her own. So no one’s going to know that unless I talk or other people ask. Yeah,I’m gonna start putting it on the video still. Really I should have been doing that since the first one. The old schools “Whites” ,”See Myself” then “Morgan” “Merryland” , “Militant”, they’re all me and the next ones will be me.
“I don’t really go into a situation without knowing what I want. By the time I finished a song in the studio, I can already see what I want the video to look like and I write it down and the video will be like that. I create mood boards, I give a rough treatment. I send it off to the director and then the director sends me their version of the treatment that I’ve done. That basically tells me everything that’s going to happen, how I want it to happen. It’s more detailed and the order is broken down.”
That’s “Militant”, “Merryland” and “Morgan”. All the M’s, it makes me laugh when I say them all at once. I never did it on purpose. People say oh, did I do it because my mum’s name starts with M. Maybe subconsciously you know. They are the first three songs that I did when I found my new sound. Well, not a new sound, but when I kind of found myself in music, in the drill genre. Those were some of the first three songs, so maybe you never know. But You’re going to have “Morgan”, “Merryland”, “Militant”, “Braids”, “Hold and squeeze” and “Thirteen going on 30”.
Is there anyone you’d like to work with?
“I’ve worked with PS Hit Squad. I’ve worked with Tana from Birmingham, Mr Ride and Clutch. Obviously Temz, ShaSimone, TeeZandos. I’ve literally just been in the studio with KM and KD, some upcoming guys that have blown on TikTok. KM has a song called “Birkin Bop” that’s gone off. I worked with Laa Lee recently too, he’s an international Jamaican artist and he’s got songs such as “Tip Inna It” and “Dirt Bounce”. You see the dance that everyone is doing, that’s Laa Lee’s Dance.
Is there anyone that you’d like to work with that you haven’t got to work with yet? Or an ultimate dream collab where if you got the call it would be nuts?
“I don’t know you know. let’s say if Drake, Ashanti, or Giggs phoned me, I would have the same reaction. I feel like there’s a whole umbrella of that will fall under that phone call. Especially as I don’t expect anything from people. I didn’t even expect people to be listening to me. The other day, Little Simz posted me and ShaSimone from the Cypher onto her Instagram story. Then she followed me on Insta. That’s Little Simz, I grew up listening to her on the way to football and on the way back. Whenever I have Simz in my ears, it’s nothing but substance. It’s what I need to hear to get me up so I can perform properly on the pitch. But yeah there’s a whole umbrella of people. Anyone whose music I listen to you I feel like if I got that call I’d be gassed.
Yeah. It’s great how appreciative you are to be in the space and to get to do what you love. So to finish this up, can you give us a quote for why people should listen to the project?
“If you can, have a listen. Give me a chance, please help a sister out. No, I’m joking. When the time comes for whoever is reading this to hear EP. Try not to pay too much attention to the genre of the project and pay more attention to what it is that I’m saying. The whole outline of the project is emphasising a concept. The project is called What It’s Like To Be young. So that’s what it talks about.
“I go from tracks like “Morgan” which is more like free and explaining all my frustrations with uni and friendships and stuff like that to “Merryland”, which is that the whole concept of it is is escapism and trying to find a happy place within yourself. Instead of trying to fulfil your desires in life with materialistic stuff. And then to “Militant”, which explains that throughout your childhood and throughout your life you’re going to be up and down. You’re going to be calm, and then you’re going to be militant, you’re going to be in a frenzy. You’re going to be overwhelmed, but that’s okay. Express that. Not saying to go and pop someone’s head, but express it in the best way possible.”
“The rest of them just talk about me growing up. A lot of stuff that other people have to deal with too. Okay, so the quote is: “Regarding the project What It’s Like To Be Young handle with care. Don’t just listen to me and think this sounds hard then never listen to the song again. Take in what I’m saying. Experience what I’ve experienced. Because of all of the experiences that I’m talking about in the songs, they’re not just mine, they are other people’s as well. I’ve written on behalf of these people and on behalf of these situations. Situations that we all go through. It’s sensitive. It’s not just gassed up music. It’s people’s life. It’s my life.”