Prior to the past few years, the UK rap scene found difficulty in breaking the wider mainstream market. Seemingly hard to digest for some, the rich British culture coupled with a distinctive dialect appeared to have been a factor as to why artists found it hard to appeal to listeners overseas. This resulted in an initial dismissal and at times rejection, leaving the UK scene alone to marinate and thrive on its own turf. However, over the past few years, the scene has been enabled to grow and reach critiques all over the world.
As well as the overall culture and foundations behind UK music being understood and consumed more meticulously, the likes of Drake and Skepta acted as subconscious A&R’s to the scene, boasting talent from smaller UK cities in hopes that they would reach a larger audience.
The increased buzz, generated by larger, more popular and prominent industry figures, created a basis for people to become more explorative of the musical market in Britain, allowing for melodious hopefuls all over the country to have an increased interest pool for their crafts.
2017 has been a victorious year for UK music on the whole, with a number of artists breaking into the mainstream and with that, reaping the rewards of their work. Artists such as Not3s, who’s single “Addison Lee (Peng Ting Called Maddison)” reached Silver certification in the UK, was rapidly offered a recording deal; following the footsteps of other British giants such as Dave, J Hus and Stormzy, all of which have had extremely fruitful years.
Enter Ramz, the 20-year-old South London native who burst onto the scene with his single “Barking”. The track, which arguably has an opening line that chimes and catches on as much as Hus’ “Did You See”, has reached almost seven million views in just three months; making it one of the fastest growing music videos on GRM Daily this year. Working out at around 500,000 views a week to date, the track, which was recorded whilst he was still studying at University, elevated Ramz into the spotlight, bringing him into contention for having one of the most popular singles of 2017.
The track itself, charming and grasping the essence of youth culture in London, acted as an anthem to both males and females in the club and on that daily commute, gloating its likability factor. Aside from its YouTube success, the single has also featured on a number of Apple Music and Spotify playlists as well as entering the Official UK Top 40 Charts this week, accolades which prove the progressive evolution of UK rap.
With all this being said, as music is enjoyed and devoured amongst ourselves and those we spend our time with, it can be easy to overlook the artists who are responsible, and with that, oversee the reasoning and context behind their art.
We were able to sit down and converse with Ramz to discuss the “Barking” record, as well as pursuit into his past and reasoning behind his artistry:
Let’s start with the obvious, almost 6.8 million views on GRM Daily in just 3 months, how much has life changed since the Barking record?
[Laughs] “A lot, I would say it’s a massive jump, no disrespect but its like going from playing football on the streets to the Premier League, so yeah a big jump definitely.”
Working out at over 500,000 views a week and on top of that, “Barking” is set to debut in the Top 40 mainstream charts, as well as being on various Apple and Spotify playlists; did you go into the studio with the vision of making a hit?
“Do you know what, I don’t think a lot of people go into the studio with the intention of making a banger. With this, it was more or less a freestyle; I was with my friend, bare in mind I was at Uni these times and he lived below me.
“He asked me what type of music I wanted to make if I was looking to do this music thing properly. I said afro-rap like a bashment kind of sound and he just put on a Mostack type, J Hus beat and I just started freestyling about what I did on the weekend and obviously it was me linking my ting [laughs]. The track actually sounded a lot different to the final version, that’s after I took it properly into the studio with around five of my friends. It’s mad, they were all saying this ones a banger. The track was actually made in February, but I decided to then drop it with a video in September.”
I feel like it’s a common things in this generation to uphold a certain persona of not caring, not admitting to travelling to go on dates / meeting girls etc; do you feel like the song was this well received due to fact that it is so relatable?
“I agree, yeah, I think it is. We all do it, we all link our tings, whether that be a girl in Mitcham, Stretham, Shoreditch, you know what im saying, its just normal, that makes it very relatable and I think that’s why it has been so well received.”
Being from South London yourself, how did the record come about, is it based on true events?”
“The whole thing came about on social media. Social media is the world now init, you get me; we go through the DM’s, the phone calls and after a couple phone calls you go and link her and that. We actually met up whilst I was at uni one weekend. I went down to Barking and came back, but yeah it was a very long journey. Then again, it was very worth it [laughs].”
Having listened to your other tracks, I noticed you take on more of a conscious approach; how would you describe your rapping style?
“I would just like to say that I’m in my own lane, I cant put a label on the style I have just yet. Its just my own music, I like to express how I feel.
“I can’t say that I stick to a certain type of sound, like every track I make just sounds different to the last. What I think a lot of people do on the scene, which is wrong sometimes, is that once they have something that’s popping, they will then just use similar beats to that track and that’s how you lose a lot of fans cause you just end up sounding the same. A lot of my tracks, which I have locked away at the moment, sound a lot different to “Barking”. If you take someone like Dave for example, he is very different with his music, the concepts he comes up with. I think that’s like the major key for being very good at this whole music thing.”
What was the first song or album, which really had an effect on you growing up, and why?
“I would say 50 Cent, I used to just listen to him all the time and I loved his track “Best Friend”. A lot of people at the time knew that he went to prison and it was like if I go to prison, I can still come out and make something of myself, it was very motivational.
“I also listen to a lot of Travis Scott too, he’s sick. Ive seen him a few times now.”
On “Barking” you remind me of Not3s, though on tracks such as “Throwback”, your style reminds me more of Dave (something you mentioned in the song); how important would you say versatility is, especially with the current state of music”
“With me, when I hear a song, I can usually tell if that song is going to do well. I think a lot of songs sound the same nowadays. Having said that, when it comes to my melodies, I don’t really see myself as similar to someone like Not3s… I’m not sure; but I think the comparisons may just come down to having a similar tone of voice.
“When it comes to Dave, we’re both in the same group, like straight after this I’m going to link him to play football. If you have two girls in a group, they are going to start sounding like each other because they’re in the same group, they share the same lingo, you get me? But yeah, im not really fussed by it.”
How are you finding the tour life? Was it what you expected?
“[Laughs] I mean, there’s a couple more tings now, it’s just different locations now.
“The tour life is really tiring and at the same time you really have to start developing yourself as a performerr. I realised there is a lot more to it than just getting on stage and performing a song, the way you do it is so important. I mean you just learn so much on tour, it’s mad.”
On “On My Grind”, you talk a lot about your worth ethic and spending a lot a lot of time on your own; do you feel as if success has had an effect on your social life?
“Kind of yeah. There was a lot of people that liked that song, so people were coming to me like rah, you should change this, you should do that. I wouldn’t say I cut of a lot of people; I’ve just become more distant to certain people. I feel like the small things that I might do for someone now has changed. People expect me to shout them out, mention them in a song, or they might be asking me to take them with me to shows.
“It’s the small things really, but it seems to mean the world to them now. I hate Anapchat now too, like if I’m meeting up with friends, there is always someone who will take their phone out and start recording me. I just don’t like it.”
You also speak on balancing university with the music on “Imagine”, how have you managed that?
“I have actually taken a gap year and I’m unsure if I’m going to go back. The hardest thing about uni is that you don’t really have to be there, but that means you can easily fall behind. Some courses allow for you to be able to focus on other things aside from your subject and luckily I was able to; other courses like engineering for example might not allow for that.
“Don’t get me wrong, first year is always good; freshers, the parties and all of that. I was networking with a lot of people, and when I started releasing my music, I think it came at the best time cause a lot of people were behind me. I was getting angry in my music at times, like on “Throwback”, but it really helped me out. “
I saw your recent tweets about being brought on stage with Cadet and Lotto Boyzz, how did that come about and what’s the support been like since Barking blew up?”
“Ive had a lot of support, especially from Dave, AJ [Tracey], Cadet, Lotto Boyz and others like Afro B and Yxng Bane. It makes me feel very good.
“You see the UK scene, we’re very small, but very big at the same time. I mean in America, one state is like London, and that means there’s so much room for growth, that’s why [someone like] Travis Scott is doing massive numbers.
“With me, I am always just going to make music that I like, I can do anything I want to and if that comes with risks, then you have just got to try and get around it.”
You also reference your past a lot, mentioning the importance of friends and family and staying humble; can you elaborate on this?
“I think a lot of artists who come into the scene wouldn’t do this, what we are doing here, talking, but I like it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m the most humble person, but some artists come in thinking that it’s their world all of a sudden once they release a couple songs.
“I don’t drive, even though I’ve got a licence; I will still walk past my school at three in the afternoon like normal. Being humble is one of the most important things to me, that’s how you gain a lot more support too, both from the industry and with fans.”
There’s been a lot of integration between scenes in the UK and overseas, thanks to the likes of Drake and Skepta, who have feel bridged the cultural gap; if you had the chance to work with anybody, who would it be and why?
“I would have to say Travis (Scott). You know what, I only saw him live recently, at Wireless but I also saw him perform in Manchester. When he started performing I was like wait, I’ve been mashing this song and I didn’t know who sang it. He’s just so different to me and that what I think being an artist is all about, just being different but staying true to yourself. There’s no point me being on a track with Not3s, everyone knows what’s going to happen, we’ll get on a beat with some melodies and you know what, people just might find it boring.”
Lastly, what can we expect from Ramz in 2018?
“Features, but not a lot though, as I’m quite wary with who I work with. Singles too, something also with Lotto Boyz and even GRM maybe, who knows [laughs].
“Im going to record an EP too and hopefully try to get that out, but I’m not going to rush putting it out, more so when its ready, you know.”