Jammz has been on the radar for a good couple of years. He’s widely thought of as one of the great young talents in the UK, yet manages to remain humble and cool with a charmingly nonchalant attitude. Even moments before performing his first ever headline show, the Stratford raised MC is laid back in an arm chair, Barbour Ambush hat on his head and pristine white Air Forces on his feet.
The iconic event took place earlier this month at Shoreditch’s Old Blue. Taking to the stage for the official Warrior EP show, Jammz was also being supported by music app Deezer to launch their new grime playlist. That’s a lot of sh-t going down on one night. Understandable, then, that the place was packed out and the dingy dark upstairs room in the Old Blue was transformed with a wash of neon blue light and an unstoppable energy from the stage. Throughout the night Jammz was joined by Mic Ty, Big Zuu, Spooky, Tiatsim, Coco and Jack Dat; a heavy line up of established and rising artists.
GRM caught Jammz for an exclusive chat mere moments before jumping on the stage.
This is your first headline show but it’s also the launch of Deezer’s grime page. Does that mean you’re the face of grime?
“I’m the face of grime in Deezer’s eyes! They’ve got a new grime playlist, full of sick tunes. It’s good man and it’s good to see Deezer back because I used to use that app a lot.”
There are some great names on the bill tonight, did you have any input on who would be playing?
“100% all my choices. I wanted to make sure that there was no one on there that you haven’t seen me with before. Very organic. You’ve seen me with Big Zuu, you’ve seen me do a tune with Coco, you’ve seen me with Mic Ty and I’ve come up with Spooky, so the whole night makes perfect sense.
You’re often referred to as part of the new gen, but you’ve actually been around for a while. Seven years is that right?
“Jesus Christ you’re the first person to say this, you know! [laughs].”
Where do you see yourself? Do you feel like a new school artist or do you feel like you’re more a part of the old school?
“I listen to a lot of old school because I’ve been around – listening and observing – just as long as them. But that whole new gen term… Yes, we all came through at a later time but I don’t really f-ck with that ‘new wave’ term. A lot of people who came through in 2014 and 2015 have been around since Axe FM, so what does it even mean?
“In any scene the newer artists are going to be more hungry than the older artists, but I think the good thing about things now is that you have older MCs reaching out to the [younger artists] to help them get onto a higher plane. That’s good and I’ve seen a lot of that this year. I do think there needs to be more of that within the scene though.
“I feel like some of the older MCs look at us like we’re not ready. Because we didn’t come up the same way we don’t gain the same respect from them. Going on radio now isn’t the same as going on Déjà [Vu FM] back in 2004, it’s a totally different ballgame. So maybe in their eyes there are a few more hurdles to jump before people even look at you. I’m sure with communication and time that will work itself out.
Earlier on this year you toured with Kano on the first half of the Made in the Manor tour. What did you learn from that time?
“Preparation is key, bruv. Watching him sound check and seeing how far he is with things, that’s the standard. You have to be prepared if you’re doing something on that scale. That whole time was very manic so I didn’t get much time to talk to Kano but the times that I did he was very encouraging. He’d say, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing, you’re doing it the old school way, the way we did it.’
“Most of the lessons I took from that I took from observing. I’m the type that will go and watch everyone’s sound check, just to see what they’re doing and the tricks that they’re using. Because you’re performing too you get the chance to put it in to practice as well which is sick.”
How old were you when you first started MCing?
“About 11… It was 2001 or 2002 when I started writing.”
That’s a young age.
“Yeah! It really was. I had just moved to near Stratford and at the time I didn’t know it but Déjà was down the road. I didn’t have a TV or a Playstation at that time, I just had the radio, so I would listen to that. I would listen to Raw Mission and Déjà until I knew off the top of my head what shows were on and who would be there. I ended up listening to a lot of the shows.
“It was mad, I remember one time when I first started secondary school, I was in maths and I asked my bredrin ‘oh you heard about Tinchy Stryder?’ Man are looking at me like ‘who is that bruv? Who the f-ck are you listening to?’ Two years later everyone’s asking me that same question and I’m like ‘I told you’! I was onto it from very early.
“I think I was freestyling one day at my older cousin’s house and he made me do it on the spot, hotted me up and everything. From then he was like ‘yeah you’re in my crew, safe’, but nothing ever happened. I had a crew at a very young age even though I never met none of them except him.
“Since then I haven’t stopped writing, even throughout school we had a studio that we would go to and spit every lunch time. DJ Vader used to come to our school and bring us vinyl after school on a Thursday.”
Who were your musical influences when you first started out?
“The first person that made me want to start spitting was Kano. When I first heard grime on the radio – before it was even called grime – I turned on the radio and heard “Boys Loves Girls” on a Nasty crew set. From that moment I thought, “yeah this is sick, let me give it a go”.
“Also Wiley and Scorcher…”
Instead of coming up the way a lot of new artists come up, through the internet, you came up through radio. How do you think that molded you as an artist?
“I feel like I have a better stage presence because of it. Going radio you learn so much about breath technique and how to carry yourself on the mic. The next step in that evolution is raves so you’re learning how to control the crowd there. My performances are so much better because of radio.
“Radio was all I knew. As someone who has listened to it for years, that was just the most natural thing to do. In 2010 I dropped a mixtape online. I got a good reception but when you’re online you don’t get to meet no one or open up new avenues. It’s all good being a studio MC but when it comes to stage shows it’s not going to save you, you get what I mean? For me radio was just a place where I can just go and flex when I’m frustrated. I treated it like the gym! Have a bad day? I’d go radio for two hours and go HAM for a bit, then it just turned into a habit.”
You’ve spoken before about the rise of road rap. What do you think differentiates grime from road rap?
“Grime has come so far now; I don’t feel like grime is the primary go to genre for the streets anymore. I feel like road rap is that now. The draw sound is a lot deeper and heavier, very 808 focused. Now you got so many sub genres within grime that the sound is so variable.
“For me it’s just the tempo and the skip and the way you sit over it that determines whether it’s a grime or a draw tune. Then again some people can blend the two, we’re at the stage right now where the lines have been blurred so much that it’s actually hard to say ‘this is grime’ or ‘this is trap’.”
How do you think the new, wider audience is affecting the urban sound? Are people making music for their audience rather than themselves?
“I do think that there is an element of that, but I feel like that’s needed, I’m not even going to lie. It’s not dumbing down but it’s like… The commercial grime that you hear is a bit watered down but that makes sense because you have to break the audience in gently before you start playing them the purest, hardcore stuff. Not everybody would get that straight away.
“I feel like it has affected the sound but now we’re at a point where people are definitely interested and are going back and doing their research. They’re going online typing in Risky Roadz and Lord of the Mics 1 and generally discovering all these things, it’s going full circle.”
Who are your favourite UK artists?
“Me! [laughs] P Money. Mic Ty. Oscar #Worldpeace. Too many to name, I listen to so many on a day to day, but there’s not many people I listen to and think ‘Sh-t, I need to get better’.”
Is that an indicator of where the scene is at right now? Should you not be feeling more challenged?
“Yeah man! If the levels aren’t going up we’re not progressing. I feel like, if I listen to it and I think ‘sh-t I need to go home and write and become better’, that’s what I look for.”
When are we getting a Jammz album?
“It’s in the back of my mind definitely but I’m not going to put a date on it just yet. I’m going with the flow and I’m going to keep dropping singles. When I feel like the audience and the time are right, that’s the time.”
Jammz was performing his new EP: Warrior at the Old Blue Last, supported by Deezer. Listen to Warrior on Deezer’s newly launched Grime channel right here.