Since bursting onto the scene with gripping singles like “Fishing” and “On Me”, Kwengface’s standing in the drill scene has been unquestionable. Armed with effortless charisma, sharp technical ability and a clear business mind, Kweng has gone on to establish himself as a pillar of the current UK drill scene. Since his emergence, Kweng has dropped numerous classic UK drill tracks, from “3 Stripes”, (which sparked a partnership with Adidas) to “Auntie”, to “Hi Hats”. All of these tracks demonstrated his indisputable talent, and foreshadowed a long and successful career within the UK drill scene. Fast forward to 2021, and there is little doubt that Kwengface is fulfilling the early promise he showed. Now older and more mature, Kweng is intent on reaching his full potential. Despite his success, he still feels that he has more to give and even more to be recognised for. This is part of the thinking behind the release of his upcoming project Young Peckham Boy: Tha Come Up; he is desperate to establish beyond any doubt his place as an elite rapper, and what better way to do so than with a classic tape?
Young Peckham Boy: Tha Come Up is Kwengface at his best, rapping with swagger and tenacity over a diverse selection of almost exclusively drill beats. There are dark, almost harrowing songs on the tape such as “TV” with BGody and “Milly Rock” with PS, and jumpy bangers like “Tetley” and “Chef”. With Young Peckham Boy: Tha Come Upcoming out on Friday, I sat down with Kweng over Zoom to talk his career so far, the upcoming tape and his aspirations for the future.
First of all, how has Covid impacted life as a rapper?
“I didn’t even start getting mad popular until Covid so I don’t even know what it was like really before. Now, the experience is calm, it’s alright. I haven’t had the chance to meet many people, like everything is on Zoom, emails, or whatnot. Now things are opening up though, I’m noticing when I go out that I’m being recognised a lot more now than before.”
That’s interesting you say you feel you really blew up in Covid times, especially since you’ve been making music at a high level for a few years now. How come things have changed so much in this time?
“Just music, branding, everything. Everything elevated at the same time. When everything like that comes together at the same time, you really elevate as an artist.”
Was there a particular song or moment that made you think ‘yeah i can do this music thing seriously? Or was it more of a gradual process?
“I dropped a song called “Kweng Kweng”, that went off in South London and my borough. Everyone was onto me from there, making sure I was doing music. I started rapping around 2014.”
One of your first tracks that really made me sit up and take notice was your solo behind bars. When you rapped on the “Since When” beat, I couldn’t believe what I was watching; you were rapping so confidently in your own style on a Atlanta trap beat. Can we expect more tracks in this style in the future?
“It was an accident you know. I’ve got to the behind bars studio, I had a beat ready and everything, but something happened with it so I couldn’t jump on it. We were just in the car, smoking, billing zoots and that, and I heard the 21 Savage song. I’m sitting there, rapping my bars over the beat, because I’ve gotta be in there in like 10/15 mins with a beat now. So now I’m just listening to anything, and I’m like bro type in that instrumental please. He’s typed in the instrumental, I’ve rapped 30 seconds of it, and everyone I was with was like that is mad, go in there and do it on that beat. And that’s what I done!
“So it wasn’t even intentional. So when people are like ‘yeah i need that vibe’, I just don’t know how to produce it, because it was an accident.”
That’s mad to hear, because like I said that was my introduction to you, and I was blown away by how effortless you were on it. Would you want to jump on more beats like that in the future then?
“I want to still, but I don’t know how to approach it. It was just an accident man!”
Many rappers who are blowing up at the moment come from areas which don’t have much of a legacy within the world of UK rap, but you and Peckham are different in this respect. How did/does coming from the same place as legends like Giggs and Tiny Boost impact your approach to music?
“Nah I don’t think so. I feel like because Giggs is so much older than man, there’s a big gap. It’s not a thing where people are going to look at me and think we’re his young gs or we’re repping him or whatever. It’s literally Giggs blew, and ten/fifteen years a whole new group of guys blew, you know?”
Nah I hear that, but you did that song with Tiny Boost, didn’t you?
“Yeah for sure, Tiny Boost is my guy. To be fair they definitely had an influence on me, like they’re probably why I originally wanted to make music.”
Correct me if you think I’m wrong, but I personally feel like your delivery has changed a lot since your first releases. You really enunciate your words now, adding energy and elongating certain words, whereas before it seemed you were more focused on getting off the best bars, whilst maintaining an almost monotone flow. What prompted this change, and was it deliberate?
“Yeah 100. I don’t even know what prompted it, you know. Probably just me getting a bit more confident. Something to do with the way I can now attack the beat and that. I take a lot of time out after I record to sit there and think how I can improve and that. I feel like I just kept going studio, and just kept trying bare different things.”
You have some of the best adlibs in the game. How important/useful do you think they are to show your charisma?
“It’s very important, because that’s what people remember. People may not remember the whole line, but they’ll remember the adlib after that line. When people come to me, they talk to me about my ad libs a lot, and I took that on board. I was like ‘alright cool, I need to play more on the adlibs’ because that’s what people remember.
“Things like ‘ay come here!’ and ‘bap bap’, and I feel like that’s what makes me as a drill artist as well. A lot of drill artists say ‘dip’ and ‘bap’, and make a lot of noise or whatever, but they don’t do it in their adlibs, and they don’t do it in the way I do. I feel like that’s what makes me me.
“I remember also, I used to listen to old school music, people like Squeekz. Squeekz has got a distinctive voice, but his adlib “Squeekz!”, you know that’s him. Sneakbo, with “that’s right”, “Jetski”, that’s how you know it’s him. That’s why I feel like adlibs are so important.”
Do you think the drill scene is over saturated at the moment?
“It’s way too saturated, but what do you want the young people to do? They want to make a hit, instead of working in Tesco, and how can I blame them for that? It’s money, they see what people can do off this music ting, it makes ps.”
What was the thinking behind pursuing your own solo career given the success of Zone 2?
“All my bredrins went to jail. Like the majority of the songs I have, are with my mates, but they’re in prison which pushed me into a corner. It left me with no choice but to just focus on trying to make music work for myself.”
What was that process like, going from being part of tight knit team, to on your own? Do you enjoy being a solo artist now?
“Yeah I would probably say I love it now, but at the same time I love working with my mates, because that’s who it all started with. Before I wasn’t really too confident about being a solo artist, I won’t lie. I didn’t ever doubt my talents, but it was things like the business side of things, management, all that stuff. Me doing everything by myself, I wasn’t too confident, I didn’t really know where to start.”
Lots of rappers come and go in the drill world. It seems for many artists, they have a small window of opportunity right when they first come out to make it, and thats it. Once you release a couple songs, people generally tend to lose interest. How have you maintained, and increased, your influence over the scene over the last few years?
“I feel like you just have to have a plan and stick with it man. Obviously, you can watch other people, but you can’t watch other people too much. I feel like people watch other artists, and managers watch other managers, and labels watch other labels too much, when they should focus on really what they should be doing themselves. So if I ever felt like I was falling off, I would go back to the drawing board. I’ll sit there, pre my socials, even down to my facebook, and try and figure out what the issue is. From there I’ll start building it up again.
“It’s more than the music. I know so many artists, they’re releasing such quality music, but because their brand and how their marketing themselves is not connecting the way they need to, it’s not working out. I feel like this is what a lot of people need to realise – it’s 20% music and 80% business. This music thing is a brand. As much as the music is important, it’s all about your brand and your business. It can’t just be your talent you’re relying on.”
I’m glad you’ve raised that, because it frustrates me when you see technically gifted rappers who just don’t seem to fully get that it’s not just about the music.
“A lot of people have the talent, but just don’t have the business mind.”
Sure – so do you think you have the business mind?
“Absolutely, I don’t even have a manager at the moment.”
Really? Have you ever had a manager?
“Yeah, I’ve had a manager. You know what it is? I’ve been doing this for about half a decade now, and I make sure that whenever I step out, I learn something. I feel like I’ve got to the point where I understand the game enough to get to where I want to without needing a manager. I can walk into a meeting by myself, and get what I want, just because I have knowledge of these things.”
The new track “Woosh” with backRoad Gee is an absolute smash. What was the process like behind making that song? He seems like he would be a lot of fun to work with.
“That was a GRM single, so GRM lined it all up and made it happen. But Backroad is my guy separately, we’ve got a relationship. He’s definitely a lot of fun to work with, I worked with him before that so I already knew that. Obviously I’ve got my thing going right now, he has his, so we were just like let’s finish what we’re doing and when the time is right we will work.”
How come you would call it a mixtape and not an album? Do you think the distinction matters?
“(Laughing) I don’t know you know. It’s my first project innit, isn’t your first project always supposed to be a mixtape? It’s still a bit hood, it’s got skits, I feel like it’s still a bit too street to call it an album. But at the same time it’s too long for an EP”.
So maybe a Kwengface album will be more musically ambitious?
“Yeah for sure. More features, more radio-friendly songs, more songs that you’ll hear in the club, things like that. Literally, this tape is just drill.”
The track with PS is crazy. Do you want to shed some light on the process behind that track? It felt like you both came at it with everything you had. It had pain, straight bars, crazy flows and adlibs all in one.
“You know what yeah, I prepared that whilst he was in jail. I heard the beat, and originally I was gonna lay “Swing It” on that beat you know. But I heard the beat, and thought you know what, I need to do something with PS on this. He was coming out in a months time, so I decided to sit there and actually properly plan the song.
“So he’s come out, we’ve gone studio for a few days, I’ve heard all his lyrics. I’m literally telling him, use these bars for this song, it’ll fit so well, and he’s like ‘nah man I don’t want to use these bars, it’ll sound dead’. I’m like ‘just go in the studio and lay it man!’, and he’s come out saying that I know his bars better than he does! I just had a vision, and knew what was going to work on it. That’s one of my favourite songs on the tape as well. I really sat down with this mixtape, I didn’t rush it at all.”
You can really hear that, it doesn’t sound at all like a collection of throwaways.
“Some people get thrown a bag by their label, and they’re thinking “I need to make 8 songs in a month”, so they’ll make 8 meedi songs, give it back to the label and that’s that. They don’t realise that they’re actually harming their music career because they’re releasing trash, you can’t do that. As much as we’re doing this for money, it all comes back to our business and brand.”
What was your motivation behind releasing your solo debut project at this time? You’ve been in the game for a few years now, so I‘m curious why this moment felt right.
“I just wanted to wait, still. I was thinking I wasn’t big enough to release all of these songs at once, but now I am. I feel like I’m kinda ahead of my time bro, like what I’m thinking about now isn’t ready for now, it’s only going to be appreciated properly in like two years time. So songs like “Auntie” and that, I made that in 2018, but I wanted to hold it cause I was thinking I can’t drop this now because the fans won’t fully appreciate it. So let me just hold it, and wait for the time.
“After “No Censor” dropped, everyone was onto me for a solo, so let me give them something. Everything I had been doing was dark; dark songs, dark videos, so let me change it up. So then I started making the music and videos brighter, bare girls, alcohol, up the tempo on the beat a bit, and then voila! We’ve made “Hi Hats”. “Auntie”, I can’t lie, was an accident. I laid it on a song, it sounded shit, I laid it on another one and it banged, we shot the video and it was just lit.
“The reason why it got so much traction is because we crashed the Lambo that day. I usually get 10-20k views on snapchat in a day, that day I got more than 50k. So that, plus I knew the tune was nuts, I just knew that song was going to go crazy. Also, at this point you didn’t see a drill artist dressing the way I was dressing, apart from maybe Loski. So I feel like all of that stuff comes together, and meant that it was finally the right time to drop a project.”
What side of Kweng do you want the fans to see on this project which they maybe haven’t seen, or fully taken in, before?
“That I’ve got a brain! I’ve noticed with people that whenever I go to a meeting, and I speak to them, they’re all surprised. Everyone realises I’m actually not an idiot and I’m clued up, so I want to show them that there’s more to man than just the streets. Obviously the streets are the streets, but there’s more to man than just that. I have talent, I’m thinking about how I’m moving, I’m growing up a bit, all of that stuff, and I just want to show them that.”
That’s really interesting. I feel like a lot of people think that drill rappers are these one-dimensional humans where all they know and can talk about is drill.
“100%. They think that I eat, sleeps and think drill. They think my mum will be talking to me, asking if I want breakfast, and I’m gonna be all angry like “Nah Mum I don’t want brekky!”. They think that’s how it is, bro it’s not even like that at all, its mad!”
Where do you want this project to take you?
“I’m just trying to get my foot through the door and be known as one of the best. When people speak about UK artists, I definitely need to be in there man. I feel like I need to be in there. I’m not a hater at all, and I give respect where respect is due, but I get frustrated when my name is not mentioned as one of the best.
“I actually feel like I’m right up there. I’m a level-headed person, I know when I’m there, and I know when I’m not, but you see in this situation, I feel like I’m so there, but no one is taking me in. They will do though, after this tape. That’s what this tape has to do man.”
If there was one artist you could work with in the future outside of the UK drill scene, who would it be?
“Durkio for sure. He’s the coldest still. You see if I did a tune with Lil Baby, he wouldn’t even want it to come out because I would just rip him.”
So you reckon Lil Durk could keep pace better?
“Yes! If we did a track together, we’re going back to back, he’s singing and i’m rapping. Cold! That would be it. I heard there’s a big UK rapper who’s already got a feature coming with Durkio you know. I just hope he doesn’t waste the feature bro, because there are guys like me who would just smash that song.”
Where do you see yourself in five years?
“Billionaire, retired. Simple life still. I might need to move to the south of France, and just dip, come back to perform and that.”
Stream the tape below right now!