Taking it back to May 2018, we saw Moston-based rapper, Aitch, posted outside his estate, ready to take on a freestyle that would go on to change his life forever. Such a freestyle continued to take the rainy city of Manchester to a new stratosphere.
But before a lyric was spat for Aitch’s “Straight Rhymez”, we hear: “Yo, SVMI, swing that camera my way.” The videographer’s trademark flashes before our eyes and takes us on a journey through an edit that hits the same levels of class as the freestyle. That brings us on to what the real news is right now.
21 year old SVMI has been a leading videographer in the music game for some time now, picking up the lens at around 13 years old, the Cheetham Hill-born cameraman-turned-rapper is now making noise in front of the camera. After fellow Manc, and producer, WhyJay, introduced SVMI to the booth some time ago, his first popular release came after he linked up with regular collaborator, Con M1 on “Time Goes By” around two years ago.
Now two years later, and a bunch of successful releases later (see “Old Friends” and “Bait Lies” and many more), SVMI is proving to be more matured, improved and sonically aware of what his sound is following each new release.
Now, his long awaited debut EP, Ma Mood has hit the market. Consisting of seven songs, stretching over half an hour, this EP sees a collection of innovative sounds, ones that steer away from what is expected from so-called ‘wave’ music. Touching on life over the last two years, we hear “slappers, personal tunes, and ones for the mandem,” as described by SVMI himself. But all in all, it’s safe to say that he’s in his own lane right now.
We caught up with SVMI to talk about all things music, his life away from being creative, life as a videographer and much more.
First of all, how are you? The last year or so has been difficult for everyone so I’m interested to hear how you’ve dealt with it personally.
“I mean, I’ve been hit like everyone else has been hit. Booking wise, I got locked off just as I dropped one of my biggest songs, “Bait Lies”. I had like a good four or five headline shows lined up. Then, as soon as COVID hit, it was back to square one, you get me?
“Streaming wise, it went better, but video wise, I’m always doing videos, that’s my bread and butter. It did die down, but it soon picked up again. So now I’m back at it like usual.“
Talking “Bait Lies”, that seemed to be your first record that led to a bunch of commercial success across major radio stations and label execs. Was it a surreal moment to break through to a new level of attention for the first time?
“Yeah, kind of. It was the first time I ever got playlisted on 1Xtra, it was the first time I was ever getting any shouts but directly to me. It wasn’t through a third person, it was the first time I was getting personally shouted to come to people’s shows. Channels were reaching out a lot more I guess, but apart from that, bro, it brought a lot more attention to me, P1, Caps and A1… It brought more attention to mine and LiTek’s sound, you get me?”
It’s safe to say that even from your earliest releases, you’ve been well aware of how you’ve wanted to shape your sound. What inspirations have you taken over the years to create such an innovative sound?
“I wasn’t taking much inspiration from people for my music really, I was just around a lot of people who were helping me find my sound. I was around WhyJay, Aitch, Con M1, Metrodome, LiTek of course, and I guess being around all sorts of people, it just helped me form my own sound.
“But for me personally, I listen to a lot of American music, from the Bay. I like Greedo… I listen to a lot of American music. But I get deep with all the American rap because I always end up diving in and finding loads of different ones that I like. That Shordie Shordie, I like him. There’s a lot of artists from America that I like… So I guess you can say I take elements from their sound, and elements from our sound and just put them together.
“Their type of sound in America, that’s the sound I’ve grown up on, and the people I’m with, they listen to a lot of the same stuff. That’s just how it’s all come together… Unintentionally as well. It’s just happened, and that’s the sound man’s got right now.“
Manchester has been a real hub for good Black cultured music for some time now. But it appears that over recent times, a batch of new and fresh artists are coming through. How does it feel to be one of the leading innovators in this space, even though you’re still young?
“It is what it is… I’ve been filming with artists for time now. It was just the case of having fun with artists. That’s the thing, before the time when I picked up the camera and started working with them, there weren’t any other people doing it other than One Way TV.
“There wasn’t a fresh wave of artists coming through with a new sound. Then after time, it started bubbling – artists started getting picked up by labels, artists were getting picked up by radio DJs. Then people from outside of Manchester started to notice. Like, me and Aitch did “Straight Rhymez” and it went crazy overnight.
“Little things like that, then we started doing little link-ups on my channel, we did some bits with the likes of Aitch and Samurai and brought those man together on a song, you get me. But even in the early days, to be getting the views and the attention we were getting, it was pretty good… Being from Manchester as well, that was the foundation for what we’re doing now. We’ve got a good batch of stars coming through.”
Now talk to us about the new music. How long have you been working on the new material and what’s new about it compared to earlier releases?
“I took some time away to focus on what new songs were going on the project, whether I wanted to take it to a label and things like that. I literally dropped “Timeout” then ended up having a timeout [laughs], I feel like it was all for a reason. Some of these songs on this tape are from nearly two years ago. Now I just want to get these tunes out and show people that they are still hard.”
“Then when they hear the stuff I’ve been making now, then it’s a shutdown. But at the moment, I’m just letting things come as they come – I’m not rushing it.“
You say that the music on Ma Mood is around two years old, how have you evolved as an artist since the recording of those records to now?
“My production skills are definitely getting better and better. I’ve been working on my production a lot with my latest music. I’ve improved lyrically as well, my writing has got better, but I feel like as a whole, I know my sound and how to market it. I’ve got my audience for it as well, which is what I think is all you really need.
“I feel like in terms of getting people to recognise my sound is the only thing I need to do more of. I feel like I’ve mastered my sound, I know what people are fucking with, so its just how you get people to recognise the music so they all fuck with it as well. The same way they’re doing it with all of these artists from London… I know it will happen. I know a lot of artists will eventually end up making a similar sound to me. You’ve just got to run with being yourself, in any walk of life, just stick to being yourself.“
So talking about the new project in more detail, can you tell us about the concept around it?
“You know what bro, it’s literally my life over the last two years. It’s been me making the transition of being behind the camera to in front of the camera. It’s kind of how I’ve been feeling. There’s some fun songs on there, there’s some kind of personal sounds on there… It’s hard to explain, but the project is called Ma Mood, so it kind of represents that.”
“But it’s just showing what I’m about, there’s been a lot of cameramen that have tried to do music, and a lot of it is cringe, but I understand why they do it. It’s the fact that I know myself, and I know I’m coming with a sound that I know is unique. But it can be hard, because no matter how hard your music is, you’ll still be known as a cameraman – but as soon as you hear the project, you’ll hear how I’m expressing about a lot of topics. I feel like after this project, people will start taking man seriously.
“I’m never satisfied, I’m always looking at the bigger picture. I’m trying to have a big, big audience… So there’s a long way to go. It’s all about timing. I could’ve dropped this project at the beginning of the year, but I thought that things could have been done better, so I held back.
“There’s no collaborations, I’ll tell you that. It’s just straight up me, LiTek and Random Beats, and there’s a little cheeky Kamali production on there. I want to tell you a lot, bro, but I don’t want to ruin it for you. But I’ll tell you that there’s a couple slappers, there’s a couple personal ones and there’s a couple for the mandem as well, you’ll know those ones when you hear them bro [laughs].“
Finally, working in the music industry in more ways than one, you’re a walking blueprint on how to find success. What’s your golden tip for someone who wants to make a career in the freelance world, but may not know where to start?
“Know your worth for real bro. I’ve been doing this for a long time, since I was like 13, 14. People will undervalue you for whatever reason they can think of. But, if that’s your art and you know it’s your art, then just know your worth.
“It’s a big industry bro, so other things I would say is just network – but the main thing is just to know your worth. I could go into the serious details about it, but the main point is that, and I wished people told me ages ago.”
You can stream SVMI’s debut project, Ma Mood, on Spotify and Apple Music below, and be sure to check out his merch drops right here as well!