As Black British music continues to grow at an astronomical rate, it becomes paramount that we as trusted archivists, honour the master builders of this great scene. Ensuring the history being made is written by those living it, as opposed to spectators who do not value it the same way we do, is vital.
The Bricklayers profiles the artists who’ve brought the most vibrant, colourful stories to our lives with their music. In honouring them, we must not forget those amongst us with the foresight to map out the musical landscapes that gently orient the stories and worlds created by The Bricklayers.
The Architects aims to highlight the vignettes of the masterminds behind some of the important records to date. One of the first landscapes that we pay a visit to on our voyage, is the dark warbling passages of drill.
Born out of Chicago’s blighted South Side community, and popularized by then-starlets Chief Keef, Fredo Santana and G Herbo; drill emanated in 2010 as an utterly frantic, completely non-compromising narration of life in America’s most notorious hood.
Fast forward to this present day, and it is the UK’s distinguished branch of drill that maps out the next phase of drill music as a whole. For years, British beat-makers have challenged the conventions of drill music; exploring new soundscapes, and stumbling onto new territory. Thanks to them, the resonance of UK drill has become the latest fashion trend in music – culminating in somewhat of a global phenomenon, piquing some of the modern days most iconic rap figures.
One of the producers architecting this cosmic movement, is Croydon-based producer, Jb MadeIt. Proficient in production, and useful far beyond the plateau of drill music, his intrinsic understanding of what makes a good beat is really quite impressive. What’s even more impressive, is just how far his talents stretch. JB is the beatsmith behind IQ’s “Scream”, Skengdo & AM’s “Attempted”, Potter Payper’s “TBH” and Drake’s “Demons” – an emphatic statement of his multi-dimensional musical abilities.
GRM Daily caught up with him to discuss the UK’s flourishing drill scene, his collaborative effort with Drake and which of his songs is his favourite.
You’ve really carved out your own lane as a producer, what inspired you to become a musician?
“In terms of musician wise, it was a guy at my church called Junior Kirton, who used to play the drum kit, he was dope. He’s even better now of course, but at the time he was hella cold. He was a big influence for me.”
Who were your main musical influences growing up?
“There wasn’t really a singular person, but the whole noughties era. Ja Rule, Ashanti, Fat Joe, SWV, Destiny’s Child – that kind of era of music was like my main influence. And a lot of Gospel, but I don’t remember all the names. But obviously, I grew up in church so Gospel was like a huge thing for me. Fred Hammond was definitely one, he was a big influence.”
Originally, you made UK rap beats for Potter Payper, what inspired your pivot towards drill music?
“In terms of drill, it has to go back to when I first heard [UK] drill. First, I heard about drill but I didn’t really take it in because of you know, the negative stereotypes – until I heard “Crash” by Skengdo and AM and I was like rah, this is crazy. I started listening a bit more then kind of realised this was a way to get into the game.
“I started trying to do drill for Skengdo and AM and that’s where we got “Paris”, then “Attempted”, then “Pitbulls” with Chief Keef and “Andy Murray” with Q2T. My drill was slightly different to main drill, it was more like a hip-hop/ drill-ish kind of genre. I really started to do drill when I was introduced to Gotcha and started putting me on how to do certain things. Then I realised rah, this genre’s lit, let me dig deeper. It was mainly from when I started listening to Skengdo and AM.
Throughout its short tenure, drill has already been through a few phases, what do you see for the genre in terms of longevity?
“I think it’s going to be here for a very long time. It’s kind of like how with hip-hop, they predicted its downfall with the whole N.W.A drama, but it blossomed into what it is now. It’s a worldwide, historic genre that’s always going to be here and has branched off into so many different things – call it the Abraham of music.
“I feel like with drill, that’s already happening. People are starting to branch out from normal-sounding drill to like R&B; I call it R&Drill. People are already starting to commercialise it, so I can see it becoming a worldwide thing that’s going to be here for a long while.”
Do you feel like the essence of drill is being lost? From it originating as real, authentic street narration to becoming a gimmick because it’s popular.
“I don’t think so; it might have even gained some essence. If a songs gimmicky a songs gimmicky, that’s down to the song itself. I feel like the genre itself is embracing aspects that are more world widely acceptable.
“Because really, how can a genre survive if it only applies to one sector of people? It doesn’t make sense. It kind of has to evolve. If everything just stayed street, the genre wouldn’t progress. Take Drake as an example, when he started singing in hip-hop people didn’t really approve of it, but now everyone does it. It’s the norm now. So I’m glad it’s evolving, just sticking to one genre of people doesn’t really make any sense to me.”
So, having made a beat for nearly everything on the spectrum of Black music, would you say having an identity as a producer is overrated?
“Erm, no. Having a genre is definitely a key thing. Having an identity works for certain people but for me, I like being a multi-genrelist. It comes down to more personal things. If you look back at what I’ve done: slow-bashment with IQ, more hip-hop stuff with Potter Payper, to more drill with Skengdo, AM, Fivio, Chief Keef and Drake.
“Not having an identity and being a known as a multi-genrelist is my identity. When you see JB, the identity is that guy can do anything whereas for some people it just works that they have their sound. For example, look at Ghosty, you already know you’re going to get some crazy dark-ass beat that sounds lit. Having an identity can make you stand out but for me, having no identity works because that’s what I’m good at. If anything, just call me a chameleon.”
Do you think that the breakthrough of drill music overseas could be the catalyst moment that opens the gates for other UK acts?
“100%. It’s definitely a gateway. It being portrayed overseas allows for more eyes to be watching what’s going on over here. For example, when we went to America they were all asking us “who’s big in the UK?”, “where do I find this UK stuff?” because they’re genuinely interested.
“A lot of them just don’t know what’s happening in the UK, but they hear the sound and think “this is lit, where’s it coming from?”. People are kind of looking to the UK for what’s new and a lot of artists overseas are looking at our artists now. It’s definitely a breakthrough. And it’s definitely allowing for doors to be opened, especially for UK producers, we’re definitely getting some shine now.”
What are your views on American acceptance/ validation? How will it help us? And why are we so much quicker to accept them over here than they are to accept us over there?
“In my opinion, I feel like getting their validation is dope but I wouldn’t say we need it. America is probably the biggest music market in the world, if it bangs in America, you know it’s going to bang everywhere, that’s just how the world works.
“But because a lot of American’s aren’t aware of what’s happening over here, they don’t know where to look. They just haven’t been shown what’s happening yet. Plus, a lot of us underground artists don’t go over there. Like when we were over there, they were so shocked because they’d never had people form the UK go over and work with them before. It never really happened. So I implore people to go over there and work with people because they’re more than happy to do it, they just don’t know where to look, unless someone puts them on.
We’ve been listening to American music over here, so it just is what it is.”
Having spent some time over there, what kind of reception are British artists getting?
“They think it’s cold, they think it’s dope. Obviously, the accent barrier is an issue for some of them and they can’t really understand what people are saying. But other people really like it. They do like a few of us – the main person we hear about over there is Fredo. I think it’s because he’s flossy and represents a flossy kind of wave. He’s easy to digest, easy to understand and he doesn’t use some crazy-ass words.
“I feel like with a lot of our drill artists, a lot of people can’t understand what they’re talking about which makes it even harder for them to be Cross-Atlantic. Their drill isn’t as fast with the rapping like how ours is, sometimes I don’t even understand it!
“Kilo Jugg was also mentioned quite a few times which even surprised me a little bit. It’s just about being able to shed some more light.”
But what’s better, UK or US drill?
“I don’t think you can even compare them to be honest. Different genres do different things. I don’t like comparing because everyone has their own style of doing things, they have their own things for their own genres for what they specifically like.
“It’s a subjective matter. I mean I could judge it artist by artist based on who I prefer, but deciding which is the better genre, I could never say who makes better music.”
Massive congratulations on your collaboration with Drake, how did that come about?
“It’s funny because we’ve never actually met face-to-face yet. I’ve already spoken it into existence so I know it’s going to happen. With the Drake record, I was doing some things out in New York, I was working with Sosa Geek. I linked up with him at the studio and we were just flicking through some beats. It came to the “Demons” beat and they were like “OMG, this is the one” meanwhile I was thinking “it’s alright, it’s not my best” but it had a vibe to it, so I was like cool.
“So I went to the toilet and two minutes later my manager, SK, was knocking frantically at the door. I’m baffed init, ‘cos I’m thinking “why banging on the door when I’m trying to take a whiz…”. He was proper speechless so I was thinking “rah, what’s going on?” I thought I was going to die bro. Then he mentioned Drake and I was like DRAKE?! Just how Soulja boy said it.
“I came out and people were congratulating me, telling me my life’s about to change. Obviously at this point I’m still not clocking it ‘cos nobody’s actually given me a breakdown on what’s happening. Then my manager SK told me Drake was on the Facetime and that he was shouting me out. So we found out he wanted to jump on the track.
“It was actually not until a month later that I found out – through a clip on Twitter that someone sent to me – that actually heard the song. Sosa, Fivio and Drake we’re all on it. And then I didn’t even find out that it was going to be Drake track until 2 or 3 weeks before the tape dropped!”
I’ve heard through the grapevine that you’re working on a UK/US collaborative project, what can you tell us about that?
“Really you’ve just got to watch out and watch this space. That’s not really my remit to be saying anything. But you know, FF we’re doing really big things. Whatever the project is, just know it’s going to be big.”
Looking back on everything you’ve done, what is your favourite creation?
“Erm, in terms of my best… I don’t have a best. I’m not even sure if I could give you three. I’m that guy at Tesco that’d be there for an hour bro. I thoroughly enjoyed a lot of projects such as IQ’s “Scream”. Shoutout to IQ and Scratch. Even with that, that came as a bit of a surprise because I made the beat, had a lot of work to do, then just saw it on YouTube with one-point-something million views. And like every bashment mix I hear, I hear the song so that was crazy.
“Pitbulls” was crazy too, “Attempted” as well but I was upset because that one got taken down. I’m pretty sure if they left that up it would be on like 10 million views by now. The French Montana track was cool and the Drake track was definitely a big highlight, probably the biggest move I’ve made so far in my career. Even though I’m Really indecisive about it, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the many projects that I’ve been on.
Be sure to check back for the next instalment of The Architects. In the meantime, be sure to catch up with our Bricklayer profiles right here.