When we think of the music we love, the MCs and the frontmen are more often than not the first thing we think of. The average listener probably doesn’t give a second thought to the masterminds who mapped out the musical terrain where the artists bring their stories to life.
Increasingly, in this day and age producers have refused to allow themselves to be overlooked and begun to become frontmen in their own right, whether its by a&ring their own projects and tracks (think Steel Banglez and iLL Blu), or by creating inventive producer tags that become part of the lexicon (Jae5 and QuincyTellem); producers are definitely more focused on visibility.
But then again so is everyone. We’re living in an age where social media platforms have given everyone the tools to be seen and heard like never before, this has made the competition for peoples eyes and ears fiercer than ever. One voice that is soaring above the cacophony of melees taking place on our TL’s and Instagram feeds, is Scribz Riley.
An unfamiliar name at first glance, but Scribz is someone who’s been responsible for some of the biggest records over the last couple of years. But before becoming a transatlantic maestro behind the boards, Scribz was a thoroughbred MC.
Finding his feet musically during one of the most exciting eras modern Black British music has ever seen. Scribz was awakened to the sounds of Fuck Radio and Nasty Crew, and found himself part of one of the most noteworthy grime crews of yesteryear, Mucky Wolfpack – who’s youngers are probably best known for their classic cut “Bow for Da Wolves”. Scribz Riley has now come full circle, from MC to producer and now a certified R&B crooner, we had to find out more about the musical polymath’s journey thus far.
When did you first get into music?
“I used to spit in school. I used to just MC, and thats when grime was really happening. I went to St Johns, so like Griminal went there, Brutal, Tinchy all these guys. So it was Nasty Crew and Fuck Radio, that was what I was listening to and being inspired by.
“Fast Forward a couple years, I was in Mucky Wolfpack. I used to go to some grime sets, but we all used to get together in the youth club, and just chill together and record songs.”
What are some of your fondest memories of that era?
“I felt like I was really living my music. I cant explain what it means to live grime, but it just felt like I was always out just writing bars wherever I was, just living, being with the mandem every night. It felt like I was really embodying the culture of grime, I was just on it to spit anytime, anywhere.”
How did you get into production?
“I used to go studio with my brother, (he’s a songwriter). I used to see all the people he was working with and the way they would put music together. They were listening to music I would have never listened to, they were listening to stuff like Bon Iver, and all this different country music. I’m still coming from grime, and at that time that was all I was listening to. So it was interesting for me to start to diversify my listening.
“In doing that, I just started focusing more on the production side of things. I met Dyo, (Ms D), who was working with Wiley at the time. She had done “Heatwave” with him. I was making this Drum and Base beat, and she done a hook to it and two days later I get a call from Wiley saying “Yo I wanna make this song my next single” and that became Wiley – “Reload” with Chip.
“That was like the first big thing I had done, they made sure I got a production fee and a percentage, shout out to them cause they could have finessed me, cause I didn’t know anything. I got paid, and from there I was like this is what I’m trying to do! So I just put the MC’ing aside and started focusing on making beats.”
You’re a self proclaimed perfectionist, so how do you know when a track is done?
“It’s my manager telling me “Its done its gotta come out”! I always hear changes – even with “East Side”, I was listening the other day and I was like ah I should have added this or that. But now that I’ve put out some songs, I’m a little more at ease with it, cause you know with first time releases you kinda just wanna make everything perfect.
“But now when I make a song I like I play it every day all day, I burn it out. So my thing is, If I can listen to a song over and over again and not get bored of it, and not hear anything bad then thats when I know its done.
“Then the next stage is playing it for people. One thing I do is play my music for my niece, and play my music to people who don’t really make music and get into the technical side of music. Cause sometimes I feel like a song can be technically good, where another producer might be like “ahh those drums you used”, whereas the average listener don’t give a damn, its just about whether it’s a good song or not. So more time, I play my music to my friends and family to get that reaction. If I can get past them, then I know it should be good!”
How did you come to work on Grammy award winning track “Ring”?
“Early in my career, I was working with some Swedish producers. I was making radio pop songs, straight pop – thats what I was on. I got to a point where I was like, I feel like a robot I don’t love what I’m doing. I just thought to myself, I’m just going to make the music that I wanna make – I’m not gonna try and chase anything. I’m gonna make beats that I like to make and try and find artists that I like.
“Khalid was one of the first people, literally the week after I made that decision I had a session with him, we made “Winter” – it’s on his first album. I watched him blow up after that. This song, I just did it cause I liked to do it, so it got me thinking.
“For me it was more about putting myself in a place where I felt like a resonated more with rap and R&B music, as opposed to the pop music that I had been making. Once I put my mind in that place that I wanna work with more R&B, hip hop and rap kinda artists I was able to connect with a couple of them.
“With “Ring”, I remember flying back and forth to LA, nothing was really happening but I knew I had to be there. So I get to this session and there was at least nine people in the studio. When I walked in the studio it was kinda like find your position, I pulled up now and we kinda had a clash, not in the traditional sense, but it was like introduce yourself with the music you’ve produced.
“I played “Lights On”, and a few of the other ones that hadn’t come out yet – and that sort of set the tone for the session. I pulled up the vocal sample for “Ring” and we did the song. Kehlani ended up doing the hook before Cardi jumped on it, and then Cardi jumped on it and that was that.
“It’s crazy, we didnt even think that “Ring” was gonna do what it did. There was another one that we were playing that we thought was gonna be the one.”
Do you think Producers get enough credit?
“I feel like when you’re not putting yourself out there as a producer, like say you haven’t got a producer tag ( I don’t have one). A lot of producers don’t get tagged in the songs, or they’ll even do the production credits of the whole camera crew, and they haven’t even credited the producer of the song!
“An artist can come into the studio and record the song, but the producer had to buy the equipment, had to take time to make sure your song sounds good. Like even when the song is getting mixed, I’m there working with the engineer making sure the song sounds good. The producer is there from the beginning to the end. Producers should definitely get more love and recognition – the song really wouldn’t exist without them.
“To all the producers who are putting producer tags on all of their beats, I’m like big up you man. They’re just putting themselves out there to get the respect that they’re due. I just couldn’t think of a producer tag lol, I tried man they all sounded shit.”
Do Awards Matter?
“I see a lot of people saying they don’t care about charts, or numbers and awards. I’m gonna be real with you, I care about that stuff! I care in a way of like I need it, but it doesn’t dictate who I am or my belief in myself.
“But for me, I appreciate being awarded for my work you know? There might be a year where I didn’t work hard enough and didn’t get that award. I’m not gonna be like fuck a Grammy it doesn’t mean anything, I’m gonna be like ‘yo, you didn’t put in the work that you needed to’, so you need to make sure you’re still hungry and grinding.
“Awards and statistics and numbers are for me a reflection of the work that you put in. It’s not like a need, I don’t need these awards to do what I wanna do, but its nice to be recognised for your work. If you don’t wanna be recognised for your work, then I dunno man.”
Now that you’ve already got a Grammy, was it difficult to set new benchmarks?
“I cant lie for me, I hate being comfortable, I gotta set myself new challenges. The artist thing for me was probably one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever had. Like for me I’m such a perfectionist, like with the beats alone its a lot – but like moving onto songs as well its just insane. I have to set myself new challenges, even outside of music, I’m just looking at ways I can build and progress as a person. I tweeted the other day, that’s its now my goal to win a Grammy as an artist as well, so its something that I’ve gotta strive towards.”
There’s obviously quite a divergence in the style of music you’re making now in comparison to your MC’ing days. Was this a pivot you always intended on making?
“Not necessarily. I’m still trying to tap into the energy, into the MC’ing, it still exists! It was all kind of natural, it was just the stuff that I was making. All the songs come from real life experiences and real stories, to make a beat is cool, but for me to make a song I really gotta connect to it, and then it kinda just writes itself.
“The songs and the sounds just kinda chose themselves, I didn’t really sit down and say this the sound I’m going for, these are just the songs that I’ve made and the ones that I really listen to a lot.”
How would you describe the body of work that you’re working on?
“Honestly, It feels like I’m experimenting with, and fusing different vibes together. Just expect something different and something that feels good! Music that can stand the test of time, I’ve made a conscious effort to not make music that will just disappear in a couple years.”
What was the most exciting part of the process?
“Shooting the videos, thats when it kinda hit me that everyone is here for me and my music. Thats when I realised like rah I’m really doing this. This is real, for me that was like a wow moment.
“Recording the songs, getting the songs finished and confirming like features and stuff like that too. For me the whole creative process has been exciting, even down to getting the mix and master that you like feels sick. But the most exciting part is when we’re shooting the video – we’ve shot two including “Eastside”.
How did the features on the EP come about?
“Whats crazy is every feature besides one of them, I was in the studio making the song with them. I never really had to do the whole label thing, where I don’t really know the artist, I was fortunate enough to be in the position where I know the artists and I’ve met them. So it definitely felt good, especially cause confirming features today can be a little bit tekky.”
Even though the EP is self produced. Is there anyone who you’d love to get a beat from?
“I would say, Jeff Bhasker. Jeff Bhasker, made all the old Kanye stuff. He was Kanye’s guy, every time I checked like who was making all the old skool Kanye records his name came up a lot. So I’d say him cause he’s got a whole different style and approach to music than I do, so I feel like as a collaboration it would be something different that I’d like. There’s a lot of producers that I think are hard, but we can all possess a similar skillset. But his style will bring out something different in me, so yeah Jeff Bhasker.”
Check out the last instalment of The Architects featuring JbMadeIt right here. Be sure to keep it locked on GRM Daily to find our who next months Architect is!