Exclusives Interviews 17 August 2019

GRM Exclusive: ‘The Rap Game UK’s J Lucia Talks Dancehall, Future Plans & More

17 August 2019

Krept and Konan and DJ Target are set to host a new television show called The Rap Game UK which will see them seek to find the UK’s next urban music star to sign to their Play Dirty Record label.

The contestants will live together for six weeks and develop their music skills, range, lyricism and natural ability. None of the acts will face elimination though and there will be no whittling down; the winner will be revealed at the end of series and will receive the coveted record deal from Krept and Konan.

To prepare for the series, we caught up with each of the contestants and spoke to them about their personal journey’s into music, their inspirations and how they define themselves as artists.

Here we are joined by J Lucia who hails from the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia who explained to us how his culture inspires him, how he met Drake, and what he hopes to do if awarded the record deal from Krept and Konan.  

I’m guessing from your stage name that your Saint Lucian heritage is something you really value. How important is it to you?

“(I was) Born and raised. I’m from one of the families that shaped the country so I’m more than patriotic”.

“My Grandad and my Uncle had a very big part to play in the country’s development. My uncle (Sir John Compton) was the prime minister and my grandad introduced finance and insurance to the country in 1971. These are big people in my life so I would like to carry on the legacy obviously.

For us, the Compton mentality is about legacy, humility and just allowing people to change through our work and development.”

When did you move to the UK?

“Ten years ago. Well, nine years and ten months ago”.

So you spent most of your formative years in Saint Lucia?

“Yeah definitely. I’m 23”.

What’s the music scene like in Saint Lucia, and do you have any favourite artists?

“(The music scene) is amazing. Lu City; they recently released a song with Reekado Banks on GRM. They’re big, Saint Lucian music is big. Lu City are the biggest artists in Saint Lucia and I’m featuring on their EP and I know all of them quite well. Where I grew up, they were kids when I was a kid, they’re the same age as me. We’ve known each other for years”.

“(Freezy) He’s on the new wave of a genre over there called deanery segment, which is also one of my favourite genres. I made a tune in that genre and I like it as well, but I’ll keep that one under wraps for a while”.

“There’s also a rapper called Smallz as well, he’s sick. Joey Bada$$ is from Saint Lucia as well!”

Would you say that Saint Lucia influences your music more than your time spent in the UK?

“I wouldn’t say that at all. I would say it influences me as a person; morally and holistically in the sense of the kind of sounds that I like, the kind of melodies I like and the way I write. It’s very poetic. Being Saint Lucian as well, one of our main influences is the Nobel Laureate (Sir Derek Walcott); he won a Nobel Prize for literature and he was a famous poet so we try to make our lyrics have meaning even if it’s like a vibe. Even with the beat on the musical side of things and the instruments we use, we allow a lot of people to find vibrance in our music. It’s full of life.”

Do you play any instruments?

“Yeah of course. I play the keys, drums, most percussion instruments, bongos as well. Anything percussion based, that’s me”.

“Music and poetry are my first loves. I’ve been playing musical instruments since I was two. Then I started writing poetry when I was nine and I started putting the two together properly about four years ago”.

How would you define yourself as an artist?

“I started off doing Spoken Word originally and then I realised, in my mind, in my gut and in my conscience, is dancehall. So although I like grime and although I like rap, I find it very natural to whack out a dancehall chorus with love so that’s kind of what I’m embarking on at the moment”.

“I am a spoken word artist who does dancehall. I can rap, I can do grime. I used to rap like J Cole and then I used to sing like Ben Howard. I can do a song with Adele, I can do a song with Robin Thicke, I can do a song with Wretch 32, J Cole, Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper and it would still sound like me. Dancehall is just a lane; at the moment, that’s my lane. I can’t put myself in a box but dancehall is the lane I’ve chosen to go down”.

Favourite dancehall artists?

“Popcaan, Buju Banton, Mavado. Obviously, have to hail up Vybz Kartel. Those are probably my main influences. The rest probably come from reggae and soca”.

Dream collaborations?

“Making a track with Drake and Wizkid would be a dream come true. I rate Haile very highly, pardon the pun. Burna Boy, Shakka, Popcaan, Koffee”.

“I’d make a tune with Ghetts, I think he can spin a dancehall tune. Wretch 32, 100%. One Acen, he’s kind of within my genre”.

“Preferably J Hus and Yxng Bane on the same track”.

“Chip, me and Chip would make a banger. Alicia Harley, I rate her  and Stefflon Don. I ‘d love to work with Alicia Harley, have you seen her “Proper Paper” video? Do you recognise the male model? That’s me still”.

What inspires your music?

“My influences apart from Saint Lucia… I just catch a vibe and I find it easiest talking about girls. There’s a lot of nice things to say about girls and there’s such a variety of girls in England as well. In England you get a whole collection; you get Nigerians, Ghanaians, a Chinese girl. There’s so many different things you can talk about. A lot of the time I’ll speak about life experiences or I’ll speak about objects or I speak about places and I won’t make it sound like I’m talking about a place but I’ll try and make it sound like I’m talking about a girl”.

What do you want people to take from your music?

“Happiness! I want people to listen to my music and feel inspired, feel happy.”

What’s your creative process in the studio?

“It varies. I don’t mind creating a beat from scratch with the producer and start writing once I hear his direction. Or I don’t mind going through YouTube to find a beat that inspires me and then write a whole song, get to the studio and then get the producer to produce around my vocals.”

“Generally I write a lot so I’ve always got something at hand and then when I hear the beat… I can probably think of a hook in about 30 seconds.”

“As long as I’ve got no distractions, I’m good.”

Do you prefer recording in the studio or performing onstage?

“Both! Because in the studio you create, and on stage you also create; you create a memory. And I like vibsing with the crowd”

What’s been your favourite performance thus far?

“Last year I opened for WSTRN in my hometown, Southend and I didn’t realise how many people knew the songs I performed. People were singing it back to me. It was crazy. One of my favourite performances so far.”

What do you like about living in Southend?

“I want to move to London (laughs). I like Southend but it’s quiet; I’d like to move to London as soon as possible. There’s more opportunities, you have to live in London. When I moved to England, I moved to London, I lived in London straight away, East London, Plaistow, then I moved to Southend and I hated it but recently I started liking it because I like the quiet.”

How did you get onto The Rap Game UK?

“Honestly, I didn’t know what it was but my friends were saying ‘Ah J, I think you should apply for this, it looks like something right up your street’…so I was like cool. I ignored it and then I think a  couple more people said it and I said you know what, I’m gonna do this now”.

“I was sat on the toilet and then I went through and I sent it. They needed a video stating why you wanted to be on the show and your goals as an artist so while I was on the toilet, I sent them a 30 second clip saying ‘I’m not gonna lie but I want this more than anyone I know and anyone who wants this does not want this more than me. If you give me an opportunity, I will make something out of it. If they do choose to work with me at the end of it, they will receive someone who has his own lane”.

“I’ve got a lane that no one else (on the show) has that has longevity in it. They’re looking for that kind of artist who they can develop and who they can say they had a part to play in his early development in his career. I got a phone call back relatively soon.” 

Highlights of The Rap Game UK

“Being there made me realise that’s what I was born to do. I felt more natural on camera and in that environment.”

“The show allowed me to show my versatility. On one tune I was able to combine dancehall and spoken word and it worked. That’s never been done before.”

“The whole thing was a highlight. Waking up in the morning, having a camera on you, being mic’ed up, walking to the shops with a cameraman and security following you – hard!.”

“It’s not that I want fame, I want to make music to that extent that people are going to know me. I’m not a fame chaser, I just want to do what I love and live from it.”

On Award Nominations

“I was nominated for a Legacy Nations Award for Best Poet of 2018 and Best Male Artist. I didn’t win but to be fair, the people that did win have been doing a lot more than me so the fact that I even got nominated was sick. Considering I only had one poem released two years prior that’s still doing bits, people still want to hear that now and one song that was released.  It was an honour to be nominated, there were loads of votes.”

“It was probably just gone off of my work ethic. I don’t want to release stuff because I know what I’ve got is of quality so I’m not trying to release it with no backing, no plan, no strategy, no team, no finance. So I’ve just been waiting and working and people have seen that.”

…it might be a Grammy one day…

“That’s obviously in the life plan as well. Even a BAFTA, I’d love to work in arts, act, anything. I’d love to write for other artists as well, write a book as well, there’s so many things I want to do and they will happen. I’m happy I’m still of a young age.”

Future plans/projects

“If I don’t win, I’ll look to try and get a deal for one of my projects or at least a few of my singles. Once that’s signified, I’m going to rebrand. I know that my goals will be met. When the show is about to drop, I’m going to have something new out and then I’ll have a project dropping after the show”.

“I hope I win.”

BBC Three’s The Rap Game UK is coming to iPlayer on Friday 23rd August.