I know a lot of UK Hip Hop fans might look at this interview and think, why the fuck did you get an interview with Rizzle Kicks for? For me it was a no brainer, they came from UK Hip Hop and they’re a massive success. Frankly, the UK Hip Hop scene could do with the good publicity and we should be proud that one of our own is in the process of making a career out of music. Not many UK Hip Hop artists can say that they’ve lived off of making music, count them and get back to me with your answers on a postcard. And let’s be honest here, they ain’t that bad, they aren’t making cheesy euro dance tunes, or overly watered down ‘RnB’ that countless other rappers have had short lived success from. It’s like a UK De la Soul but more like able and a marketing man’s dream.
So put away your preconceived ideas about what you thought of Rizzle Kicks and read on. I think this is a great read and shout out to Rizzle for taking time out to speak with us, I’m sure he could of been doing many more exciting things with new found fame, speaks volumes. We’re lucky we have lots of friends in all manner of places and can make interviews like this happen. Big shout out to Tom on the hook up.
Intro by Tom Hines
I’m on my way to link up with Jordan from Rizzle Kicks. As I approach the rather swanky hotel I’m meeting him in, I get the strangest feeling, for a second I swear I feel a flash of almost being star struck. Bearing in mind this is a kid I’ve known since he was 14, this is turning into a surreal experience indeed…
I meet Jordan ‘Rizzle’ Stephens speaking to Adam Joolia, who runs the youth music charity Audio Active I work for. He has just agreed to become the patron of the project he and Harley once attended as kids. I last saw Rizzle at his album launch and things could not have gone much more astronomical since. Just a few years ago he performed to a crowd of no more than 50 at the Brighton’s Concorde2. He’s back there tonight playing two sell out gigs in a row. As we chat, the local South Coast TV news does a piece on Rizzle Kicks’ homecoming in the background. There’s live footage of hoards of fans outside the venue we’re heading towards later. It’s fair to say the boys have become massive chart successes and achieved national fame in an incredibly short space of time.
Hines: This is all too weird. I last saw you at your album launch last year and now you’re this celebrity doing a double-night homecoming gig. Your success has been so rapid. It must be pretty weird for you too.
Rizzle: So weird. I walked through the Lanes earlier, the last time I did that I walked around comfortably. Last year I was dipping into shops to see if people I knew were working. Now, most heads are turning and, even if they don’t want to know about us, they do. It’s our hometown though and it’s a weird feeling having that. It’s still strange to see people’s reactions. We get groups of kids shouting “Rizzle Cunts” but usually one of them is like, ‘Yeah, but can I get a photo?’.
Hines: Well you’re famous now man. How you dealing with that?
Rizzle: I think I’m going a little bit insane, but not too insane. I remember what I thought before this. It’s not too long since my mentality pre all this bullshit. I’d look at artists in the public eye and be like ‘what a bunch of dickheads’ and I’m kind of in that now. I can completely see how and why these things happen.
Hines: I remember advising you that working with Olly Murs was ‘urban scene suicide’ and you seemed excited by that prospect. It obviously proved to be a good move in the long run.
Rizzle: Yeah, the second you start thinking about how people perceive you is the moment you go wrong. Be original. There are so many rules in the urban music genres, you can just set up shop now. You could almost have a rapper start up book: ‘this what you do in a photo shoot’, ‘this is how to rap on a track’, ‘this is a good instrumental to go over’ – now you’re a rapper.
I could release a hardcore banger now and try to impress those people who think I’m not a real rapper, it just wouldn’t be me though. If I make a cool underground song but it doesn’t make movements, I’ve only got myself to blame. Without that tune with Olly, we wouldn’t be in the position we are in making this second album.
Hines: What have you got to say about your detractors? I recently saw some Rizzle Kicks doppelgangers getting ‘body bagged’ in a video. You’ve sure got your haters out there.
Rizzle: You’ve got to take it on the chin. You know me; I’m attention seeking and try and please everyone. That video’s fucking amazing, the whole clapping and that, I think it’s funny. If he’d have gone on more with the whole ‘bubbly’ thing, fair enough, our enthusiasm is something that pisses quite a few people off, but that diss (track) shows me he hasn’t listened to much of our stuff. It isn’t an educated response. This dude’s got the whole track to go for us and that beat is fucking sick. All he comes out with is we’re ‘gay’ and we’re ‘average crooks’. That wouldn’t even get a cheer in a Don’t Flop.
Hines: Speaking of which, would you battle in Don’t Flop again? Your clash with TC was pretty epic and you have judged some big battles.
Rizzle: Nah. Essentially people use Don’t Flop as way of getting their music seen. You can always do it for fun and as a reason to exercise your mind but I don’t know. Ultimately, you can find us in gossip magazines and I’m a walking target these days. A battler would have a million times more ammunition than I would for them. Secondly, I’d only battle someone if I really don’t like them and, to be frank, I don’t want to give them the exposure. For that reason I’d only battle people I respect in the league, the likes Lunar C or Matter but then I’d get beaten, not that I’d mind loosing. As it stands, I got called out and teased for not doing it, I did it, I won, that’s it.
Hines: Speaking about battlers, how was it touring with Professor Green?
Rizzle: Pro Green is someone I’ve respected for a while and it was cool to tour with him. There was quite a lot of banter and incidents on tour. He’s a sick rapper. He’s like…I don’t think he’ll mind me saying this, but he’s a kind of a snob. When we see him we go out to meals at upper-class restaurants and they order shit like bone marrow.
Hines: So this interview’s for ukhh.com, what you got to say on the subject of UK hip hop?
Rizzle: I love UK hip hop. It’s what got me into music initially. Back when there were Brighton Hip hop festivals and that whole vibe around 04/05, for me that’s what influenced me the most. All the rappers around inspired me at that time. It felt like it was a reflection of a golden age in hip hop. At a point it slipped into a state of depression and people started rapping really down tempo, everyone just sounded a bit pissed off. However, I think it’s in a good state at the moment. I recently bought Jehst’s latest album, I’ve got to admit it’s been out for ages, but I only got round to checking it properly. That reinstated my faith that there is some real shit going on still. Dirty Dike is a fucking G, that album’s funny as hell. I’d love for the UK hip hop heads to know that I will always be the inspired by the artists I was listening to growing up: Jehst, Chester, Farma G. Dr Syntax really got me into UK hip hop,
Hines: What about US artists?
Rizzle: Number 1: Pharoahe Monch, and I am talking all-time too, then the obvious ones: Biggie & Jay-Z. I’m a big fan of Del the Funky Homosapian, Big Pun, Nas, Charli 2na, Andre 3000, Mos Def, Method man.
Actually, it’s all about Pharoahe Monch, I’m going to pitch it: The dude can sing, his flow cannot be matched and he switches his shit up regularly. Other rappers have their flow on lock but he comes in with something no one else does.
Nowadays there are some really bad lyricists around, the ‘money, cars, women’. It almost had a Hollywood glamour when Biggie did it but it’s become a bit throwaway, a bit oily, just a girl with a big arse in the video. Rappers are not saying anything, it’s robotic like: ‘I am the sickest guy’. I suppose that’s nothing new though.
One thing I’ll say that is controversial: I think it’s stupid to dislike Drake. Hip hop heads hate Drake, I see it everywhere. From my personal point of view, I think the way he came up is sick: dropped the mix tape then toured the world. He’s got a lot more punch lines than most around him and he’s smart; he writes ‘singing’ songs for other people and makes millions off of it. That’s talented. You can’t be that successful if you’re actually bad, perhaps for a couple of hits but you can’t be at his level without talent. I think he’s a good rapper, people hate me saying it but I like him.
Hines: Is the stuff you’re working on hip hop?
Rizzle: If I’m going to be real, we made this first album and there are some great songs on it, it’s the reason why I’m here, but I’m starting to feel we’re making more hip hop on the second album. I’ve got older. I used to be bubblier and now I naturally want to go a bit darker. The beats are getting a bit slower. People have already seen the light side of me and we’re going through a progression. The people that I’m talking to and the things I’m getting inspired by have rejuvenated my faith in people seeing us as Hip Hop.
I used to just want a break and a sample, now I rather make something weird, something that makes people skank for a couple months. Maybe even revisit it in 10 years if we’re fortunate.
Hines: How much creative control do you have now? How much do the label push you?
Rizzle: Everything, well, near enough. Some things we don’t get a say in, like the advert on telly, I think that pissed people off. Anything like videos or photos, they have to run it past me because I’m a control freak. I’m directing a lot of stuff myself.
I see talk from heads who are like “how did this happen? they came out of nowhere”. People are like “it’s just label, money, deals and shit”. I tell you what, fact; Fearne Cotton just happened to come across our music and wanted to push us on national radio, we were just sitting on ‘Down with the trumpets’ then it snowballed. We didn’t get money put into us until our name had built up. We were by no means pushed into the public eye we just started to get played loads. The more we got noticed the more the label put in. I can see why it might appear we were manufactured to some.
Hines: It’s not out of the question to say that you could get to do some ridiculous collaborations now.
Rizzle: There’s stuff I can’t say at this time, but It’s definitely true that we are in that situation. It’s crazy to know I’ve got this team of people to back me up. As far as collaborations, I personally think that shit has to happen naturally, someone says this, you cross paths and conversations take place. I’m still completely buzzing my tits off to think Ali Shaheed rang me last year. I immediately thought ‘oh my god. Can we get Q-tip to do a tune with us?’ as if that’s just a casual thought. I want to ring him but haven’t built the courage to call yet. Saying that, I’d love to be in a situation where he sees us again and remembers us without forcing it. We’ve worked with the maddest people: Jamie Cullen, some mad jazzy hip hop tune, but this dude jammed with Quest Love, so I was like ‘if I nicked his phone…’
Hines: It feels like it’s all come full circle; the trumpet dealer has finally caught up with you, that tune was obviously huge. Some people miss the fact Dag Nabbit from Foreign Beggars produced it. You still working with them?
Rizzle: That tune set us off, I guess ‘Dag Nabbit’ is a phrase, people think we’re just saying it. I really want to do something with Pav and Ebo. They kicked it up a notch with Badman Riddum last year and I’m hoping they carry it through. I live round the corner from Dag, he’s the most elusive guy in the fucking world though. I recently got some beats off him and I’m pretty sure he’ll be involved in the next album.
Hines: What you saying before we shut this down and head to the venue?
Please listen to our entire album, especially the first and last tracks. Shouts out to Hines, Syntax, Enlish, Rum Com, Barcode, Scribe Tribe, Dirty Dike, Slip Jam, Rarekind…all the Brighton lot and ukhh.com.
Hines: Needless to say the gig was absolutely rammed. The band, which includes Jordan’s dad on bass, is incredibly tight after the all the recent touring. I watched most of the show with Jordan’s mum who features lip-synching in their ‘Mama do the hump’ track before we both got on stage to enact our respective video cameos. The front rows were crazed teenage girls and the crowd got older as it went back with one or two well known hip hop heads in attendance looking sheepish. I even spotted Dizzee Rascal in the crowd. A very surreal evening and I’m still spinning-out over the off-the-record news I heard.