Serocee and I met in a bustling wine bar in Holborn, and sporting a pretty sharp suit he could easily have been mistaken for a slick n slimy City type, rather the rapping urban cat he is. I was impressed. He exuded charming confidence, suggesting a man at ease with himself, and though he is certainly outspoken and a little spiky, a cheeky thoughtful side was evident too.
He’s a veteran of the bashment, dancehall and reggae scene, so you’ve probably heard his rhyming rhetoric and fresh “vibe” on myriad tracks. And if you’ve wondered “what’s that sound?” He’s about to embark on his first solo voyage -you’ll soon be hearing him everywhere. Over an abstemious orange juice he told me what it’s all about and what to expect…
Firstly a bit of background so those of us unfamiliar with you can get acquainted.
The name’s Serocee, and I’ve been in the music game now for a number of years. Probably about seven, and that includes writing songs, and even singing in a choir.
I spent my early days growing up in Jamaica so that’s where I really began my love for reggae music. One of my uncles was only nine years older than me, he was like an older brother, and he got me into it.
And when did you move back to the UK?
I got back here when I was ten. I went to secondary school over here and spent most of my time at the back of the class, battling and throwing down beats. But I suppose I only really started to perform seriously when I was with a youth group in a place called Sparkbrook which isn’t too far from Small Heath in Birmingham where I was born. So yeah, I got involved with this youth group and they sort of helped me hone my talents rather than being on the street and getting into trouble.
The youth group sounds like it acted as a sort of springboard for greater things. Tell me a bit about some of your first projects? People you’ve worked with…
Quite a few different people….one of the main people I’ve worked with from the UK would be JD from So Solid. I’ve worked with him and a few others who are from my area in Birmingham.
“…I eventually became a rapper. But I kind of mixed the two styles: rap and reggae…”
And what about “The Heard”, an album you recently collaborated on?
“The Heard” is basically a collection of rappers – something we put together in September of last year. We were all doing our own hip hop thing, and I got a phone call from Premier one day saying that he had heard a track I’d worked on, a track called “Mother’s Day”. A radio DJ had given him my number, and he basically asked me to come down for another track called “Love”. Get a beat, start working on it…
I think I got the call on the Friday, and by Saturday I had a track ready. Then I pretty much just went and recorded it. It got loads of airplay and DJ’s like 279 have been using it too.
And when did you decide you were ready to go and do your own thing?
When I started rapping, I initially started out as a bashment dj, doing the whole reggae music thing. When I came over to England, I scored some regular spots, and eventually a few friends introduced me to the likes of NWA and LL Cool J.
At first I was like: “Oh, I’m not interested in that. I’m into reggae music, that’s what I do.” But then when I sat down and started listening to them, I thought: “You know what? This is interesting. Maybe I could do something like that” .
So then I started getting into rap and writing lyrics and so on and so forth – eventually became a rapper. But I kind of mixed the two styles: rap and reggae.
Earlier I mentioned the youth project I was working with. My other friend called DLT, he formed a group called “Crossfire”. This was way back though! Early nineties or something…we were real young anyway. We did quite a few shows, then in about 1993 or so, we didn’t go our separate ways as such, but the dynamics of the group kind of changed. So from then on I’ve been trying to do my solo stuff. But you know what its like, you stop and start, you stop and start.
So when did you get involved with JPM?
Got a phone call from Darkjoint….
Had he already heard of you?
The way he tells it is, he was having a conversation with another singer, and they were chatting about rappers or whatever, rappers that they rated in the UK. And then Malachi said that I was one of the best rappers he’d ever heard, and that Roy should really hear some of my stuff.
So he gave me a call, said I heard you’re a rapper, and then he put me down on a track. The first track he heard me on, or that I featured on, was called “JPM Anthem”. Seanie T, Malachi, Karl Hinds, myself and Emanuel all featured on it, and I think from that he sort of realised that maybe I had a talent.
A beautiful story. And where does your album name come from, “Second Generation Windrush Pickney?” For ignorants like me!
Ha ha! Well, I was born here but spent a large portion of my life in Jamaica. But when my grandmother came over here; like many of her kind, she came over by ship. They found whatever work they could, and one of the ships they all came over on was called the Windrush, or the HMS Windrush. And even though I don’t know necessarily if my grandmother came over on that particular ship, I just thought: “Well, it’s associated with us (Jamaicans) coming over, and two, I’m a pickney of, or a child of that Windrush. So that’s how the name came about. You see, if anything, the album’s got to represent me, from my roots to who I am now.
“…One of my AKAs IS BIG DUTTY STINKIN SEROCEE…”
Your new single “Life” is released on June 5. It’s peppered with a lot of references to family and struggle. Where did you get your inspiration for that?
One day I was sitting at home, listening to a track by the great producer, Urban Monk. I started thinking about what I could put down there, and I came up with the concept of life. As in, let me just talk about life. And I think I kind of try to embrace everything in my own life in there. From the trials and tribulations that you have growing up in our society over here, to those growing up in Jamaica, to where you are and where you get to now.
I’ve got a line in there that says: “Trying to hold onto a job for Life….trying to do these things in Life”.
That’s why there’s the whole repetition thing in there, because no matter what you do, it all keeps back to life. Every single one of here is trying to carve something out, get somewhere, or achieve something in life. And regardless of what you’re trying to achieve, what’s important is that you’re trying to do it.
Tell me a bit more about the rest of the album…
The album is going to be a pretty short, and it’s still not completed yet. But my main aim for listeners is that they get a picture of where I’m coming from. I’m not saying that I’m representing all young black men that are out there, but maybe I can paint a picture of my aims, what my ambitions are….which are probably similar to where a lot of other people are coming from as well.
I’m going to get collaboration on there from a number of artists and producers. There’s a track which features all the JPM artists, and there’s also help from Karl Hinds, Seanie T, Keith Lawrence, Urban Monk and JD from So Solid. There’s a lot of names, a lot of people who are helping putting it together.
So when can we hear it?
We haven’t got a final date on it yet, I’m hoping for the summer.
And are you preparing with a lot of publicity and gigs to let people know you’re out there? Where can we see you next?
I just did Love Music Hate Racism the other week, and I’m also working with a group called NEW MCs, we do gigs all over the place. We’ll be performing in Newcastle soon, I’m up and down the country really. Certainly between now and the summer you’ll be seeing my name or hearing it. Check out my myspace on www.myspace.com/serocee for more up to date information.
To wrap up, charm me, tell me what you music embodies cos I hear you don’t “preach the gospel according to Jay Z!”
You’re too right I don’t! The whole album embodies me, I just talk my talk. What you can expect really is various representations of the various music forms that have influenced me throughout my life – the reggae, the hip hop. My grandmother was really into country music, she loved the cowboy music! So you’ll also hear influences from people like Charlie Pride. There’s also got a lot of the Old Del Boy references. British but Jamaican at the same time.
“…Serocee is a Jamaican root, used for medicinal purposes, but doesn’t taste very nice…”
One of my AKAs IS BIG DUTTY STINKIN SEROCEE!
And the name Serocee, what’s that about?
Oooh! That’s a long long story but mainly Serocee is a Jamaican root, used for medicinal purposes, but doesn’t taste very nice. And that pretty much transcends to me. Sometimes you may not like how I say things, but I’m generally saying it for the better good.
Do you find it difficult trying to juggle work and to get your music off the ground?
I do find it extremely difficult. Within the British music industry itself there are a lot of artists working a day job, or even a night job ,and still having to go back home, then go to a studio or perform, then get up again and go back to work again.
So we should support those in the music industry. Even as an artist myself, if I see something in a shop and I like it, and it’s available, I’ll go out and buy it. We all need to support our own music you know? There’s a lot of British music out there so we should get behind it.
What do you contribute to UK Hip Hop though? What makes you unique?
We’ve got a lot of very very good lyricists and a lot of very good rappers, but what’s always been said about me, on every track I’ve worked on, is that I bring the vibe. I bring a fresh bashment vibe. And the one thing about reggae music is that its lively, it gets you moving. Slow, fast, whatever, it gets you moving. That’s what I try and do and I don’t think anybody else brings that.
That’s great, thanks. Do you want to add anything else? Any juicy quotes?
Stay true to what you’re doing and be passionate about it, regardless of what it is. And remember, BIG DUTTY STINKIN SEROCEE, that’s me!