Hackney's rising lyricist chats about the release of his latest single '1 Phone', keeping the energy right in his visuals and spending everyday of lockdown in the studio with 4Play and Keeya Keys.
How was making the visuals for ‘1 Phone’ and who did you work with on the shoot?
There’s a mad buzz! It’s been doing well, so far. My phone’s just been blowing up all morning, I’ve just been replying to bare messages - it’s crazy. It was lit, I just make sure that whenever I tell people I’m doing a video shoot, it’s got to be lit, just bring a bottle, be free, express yourself. So, every video that’s usually what it is, obviously, I have all the mandem as always and you know the guys, they love dancing, we all love dancing - so, it’s like that! Obviously, Kevin Hudson, as well with his visuals. He always seems to catch the moment - so, it was a proper vibe.
How important is it for you to remain surrounded by your peers and team?
It’s very important, you know. It’s been important to me, even before when I was doing music, I always had the guys in there every time. You know when you start something together, you just tend to always do it together, so any video I have, I always want the mandem so I know the energy is right. Even videos by yourself, I feel like they’re boring. If you have a whole theme or a storyline behind it, it’s cool but I just want my videos to be generic just organic vibes and energy.
What were the main influences for the single, lyrically and sonically?
Really and truly, it’s from experience. I’m someone that talks about my surroundings and what my brothers go through. Also, I thought about what this one phone brings to my soul: connections, money and all of this - so, it was a hard concept. As soon as I got the melody, they (4Play) was like, ‘that’s the one, that’s the one!’, so I went into the booth and freestyled the chorus, in and out, like that.
"I think that’s the best way to do it, just having fun - you’re not really thinking too much."
How does the mood in the studio affect how you make music?
Every time I’m in the studio all that I need is a packet of Sensations with a little juice on the side and I’m good! It’s normally just a vibe, every time we bounce off of each other, it’s always a team thing. Sometimes, ODG or 4Play will just put on a beat and then literally me and Keeya Keys or whoever’s in the studio will just be freestyling and just come up with tracks. I think that’s the best way to do it, just having fun - you’re not really thinking too much.
Do you find it’ll come out far more organic if you’re not too in your head about it and instead just taking on the energy in the room?
Yeah, exactly. I don’t write like that, I write at home but that’s really just for practice mode - it’s not really writing songs. When I’m in the studio, it’s just whatever emotion I’m feeling on that day and don’t get me wrong, some days I’m not even inspired to make music but I’m just there for the vibe, I never force inspiration. I’ll go out and do stuff, obviously, I don’t live in the studio, I need to write about what I experience in life.
You just reached half a million views on ‘Amy’, how has the reaction been since you released it?
Two days ago now, yeah - It’s lit, I was thinking ‘what, half a mil?!’. I can’t lie, I really wanted the million but it might get there. Obviously, A-MVN’s a new guy to the scene so I’m just trying to flood it with my music right now and let them know where I’m coming from, musically. Of course, I want them to always feel the vibes and the energy, I want to give that every time. The Covid situation has kind of messed a lot of things up, you can’t even do stuff face-to-face, events, performing all of that - it’s a weird time, but it’s still good.
"It’s not just something that happened overnight, I was trying to work on this formula and on my melodies."
How was lockdown for you creatively and did it give you time to work on your sound?
That’s literally what I did in the first lockdown, I was bored so I said let me just drop a quick freestyle and see how people like it and then people were just like ‘these freestyles are hard’. I’m the guy with the melodies, so I was doing that, not your ordinary - it’s kind of creative. I put out a cover of Roddy Rich’s ‘Bacc Seat’ and then from there I was like I’m going to start going to the studio. Me, Keys and 4Play were there everyday during lockdown and it was mad we were just creating bangers and that’s how we came up with ‘Amy’ and from there, I haven’t looked back since.
Do you feel being a more melodic rapper enables you to be a better songwriter?
I would say yeah but I’ve seen other rappers that create chorus’ without doing the melody thing and it’s hard as well. Obviously, me as an artist, if anything it’s my own sound. It’s not just something that happened overnight, I was trying to work on this formula and on my melodies, so I think it’s just a way for me to stand out and just show that I’m different in other ways. Obviously, what I bring to the table is a bit different, going from the melody and into the rap and back again that brings a lot. I love bringing creative ideas to the track. I feel like the melody thing really helps me be creative, checking different boxes and hitting different keys.
Where do you think your melodic inspirations derive from?
My mum always used to play R&B and I would listen to a lot of it in the house and then I listened to a lot of rap, as well. I was a fan of Drake too and I remember listening to him back in the day and thinking it was hard. Nowadays, I’m hearing guys like Burna Boy, I would say I had different inspirations before but now, who I look up to and listen to is Burna Boy because his melodies are insane. They’re spiritual with it, especially his last album there’s some bangers on there. Even Drake I still listen to him as well - he’s a G still. I listen to a lot though, even J Hus, lyrically he hits the pocket on everything.
"London in itself is getting more creative, there’s different artists coming out of everywhere with different sounds."
If you had to show your range as an artist by picking two of your tracks, which would you pick?
I would pick ‘Amy’ and right now, ‘1 Phone’. I have to say what’s out now because I have so many bangers but I can’t say their name as I have so much more to come!
Do you feel that the London music scene encourages artists who do something different/experimental with their sound?
London is definitely encouraging, even for people living outside of London as well, they’re looking at the Drill scene and that and I’m even hearing about people outside of London doing similar sounds and hitting different pockets and it’s sick - so, we definitely have a mad influence now. London in itself is getting more creative, there’s different artists coming out of everywhere with different sounds. I feel like everyone is kind of bored of hearing the same thing. We have to give props to the producers as well because they’re the ones making it happen. That’s why I look at 4Play because they’re up and coming right now, they’re sick, no one really has that sound. I love the new-wave sound, the Drill sound, the Afrobeat swing - London’s just bare multicultural as well.
Being from Hackney, are there any local artists you would recommend?
My guys Block Boyz, they’re up and coming. There’s a guy called Frenzola, Frenzy - he’s hard, he’s from Hackney, so we actually chop it up a lot. I feel like Hackney right now, there’s so many people who are coming up and even like Dutch and that is giving people motivation. Even NSG are from Hackney, Unknown T - there’s bare inspiration in the air.
Which artists first inspired you to get into music and who is inspiring you today?
I can’t lie, I grew up as a Grime head so I would say Chip, Kano, Ghetts, Bashy. I was listening to them on the regular, Westwood Freestyles, Skepta - these we’re legendary, that’s what I started doing just freestyling on the block. Then today, we’ve got to do Burna Boy, J Hus as well.
If you had to recommend five artists to your listeners, who would they be?
What’s coming up for the rest of 2020?
I’ve got a surprise coming, I’ve been working on so much, you might even be seeing an EP coming out early next year. There’s definitely more videos coming for the end of the year - it’s definitely a good end to the year, we’re going to go out with a bang!