South-London musician and all-round creative TINYMAN, speaks about working on The Loosies Project, the creation of ORPHGANG and creative communities in a post-Covid world.
Your last solo single ‘The Mountains’ was released back in 2018, what creative projects have you been working on since then?
I’ve been working on some collaborative projects with some producers and artists that I work with. I’ve been working on singles and an EP since then and a few other creative projects outside of music as well like radio, podcasting and other creative things.
My verse for the remix just came from us being in the studio together all of the time. Me, Shumba, Afronaut Zu and Intalekt, we always chill in the studio together, so this particular song we always aimed to do. We wanted to have it ready in time for Shumba’s gig Ancestral Futures, which took place last November. Literally, we were just in the studio vibing along to it and it all came really naturally, to be honest - we did it all in like one session.
In regards to my verse, it was kind of commentary on the scene and the industry, in this precise moment in a nutshell - commenting on it from an external standpoint, so there’s a lot of underlying tones and lines within the verse. It was about doing a verse that portrayed that we were at war, musically and literally.
How was working on ‘The Loosies Project’ and how important do you think creative communities are, especially during this time?
Working on ‘The Loosies Project’ was a great experience for me. At the time we were just at the beginning of lockdown and everyone was trying to adjust to the sudden change that had occurred. Big up Intalekt, big up Lex Amor, big up Seinna, big up GeeFree - they kind of spearheaded the whole concept and project. I ended up in a group chat with about twenty artists and producers and we all linked up, caught a vibe and shared ideas virtually and we all just collaborated with each other.
I think it was a dope concept and project because, you know, in normal life, outside of lockdown everyone is dealing with their own things in life. I think it was just good to hone in our vibes and energy and work with each other because it may not have happened if we were just out and about in normal life.
In regards to creative communities, I think they’re important. Collaboration is the foundation of music, for me. It’s a very, very important element to music and I think stuff like this and times like these, people need to be collaborating when it comes to ideas and stuff, just so the execution is a bit better and so we can just share memories and share energy.
"I think it’s a testament not only to the talent and the natural ability of the people involved but a testament to collaboration"
It was all virtual with The Loosies, so it was just a case of getting songs sent to each other - somebody added something else to it, sent it back to me, I sent it back to the other person and that’s just really how it worked.
In regards to ‘Feel It’, Ayeisha Raquel dropped what she did in the group, I heard it and was like ‘Wow, this is amazing’. As soon as I heard it, I knew that I wanted to be involved. So, I messaged her just asking for the concept of the song and it really just flowed to me naturally. I ended up recording my bit, sending it over and it was really simple, you know.
In regards to ‘Free’, it was a similar kind of pattern. K The Infinite came with the hook, I already had an idea for a verse but didn’t get around to it, so it was just people contributing all their bits to it, bit by bit and then it ended up becoming what it was. It was pretty straight-forward to be honest. Especially, with the times that we are in and were in at that time, it just happened so quickly. I think it’s a testament not only to the talent and the natural ability of the people involved but a testament to collaboration and how important it is to do that.
"it’s just a chance for me to display my rap skills - just lyricism, metaphors, wordplay and really just get back to the essence of my foundations, musically."
What were your main influences in writing ‘The Mountains’ and how was creating the visuals?
So, ‘The Mountains’ came along in two parts. Initially, the idea stemmed from being in Aya Naipa a few years back and coming across the mountains there. I used it as a place with my mates to get away from the loudness and the party side of Aya Naipa and we used to go there and just have conversations about life, just away from the madness. So, I used that as a metaphor for just coming away sometimes, isolating yourself (no pun intended) away from the madness of what life can be or the situations that you may find yourself involved in or just even the madness of the hustle and bustle of the rat race that we live in Western society, or as Londoners. It’s a time to just reconnect with yourself, reconnect with nature and come back with a clearer mind.
In regards to the video, me and Nyiwa Katalayi came up with the concept and spoke about it for many months. I ended up in LA, just on a trip and we had planned to film some of it in London, but it didn’t go to plan, so the video was very much up in the air. Luckily, Nyiwa ended up coming on a trip to LA as well, so we just bumped heads and tried to make do with what we had. He had a drone and a camera, there was scenery and ideas - we just had to make it work, and it ended up becoming an amazing video.
It was produced by Subculture, an amazing producer. We literally sat down, flicking through instrumentals and that came up, so I said give me two weeks and we’ll have something and yeah that was it. The concept was always there but then in song form, that only came a couple of years ago.
So, 2016 was a good year for me in terms of releases, as I had a couple of songs out. ‘Orphan Flow Vol. 5’ is just another volume in the series of ‘Orphan Flows’ produced by D.A, he goes by a different name now but shout out to Intalekt, I recorded like three songs in one session with Intalekt and ‘Orphan Flow 5’ was one of them. I wrote it a couple of years ago, on a bus on the way to Shoreditch. It was one of my favourite Orphan Flows. With the series it’s just a chance for me to display my rap skills - just lyricism, metaphors, wordplay and really just get back to the essence of my foundations, musically.
‘Orphentic’ as well, was produced by Intalekt. We actually recorded that in 2013 and it didn’t come out until 2016, I just put it up on streaming platforms in 2016. That’s an amazing song, actually the first song me and Intalekt recorded together. I think of all the songs I’ve created, I think that one created the trajectory of my delivery on song. I remember going to the session and just feeling like I could do anything I wanted to, opposed to thinking too much about it. Working with Intalekt gave me that creative freedom, you know, and I think that’s shown on all of the songs I’ve recorded with him, we just have that creative relationship where we can just be ourselves and it’s comfortable.
So, ‘Presence’ came about in 2015, I met Ray BLK for the first time at a gig we were doing together, five years ago, maybe even six. This gig was a collaborative gig, so all of the artists would rehearse together and help each other, whatever you want to call it.
I had already recorded my part of the song. So, I had known Nii from before, she was there as well and in the rehearsal they were singing along and it just sounded great. So, I was like you guys should jump on the song because the way you’re singing over it right now, just for fun and banter ...
So, a couple of weeks went by and we ended up in the studio, it was produced by Selasse. So it was me, Selasse, Ray BLK, Nii was there, Ray Fiasco (big up Asylum 33, they’re doing dope stuff, right now). But yeah, Nii ended up recording a verse, Ray did some of the chorus and some other bits in the song and they just amplified the song. Before they were on the song, it was an alright song, it wasn’t amazing but as soon as they jumped on the song, they took it up from like a four to a nine and now that’s easily one of my favourite songs I’ve ever made, so big up Ray BLK and big up Nii.
"Now, more than ever, there has to be a level of adaptability and movement that’s going to allow us to move forward ..."
When did you start ORPHGANG and what are the aims of the collective?
I thought of the concept whilst in Uni, so this is a long time ago like 2012/2013 and I described it as a place where the unwanted reside. Which means, there are people who get brushed under the carpet, swept to the side, left out kind of thing. The concept came from understanding that sometimes in life we feel like we have no home, or no fathers to our style - you can’t really put us in a box. Instead of trying to box us in, just put us in a big white house where we can define and decorate what we are, for ourselves.
Aside from what the mantra was for the group, I wanted to make sure it was a collective of artists who were thriving and improving individually and excelling individually, no matter how long it took. So, that’s how I see it now, a lot of people who are part of the collective, whether it be from far or near, have improved as individuals and skillfully, and are still improving.
In regards to music, there’s still some stuff that needs to be released and done but in terms of the essence and the mantra of what Orphgang is in its core, the proof is very much in the pudding. It’s great to see that there’s people who remember gigs that they’ve been too and songs that we dropped collectively or individually - I still get people asking me about Orphgang today, so it’s nice to know it made an impact. So yeah, stay tuned, who knows what’s to be with Orphgang but we’re here, individually, thriving and still surviving and doing what we need to do, so big up all the mandem, big up the bros.
How was performing with Steamdown for the BBC and how did that performance come about?
Performing with Steamdown was and will always be great, they’re a talented bunch just bringing musicality and live music to the forefront. I’m definitely a fan of what they’re doing, I’m definitely a fan. Initially, I’ve been going to the nights for a long time, I know them, I know people who are involved with them, so it was always nice to watch them from the side on their nights.
Eventually, I ended up performing with them, I ended up working with them and we ended up doing a couple of shows together. We did The Ned and Shoreditch House and then lockdown came and fucked up everything, basically. We were supposed to be doing SXSW and a couple of festivals and whatever else.
In regards to the BBC performance, we ended up performing some songs from the set that we were supposed to perform at SXSW, this year, so yeah. I hope to work with them again soon, I am working with them but in terms of live music I just hope we can work again soon and show everyone what we’ve been rehearsing, so yeah, big up Steamdown.
What were the main hopes of putting on your Block Party back in 2018 and how was seeing it come to fruition?
For me, my main hopes for the Block Party were more symbolic. I wanted to see groups of people who weren’t from the area that we grew up in have an outdoor event and a party, literally in the same grounds as the youth club we went to growing up, it was a very sentimental thing. We didn’t do it, just to do it, it was a statement to say look Southwark council, or whoever was trying to shut us down, we can have a peaceful party in the area and just celebrate being with each other and having fun, you know.
The Block Party as well, it was a celebration of the mandem for coming as far as we have because basically all of us grew up on that block. Some moved away, some have gone off to do other things but for us to come back and create an event that was so successful, so many people were there - it was amazing.
We came back the next day to clean up, so it was a dope experience. The next year we did it at Brixton Jamm, it didn’t have the same feel to be honest but it stemmed from something small, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it will expand after restrictions get lifted, so we’ll see.
How important do you think music can be in engaging people and do you hope to see more music-centred, community engagement in the future?
So, I’ll speak in the perspective of pre-lockdown and post-lockdown.
Prior to lockdown, music was very, very communal. It’s a thing that brings people together, it’s a thing that heals. When shows are put on, people are coming from a long day at work and are going to gigs, events, networking parties, raves, whatever and they’re meeting new people and finding new circles, new networks, new communities, finding new friends, new jobs, new opportunities, making money, whatever else.
In regards to music in the community, I think it’s so important, just the creative arts are very pivotal in the movement of communities and people, in general. So, it’s hard for people right now because they can’t put on events, they can’t do gigs - it’s hard, and there’s only so much releasing music can do. I feel like music is one of those things where it’s a real experience, so to get the most out of it you’ve got to be face to face with people. You’ve got to be having conversations - people have got to see you live in the flesh. It’s important that people are around like-minded people who they can kind of have a relatability with and I think it does wonders in terms of the community, not just in terms of from the top, down but in terms of side by side, with people you can relate with, people that’s like you sharing the same kind of struggles - it’s been wonderful for that.
Post Covid, I don’t know how things will be, I don’t know how things will end up or how things are going to go, but this period has proven just how important it is for music and the music industry, when I say industry I don’t just mean labels, I mean the people who are artists, that put on events and that do things for the community, that are people led because it’s going to be hard because there are restrictions. Now, more than ever, there has to be a level of adaptability and movement that’s going to allow us to move forward but in saying that, I think that there will be a solution and no matter what happens. The arts and the community, and the people that love what’s being made or have a hand in what’s being made go hand in hand.
Who inspired you to get into music and who is inspiring you today?
I started making music by being inspired from the boys around my area and the people that I was around, when I was younger. From friends in school to things that I saw on the TV, American artists, whatever kind of artists I looked up too. As of today, my peers and the people that I like to listen to inspire me. I’m always getting put onto new music, always finding out about new artists and new people, so I would say that my friends and peers now definitely inspire me more than your commercial artists that are out there. Also, people that show love man, people who have listened, bought, come to gigs, appreciated the music and shown their appreciation for the music, those are the people that above all inspire me, right now and keep me going, so thank you very much, guys.
If you had to recommend five artists to your listeners, who would they be?
What’s coming up for the rest of 2020?
For the rest of 2020, I’ll just say more music, man. I can’t really say too much because I had my 2020 planned but not everything goes to plan, you’re not always in control but I will say I’m just working on new music and trying to wrap up my project. Working on other material, I’ve got a radio show on No Signal, I just started radio not long ago and yeah more stuff, we’re going to keep this moving, keep productive and just do what we can, with what we have. More music, more life.