Interview by: Jordan Bunker
Filmed by: Jamie Kendrick
Photography: Jamie Kendrick
Stylist: Samantha Ria
Assistant Stylist: Peter Jones
Grooming: Emily Dhanjal using Neal Yard Remedies
Video Editor: Alberto Rodríguez Recio
Wretch 32 is one of the biggest rappers in the UK and now he’s back with his latest single ‘6 Words’ and a new album on the way! PAUSE’s Features Editor Jordan Bunker sat down with Wretch to talk about his musical influences, his viewpoint on what makes a good album and what we can expect from himself heading into 2015.
Credits: Sleevless Hooded Gilet + Jumper: Musee Noir, (Hat + Necklace: Wretch’s Own)
So let’s start from the beginning, what did you listen to growing up?
I grew up listening to a lot of reggae, a lot of bashment, quite a bit of old school hip-hop and a lot of R&B. I grew up in a house of women. When my dad left, it was just me, my two older sisters, my mum and younger sister.
And did listening to all these genres of music make you want to get into the industry?
It just made me love music to be fair. Period. Every bedroom in the house having a stereo and everyone playing something different, and then the front room playing something different. Every room you walk into has got a different mood. Everyone’s in a different mood, a different vibe, just because of the music. You kind of just feel the power of great songs and songs that have feeling and it kind of just cheers you up sometimes.
Your latest single 6 Words was premiered by Zane Lowe as his ‘hottest record of the world’ and promoted by a lot of respected presenters, how important is it for artists to have radio backing?
Yeah of course! The radio directly gets to the public. Obviously your twitter and instagram feed only goes to your fans. The radio has its own demographic. Of course it encourages your core fan base to listen to the station to listen to the record as well, but the radio has a big support system and a lot of new listeners that you need to tap into to get bigger, to reach the mass market.
How would you say this song is different in comparison with your last single Doing OK with Jacob Banks?
I’m singing on this, or I’m not rapping I should say, so that’s a complete change of style automatically!
Credits: Blazer + Hat: Topman, Shirt: Ada + Nik
Being as respected as you are, you’re expected to come back different every time, with 6 words what were you aiming for this time?
Yeah I feel like people are always questioning what the next record’s gonna sound like. “What are you going to do next you came through with Traktor?”, “what you going to do next you came through with Unorthodox and it sounds completely different,” then “you slowed it down with ‘Don’t Go’ then ‘Blackout’, then ‘Doing OK’ and now this. What’s next?” I think it’s good, it’s challenging, I wouldn’t say I feel pressure, I’d just say it’s challenging because when I’m in the studio I’m aware of this and when I’m making stuff I’m like we need new sounds, we need to create new sonnets, we’re gonna create new waves and new vibes, and especially with this record I just wanted to make something that was bigger than the genre. I think every so often an artist steps out and makes a record that’s bigger than their niche, because grime or urban music in this country is still in a niche, so you know I feel I needed to make something bigger than that to shine light back on it.
All of your singles with the exception of “Pop?” and now “6 Words” had other artist’s feature on them. What makes collaborations between artists so special?
Chemistry. Energy. Powers man. When I say powers I mean, as a musician I know so much, another musician knows so much, when we come together and we bring our knowledge together to create a song, especially good musicians it’s always phenomenal. It’s two people bringing two things to the table rather than just one, and I think something sounds sick like this and someone might say you know what if you add a melody to that, or change that melody and add a harmony it makes it feel like this. Without that singer being in the room I wouldn’t have that knowledge, and without me being in their telling a singer nah man you should have a rap verse at the end of this song to add a different dynamic and to bring news fans or new listeners to this record then they might not have that knowledge. So it’s always good to work with musicians.
I like to be in the studio with creative people in general, I don’t like when it’s just quiet. I like the producer to be eccentric; I like everyone to be creative, everyone to have their input, because a few heads are better than one.
Credits: As first look
Who would you want to collaborate with in the future?
I don’t really think like that to be fair. Off head I would always say Chris Martin, because we’d make a great record, but I only know who I want to collaborate with once I feel the song and then I know, okay, I want this person to come on this, if it’s for my project. I don’t want to say I want to get in with Taio Cruz, Jeremih, and not knowing what I want to make. It starts from the music and then spirals out.
You’ve said in other interviews that you always have to be recording and at the same time living as you use it as a diary. Does this mean you end up with a pretty large collection of tracks to choose from for the new album?
Yeah, too many to whittle down. Frustrating on one hand, but still overwhelming and comforting that I’m still able to make this amount of records, because some people just run out of things to say. You write so much, there’s only so much you’re going to be able to get out of you. We do make a lot of records man, we’ve got so many to whittle down for the new album!
Would you say that’s why it’s taken a long time to release the new album?
Not really, I think my part making the album is always going to be the easiest bit. I think it’s when it gets into the political side of things, like how many singles are we going to do, sales projections, and what singles have to do, and that one has to do that, and that’s when it starts getting a little funky, but when it comes to my part I make my album and I’m good to go, it’s not really the recording, it’s more the other stuff.
Obviously we’re going to talk a little bit about fashion. What do you like to rock on and off stage?
On stage I always like to come out with a big hood, like something that’s just covering my face because I like the suspense of not being on yet, and still you come out, but it’s the suspense of seeing your face, it just adds to it. So I’ll wear like a big jacket, or just a big hood, funnel necks and hats and stuff like that. I like to be comfortable so a nice pair of fitted jeans or tracksuit bottoms that are a bit stylish, you still got to be styling up there. So stuff like that yeah.
We’ve seen you in some pretty loud clothes like the all pink suit, do you like making them loud statements?
Yeah that suit was gangsta man! My tailor was showing me some colours and going into the season it was going into, I just felt it was, just like, really turned up right there so I did that.
People say when you’re dressed good, you feel good. Would you say this helps when you’re in the studio and making music?
I believe feeling good means feeling comfortable. So wherever I am, I want to feel comfy. Like I don’t put something on where it’s irritating me or scratching my back, or I’m cold. I always want to feel comfortable. Be comfy first, style second, but still stylish. Comfortably stylish that’s what I’m saying.
Who do you feel has good style in the industry?
I think Gandy turns up, Tinie, Reggie Yates, to name a few…
What was it like to walk on the catwalk for the Oliver Spencer show?
I thought that was sick, something I never ever thought I’d do, something I’ve ever been the most nervous about in a long time. Everyone was like you’ve performed in front of thousands of people. Normally it’s my show, I’m in control, I know what I’m saying, it’s songs, but that was like saying nothing and walk, don’t mess up. So it was quite nerve-racking, but I only done it because I connected with Oliver, otherwise I wouldn’t have done that at all, but it was definitely something I ticked off my list, so I enjoyed it.
It’s one thing to be interested by fashion and another to work in it. How could you see yourself working in fashion?
Everyone feels like they want to make the next, biggest and best clothing brand. Like if I put my foot in… I don’t know, I was messing around with a tailor for a bit, but it’s just mad and stressful and it’s got to be… to be the best you’ve got to spend a lot and I don’t ever want to come into something half-heartedly and just exploit it. There are people who go to fashion school for so many years, so I don’t want to come in and take the Michael and just surpass them just because of who I am in music and I don’t think that’s right, so I’d always want to have the education, have the knowledge, and make the best product.
Maybe an accessory or something to start with, I’ve been messing around with hats, just because I don’t really see an all-leather piece. I tried to do everything with them, but the problem is, I tried to get them all-suede, but the back of it will just drop down because it’s not strong enough, I was trying so many different materials and I was like alright cool let’s do an all-leather one and try and turn up like that, just adding my little spin on things.
When can we expect to see Wretch 32 performing again and what can we expect in 2015?
They’ll definitely be some performances this year, just up and about and getting back into the swing of things, we should have a tour next year, the album should come next year as well. So 2015 should be the one!
What advice would you give to a new rapper in the UK now and is it easier to breakthrough now than it was when you broke through?
It’s easier, but in other ways it’s harder. I say it’s easier because the Internet is a great tool and you can get everywhere from this Internet and that’s a great thing. But I think the disadvantage of that thing is sometimes you do too much on it and then you’re whole catalogue: your triumphs, your victories and your mistakes, are there for everyone to see. A lot of the mistakes I made were behind visible doors, you couldn’t see it, maybe you could hear me make one on pirate radio, but you couldn’t see me, you didn’t know what I looked like, you didn’t know what I was wearing. Now, when their in the radio station you can see them, so if you’re in a video, I can see it, if you’re just freestyling, I can see it. I can always see you, so you always have to be looking right, looking the part, sounding the part, you have to be a lot more conscious about things like that. So it’s definitely a gift and a curse, being an artist and coming through in this era.
Growing Over Life is the upcoming album, what elements would you say you need for a good album?
I think you need honesty and I think it needs to flow like a record. I don’t like listening to an album when I can hear an artist has just made fourteen singles and just made a compilation of music and just flung it out. I don’t feel like that’s an album. You go back and you listen to classic albums: they’ve got interludes, like certain tracks flow into each other, there’s a journey, there’s a story, there’s a consistent message. I think we’ve lost that a bit, but maybe it’s good that we’ve lost it, because I like doing stuff like that, so maybe that’s what makes my albums standout. So I just like the flow of things man.