"Share Location" is an interview series in which we speak to British musicians, actors and public figures about their formative experiences on this miserable grey island.
Since the early-2000s, Maxwell Owusu-Ansah – AKA Lethal Bizzle – has been known for lots of things. Let's reel some of them off: More Fire Crew's iconic grime tune, "Oi"; his single – and another iconic grime tune – "Pow (Forward)" being banned from radio stations and clubs for supposedly being too aggressive; his reinvention as a pioneering dance-grime artist; and his devotion to making "dench" happen.
I caught up with him recently, just after the release of his latest single, "Woah!".
VICE: What's the worst job you've ever had?
Letha Bizzle: In the summer of 2000 I worked in this factory in Walthamstow, and I used to have to make, like, do you know those paper folders that graphic artists put their shit in? I had to basically smash them together for six weeks. It was boring as fuck. I'd have to hit them in four different places with this hammer – I was basically a man-robot doing the same thing again and again and again, nine to five every day. Honestly, it was the worst fucking job ever. Fucking hella boring.
Where did you have your first snog?
Man, this is quite embarrassing. I had it in my old school hallway. I was in year seven and there was a girl in my year and I was into her. We did the whole boyfriend-girlfriend thing; I got my mate to ask her out for me and she said yeah. We were going out, so I thought I should probably lips her down. I was waiting for the perfect moment and she was saying goodbye, and I went in. But man, I was terrible, apparently. I came in the next day and everyone was taking the piss out of me – saying I didn't know how to snog. It turns out I was going in a bit too in. She told everyone and dumped me. Well, she just didn’t chat to me anymore, so I realised we weren’t together.
Where was your classic date spot?
Back in the day? To be honest, I had to keep it local. We had this massive park on my estate where everyone went to hang out. We'd get two pieces of chicken and chips, either from Western Fried or Favourite Fried, and then we’d get the chicken and chill in the park. That was that. We’d tell girls to meet us in the park for chicken.
I’m not sure that would really impress me. Did it work?
Yeah, it was cool – I was part of the cool gang. We all had mopeds, cars, no licenses. They were kinda impressed by that. I don’t think they were that bothered about the chicken.
What was your first experience of smoking weed?
I went to Amsterdam with my crew back in 2002 – that was the first time I left the country for music. It was weird, people were recognising us. We went to a coffee shop called Green House, and there were pictures of celebrities and rappers on the walls. I just though, 'When in Rome' – well, when in Amsterdam. I dunno what I smoked, but I I remember I just fell asleep, and when I woke up realised I had to be on stage in 20 minutes. I kinda got addicted after that, smoking a bit. Then I went, 'Shit, I work too hard to be a bum.' So that was that.
Are there any clubs or bars that you're barred from?
No, not me personally. After "Pow" and everything that happened, just after that there was this two-year window when I couldn’t go anywhere if it was under my own stage name. Of late, I've grown up – I don’t really get into too much trouble. In those two years, a mad rumour started that all my gigs are bad and I cause trouble because the music was making people start fights and shit. Rumours just spread – they thought I was the one causing trouble.
Where was the first time you got in somewhere for free, or were given something for free, because of your newfound fame?
Damn, that's a god question. I don’t remember the first time I was waved in to a place, but the first stuff I got was a bunch of Nike clothes for a More Fire Crew video. We got socks and trainers and a hoodie, and I just didn’t understand what the fuck was going on – I couldn't believe it. It was the most bizarre thing that had ever happened to me. A boy from my area having nice Nike Air trainers was a hobby. I got them for free – it was fucking mental, bruv. All we were doing was making a song. I’ve still got the hoodie, not sure where the trainers are.
Where did you live when you first moved out of home?
I bought a little apartment near Stratford, but quickly realised I was still living in the hood – being in Stratford – and maybe I should try again somewhere a little cooler. Stratford is all nice now, back then… I was just seeing the same people. But I didn't have to go to the park anymore to see girls, that was helpful. I could have somewhere to bring girls and chill and have drink-ups and shit like that. It became a fucking community centre, man. We were all young – 18 or 19 – it was rare to have your own place. So all the mandem used to come over; I'd be the wingman when they’d bring girls round. The spare room was basically a hotel room.
Where have you thrown up in Britain?
I can’t be 100 percent sure, but I’m pretty sure I threw up in Movida. I knew I was going in a bit too much that night, but I thought to myself, 'Fuck it.' I think we were celebrating something. Basically, we were rat-arsed and then I ordered another bottle of vodka. This guy brought the bottle over and sort of looked at me as if to ask what the fuck was I doing. All I remember is I was on the floor by the tables, my head was down on the floor and people were bending down to take selfies with me. Then I vomited.
I didn't know where I was, but I can remember walking through a kitchen and being put in a car. I woke up a few hours later and I was still in the car. Man, I panicked a bit, like where the fuck was I? Who was driving me? Where was I being taken? Then I realised the car wasn’t actually moving. My mate and the bouncers had just picked me up, dragged me through the club and locked me into the car before going back to party. Fuckers, man.
What's your favourite place to perform in the UK?
Probably Reading and Leeds Festival – I have soft spot for them. They were two of the big festivals I did back in 2006 when I didn’t think anyone at a festival would be into my music. And then the reaction was even more hyped there than the normal clubs I'd do. Every time I go back there’s always a big reaction.
Last time I played there, two years ago, I brought Stormzy and Skepta on as special guests. I feel indebted to them, too, because when I was getting banned because of all the controversy around my name they booked me anyway. It was a hard time – I couldn’t really make money. I was basically thinking of stopping music; Reading and Leeds changed my perceptions, so I always try to go extra hard for them.
What's the first thing you stole, if you've ever stolen anything?
Probably a car. Yeah, a Fiat Punto. Back in the day, my guys were into the car business and I remember seeing them hot-wiring wicked cars all the time. It's a lot easier, I thought to myself, having a car than taking the bus. Obviously I didn’t have a license. One of my mates, now quite a well-known MC, so I won’t name him, showed me how to do it. From then, I was always in some type of car. That impressed the girls. We’d sell them on as a bit of a hustle on the estate.
Who is the worst living Brit?
Probably fucking Theresa May, man – I think she’s full of shit. I was invited to have a sit-down with her recently. I said fuck no, because I didn’t see the point. She’s not even in power. It was ironic, I thought, that she wanted to meet people from a community having issues only when she’s leaving, bening forced to stand down.
She’s just another doughnut, like David Cameron. Maybe’s she’s worse than Cameron: chats shit and does fuck all. I considered saying yes for maybe a minute, but realised it was just for the cameras – why not two years ago, around Grenfell time? That’s when it was important to meet people from the community I'm from, not when you ain't got a job anymore so you’re doing a farewell PR stunt. Yeah, fuck Theresa May.
"Woah!" is out now.