Maxsta was 14 when he started MCing and just 16 when he released his debut mixtape and MaxstEP. Five years into the game (at 19, I literally have piss stains on my carpet older than him) and he's doing what any smart artist does at that stage in their career: selling out. He has a new hit single, which samples a Rob Base hook, called "Rock Right Now".
Selling out's still a thing, right? Do they have selling out in grime? I dunno, I've never even listened to grime. Everyone in the office laughed at me when I said that; apparently it's been around for a decade! It's not that I don't want to like it. I enjoy bouncing around to Agnostic Front in my living room. Or staring at people pretentiously on the train whilst listening to Nick Cave. All those bands wrote their best music before I was even born. I desperately need to be schooled on new genres.
I guess my lack of grime knowlege was the reason my editor thought it would be funny to send me to meet Maxsta. Well screw her, because I learnt loads about grime from my new mate.
Noisey: I've been asked to ask you a bunch of shit, but I'm just gonna dip in and out. The thing is I'm not massively into grime, so I just wondered if you could school me a bit.
Maxsta: Yeah, that's cool.
So, WTF is grime?
If I'm comparing grime to hip-hop, firstly, hip-hop is a genre that can vary tempo-wise and all that kinda stuff. Grime is always one tempo, which is like 140.
It sounds very restrictive…
That set tempo is like a template for grime. In terms of the history of it, let's just say your Dizzee Rascals, your Kanos, your Wileys I'll use them as your three kinda…
Trinity of grime?
So which one's are Jesus, God and the Holy Ghost?
Wiley's God, Dizzee's Jesus, innit, and Kano is the Holy Ghost, somewhere among it all. Basically it started in 2002 onwards, them times it was really like the culture of youth in London, it wasn't just the sound. It was the energy and subject matter. Nowadays it's kinda got to a point where it's less subject and more just hype. Y'know, like jungle music, you've got the beat going on and you've just got the MC chatting a bag of shit. It's a bit like that in grime at the moment. There's a guy called Tempa T, say him, he's just shouting a bunch of random shit that he's gonna do to you. He's gonna fucking… [Phone rings] Mum, I'm doing an interview what's up?
Can you ask your mum who her favorite grime artist is, other than you?
She doesn't know any… Mum, I'm gonna do that for you a hundred percent, yeah… But obviously… Mum…Yeah but I could just put it from my savings account into my account… Wait, what, have you got my other card?
Mum, who's your favorite grime artist, other than me? The interviewer said I should ask you. Not favorite grandma, favourite grime artist…
[Maxsta's mum on speaker phone]: Oh favorite grime artist, it's Wiley.
Maxsta: BLAP! BLAP! [hangs up] So yeah, taking it back, Tempa T, he's like "I'm'a smash your TV", it's just a lot of attitude, I do have that side to me.
So you're not gonna tell people to rip their curtains off?
Nah, I can't be arsed.
What would you tell 'em to do?
Do drugs, but like minimum…
Yeah, I only smoke weed and stuff like that.
You could shelve a pill. Do you know what that is?
Do you know what shelving is?
It's shoving a pill up your arse.
Ooooooh, nah. That's fucked up.
Right? Anyway, apparently there's a thing in UK media where they look at any young black artist with a mic and call it grime. What do you think about that?
Yeah, because it shows whoever is writing that article isn't actually listening or gaining enough knowledge about the music. People will say "Yeah, Tinie Tempah and Tinchy Stryder are grime superstars". They came from that, but I wouldn't call them grime.
What are you then?
Just fucking Maxsta. It's hard to say, I like hip-hop and I like to do grime when I need to. But in terms of how I'm coming out of my Sony deal, it's a lot of hybrids that make me feel comfortable.
What's Tinchy Stryder?
Who else is pop?
It sounds like a lot of little guys. "Tinchy"…"Chipmunk"…
Nah, do you know what's funny, I think Tinchy is the only one who's, like, actually small. He should probably be called Tinie Tempah, he should. It would probably suit him better.
So, what's the ultimate grime track? Is it something by N-Dubz?
Nah, I like their music it's just not grime, ultimate grime tune would either be a song by Wiley called "Wot U Call It?", which is funnily enough about what you call the sound.
OK, that's quite good.
Yeah and that was made early on when people were literally like, "What do you call this new sound that you've made?"
What's your favourite N-Dubz song?
Errr… It's one of the old ones…from like literally when they first came out and had £10 videos. Like, "I Swear" and shit like that.
What does the chorus to that go like?
"I swear, swear there was times when you would tie me to a chair…"
Sounds like it's about bondage. Have you met Dappy?
Did you hear what he said the other day about the guy the headmaster thing?
With the killing?
It was fucked up, but I feel bad for him, because it weren't necessarily…he weren't knowledgeable about it and just said "free this person" or whatever.
[PR interrupts]: Well, does he definitely know him? I don't think we know if he knows him.
Maxsta: Oh, yeah, doesn't even know him or whatever. But, he put at the start of the video, "Free…" about fifteen people, and that was one of the names.
It seems to me like he kinda put his foot in his mouth.
[PR]: I think he's admitted that.
What advice would you give him? What would you do in that situation?
Maxsta: If it was me I'd be like, "I was a total idiot for that, and I'm sorry."
What do you think he's gonna say?
[PR]: He's said it.
He said he was an idiot?*
[PR]: He sent his condolences out to the family.
*I later found out that Maxsta's PR people also look after Dappy. AWKWARD.
MOVING ON. What would your advice be if I was going out on for a "grime night", what should I wear, how should I dance?
Obviously, don't wear a suit or nothing.
Sort me out…
Wear, like, some whatever trainers you got, some Nike ones.
I've got K-Swiss on?
Yeah, they're tight. Do you know what? How you are dressed right now, if you'd told me you just come back from a grime event, I'd be like "yeah, how was it?"
OK. I'd probably want to have a shower.
Yeah, it would get mad sweaty in there, as well.
Should I wear, like, baggy clothes, then?
Nah just whatever man, you've got people in skinny jeans and you've got people boiling in tracksuits. I mean you don't really get many girls at grime events.
You do, but it's not like, "Oh my days, I'm going to this grime rave there's gonna be loads of girls, I'm on the pull tonight."
It's just ball bags.
I still can't understand why there's no women around.
There are loads of girls in this country who like it, but are they gonna go to Wireless, because Drake's there, or are they gonna go to this place in Shoreditch because some grime MC is there? You know what I mean?
Yeah, they'd be going to Wireless. What do you think of the term "urban"?
I think it's shit. Music is just music, innit?
Yeah it is.
Obviously "urban" isn't just for music, it's like "youth culture". Fuck that shit, man. That's whack.
What do you think people who say "urban" are trying to say? And who's saying it?
That every black artist is urban.
Every single one?
A black rapper in England is always "urban". Why am I urban? Just cos some person in an office says so.
Who are you talking about?
The media and shit.
[Laughs] But it's like a media term, innit.
What do you think about Wiley's incapability to do anything with the media?
I was talking about that today. Obviously I respect him for what he does and stuff, but you're only holding yourself back if you're not gonna do the things that are there to push you forward, like, Dizzee does all the things he's supposed to do, which is why he is where he is.
What do you think he's doing when he's not turning up to stuff?
He's at home smoking weed. I remember, when I was younger, yeah, one time, he rung me, it was like 12 in the night. And he rang me like, "Yeah man, gonna come get you for studio." I was like, proper opened my window and was gonna sneak out my house and shit.
How old were you?
Sixteen and I jumped out my window, I'm waiting outside my house and he's rung me like, "Yeah, I'm just down the road, bro!" and then that was the last I spoke to him, he didn't pick up when I rang him.
He just stood you up?
Yeah, like why ring me at 12 o clock in the night, make me jump out of my fucking window and then…? It was just weird, but then Wiley's a bit weird.
He probably doesn't even remember, most people I know who have dealt with him have a '"Wiley has fucked me about story".
I can imagine. You know how JME has expressed that he's making concerted efforts to not go pop, what do you think about that?
Good for JME.
Yeah. Good for you pal. Obviously I support that and I'm happy that you have that much belief in something. Yeah, literally, good for you, man.
Where do you stand on that?
I have no loyalty to grime other than the fact that I like doing it. But I'm a person who is from the world, so why would I not wanna make the kind of music that the world will want to hear.
What do you want to do?
Be a universal artist in the world.
What's your dream show, or achievement you wanna do?
Get a fucking Grammy.
What do you make of the MOBO awards?
It's not got as much clout as it once did.
What did you think about Jessie J winning a MOBO? Is she a proud black woman?
What one did she win again? They do a lot of fucked up decisions that just make you think, "Well, what happened there?" But fair enough, it's music of black origin.
Yeah, but you could kinda say any popular music of the past 100 years is music of black origin, because it pretty much is.
It's fucked up. The MOBOs…let's just say, I remember when Tinchy Stryder was the highest selling male in the UK of that year, he'd literally ran 2010 and he didn't win a MOBO at all.
Burn. In one of your songs you talk about still having love for the ends.
Where do you live now?
Is it nice?
Yeah, it's quiet and I don't come out my house and see some black kid in a hood going, "Where you from blad?"
You just see white kids in hoods drinking cider on the corner?
I do! I literally do! This one time, yeah, this girl had left my house in the morning and she's texted me, "Umm, I was walking and there were two black boys fucking two white girls in a bush." My area, it's not scum, cos it's a nice area, but it's just fucked up like that.
It was, like, Sunday morning!
When did you move out there?
2009. I wanna move in the next month. It gets a bit annoying when I'm trying to write lyrics at two in the morning and I'm getting my mum knocking on my door, like "I can't sleep".
Where you moving to?
That is nice, are you gonna get a riverboat?
Nah, I'm just gonna get a little apartment, it should be alright. I've been feeling like a grown man recently, so that should complete the transition.
Follow Josh on Twitter @JoshuaHaddow