Think about the value of all the stuff you received or gifted over Christmas, multiply it by three, and – unless you’re a millionaire or famous, in which case DM me – chances are the price point is nowhere near what Loski splashed on himself in one month alone, sometime last year. Talk to him about Moncler jackets? He’s got the blue one, the grey one and the black one. And his shoes? Well, as he put it numerous times on his 2018 mixtape Call Me Loose, they usually cost five and they’re Italian.
We meet on a Friday afternoon in the office of his record label, Since ‘93 (a Sony imprint that’s also home to UK number 1 artist Fredo and the spectacularly charismatic up-and-comer Serine Karthage, among others), where he’s wearing Apple Airpods, atop a look that falls between comfy streetwear (trackies and boxfresh Air Force Ones) and luxury (an expensive-looking coat). “I’ve been living in Harrods,” he tells me with a laugh – something Fredo would probably approve of, since he’s also a fan of the London department store. But first – before we get into all that lavish stuff, all of which is detailed in his new single “Boasy” (premiering below) – a primer:
– Loski is one of the leading stars of what could conceivably be called UK drill 2.0 – or, at the least an evolved and polished form of the stuff that popped off on YouTube channels in 2016/7 – where the wheat is becoming separated from the chaff; the big personalities from the street level tunes (see also Headie One, whose track “18Hunna” is headed for number 1 this week, or east London rapper Unknown T, who released one of the standout UK tracks of last year in “Homerton B”).
– Depending on how much you’re plugged into the scene, you either came across Loski in 2016, thanks to breakout track “Hazards”; in 2017, thanks to “Money and Beef”; or in 2018, no thanks to the moral panic surrounding UK drill. But we don’t talk about all that – at least not the moral panic stuff anyway – because Loski is on a new wave now: he’s living different. I’ll let him explain.
“I feel like there’s two types of drill. There’s drill that’s like, ‘yeah – you’re just saying it.’ Then there’s exposed drill. I was doing exposed drill,” he says, leaning back on a comfy and generous chair in a low lit room. I’d just mentioned that I’d noticed a shift in his sound, with particular reference to “Hot Steppa”, an afro-swing-tinged collaboration with UK producer of the moment Steel Banglez that was released last year. And so – at this point you may ask, like I did – what Loski means by exposed drill? And so, he’ll reply, he’s talking about the “getting-at-you” kind: the one that makes the headlines, the one that’s raw – full of perceived-to-be real life references to waps (weapons), splashing (stabbing) and opps (opposition).
“And I was doing more of that,” he continues. “But because of the position I’m in, I can’t do that as much anymore. And that was what I liked doing, so because I can’t, it’s like ‘Ah, forget it.’ That’s why I don’t really bother with doing the old drill stuff anymore.” Plus there’s the fact that it’s not good to be restricted by one genre of music, and drill has its limits – there’s only so much you can say about a certain kind of lifestyle, especially for a versatile rapper like Loski. Sure, “you get little silly comments like, ‘Oh, he can only do drill.” But to that, Loski has one short answer: “shut up”. He chuckles. In person he’s warm, good natured and has a quiet and charming charisma that belies his age by somewhere close to a good decade (he’s 19).
And so, since Loski finds himself in a growing process, where he’s polishing up his sound, I wonder: what’s important to him when writing tunes – is it the bars, the hook? Nope, neither. “It’s that they’re real. I ain’t ever going to make no funny music, no fake music,” he says. In the case of “Boasy”, that realness refers to a wild month last year, when, in terms of spending, it was “about twenty this month that I ran through”, by which he means twenty grand, on duck down jackets, Bape – all of that, all of that, off the back of having more money than he’d ever seen in his life (he’s since got an accountant to handle things).
Lyrically, longtime Loski fans might be able to draw a narrative that traces “Boasy” back to his earlier work. While he’s stepped away from so-called ‘exposed’ drill, you’ll still find the hallmarks of a Loski track here, from references to shottas and Mad Max (aka Harlem Spartans member Naghz Max), as well as callouts to other tunes. Plus, with a chorus that boasts “she says she loves me and she meant to”, “Boasy” plots a journey back to the hook for “Cool Kid” (“She says she loves me but she hates my habits”), and back again to lines on “Money and Beef” (“Baby if you love me then you’ll hold onto my mash”) and “Just Sayin’” (“She said she loved me, no you don’t / you won’t even keep my mash at home”).
Whether it’s referencing his favourite shoes (Giuseppe), or the fact he brought “skengs to peds” – a lyric that first popped up on “Hazards” but is also self-referenced on “Money and Beef” and “Forrest Gump”, as well as this new one – Loski is a natural storyteller who consistently alludes to his previous work, easily threading narratives across several tunes. But beyond the Chicago drill artists he grew up on, is there anything else that might have inspired his writing? His mum studied English Literature and History at university, he says, so maybe it’s that. And to this day, Loski still reads – he reckons Donald Goines’ Black Gangster and Walter Dean Myers’ Monster are the novels that had the most impact on him.
Despite referencing it on “Boasy”, Loski says he won’t be spending stupid money again – it was a one time thing. Still, fair play. As he says, when you’ve spent your life looking at expensive stuff and not being able to afford it, you deserve to throw up some cash when you finally can; that’s what it’s about. It’s just that that was one month last year, when his head was in a mad space. Right now, he says, he’s feeling fresh. “The year’s just started. Before, I used to think ‘Ah, today. What’s today going to be like?’ Now? I’m looking forward. Headline shows, cities I haven’t been to, festivals. I’m looking forward to the year. I’m dropping my tape. I don’t care about nothing else now.”
You can find Ryan on Twitter .
Loski's mixtape Mad Move drops on March 1. Pre-order here.