Kopparberg believes that life's what you make it. That opportunity lives in every moment and all we have to do is be open to it. To see, do, feel and experience life to the fullest and share it with the people we love. There's even a saying for it in Swedish, Fånga Dagen. With the festival season upon us, In The Moment is a celebration of those artists who do it to the fullest. Those who have risen to where they are through creativity and ingenuity. Those who do it for the love of doing it. For our third instalment, Noisey sat down with the producers behind the sound of Krept & Konan to find out about their journey to London and their career to date.
By now you know the names Krept & Konan. The duo shot to fame in 2013 following the release of their Young Kingz mixtape, which featured the block anthem "Don't Waste My Time" and the poignant "My Story". While a lot of mixtapes are lauded in the underground, Young Kingz achieved commercial acclaim, getting to #19 in the UK album charts and winning the MOBO award for Best Newcomer.
Along with the lyrical dexterity of Krept & Konan, much of Young Kingz's success can be put down to the quality of the production – something that can often be overlooked. The mixtape's beats were constructed by a number of beatmakers, including ADP, who executive produced the album, and Steel Banglez, who's worked with Krept & Konan for almost five years. I recently caught up with both to discuss K&K, the current state of grime and seizing their opportunities in a genre that was growing up alongside them. As Steel Banglez was on the other side of the globe in Miami when we spoke, I figured I'd first ask what life was like when he was a youngster in east London.
"My house was very influenced by music because my mum's a music teacher. My dad is a poet and a journalist, so they're both very creative people." Along with this, Steel was living in the midst of a cultural movement. "When I started DJing at 12, D Double E was my neighbour. I grew up seeing Double's sets, and that's how I really got into music. And when Wiley put out Eskimo I felt like that was my first transition from UK Garage to grime – that was when I realised there was a new generation of stars and music coming through and I wanted to be a part of it. I was heavily influenced by east London and pirate radio."
Both producers are of Indian heritage, and ADP says that along with his brothers bumping 90s hip hop, much of his formative musical experiences were of his parents listening to Indian songs in the house. Banglez reiterates this, adding that one MC really had an effect on him: "Punjabi MC. Punjabi MC's success showed me, someone of Asian descent, that I could do it as well. In the Asian household the parents often say that music's not an attainable thing, but once I saw Punjabi MC happening it inspired me."
So did his parents ever disapprove of his musical goals? "No, because my parents are creative individuals. They've never told me not to do music, because that's their dream as well. I get great support from my family."
Both started off as DJs, and things progressed from there. As ADP says: "My brother had a friend in college who was a DJ, and he used to play his friend's mix CDs in the car. These mixes blew my mind. All I could think about was I wanted to do that same thing." So how did he go about it? "I started saving up money to get turntables when I was about 13 or 14. I think my brother actually ended up buying them for me though. I learned to DJ with hip hop records. I'd read the back covers of the vinyl sleeves and CD booklets and I'd see the credits saying 'produced by' or 'contains samples from'. I was baffled. I did some googling to figure out what these terms meant, then I searched the songs that had been sampled in the tracks I was listening to."
This is where he turned to technology to hone his craft. "I started recreating some of my favourite beats on a PC software called Acid Pro, from there I discovered a DAW [digital audio workstation] called Reason and the capabilities of MIDI and MIDI instruments. I kept learning and using other DAW's. I was developing my production skills and the technical side of things from trial and error. I fell in love with production and I've never looked back since. It's been my life 24/7 since then"
Banglez story is similar, yet he was keen to highlight the role his extensive vinyl collection played in shaping his production skills: "I was collecting it at the time – in the early grime days, before Skepta, before BBK, when it was just NASTY crew and Roll Deep. Those early days. I would feed the vinyls through my Minidisc, put them on to my computer and chop the beats up. A friend had given me a copy of WaveLab and Fruity Loops, and I would make the beats using those."
ADP and Banglez started to build a reputation. Their routes to working with Krept & Konan had a lot to do with capitalising on the moment. "Me and Krept & Konan met through a rapper called Yung Meth," Banglez says. "I used to record with Yung Meth and I found out about Krept & Konan through an SBTV warm up session with Yung Meth, Dubz and Krept & Konan. Then I followed them on Twitter, and they knew about my beats, so I hollered at them and they got in the studio with me." ADP was introduced through his management. "We just clicked instantly. They asked me to send beats through for an EP they wanted to do. This EP became Young Kingz."
Young Kingz was huge. It achieved commercial and critical success in a genre where the majority of artists remain staunchly underground. So what was it like working with the duo in the studio? "Krept & Konan are amazing," Banglez tells me. "They're great artists, they're great writers, they know what they want. Their vision and whatever they've achieved today is what they wanted and what they portrayed in the studio. They've both got their own style; I just let everyone breathe. Whatever Krept & Konan want to do I just balance it out between them both."
It wasn't always easy though. As ADP explains, "I'd be there working on like 15 beats in a day until we'd end up on the right one. But when you find it, it makes it all worth it." The hard work really paid off when Krept & Konan won the MOBO award. "It felt amazing," ADP says. "I felt so proud that the guys won off of the back of a project which the three of us did organically. It wasn't forced like a lot of 'industry' sessions."
For Banglez, it felt like a reward for a couple of decade's worth of risk-taking. "Even though I wasn't the most dominant producer on the mixtape, I felt like I put a lot of work in, and I felt like everything I'd done prior to the mixtape was all a contribution to the success. I was over the moon. I was really happy for Krept & Konan – they really deserved it."
Since then, Krept & Konan have released their debut studio album, The Long Way Home. The LP contains the enormous crossover hit, "Freak Of The Week" (which ADP also worked on), that was as popular in the US as it was over here. As Banglez was on tour in Miami when we spoke, it made sense to ask him about grime's newly global recognition. "I think one of the key players in this happening is Drake. People don't understand his power and influence. He's lifted up England and grime because he's a fan."
However, it's also down to the graft of UK artists: "You know when you do something for so long it's like you perfect it? Like when you're in a kitchen and you're trying to cook a perfect curry or a steak, and you fail so many times but you keep going until you have a nice dish. That's where we're getting at. The music is an industry now. When we started grime it was very underground. Now we have establishments that contribute towards grime and UK rap, the LinkUp TVs, the GRM Dailys, Noisey."
Unsurprisingly, both producers are now hot property, and their diaries are full up. Steel Banglez is involved in the Summer '16 tour and plans to release his first solo album later this year ("it features all the biggest rappers from London: Krept & Konan, Wiley, Sneakbo"). ADP's making similar movements: "I've been working on MIA's album AIM, with Chris Brown, Kid Ink, Plan B, the list goes on…" He also has a solo project in the works.
There are clearly big things ahead, and just before I said goodbye to Steel Banglez, he let me in on something else: "I'm working in the studio at Tape London as well. I was with Justin Bieber in the studio last week. I had a session with his band and then I had a session with Bieber after V Festival. It was all down to a guy called Zeus from Tape. Big up Zeus."
"I want to identify myself as that legendary London producer."
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