J Rick Is on a Ride from Hype-Building Producer to Solo Act

His stamp sits all over the synthy, experimental UK rap that helped break Octavian. And how he’s making music in his own right.
Ryan Bassil
London, GB
J Rick press shot 2019
Photo via PR

If you don’t already know the name, you’ll know the sound. First comes a deep synth, smelted with the tint of brass while a raspy, several-packs-a-day vocal guides the production as if meandering half-cut through a kitchen party. Or maybe the production leads the voice. This is Octavian’s break-out “Party Here”: a defining track in the cross-genre melange that makes up forward-thinking, left-leaning modern UK rap.


Behind the decks on that tune stands London producer J Rick, whose luscious production backgrounds many an Octavian release. The two of them started living together shortly after they met, while studying at the Brit school. J Rick had already left his strict Christian family behind to live on his own terms, and as two pals with similar interests, linking up made sense. Later, they formed their crew Essie Gang – its name a play on the phonetic pronunciation of their southeast London (SE) postcode, and includes Octavian, Michael Phantom (who featured on both the original and Skepta-guested versions of Octavian's banger "Bet"), J Rick, and a couple more audio and visual collaborators.

The two of them – J Rick and Octavian, that is – are a strong team. Their accolades include a BBC Sound of 2019 Win (for Octo, but surely inspired by tracks the pair made together), gasping-for-air-from-the-open-window-of-the-Uber tune (“Lightning”), comedown couch-lock (“Hands”) and the rest of Octavian's tape, Spaceman. But now – like Steel Banglez, the producer behind some of last year’s vibrant, party-prepped pop/rap tracks (“I See You Shining”, “Hot Steppa” and “Fashion Week”), Metro Boomin, or any one of the other producers that've proudly stamped their name on the front of a record – J Rick stepping out as an artist in his own right. He tells me as much when we chat over the phone on a Tuesday afternoon; he's prepping a zoot to head out and enjoy in the hot weather, in fact.


Back in Feb, he dropped his first solo release, “Short” – a tune that sounds like the musical manifestation of sativa being dropped into a flavoured Juicy J paper then smoked in a glass-walled room high on the skyline. Today, he’s following that up with the video for “Gone”, which oscillates between kaleidoscopic euphoria and pensive thought. Filmed in Egypt, it's an insight into parts of the North African country that you're unlikely to see in a battered Lonely Planet guide full of tourist traps.

There's personal weight to the track, too. You can hear the voice of J Rick's late uncle, professional boxer Errol Christie, sampled at the beginning of the track in conversation with late career criminal 'Mad' Frankie Fraser. "When I made ‘Short’, my uncle was still alive – so at that time I was in a different vibe, but later he passed away," J Rick says. He couns his uncle – known too for his book How I Put The Black In The Union Jack – as one of his biggest inspirations. J Rick has immortalised Christie's "No retreat, no surrender" mantra – it's the title and inspiration for his upcoming mixtape, and it's also tatted on his skin. Watch the video below, then read on as J Rick stars as the next act in our Here's The Deal With series.


“You see the last video, the one for ‘Short’ – that’s the garden I’m in. It’s the one with the mini-ramp. I built that a couple of years ago still. We were doing a party anyway then decided to do the video there. But I haven’t skated for a while now: I fucked up my back. But when I do go it’s to Royal Hill and then there’s a skatepark in Finsbury Park, so man goes there.”


“I had a bad cough basically, then I was in the shower, man was coughing and coughing in the shower and my back went ‘bladadap!' It was wild. I had a session that day as well, man was getting ready to go to session, then man fucked up in the shower and had to get some painkillers and some whisky.”


“It’s got a mad history. It’s a historical place, and there’s bare shit there. There’s bare Christian history and bare Islamic history. I thought it would be a vibe still. Bare man go Egypt or whatever but just bang out quad bikes in the desert. I wanted to go there and show the real side of Egypt. didn’t just want to do a video where it’s like ‘Oh yeah, we went to another country and totally neglected everything there – the culture and the people.’”


“I like bare films. But with anime I watch more seasons. You get more from it that way. You can squeeze an anime into a film, but you’re only getting an hour or hour and a half whereas with a TV show you get loads, you get me?”Deathnote, that’s one of my favourites still. Attack on Titan is one of my most recent ones. I went to Japan with Octavian a couple weeks ago and grabbed a couple of books of the actual anime, manga, so I have a few of those things still. Me and Octo and Benji B did a show there last year and opened up the Stone Island Store in Japan. We did a show to open it. They gave us some clothes, still! We got a couple of coats, a couple of jumpers, you get me!"


"Shawshank Redemption, Shutter Island, Cloud Atlas – you got to see that, it’s hard, still – and what else is there? I rate all The Incredibles, the Disney ones. But I was annoyed they undermined (superhero villian) The Underminer in the second film: he was at the start and then they quickly moved on. And since a kid I’d been waiting to see a whole film about the Underminer, and it didn’t happen. I recently jumped on that Endgame, the Avengers thing too. I banged them out in a short amount of time."

Credits: Directed By Armin Druzanovic, co-Directed By Barney Clark and produced By Stem Studio