Fans of long-haired, steroid fed men will likely be aware of a wrestler called Shawn Michaels. Back in the early 2000s he would enter WWE’s weekly ‘Monday Night Raw’ special to glam-rock razzmatazz, dazzling pyrotechnics and the lyrics “I think I’m cute, I know I’m sexy… I’m just a sexy boy.” A decade or so later, and now at the impressive age of 52, Michaels still brings a similar level of camp-ish, teenage-fever-dream-inducing pomp to arenas from Atlanta to Cleveland, St Louis to Brooklyn. And through it all, he’s continued to go by his nickname: ‘The Heartbreak Kid’.
I bring this up not because Shawn Michaels is a marvel of human engineering, and perhaps performance-enhancing drugs, (although he definitely continues to be a one-of-a-kind entertainer, and I will never be reticent to have just one more listen to his immortally brilliant theme song), but because he shares his nickname with up-and-coming artist Yxng Bane. The young Brit is the mastermind behind last year’s afro swing-tinged track “Rihanna” that became so popular it’s racked up plays to the tune of 18 million.
“He had a lot of flair, the ladies loved it,” Bane says of Michaels, sitting across the room in the offices of his label Disturbing London (founded by Tinie Tempah), “but that’s not why that’s my nickname.” We’ve arrived ostensibly to talk about Bane’s new single “Vroom”, which we’ll get to later. For now though, it’s time for an explanation of his personable epithet. It turns out, "I’m the heartbroken one,” he says, his grin merging with an almost palpable sense of sadness and hinting at a complex internal tussle. “My whole life I’ve tried to help people around me and make sure people are alright, but 95 percent of the time it doesn’t work out and I’m heartbroken.”
This heartbreak, Bane explains, doesn’t solely revolve around love, it’s more about being disappointed or let down. Quite clearly he’s not Shawn Michaels, nipples out, spandex covering his nether regions, entering a ring most evenings to be piledriver-ed into a table. Instead he’s a 21-year-old musician from Canning Town, east London – and as such that heartbreak revolves around the complexities of growing up in the city (“it can be a friend, it can be betrayal”) and the humorously inconsequential (“it can be your barber, it can be your dry cleaner” messing up your look). In fact Bane jokingly describes the latter two as being “the worst, they always mess up my stuff!”. All of which is to say, Bane has been through some disappointment, but he’s mostly shining – something that is apparent with the music he’s currently releasing.
Labels do their thing, and sometimes that thing takes time, and so when Bane I meet it’s January, when the winter chill shows no sign of letting up. Sipping green tea, the clock ticks onward as we await Bane’s arrival. “He’s on his way” could mean anything from 15 minutes to somewhere closer to an hour – and in this case we’re working with a longer, more-cups-of-tea-are-needed timeframe. When Bane eventually arrives, taking a quick shot of whiskey, he explains he had been working in the studio until the early hours – somewhere around 6AM – which is why he’s late. Man is tired.
Like pretty much any human on the planet whose parents have working ears, Bane had been around music from birth. His formative years – the ones where you don’t usually get to choose what’s on the stereo – were spent listening to “R Kelly, Boyz 2 Men, Isley Brothers, some gospel music, African music.” Then he discovered 50 Cent, who taught him about writing hooks. Still, he never planned to have a career in music. Instead, when college finished, he applied to Greenwich University to studio economics. By the time the first semester was over though he decided to drop out and pursue music full-time, to dive nose first into the deep and go all or nothing.
Clearly, it paid off. A couple of months after throwing two fingers at UCAS and moving into music he released a dancehall remix of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You”, another track that has tens of millions of views. In the last year he’s played Dubai; he’s brought the dance to Nigeria; he’s raised the levels of mercury in thermometers in Sweden, Norway, Amsterdam. BBC Sound Of… and Vevo placed him as one of their Ones to Watch for 2018. And now here he is, about to release new track and video “Vroom”, of which we’ve got the first play.
“I want people to listen to ‘Vroom’ and enjoy it and feel like you’re in the party and go crazy when it comes on,” says Bane, visually excited and shifting around the armchair he’s sitting on as though he’s inhaled an espresso. He sings the intro, smiling, almost transported into another place – “ I want people to go mad when that happens,” he says, of the moment the track kicks in. Obviously you can hear it above and make your own opinion but those first few bars (and the rest of the song, let’s be honest) shine like the beginning of spring and those moments when the right tune can have your outfit looking crisper than before, your shoes feeling as though they’ve been given that extra bounce.
Directed by KLDVR & G FrSH and shot in Printworks (a large warehouse-like venue in south London that used to house the Evening Standard printing press), Bane says the aim of the video was to bring the same energy he had in the studio to life. In it, Bane stunts, looking like he’s having the time of his life, and translates “Vroom’s” feel-good foundation onto the screen. And so, he may be the heartbreak kid – and I would certainly be into hearing the more melancholic, pensive parts of Bane spill out into his music – but for now with “Vroom," Yxng Bane is bringing a euphoric vibe, basked in sunshine and teasing the summer months to come. Let’s keep the energy levelling up.
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