Joseph Junior Adenuga, aka Skepta, is having a busy week. Konnichiwa is out, knocking both Beyoncé and best mate Drizzy off the top of the UK iTunes chart like a particularly heavy-handed game of Jenga. And he's currently on a sold out tour of the UK that included an eye-watering show at London’s KOKO.
So it’s a surprise that the usually lowkey artist found a spare hour to sit down with BBC 1Xtra’s DJ Semtex for a revealing video interview. Among other gems, Skepta chats about the first bars he ever wrote, his musical upbringing, the current state of grime, his top 5 MCs, and potential collaborations with Stormzy and Drake. Read a few choice cuts from the interview and watch the full video below.
On learning to love his vocal style: “I had to appreciate that what I was doing was a style… it was sick. I listened to Barrington Levy; songs that have got a four-bar hook repeated over a song four times with bridges. I’ve grown up with songs like that so it’s never about the deepness for me, it’s about writing that bar that’s going to stand the test of time. I don’t go for all that rap stuff. I wait for something to happen in my life then I’ll be like: ‘No one’s ever said that before. Everybody’s scared to say that.’ Then I’ll say it.”
On writing his first bars: “Wiley heard of JME and called him to go to the studio, but the studio was in South. I didn’t want my brother to go there on his own, so I’ve gone there with him. When I’ve gone in the studio, I remember Wiley telling me, ‘You should write a grime lyric.’ But I wasn’t into it. I went back home and thought of the lyric and thought, ‘OK, I’m gonna do it.’ I remember going to sets with Roll Deep and that, and I only had one or two 16s, but I was in with those guys, but it was good. It gave me the drive to write more and be the best MC in the rave every time.”
On taking creative risks: “I’m a music head. So with trying out different styles, that’s what I’ll always do. Sometimes I’ll get it wrong, sometimes I’ll get it right, but I’ve accepted that now… I’m a London boy, I’ve got so many cultures around me. I’ve done Turkish songs, Japanese, Chinese, afrobeats, funky… I’ve done all of it because I’ve got every kind of vibe in my system.”
On turning his back on the mainstream: “It was sending me mad. You see it happen to a load of artists, like when Britney cut off her hair. There’s a point where you realize you’re not happy. Like ‘I’m waking up and I’m making music, but I’m not happy’
On his relationship with Drake: “I can’t tell how he heard of me. I will never know, but I’ll put my money on him finding me online and searching for my music because that’s what he’s like—he’s a music lover...For me, it was a blessing that he was co-signing me and bigging me up, because I’m still gonna do what I’m gonna do anyway. Like, him shouting me out, or even just shouting me like ‘Skep, you good?’ I can be like ‘Yeah I’m good fam.’ I don’t want him to ever think because he co-signed me that he owes me anything. I’m just blessed to have them man supporting. My album came out on the sixth when I was in Toronto, and it’s like home. The way they’ve got me out there is mad.”
On working with Stormzy: “If me and Stormzy touch a tune, that’s top ten. That is shaking down the charts whether anyone likes it or not.”
Oh, and if you wanted to know his top 5 MCs: JME, Frisco, D Double E, President T, Novelist