Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1097

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Wretch 32: Ploughing on through

Wretch 32
Wretch 32

Recently earmarked by the BBC as one of the 15 rising-music-stars-to-watch for their âSound Of 2011â list, Tottenham, North London rapper Wretch 32 (born Jermaine Scott 25 years ago) has already carved out an enviable reputation as âthe UK rapperâs rapperâ - with praise being prestigiously heaped upon him from such credible Brit-MCs as Tinie Tempah, Professor Green and Devlin. All of which has now resulted in the breakthrough Top Five UK success of his current, compulsively-pounding single âTraktorâ.

Indeed, having initially found underground fame by selling over 15,000 copies of his mixtapes in and around Tottenham (where he grew up the son of a local reggae DJ amidst the grim high-rises of the areaâs notorious Tiverton Estate), prior to his current, new-found mainstream chart status Wretch had already collaborated on-record with such fellow successful UK rhymesmiths as Mike Skinner, Wiley and Devlin as well as supporting chart-topping Brit-rappers Tinie Tempah and Chipmunk on tour, while additionally appearing live at major British music festivals like Glastonbury and the BBC Weekender.

All of which has in turn paved the way for Wretchâs forthcoming, as-yet-untitled debut major-label album. Whose potent blend of tough, infectious beats, memorable melodies and searing autobiographical content promises to tell the no-holds-barred story of his life so far - from the bling-obsessed teenage bad-boy whoâd think nothing of spending hundreds of pounds on a pair of Prada shoes, to the conscious rapper who these days regularly gives talks to school-kids about the right way to live.

⦠Cue for a talkative and ambitious Wretch 32 (famously dubbed âThe Metaphor Manâ by Devlin) to hook up with âBlues & Soulâ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis from his Tottenham office, to discuss - in instantly-recognisable North London tones - his eventful life and career to date.

His current UK Top Five smash single âTraktorâ, which has been acclaimed for its âlacerating dancehall beat and subsonic bass-lineâ

âItâs interesting, because âTraktorâ is actually about a dad talking to his child. Like on the intro the dad is saying "Hey, go get a job" and basically telling his son to get outta the house. Then the chorus is actually the son explaining whatâs going on in his life. Like heâs quit school; he hasnât got a job yet; his girlâs upset âcause sheâs pregnant and - though his daughterâs on the way - he keeps on clubbing and raving... But yet through it all he knows that he rides the beat like a TRACTOR - that heâs a great RAPPER! You know, though everything is so wild in his life he literally does know that he has got a talent and he wants to stick with it⦠So yeah, itâs basically all about having a gift and taking a risk with the music and BELIEVING in it. Which, while we didnât wanna go too deep with it, is pretty much how it is for ME! While my life can be crazy sometimes, I have got a gift.â

What in general we can expect musically from Wretchâs forthcoming, as-yet-untitled debut major-label album

âTo be honest, âTraktorâ itself has actually got all the key elements of the album on it. In that weâve got the excitement of the verses and choruses and then, when you get to the bridge, youâve got the SOUL! You know, weâve got exciting music, weâve got soul - weâve just got a fresh SOUND! I like to describe it as like a mash-up of cool and class.â

Why he describes his upcoming album as âa soundtrack to my lifeâ

âI wear my heart on my CD, man! I literally rap about ANYTHING thatâs affected me - from being born right up till NOW! So in that way itâs almost like being able to read my dairy, where you literally get to know everything ABOUT me! So you can definitely expect a lot of emotional tracks, a lot of exciting tracks⦠Plus a few deep ones as WELL! âCause I do tend to scratch under the surface, and I have got a lot to talk about! You know, I definitely want to be one of those rappers thatâs respected ARTISTICALLY! Where people listen and say âWow! Thatâs a great concept!â or âThatâs a great verse!â⦠So yeah, expect a LOT, man!â

Wretchâs often-wild upbringing on Tottenhamâs notorious Tiverton Estate (heâs previously described his old teenage self as ânot very academic - the teacherâs worst nightmareâ)

âGrowing up here, man, is literally not a joke. Because what happens is, if you get thrown in the jungle, the only way youâre gonna survive is to become an animal TOO! You know, you just adapt to your surroundings. And there was years and years and years when I was literally just on the EDGE - âcause I never left the ESTATE! Because everything you needed was HERE - your friends were here, you made your money here⦠And you donât even realise that thereâs more to life than your immediate surroundings! So itâs almost like something tragic has to happen to get you to a stage in your life where you realise âHold on! Thereâs more to life than just sitting on the wall, talking about tomorrow and talking about yesterday and doing what weâre doingâ... And after my grandfather died from cancer, music was definitely the eye-opener for me. Because when I started doing music and doing shows, I suddenly found myself travelling to other areas and realising there was a bigger WORLD out there... So yeah, it was basically the music saved me, man. Because itâs kept me away from so many things I would have DONE, and so many places I would have BEEN.â

Why music had such an impact on Wretch that it turned into his full-time career

âWell, when your dad is a DJ you just kinda have music in you NATURALLY, because thatâs all youâre hearing all day - different mixes, different tunes... To where itâs automatically instilled into your subconscious. So, when I was 16 and my mum basically said âLook, go out and find your OWN place to liveâ and I was out on my ear, music became the way in which I could vent my FEELINGS⦠Which is when I started writing a lot and started thinking âYou know what? Iâm good at this, plus itâs keeping me on the straight-and-narrow! Maybe I should think about doing this full-time!â⦠And then, with the birth of my son four years ago, all that was solidified. To where I became the fully-grown adult with total responsibilities that I am TODAY! Because I now need to make sure that Iâm a role-model for my child, and that I can definitely cater for everything he needs!â

His early days of working with local producers and selling over l5,000 mixtapes (including 2007âs âTeacherâs Training Dayâ and 2008âs âWretchrospectiveâ) in and around Tottenham

âTo me the mixtape scene is like doing your artist development without even noticing! You know, you start off working on a CD that could possibly be an album, but yet you know you havenât got enough fans to RELEASE an album! So you end up just recording, recording, recording⦠Until you think to yourself âOK, Iâve got enoughâ - and before you know it, youâre putting it all together on a CD and thinking âSugar, Iâve got a MIXTAPE here! What should I DO with it?â⦠I mean, in the initial stages I was giving them out for free and just trying to build the buzz. Then, once the buzz did start building, it was like âOK, let me try and see if I can SELL them now. âCause now Iâm gonna spend more money in the studio, more money on the packaging - so I need to at least try and make back what I SPEND!â... Which is when I started selling them on the street and putting them in a few shops on sale-or-return⦠And I ended up being really surprised at how much an artist thatâs not on the radio can SELL! So from there I carried on making more and more and more⦠Where to this day Iâm STILL doing mixtapes1 Because to me mixtapes is one of the greatest entries into the business there IS! Because youâre developing yourself as an artist without even REALISING it!â

Wretchâs current and future plans in general

âWell, weâve been hit-up by quite a lotta European countries about âTraktorâ. So we might do a few licensing things there as well as in America⦠Plus of course weâre also working on the album; weâre going on tour with Example in February and March, which is like 17 dates⦠You know, for me the main thing literally is the MUSIC, man! I donât go around saying I want to be the CEO of a record label or whatever, âcause thatâs not my DREAM! My dream is just to make the best CD possible, to make the best MUSIC possible, and do the best I can LYRICALLY! I mean, if I get to a place where Iâm big enough musically for my management or my team to be able to capitalise on owning a label, then so BE it! Iâm HAPPY for them! But as I say, my dream is purely just to make good MUSIC - and that right there is my only focus!â

The single âTraktorâ is out now through Levels/Ministry Of Sound

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