We chat with the grime rapper making moves and shaking things up in 2016.
It’s a UK ting. While that still is true things are changing and grime is finally going global. Global in the sense that intuitive rap lovers all over, especially American hip-hop are taking notice and listening to the musical movement that’s been blasting in our clubs, bedrooms, and underground raves for years now. This means now that grime rappers in the UK more than ever before have the potential of not just being that local rapper who spits hard bars and has vast views on YouTube, but can make it to international success.
Grime rapper Eyez is one of those rappers. In the last six years he’s made a name for himself as a dexterous artist across the UK. Hailing from Derby the MC first started doing clashes and battles rapping around the Midlands and caught the eye of many outside of his home city. His quick flow and effortless bars had him able to complete all four of the main clash events across the UK. Although Eyez gained a core fan base from battles and his own music videos, his goal however was to be more than the battle rapper known over Midlands. He’s since moved on from his infamous start proving that he is not just one singular talent.
Eyez released his first EP “WoiOi” in 2014 which was very much grime but also has a sound that is very much his own showing a versatile and capable rapper. His further projects include collaborating along other UK rappers including his latest collaborative effort is with Sheffield rapper Kannan called “High N& Lows.” Now the rapper has reached another chapter in his career. He is focusing on himself on and being identified as an eminent rapper. This is no better time for Eyez to continue making major moves as Grime seems to be at a peak right now. All eyez are on the UK! (pun intended).
One thing that will get people hyping soon is the mixtape Eyez has been working on recently with Redbull Studio’s called “Mind The Gap.” The project celebrates grime rappers from all over the UK and will be a superb showcase of the talent outside of London. The collaborative project is set to highlight and honor some of the top grime talent from the north and midlands. Eyez mixed the tape that was recorded in Red Bull Studios and specially selected each of the other seven featured rappers.
But ahead of the drop we had a frank conversation with Eyez about the UK grime scene, his beginning in rapping, and the changeover of this career. Hold tight, this has the potential to be a game-changer.
How was it like for you to get your name out there starting out in the Midlands?
Eyez: Well it started off a bit hard, but because as soon as I started the scene, the internet started getting a lot more I don’t know, a lot more people wanted to use it. So a bit more fashionable, a bit more day to day. So basically I did like a freestyle video and it got like a lot of views from there. It took me a while from when I was a child trying to rap but as soon as I took it serious about it, it just happened. I did a video, it got like 30,000 view. I sold it to a couple video channels that were big at the time and then I did one that got one million views so from there it was just crazy. It was pretty easy through the music videos but maintaining that, I don’t know 5 years since I’ve been doing it, 6 years, that’s been the hard part. The hard part has been maintaining.
Would you say it’s harder not coming from London?
Eyez: I would say it’s got its ups and downs. The hard part was in London, so the travelling to the top producers, to get to all the radio stations, so on and so forth, like all the things you could imagine. And then, the good parts is because I’m from a small city and people from the city do something big they see it as ten times bigger than it is. It’s easier to get my whole city around me, rather than the rappers in London it’s just an area. It’s hard for a rapper in London to get the whole of London to be on them. While in Derby, there’s only a few rappers so when there’s somebody good, I’ve got a lot of core fan base just in my city, that’s what it’s good for. I know I’ve always got at least 30,000 views just from my home city so if anything ever did go wrong like a big city, London, I can always go back to Derby.
Obviously grime, and rap in the UK is more than a London thing, do you think rappers/artists outside of London are getting recognised?
Eyez: I think now is the right time that’s why I made the mixtape. I think this is the time that no one really cares about where you’re from so, like no one I don’t know what the word is, neglects you because you’re from somewhere different. There are a lot of artists at the moment Lady Leshurr, Bugzy Malone are doing their grime and rap thing from outside of London and they’re getting crazy million views. I think there’s a platform, it’s not like “oh we’re from midlands” anymore, it’s more of a “oh okay you’re letting us in so now we’re a part of it. We’re coming with the best ones from up here.” That’s why on the mixtape I’ve got like the best people from each city. So they’re the people that are basically as big as the London artists and known by all the artists. It’s kind of like, it think now is the time Midland’s is basically on the same levels as London and London people are happy to let that happen.
Grime is getting backing from big international artists. Do you think that a good thing?
Eyez: I think it’s great. I think it’s a great thing I think the world needs to hear it because it’s a different type of genre. Just like, it’s not like hip-hop it brings a completely different emotion. It’s different, like I think every kind of genre has a different emotion. I think that grime being another one. It’s like a fun aggressive one. It’s fun, it’s not like, it’s not actually any harm happening. It’s just people pulling angry faces and enjoying themselves. It’s a weird genre but I think the world needs to see it.
In the sense that it’s been around for a while and some people did know about it until Drake said something. Do you think people should have been known about it?
Eyez: I just think it’s really good thing for the UK to be honest. Someone from America just like fully on what we’re on at the moment and backing it, even though Drake’s from Canada, sorry. It’s just big how someone that is so big is fully behind us and hopefully it makes more people aware. I know a lot more artists from America are playing a bit UK music. I’ve seen Chris Brown play Section Boyz. It’s just loads of different stuff happening which is pretty sick. A lot of collabs are happening recently as well.
How important is it for you to not have a typical sound, or to explore other sounds?
Eyez: It’s very important. My style is what I grew up on. It represents me and my upbringing. It’s very unique so it means a lot to me to keep doing my style, what actually represents me, because then when people hear it they can get a good understanding of who I am and what I’ve been through.
So how will you describe your sound then?
Eyez: I’ll describe my style as uplifting, very energetic but very lyrical at the same time. A lot of people find it hard to do it all, but I think I’m a really energetic lyricist. Which is kind of weird, I think I’ve got quick lyrics, without sounding bigheaded I’ve got good lyrics and good charisma as well.
Your single from last year “Without Her” was something different; it had that slow, love song vibe.
Eyez: I always made a tune depending on what emotion I’m in on the day. I always kind of change, but I always spit rap at the same tempo, speed, which is just a little bit faster but still on different subjects. But it still sounds like the same me, the same flow.
So you started out clashing and battle rapping?
Eyez: I started battle rapping but yeah I didn’t really carry that one. I don’t really like battle rapping I feel more like myself as an artist.
That’s cool because I was watching some of the videos. What is that scene like in Midlands?
Eyez: It’s mad, I’ve done loads of different battles all over but I’ve got a song recently where it’s explaining why I don’t like to do battles anymore. I’ve gotten a bit more, it’s hard to explain.
Eyez: Yeah evolving.
What’s the Midlands grime, underground scene like? Any artists from there we should know about?
Eyez: There are loads of artists. It’s incredible really got a bubble. A couple of years ago it was just like Midlands was mainly holding grime. Like a lot of people got big during that era, so did I to be honest. You’ve got people from Nottingham, you’ve got Mez from Nottingham, you’ve got people like JK, South One, Mist, Lady Leshurr from Birmingham. Then you’ve got people from Manchester, R.I.O, Wrigley, Blizzard, Bugzy Malone. You’ve got people from Derby, me, Dubzy, Mystic, Badz, JNR, and Fernz. There are loads of different people. The list just keeps going. It’s crazy really but I think there are only like two or three from each city that are actually going to maintain it. Because a lot of people are good, but they don’t carry on, which is sad because it’s hard in the Midlands. A lot of people just stop because they don’t think that it’s possible from where they are. So that’s what I’m trying to change.
Do you think grime rappers see this as becoming a career? Is it kind of, not a hobby, but just a phase in their life?
Eyez: I think they do see it as a career but they don’t put enough work in and enough time and effort to actually get to the place. Being from Midlands you do have to put in double the work and a lot of people are putting in half the work and getting annoyed that they’re not getting big but being from Midlands you have to put in double the work.
In an interview before you said you want to be looked as an established artist in the UK, not just a Midland’s underground rapper do you feel like you’re at that point now, or what else has to happen for you to be?
Eyez: I feel like I’m getting to that point but I feel like I’m getting to the changeover now. I’m releasing my single, got this mixtape with Redbull. I’ve got loads and loads of different stuff coming. I feel like now is a good time and I’ve obviously got more links with people in the scene, like song writing links, for me to do songwriting. I’ve just literally got a band as well so going to do some a grime live band. So it’s been pretty sick, I’ve got loads of different things planned. I think now is the changeover.
Now you’re recording this Redbull studios mixtape, which must be exciting. What can we expect from it without giving away too much?
Eyez: I can’t really give too much but just expect a lot, a lot of excitement and fun. I think a lot of you are going to hear and play a lot, just really fun. The other projects I’ve got are with ZDot. That’s got a couple songs that are already out on it, got “Anyway” which is already out and “Midnight” featuring Mez from Nottingham is already out. Mez is doing quite good at the moment. Skepta and Stormzy keep bringing him out so he’s doing well. That one is going to be, I don’t know exactly which date, but we’ve kind of finished it we just need to do like I wanted to add one more song, so maybe we might do one more song. That should be out August time. We’re still planning on when for it to be out because we don’t want it to clash with the Redbull one. We’re trying to get one more collab on there as well. That one’s pretty sick. There are a lot of bangers on there. He made Lady Leshurr Queen 2 and 3. Quite of other songs he made gets most viewed songs. He made majority of artist’s most viewed song’s to be honest.
So you like to do collaborations then?
Eyez: Yeah I do like to do collaborations but as of now I’m trying to focus on myself. I think I’ve done collabs for quite a well but I’ve never really branched to get big, big collabs. Trying to build myself a little bit so that I can approach bigger artists. Actually on a level where I have my own instead of “can we make a collab” and you’re just helping me out. I want to be on the level where they feel like “yeah I want to make something with this guy because it will be good for both of us.” I’m just building myself, like next year I said I’m going to go in. Like I’m going in now, but I believe I’m going to get big part of this stage.
Your latest is this “Highs and Low” EP with Kannan. What is it about collaborating with different artists that inspires you?
Eyez: I just like Kannan’s flow a lot, I like his accent. So I just told him let’s just get this cracking really. And he had a studio not far from my area. So it just made sense. Got it played, one of the songs is on a playlist on 1Extra called “Fire Burning” which gets played now all the time, got played today actually. That’s what we did, just made a little collab. It was pretty sick because I got to do a lot of stuff with Kannan who hadn’t done quite a lot of stuff I had done, so it was sick to bring someone else and see him get excited.
What’s changed from Eyez the battle rapper to the Eyez now?
Eyez: Now I know a lot more about the actual industry and what you need. I know you need a team. I’ve got a lot more networks now. I’m in a much more high space where people actually respect and see me as an actual musician, not just a rapper from the street who does freestyles. It’s pretty sick .I’ve got a lot of links who are celebrities and people that I’ve made songs with, managers and different labels, and all sorts of stuff. All kinds of people, so I feel like I’m in a crazy position right now, just getting it all done.
Words: Chenae Rodrigues