As a woman who is physically incapable of turning down anything free, the presence of an open bar means I can’t quite remember Yxng Bane’s set at the most recent Wonderland party. “It was lit. It was a good night,” Bane himself smiles coyly when we reunite in an east London flat a few weeks later, with the knowing look of a man who has quit drinking; a clever man.
My memory might be diluted by #spon Ciroc, but the 22-year-old rapper/ singer’s reputation precedes him and despite being softly spoken and brooding in person, his showmanship is notorious. The fact he used to wear a Batman Bane mask to cover his face is difficult to compute when every mention of him is bookended with praise for his stage presence, but the evidence is right there on his Soundcloud profile. “I don’t know,” he shrugs from the other side of the sofa when I ask why he wanted to keep his identity under wraps. “I just grew up like this. I didn’t even have social media before this. Not even Facebook. The first video we shot, I took it off anyway, then I couldn’t go back!”
With his master plan for secrecy foiled pretty much from the outset, Bane’s embraced performance. “I like the energy at Future shows and I like the feel at Drake shows,” he tells me, so imagine you’re getting a cocktail of the two, topped up with a solid measure of audience participation from a crowd who came to sweat. “I might do a two step but no routines,” he smirks.
Perhaps the most convincing case for Bane’s live capabilities is Wiley’s attendance at one of his headline shows. “Wiley doesn’t stick around for nothing,” he laughs, recounting the night late last year. “I’m sitting in the dressing room and one of my friends runs upstairs and says, ‘Wiley’s downstairs!’ I said, ‘What?! Doing what?’” Footage from the night lets you relive the moment they took to the stage together to perform the 2008 electro-grime banger, “Wearing My Rolex”. A packed out room of second wave grime fans gasp, wide-eyed at what’s playing out before them.
Shoes DIADORA and clothing Yxng Bane’s own
A fellow east Londoner, the chart- friendlier hits of Wiley’s lie in a similar lane to Bane’s tracks, they’re slick and expertly produced but still maintain enough bite and personality to feel like a welcome respite to the rest of the top 40 fodder. Sitting in the mainstream is familiar territory for Bane; he only started releasing music seriously in 2015 after dropping out of uni, but by early 2017 he’d already made waves with his dancehall rework of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You”. “I was in the studio and my manager called me and the song was playing in the background on the radio. He was like, ‘Why don’t you remix this track?’ So I just did it,” he shrugs, achingly cool about the song that now has almost 17 million plays. “I sent it to Jamal [Edwards, SBTV] and my manager knows Ed. Ed was cool and gave it a nod then we put it out. And then it became an official radio hit. Ed Sheeran’s my mans!”
Though he’s found fame in dancehall and afrobeat-inflected tracks, Bane insists he can’t be categorised. “It’s not so much I don’t want to, it’s more if someone says ‘Bane does rap’ then you go and listen to those guys that do rap…” he trails off. No-one has invented a word for what he does yet, I offer (although Afro-swing comes pretty close to fitting the bill).“I don’t even need a word!” The title of his latest single “Vroom” might do the job, condensing the relentless energy of all his pop collabs and solo efforts in an unabashed club track.
“‘Vroom’! It’s just crazy,” he laughs, at the time visibly excited to unleash the new video featuring six simultaneous versions of Yxng Bane. “It was fun, the studio process was fun, the video was fun. When I was recording it I felt like I put myself in a night out world and everyone was drinking, I guess that’s where the energy of the song comes from – it’s party time.”
“It doesn’t even feel like a job,” he continues.“It’s just me. It’s just a part of my life?” He seems confused at what I’m getting at, but there’s no denying he’s putting in the hours, even if some are reserved for “party time”. Those five other Banes might come in useful – real or not – with new features on tracks by Ella Eyre and Craig David, an appearance in the Live Lounge with Liam Payne and over 100 unreleased songs in the bank, there’s no sign of a lull. Not bad, for a drop out. Catch me at his next show stone cold sober.
Taken from the Summer 2018 Issue; out now and available to buy here.
(LEFT) Shorts DIADORA and top BILLIONAIRE BOYS CLUB
(RIGHT) Trousers BLOOD BROTHER, shoes KENZO and underwear CALVIN KLEIN
Emily Dhanjal using Rodial skin care and Bumble & Bumble hair care