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Music Interview

Skepta

By
Skepta
He's one of the leading lights on the grime scene, he's toured with 50 Cent and N-Dubz, and last year he notched up a hat-trick of top 30 hits. So why has Skepta waited until now to release his first album on a major label? We called the Tottenham-born MC - real name Joseph Adenuga - to find out.

How would you describe your new single, 'So Alive'?
"It's a fusion. N-Dubz are seen as a pop group and I'm more of an urban artist. Normally when those two collide the result is a big pop tune, but I wanted to do it the other way aroundand bring out N-Dubz's grime side. Fortunately fans of mine and N-Dubz both seem to love it!"

How did the N-Dubz collaboration come about?
"I first met them when they asked me to remix one of the tracks from their last album, Against All Odds. They basically promised to return the favour for my album, so here we are!"

This is the fourth trailer single for your upcoming album - why the wait?
"I've been waiting for the right time to get it out. There was a bit of a rat race last year with so many grime artists coming out, but I feel like I've got a clear run at the moment and there's a buzz about it. Timing is everything."

This is your first album on a major label - what made you decide to sign with one?
"Initially I never really wanted a major record deal, but because the deal was so right for me, I went for it. It's different if you're a popstar - you're a puppet and you need a three-album deal with endorsements and stuff to make any real money. I managed to keep most of the control in this deal and I made sure the label wouldn't interfere with the music. Also, I released 'Bad Boy' off my own back and it managed to chart in the top 30, so I needed some investment to build on that."

Do the singles represent the album well?
"None of the singles really sounds like each other, but I suppose they're all linked by my MC style, my flow and it being simple enough for the Average Joe to understand. I made the album because last year I was support on the 50 Cent tour, the N-Dubz tour and the Chipmunk tour, and it made me want to create music to make people go crazy. The album is completely inspired by a live audience."

Last year saw several grime artists achieve mainstream success. Do you worry that you've missed out on the moment?
"No. The label held back my album because they wanted the best run-up possible for me, but I feel like I hold my own compared to other artists. However successful or rubbish the latest bunch of grime artists do in the charts, I don't think it affects me because there isn't another grime artist like me. However, if you look at someone like Tinchy Stryder who hasn't had as much success with this album, well, if I was Chipmunk I'd be worried. Why? Because they're similar artists."

What do you think went wrong for Tinchy last year?
"The situation with Tinchy is that he wasn't in control of his project. As grime artists we build ourselves up from nothing, which is something that record labels forget. If you're not careful they end up treating you like Adele or Olly Murs and make you as commerical as they can. His latest album is amazing, but his label didn't want to promote it and he lost support from radio stations. He told me the other day that he's going to take control again on his next project. He's one of the main players and deserves great success."

How do you feel about popstars like Britney Spears adopting a grime sound?
"It's crazy, isn't it?! I was talking to my brother about it earlier. I love it and I love that Americans are starting to respect our sound. Even Busta Rhymes has done a track with Tiesto now. It's opened doors for more artists like me to make authentic music."

Are you hoping to take your music to the US?
"I don't think I'll be heading out there just yet. I think a lot of artists make that mistake and they're forced to neglect the fans they have elsewhere. Chipmunk has done it but he's managed to keep making his mixtapes and stay connected to the London scene. He gets more stick than anyone for being a commercial grime artist, but it seems to have calmed down now."

Your tour kicks off in March. What can fans expect?
"The main thing I want is for it to be intimate. I've been to too many shows where the artists look too superstar-ish. I don't think I need that! I want it to be like a rock show - raw and unrehearsed. I want people to participate and not feel like I'm above them. I want the fans to come and chill with me. I want people to remember they came to the show ten years down the line and say, 'Hey, I even got to meet him.'"

Skepta's single, 'So Alive', and album, Doin' It Again, are out now.

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