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K Koke interview: 'I was a big risk for record labels'

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K Koke

Taken at face value, London-born Kevin Georgiou aka K Koke has all the necessary credentials to become a successful rapper.

He grew up on North London's notorious Stonebridge Estate, has cosied up with Jay-Z and spent almost eight months in prison - in his case, for a crime he didn't commit.

We met up with him at a recording studio to get ourselves better acquainted with the star tipped for big things in 2013.

We're sitting in a studio with you in Chiswick. Are you supposed to be working right now?
"We're taking a little break! We've been recording most of the album here. It's coming along, slowly but surely."

We're at the big "ones to watch" time of year, and you are one of the artists whose name is being passed around a lot. Are you feeling any pressure?
"There's a lot of talk, but I'm more or less ready, so we'll just have to let the music do the talking!"

Things have gone a bit crazy for you in the last couple of years...
"I signed with Roc Nation about two years ago. Three months after I signed the deal I ended up in prison for seven and a half months, and just had to start again after that. I haven't been out to the US - the charges brought against me mean I can't go out there just yet."

You'd been making music for five years prior to getting a record deal. Has much changed since then?
"Nothing changed musically, but going to prison so soon after signing sort of froze everything for a while. I'd just started recording the album and then I was locked up. I've come out to all of this praise and attention and it's a lot to get used to."

You talk about your time being wrongly imprisoned very openly, which is quite unusual for an artist on a major label.
"You can only be real about it. I might as well just tell the truth about what happened, because I have nothing to be ashamed of and I hadn't done anything wrong. Just after I was sent down Sony got a new Managing Director, so when I came out my deal wasn't secure at all. We were on hold for a good three months after I was released and since then I've just been working hard. It's been a bit crazy!"

K Koke at MTV Brand New for 2013 launch gig


You've already released three 'Pure Koke' mixtapes and an EP independently; was mainstream chart success always part of the plan?
"At first it was just fun, but after 'Pure Koke: Volume 1' there was a decent amount of hype and thought we might be able to take it somewhere. It was only then we had the vision that it could go big. Before I signed with Sony/Roc Nation I'd been to every other major label. There was a lot of meetings but everyone was unsure of me, everyone said I was too much of a risk at the time."

Jay-Z met with you personally when you signed to his label. What was that like?
"I can't even remember! I was in the middle of choosing a management team at the time, and then I got a call from Roc Nation saying not to sign anything until he'd had a meeting with me. When I met with him it all made sense, everything suddenly felt that bit easier."

Your new single 'Turn Back' features Maverick Sabre. How did you two get together?
"Mav's easy-going. He's very calming. It just happened naturally really - he knows some of my family that live in Ireland. We'd done some stuff together before, so we made this track happen."

Watch the 'Turn Back' music video below:



There are a lot of big collaborations on your new album with the likes of Rita Ora and Emeli Sandé, which is quite impressive for a debut LP.
"The track with Rita is my next single, it's called 'Lay Down Your Weapons'. They're big collaborations, but I'm not worried about it - the music is very different to what's out there at the moment."

What would you be doing if things hadn't taken off?
"I probably would have just kept putting out music and seen how it went. I think one way or the other it would have happened."

So there is no back-up plan?
"No. The roadside is my back-up plan!"

Listen to Digital Spy's K Koke playlist below:



K Koke's new single 'Turn Back' is out now. His debut album follows in 2013.

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