INTERVIEW BY IAN McQUAID
With the amount of MCs dropping bars about the bars they shot, and the tings they shoot, it’s bizarre we’re still in a recession, and that anyone’s left standing. Believe most of the mixtapes bubbling up from East London this year and you’d be convinced that every man in the ends just stacked 10 g’s on 5 keys, is driving a banging motor, and kills a brother a week. If that were the case, by now Hackney would consist of 3 rich hoodrats dressed in gold plated snapbacks looking for someone left alive to write them a beat.
New blood Frenzy is turning his back on all that greasy shit, and bringing a lil truth back to the game… On his first official mixtape, Kareem Mc’lean, he’s delivered a confident set of slick soulful beats that switches between gal chat slackness, jokes, dreams of a better life, and dark, soul searching. At one point spitting that he’ll leave postcodes to the postman, Frenzy don’t waste his time following the herd. His philosophy is all there on the effortless, intelligent freestyle over James Blake’s Wilhelm Scream beat where he rolls on the mic-
“Can’t keep chattin about pussy and reality// cos in reality niggas pussy, that’s reality // smoke crow til they can’t feel gravity// keep smoking crow til they lose sanity// I can’t lie, yeah I drink my sorrows// I’m thinking about things I wanna think tomorrow// It’s like I think too much, say too little// drink too much, pray too little// and all these thoughts got me in a pickle// so now I’m writing up in riddles, and I’m speaking in tongues// dreams of the upper class, but I sleep in slums// no beef, I ain’t needing a gun.”
This self-awareness, and Frenzy’s ear for a soul heavy beat is making peeps take notice, and the general consensus is, who else in England is rapping like this right now? Wanting to know more, we emailed the MC some questions to get a bit of perspective on where he’s at, whether he’d take Simon Cowell’s dirty money, and why he’s not making trap.
First off, a little background – Where are you based, and how long you been writing/recording rhymes?
Well, I’m from Hackney well known for its young multicultural population and crime. We also have tons of talented individuals down here but it’s like the boroughs full of hate more than anything lol, still love it though.
I’ve been rhyming ever since year 5, which was in 2002, but I’ve been making proper presentable music for the last 4 years. Although some people have been with me since I’ve finished secondary school, I would like to think that from college my music really picked up probably down to age, maturity and experiences.
Who/what are your biggest influences?
I’m going to say Skepta has been present with me from the very beginning, I’ve been fascinated with his creativity from 2004. I also followed a grime crew called ‘The Movement’ which consisted of Ghetto, Devlin, Wretch32, Ghetts and Scorcher. They are all outstanding MC’s even to date. Recently my music has been heavily influenced by various artist from different genres for example Skepta from grime, Kendrick Lamar from rap and James Blake from alternative. I found a balance between everything I enjoy listening to, and channeled that into my music,
The tape’s called Kareem Mclean, and he’s kind of an alter ego for you, right? Tell us who he is, and why you wanted to present him
One of my names is actually Kareem and I feel like I’m ‘clean’ cut, just in terms of who and how I am, and eventually I’ll ‘clean’ up. I’m silky smooth lol. ‘Kareem Mclean’ is me being the ultimate version of Frenzy.
The mixtapes got a really cohesive, soulful sound, did you deliberately want to make something that moved away from the trap stuff a lot of artists are pushing?
Well I’ve been listening to a bit of hip hop but not as deep as people think. I mix the new things with the old things to create ‘new old school.’ The soulful sound just allows people to relax and think productively rather than listening to people who can only rap about what they have and what they’re getting next. So yes I purposely rap this way so people in my home town can hear a difference and get used to it.
How did you go about recording it – are there some old cuts there, or was it put together in a short space of time? Is there just one producer?
A lot of the instrumentals were downloaded from producer’s tapes however ‘Juice 99’ was produced by Josh Macintosh and ‘Potential’ was produced by Stikemproductions, I really enjoy productions from Freddie Joachim. It took me altogether a whole year to get those songs together sounding how I wanted them to.
On I Know you say you’re wanna get to the top without selling your soul – what do you think constitutes selling out? Like say Simon Cowell offered you £20K to drop bars on a moist Harry Styles solo ballad about are you gonna say no?
LOOL that actually made me laugh, well if I get to the top I won’t be selling my soul, it’s just reassurance, I don’t think selling your soul literally means what it is, what I mean by selling my soul is making music I’m not comfortable with. If Simon Cowell offered me £20,000 for a song and I was comfortable with the topic and production of course I’m taking 20 stacks lool
You say you don’t want to rap greasy hood shit – why do you think so many MCs go down that route, and what makes you avoid it?
A lot of UK rappers are scared to tell the truth which is the foundation of music. I feel like they go down the path of gangster rap because it’s appealing and gives you that hardknock music, and where I’m from being hard is essential. But there’s only so hard you can be, I think it’s just conformity and peer pressure that makes you rap about unrealistic crimes lol, also I think that’s the quickest way to build hate.
Towards the end of the tape you bare your soul more than most rappers are willing to, and admit to having a dark mindset – do you really think you’ll be ‘negative til you hit Gods Gate’?
I wanted to end the mixtape the same way I started, I want people to feel how conscious I really am and how aware I am of the things going on around me. I want my music to influence people in a way which reduces ignorance. I’m very pessimistic, I have a chip on my shoulder and I feel like I’m very unlucky. ‘Negative until i hit gods gates’ was a big statement, however when I wrote ‘juice 99’ that’s how i felt. I was in a deep place.
And finally, what do you think a UK artist needs to do to stand out? and what are you planning next? Anything we should look out for?
Well this mixtape got me more of a following and has opened a few more doors for me, I want to utilize my new links and create further opportunities for me and my team, ‘Kareem Mclean’ was a success which I feel I can build on, I’ll start working on ‘Kareem Mclean 2’ from April, ensuring it be better than this one, In the meantime watch the visuals on GWOP FELLAS CARTEL . For ‘Kareem Mc’lean’ we’ll be bringing out videos almost like movies for at least 4 tracks!
Hit up Frenzy on Twitter: @FrenzyUK
Check out Frenzy – Kareem Mc’lean
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