In Talks With S-X: Dealing With Fame At An Early Age And Being The Man Behind The Hits
15 Jul 2022
S-X is a producer, singer, rapper, and songwriter from Wolverhampton, who has had a very interesting career. Early fans may know him for his production whether the iconic ‘Woo Riddim’ or working on the Grammy nominated, ‘Because the Internet’ by Childish Gambino. Newer fans will know him for his work with KSI or his variety of influences on tracks like ‘Dangerous’ or ‘Feels So Good.’
Now with a debut album releasing on the 29th of this month and new single ‘It’s Over Now’ out today along with a music video directed by Troy Roscoe, we ask who is S-X? Well in this interview we discuss how that early success changed his life, how a brief time away from music reminded him of what was important in life, and how he is using his name to help newer artists from his home city. One thing that this interview will do, is educate you on the man behind the music.
You blew up off the production of the iconic ‘Woo Riddim’ and you worked with people like Skepta, Chip, and Wretch 32 before the age of 18. How did working with these artists develop your sound and did blowing up as a producer from a young age force you to mature quicker as a producer and a person than you would have done if became popular later in life?
I think so, as I was literally 17 and it did put me in the spot when you’re in the big leagues. I had Skepta calling my phone, Chipmunk calling my phone. I am literally in college at this time, I’m 17 so I haven’t even long come out of school. I have idolised working with these guys my whole teenage years and now I’ve just finished school and they’re hitting me up to work. It was pretty much from doing absolutely nothing to the following week doing absolutely everything. It was very quick the transition and it hasn’t stopped since, over a decade later. It is crazy.
I imagine it was a weird transition. One moment you are making a song for somebody like Skepta, who’s one of the biggest names, and the next day you’re back in college just chilling with your mates.
It was different. It doesn’t feel real, and it still doesn’t, especially being in Wolverhampton and I still live here. It keeps me humble, it’s not like I’m in the mix every day and around different people. I’m pretty much on my own, just chilling at home and when I get to do these cool things, it’s like you don’t get that in Wolverhampton.
I get you, most of the attention usually goes towards London. But the Midlands is doing its thing. I’m from Birmingham, so I know there’s a lot of people in Birmingham doing their thing. You’re doing your thing, there’s people in Nottingham, Leicester. I guess because you keep yourself to yourself and as you said humble, that allows you to take these things in without letting them go to your head.
I mean everyone lets stuff get to their head and there’s levels to it. I never let it turn me into a different kind of person, I’ve always remained Sam. But I have always known that I am levelling up because you can’t deny facts. Everybody lets success get to their head, it’s just a fact. But there’s levels to it getting to your head. There are some people who let it affect them in way that they think they’re superior to others.
Some people are just like wow man, I work hard and the reason why it’s happening is because I am working hard, it’s meant to be happening. Not to play it down, but that’s how I view my success. I work so hard, I am not surprised it’s happening because that’s the only cheat code is hard work, there’s no other way to be successful other than graft your ass off.
I think that is a very measured approach to it. If you work hard then you get results. Obviously, there’s a way of doing it where you celebrate your achievements and you have fun, but not in a way that’s demeaning to other people or saying, ‘I’m better than this person because I made a song with this person.’ I respect the way you handled it.
For sure. We all bleed the same, we’re all going to die one day. No one is more superior than anyone, if you (are) Elon Musk or homeless, it doesn’t matter.
You’re finally releasing your debut album. What about this project stands out to you and do you think it’s going to surprise people in any way?
For me, it just feels like an album. I’ve dropped 4 mixtapes and 1 EP. 5 projects prior that I have always just curated songs together and never cared too much about the mix of them and the lyric detailing. I’m just freestyling a lot of the time. Whereas this one I really made sure I am paying attention to the message I’m putting out, making sure it stays true to me and how I’m feeling at this time. The album is called ‘Things Change’ and it’s a recap of the last two years.
With Co-Vid, life changed, and I’ve been through some personal issues during that time and it’s time for me to talk about it on the debut album. I feel like it’s a graduation from my old music. It’s still S-X, but he’s elevated. Like ‘Locked Off’ with KSI, I’m in more of a Pop Lane. But then I’ve got some real hard Hip-Hop stuff where I’m spitting my emotions like the classic S-X. I’ve really tried to make this album different. But it’s always going to be me as I only know how to do me, but there’s so many different sounds that I explored in here. I could be here all day talking about it.
I agree with an album it should have a message because I remember listening to an interview with somebody recently and they said the reason an album is called a record, is it’s a record of what you’re going through in that period of time. From what you just told me, that’s exactly what you’re trying to do with your new album, and you’re trying to experiment and do new things.
I want people to listen to it from the beginning through to the end as a project, rather than skipping songs or going to what songs might have a feature. Listen to it as a project, because it’s been made that way. it’s been made in a way to listen to as a message, as a story; the sonics and the sounds as it changes, lyrically and musically. It’s insane, it’s my best work in my opinion and I never speak about myself like that. I’ve always ended up hating my music as soon as it comes out, as I’m sick of hearing it. With this one not so much man, I’m still loving it. I’m proud of it.
That sounds like a good sign for what’s to come. From what you’ve told me I’m definitely interested to listen to it and like you said I think in this day and age there can be a tendency for people to just make projects that are just a collection of songs, or the consumer does have a tendency to go ‘oh that sounds interesting I’ll play that and that.’
I personally prefer to listen to an album, because I think you get a better sense of the artists and what they’re trying to put across. I agree with the sentiment of listening through an album completely from start to finish.
If you was to listen to one of my old projects like my first project I ever put out ‘House Clothes’ was like an EP. I called it that as I was just chilling, I’m getting to know myself, I’ve got my feet up. Then I dropped ‘Reasons’ because I’ve only been singing since 2017, so it is relatively new. And this mixtape ‘Reasons’ dropped in 2018. Then I dropped ‘Temporary,’ then ‘True Colours,’ then ‘A Repeat Wouldn’t Go A Miss.’
So, things change it ties in with all those previous mixtapes and it still holds similar messages. It’s still S-X, but it’s futuristic too. I don’t know how to describe it’s just S-X music man. I know a lot of people would say my music is similar to different music, but all music is similar. You know when it’s S-X, I dunno you just know. You have always known if you listened to the emotional beats from 2010, I’ve got that same DNA in me.
At the end of the day, if your making music that fits what is you, people are going to relate to it and they’re going to enjoy it. But, from what you’ve told me I’m interested to hear the album myself.
Yeah man, you’re going to enjoy it. It’s good music.
For a period of time, you spent a bit of time away from music and you ended up working in a warehouse and starting a family. What did you learn about yourself during this time, and did it change your perspective on making music?
It did because I realised that although I had a Grammy nomination and I had a gold record and a no 1 album in America, I had no money bro. It made me realise that just because you got these accolades, it doesn’t mean you’re able to live. It was humbling because I’ve never put myself above anything, I’ve never felt no way to go ahead and get a job at that time. I got a family, I have kids.
A lot of people don’t know about that, I don’t speak about it publicly. But I know I’ve got kids; I’ve got to provide. The first and foremost thing I have to do is that I’m a father first. Even if things went downhill for me now and you catch me working in Tesco, it is what it is. It’s for the kids, it’s for the future, everything I do is for my legacy.
I respect that. If you got people you care about and need to supply for, you just got to do it. It’s all well and good doing something you enjoy, but you got to get money. Unfortunately, you need money to survive in this world.
To go back to the album, that’s what’s been tough making this album. During it, I have had a lot more recognition from fans. I’ve got a lot bigger over the Pandemic. But I haven’t been able to really drop as much music for label reasons, personal reasons. Things have changed in my life. I’m really super grateful that fans connected with me because that allows me to support my family bro. You know I just came off tour last week. Seeing and touching the fans was the sickest thing, it’s reassuring. I haven’t been able to do that for two years with the pandemic not being able to tour. So, it’s been amazing man, to get back out, so I just wanted to shout out to the fans.
You got to put in that work.
You have to, you have to not stop. Even if you feel tired and some days when you feel like not doing it and you do it, those are the days where you feel rewarded.
As you spoke a bit about going on tour, I will move on to that question. This was your debut tour where it was just you?
Nah, this is my third tour I think on my own. I did a tour in February 2020 which was all sold out. Then literally a month later the pandemic happened, so I got to get out just before things changed. To be back out with the fans, connecting with people who haven’t been able to be back outside for so long and reassuring man, just reassuring in every way. To remember you got fans who will support you, to remember that you can go back outside again and have fun, not feel guilty. It’s been good man. I can’t wait to tour the new album and hopefully, there’ll be another tour coming.
For me, when I was able to go back out and see artists again it was great. Music is one of the loves of my life, so to be able to go see people again and be around people who are happy and enjoying themselves, that’s a great feeling. And for you to be able to put your music out there and go and see that it’s bringing joy to people that must be a good feeling.
The best bro, the most insane feeling. People are singing back a song that you wrote in your bedroom or your hotel room or wherever. Again, reassuring because I’m not the biggest artist in the world. I don’t have this to fall back on and be like I can just chill. I can’t chill man; I have to keep working. It is working out and I feel super blessed and grateful for that man.
What advice would you give newer artists on how to get through tour unscathed?
Don’t drink alcohol. That’s the number 1 key or at least have a day off the next day. Rest that’s the key, don’t overdo it. Especially when you’re doing the small tours you have to (even though you’re the artist) do a lot of other jobs. Carrying in the merch, helping out. We’ve got a small tour team, I’m not selling out arenas yet, I’m still involved with the nitty gritty bits. I enjoy that man, probably not doing that stuff I’d say would help.
Rest, eat healthy, drink so much water, drink honey and lemon. Just look after yourself as your voice is the star of the show, you need to rest that. Don’t do what I did and try finishing your album whilst touring. It’s been a hectic month for me. It still killed me at the end of the Dublin show, where we ended it. I gave it my all and I definitely finished myself, so I took a long week to just recover and I’m just about back. That’s it, man you just got to take it easy on tour, there’s no going back if you mess it up.
If you could go back in time to one concert, who would you go to see and where?
Damn, that’s a good question. I’d probably want to see Phil Collins at Live Aid when he did the two in one day. He flew in from America on a Concord. He did the America one, then he came back on the same day to the one in London. I would want to be there for that because he’s one of my favourite artists and that’s just legendary. To be able to see that and say I saw that. Iconic man.
That would definitely be one of those performances you would want to be at. Phil Collins has so many great songs and Live Aid was such a massive event. That’s a good choice man.
I was thinking Eminem, as I never got to see him live. But I will probably get to see Eminem live before I get to see Phil Collins again.
One thing that interested me is you work with Wolves Records, which is a record label for Wolverhampton Wanderers FC. (With) a record label that’s part of a football club, does it work differently to a normal record label?
It definitely runs a bit differently because it is (a) smaller team of people. Ultimately, it’s always the same kind of thing. There’s a team for everything, the market, everything’s there. We’re more focused on homegrown talent, rather than trying to find stars like a major label. We’re looking for raw people that people relate to.
I was interested as when I saw it, I was like ‘Wolves have a record label, that’s interesting.’
It threw a lot of people off because it’s the first club to do that. But it makes sense man, the influence that football teams have on culture and cities they’re based in, in general. It’s a huge platform and an opportunity for local artists or just people that are in the country, to get recognised and to get put on that platform. I work so closely with the club, both with the record label and the foundation. It just makes sense to be a part of something that’s going to be legendary for the city, Wolverhampton.
I think it will be very beneficial to people in the local area who will see you and think ‘oh okay he’s made it and there’s a place now for me to get noticed and get signed and I can go do my thing.’
That’s not been around though, there’s not many opportunities that you can find a record label by a football club, (to) get an opportunity to work with them. Even if you don’t get signed, there’s so many opportunities like they’re doing within the community here. When I was 18, 17 that would have been amazing.
It’s good that it’s there now and I’m sure it is going to help some people. I did find it interesting because it shows record labels can come from anywhere. I remember Sainsbury’s has a record label.
It makes sense because it’s all about influence nowadays and culture. If there’s a platform with a position to replace them, it’s all there.
Which upcoming artist are you listening to right now and what advice would you give them?
To be honest with you, I actually haven’t been listening to much music in general, period. I find when I listen to certain music, I subconsciously try and write songs like that or beats like it. As I have literally just finished my album, I have just been in album mode and listening to my own music. (I) literally flicked through the new Drake album and things like that. Up and coming wise I honestly haven’t been (keeping my) ears to the streets and that’s the zone I have been in.
My advice would be for any upcoming artist; I have been experimenting with just listening to my own music lately, for the sole purpose of getting better and learning about what I could be doing differently while I’m doing it. Not trying to get influenced by what’s already out there, just trying to stay listening to me and honing in on that more, so that I can develop my own sound more. That’s something I want to do since I have been experimenting.
When you’re making your own music, you want to try and make it as original and as personal to you as possible, so I can understand that mentality of not wanting to listen to others music. I think that’s good advice.
You got to keep your music real to you because it will stand out then and more will relate to it. If you make music that’s trying to sound like somebody else or trying to get popular, people are going to see through that.
Also, I have always seen myself as an originator. With ‘Woo Riddim’ there was not a beat out like that at the time. When I was producing the grime tracks for Skepta and artists, they were Southern Hip-Hop beats, those are not really big in Grime. I feel as if I have always brought my own original sound to what’s going on.
But it’s about what works for other people. For some artists, they might need to listen to other artists to get inspired or other music. Sometimes I do need to, but for this album, I haven’t been.
S-X’s Debut Album Is Out 29th July 2022.