“We will create a huge shift in the culture and people will talk about it for years to come” – Charlie Sloth Talks Fire In The Booth
16 Feb 2022
The man behind one of the most influential freestyle platforms in the world, an entrepreneur, Apple Music 1 radio host, DJ, producer, and highly successful business man – to list a few – Charlie Sloth has done it all! Fire In The Booth is home to many influential and game-changing freestyles that have each played a part in the progression of Black British culture. From shining a light on London’s homegrown talent, to travelling across the nation, to now housing a space in the booth for global stars including Drake, Fire In The Booth – and Charlie’s signature sound effects – has become a legendary show.
Following his recent launch of Fire In The Booth in the heart of Jamaica, the London native is showcasing some of the world’s best reggae and dancehall artists, including Sean Paul, Daddy1, Teejay, Runkus, Zebee, Skillibeng, and more. Teaming up with Apple Music to create a global cultural shift, the likes of Qrush, Pamputtae, Zinthos, Blizzi, Laa Lee, Dreadful, F.S, Jahshii, Kant10t and Fyah Roiall have joined forces for the release of the JA cypher that has dropped today.
Mixtape Madness got the chance to catch up with Charlie Sloth via Zoom for a quick call before heading into the studio to record more freestyles! From what makes a good freestyle, to the impact of Fire In The Booth, taking it to Jamaica, and more. Tap in below to see what he had to say!
Fire In The Booth has become a monumental and life-changing experience for many artists over the years! It’s gone from having London’s homegrown talent on to having the likes of Drake hit the booth. When you look back to the very beginning, did you ever see it going as far as it has?
I always believed that we would achieve greatness with it! I always felt that there was a huge gap in the market, there wasn’t a platform giving the artists – who at the time – I felt we’re some of the most talented in the world. I always knew that once people were given the opportunity to give these artists a chance to do their thing, it would explode! I’m still taken back and feel overwhelmed sometimes by how big the brand has got. The fact that it’s almost 14 years old and still going from strength to strength is amazing. No matter where I am in the world, I always get approached by someone who tells me how much it means to them. I’ve always had faith in the talent!
Having just said you feel overwhelmed sometimes, do you ever feel the pressure at all knowing how big it is now?
Not really! My job is to continue to offer a platform for artists to do their thing! There is never a shortage of artists, especially now we are moving into an international space. The amount of talent on a global scale is insane! The only pressure is for me and my team to make sure we stay on the ball and deliver a certain level of artists. That’s one thing about Fire In The Booth, there has always been a certain level of craftsmanship to someone who is delivering a freestyle. People will always have their opinion on who deserves one and who doesn’t, but there is always a lot of thought that goes into the artists we put on the platform.
Fire In The Booth has been going on for almost 14 years and has experienced every sound that has risen in the UK. Just going back to the craftsmanship, do you think Fire In The Booth will grow with this viral era or do you think it stays with that raw, gritty, and authentic talent that really homes in on the art of rapping?
Integrity is a big part of the brand! Throughout the years we have always given a platform to other people within the community to showcase their ability with the likes of Michael Dapaah, who was of course a huge viral moment. He wasn’t a viral sensation at that point, he was just someone who was relevant in the culture that bought comedic moments, and the same goes for Unknown P. There has been loads of moments throughout, for people in the culture who aren’t necessarily rappers, but bring something that we feel is important.
Moving forward, integrity is always a big part of the brand. We aren’t going to put someone on because they’ve done 1 million views on TikTok. It’s not about the views and it never has been! It’s about the craftsmanship and the artistry that an artist can bring to the table.
Having listened to so many freestyles, what do you think makes a good one?
Looking back over the years, the freestyle’rs that always get the best reactions are the ones where the artist really puts their soul on the line. The kind of artist who strips things back and speaks from their heart. We’re in a time and generation where people love to talk about what they’ve got or how good they are but with a freestyle platform like this, especially when it’s not pre-recorded, there is nowhere to hide. People can tell if you are being honest or not and that’s what makes Fire In The Booth so special. There are no special effects – apart from mine of course – no auto tune, you can either rap or you can’t, you’re either lying or you ain’t!
Do you have any from the show that have stood out to you over the years?
There are loads! I think we have done 1,000 episodes but there are some that have had more of an effect on the culture than others. The first big one was K Koke, that came at a time where there wasn’t much love being shown for the UK rap scene and I think that really moved the needle for it. It made people look at it in a different way. Part one of Bugzy Malone’s, to Wretch 32 and Avelino’s, to the more recent one’s from M Huncho, NorthSideBenji, and Jordan McCann – there are so many moments! I admire them all for so many different reasons!
You recently launched the Jamaican series of Fire In The Booth, what made you want to start one specifically in Jamaica?
There is a lot of synergy between the two scenes and cultures, both take an influence from each other, and they have done historically. There is so much talent out there, a lot of the sounds they are using are very similar to the ones we are creating over here in the UK. I thought it was a great time to offer the platform up for people over in Jamaica.
For the JA Cypher, I read that over 100 local artists had asked to participate, which is a lot of people! How hands on were you in deciding who was going to make the final cut?
Oh, very hands on! Everything to do with the Fire In The Booth brand I have a say on, I of course have a great team around me who helps but we took over two weeks going through every person that applied. We sat down, listened to their music, and did a bit of research on them. When you get to watch the cypher, you will see how much effort we put in deciding who made the final cut. It’s one of my proudest moments in terms of the freestyle culture, the energy we created on the day was amazing! The number of artists that turned up from different parts of Jamaica, and even different neighbourhoods that wouldn’t necessarily mix – it was good vibes, and everyone bought their A game!
Do you plan on taking it to other places?
There are some really exciting things happening with our partnership with Apple Music. We have a huge announcement coming in the next two weeks and once that has been made it will become very clear what it is exactly, we are trying to do with the brand and the partnership. It’s some of the most exciting stuff I have worked on personally! If we get the next steps right, we will create a huge shift in the culture and people will talk about it for years to come.
Putting the music aside you are a highly successful businessman, you travel the world a lot, and generally just live your best life! What advice would you give to your younger audience who aspire a similar path to yours?
Believing in yourself is the most important thing! I know it’s easy to say that, but self-belief is everything. Don’t let other people dictate your life, live it how you want to and don’t be scared to lose! People are always scared to fail; I lose more than I win. Every failure that I have ever had, I’ve learnt more from it than I have with every success. Winning is wonderful but losing is also a beautiful thing!
Is there a piece of advice that someone has given to you over the years that has stuck with you?
There’s one thing that an old friend of mine, a very successful man in the industry once told me when I was young on the come up. He said, “Charlie, if you’re sat at the traffic lights and you’re looking at the man next to you, when that light turns green, he is going to be gone and you’re going to be stuck at the lights. Focus on your own road and your journey. Always keep ahead” – that has stuck with me forever! Too many people spend too much time watching what other people are doing, rather than concentrating on what they should be doing. I’ve always kept that at the forefront of my mind when I am doing stuff.
I like that one! I’m going to keep it!
You can use that, it’s free!
Is there anything else we can keep an eye out for from you this year?
Of course the radio show every weekend on Apple Music, all the playlists on Apple Music, and the announcement regarding the next steps of Fire In The Booth and our global expansion! It’s going to be an exciting and busy year! My diary is already filled up until the middle of 2023, so I know exactly where I am going to be and what I’m doing! It’s going to be a monstrous year!
You can check out the JA Cypher via Apple Music here.