Whenever I’ve interviewed anyone, I’ve always had some idea of what to expect from their character. When I spoke to Mic Righteous earlier this year, he was interesting and deeply conscious, just as I predicted. Obie Trice wasn’t far from what I’d imagined him to be like either: an experienced interviewee with eccentric mannerisms which gave me so much jokes. Razor was just as humble (and cheeky) as I thought he was going to be from listening to his mixtapes. But I’ve never sat and pondered about the character of an artist as much as I did about SN1’s Joe Grind.
Perhaps this is owing to his lack of public interviews, or maybe it’s just because he is so straightforward and candid on his Twitter account, but I really didn’t know what to expect from him. I don’t judge before I’ve gotten to know someone, and I was pleasantly surprised. He’s charismatic and strong-minded, resolute and determined, and how can anyone knock that?
We had a chat about his summer release EPisode 1, why he doesn’t listen to music (yes…really.) and how he’s switching things up with his new releases…
Georgina Chapman: What’s the reception been like since you released your album EPisode 1 in July?
Joe Grind: I’ve had a lot of good reviews from it still. A lot of people have bought it. There are only ten tracks but people were just happy that I put something out.
GC: Do you know how many you sold?
JG: Umm that’s numbers [laughs].
GC: So you don’t know? Has it been your most popular so far?
JG: No no no no. The most popular was the stuff that I put out in HMV.
GC: Was your newest track, Fuck You I’m Leaving, written about somebody in particular?
JG: It’s all about life situations and, you know, it’s one of those things in life. At the same time though that song was me writing about something in my life. It wasn’t about a scenario that’s going on right now, but something that had happened before. Even though it’s my life, a lot of people can relate to it.
GC: So would you say that these days you’re trying to make tracks about life situations that more people can relate to?
JG: No. I do stuff that I know. You know when you were in school and you were afraid to say something in case people thought you were weird? Well when you grow up you can be more straight up and say stuff that you might have been scared to say before. That’s why I feel like I can say “fuck you I’m leaving” now. I’ve got another song that I’ll be releasing the video for in a couple of weeks which is kinda the same idea; a lot of people seem to feel the same way as me so yeah. I just happen to write down the sorta stuff that everyone seems to be thinking.
GC: So have you gained more confidence now, compared to when you first started? Do you feel as though you have more freedom to say stuff now that you wouldn’t have said before?
JG: When I first started I was one of the cockiest rappers you could ever speak to. But I thought I should calm it down cos I didn’t want people thinking I’m an arrogant bastard [laughs]. And as I calmed it down I think my lyrical approach calmed down as well. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of my old stuff and I feel like I actually need some of that cockiness back. But since I stopped questioning myself I have realised that I’m one of the greatest in the country, and I can say that hands down. My wordplay’s got better, my songs have got better, the way I express myself on the tracks has got better. I’m surprised that I’m making the songs I’m making at the moment to be honest.
GC: So would you say that when you were starting out you put on a front, and since stopping that you’ve let your talent execute itself in a way that has resulted in better material?
JG: Nah not at all. I’m a very cocky person, always have been. I’m not arrogant, I’m just honest. I believe in myself.
GC: Ok. So what’s this track you’re putting out in a couple of weeks?
JG: It’s a song called Obstacles which is from an album I’ve made with Steelo (@Steelo1page). It’s about getting over things in your life and moving on. In the video, I’m running for prime minister. It’s looking amazing.
GC: You mentioned earlier that you’ve got better as an artist and your wordplay has improved. Do you think that lyricism is important?
JG: It depends what way you look at it. Some people prefer the basic words, but some people respect the fact that some people can use big words without sounding condescending.
GC: To me, lyricism doesn’t just mean using big words and crazy bars with loads of different meanings behind the metaphors, but it relates to concepts and ideas as well. Do you think there are enough rappers in the country that reflect this?
JG: I think everyone’s just talking about how their childhood was so hard, and that story is boring. Everyone’s childhood is hard, that’s how it goes. Don’t make a whole album about it. Who cares? It is important to talk about different things. To be honest, who the hell would make a song about a girl trying to kick you out of her house, and you being man enough to say “fuck you I’m leaving”? It’s a song about standing up against bullying. People want to hear about that real stuff, not just about how mum was broke and you had to go shotting drugs to make cash.
GC: When you say that people want to hear about real stuff, what’s an example then of a ‘real’ situation? Some people might think that Fuck You I’m Leaving is still a fairly overdone concept of a relationship gone wrong and they might want to hear about society or history or politics or education.
JG: I can’t really speak for other people but I have songs about loads of different stuff. I’ve got songs about sex, like I’m saying I might buss in a minute [laughs]. So you know I’m talking it real like that. I’m just honest. I make honest to God music and you cannot question that. I am being so straightforward and honest, and people know that.
GC: Would you say you stand out amongst the scene? It seems that every boy in London is a rapper these days so how do you make sure you stay unique?
JG: I can tell you that me and my team stand out because no one else has impressed me.
GC: No one in the scene has impressed you?
JG: No. There have been a few artists who I do listen to, I won’t say who, but I just don’t really listen to that much music to be honest. There’s no one I’m seeing at the moment who I’d say is the one.
GC: Where would you rank yourself in the UK hip-hop scene? Where are you in terms of skill and ability as an MC, a songwriter and an artist?
JG: Can I say rank as in numbers?
JG: I’m definitely in the top ten in the country. I’m definitely one of the best ten urban artists in the country.
GC: Give me the name of some others you’d put near you in the top ten then.
JG: It’s just my team init. Giggs, Gunna D, the other guys, it’s all my team. You could put me on a track with anyone in the world. I listen to Boy Better Know and Lil Wayne and that, and you could put me on a track with BBK or Wayne and I’d like it. But if you put me on a track with my own team I get really excited. I know for a fact that if you put my team on a track it’ll be the best track you’ve heard in your lifetime – until the next one! Did Fuck You I’m Leaving impress you? Be honest!
GC: To be honest I haven’t listened to loads of your stuff but I was expecting a street track, so I was impressed that you had branched out onto a different subject. I’ve not been listening to the UK scene lately cos I think it’s appalling. But yeah I thought it was good.
JG: That’s my music. I live an actual life.
GC: That’s the thing, street music gets boring.
JG: Yeah. A lot of artists just write about that. The only thing they do is shot drugs and have a hard life and make money. I don’t have time for that. I’m a dad. I have other stuff to worry about.
GC: Think of someone like Benny Banks, who is pretty much a mainstream street rapper who got signed and is making money, but his skills aren’t very good in terms of actual emceeing. What do you think of people like that?
JG: As I said I don’t really have relations with other music.
GC: Do you just listen to SN1 music then?
JG: No I don’t just listen to SN1 music at all, but as I said no one has amazing music at the moment to actually grab me. Think of Labrinth’s Earthquake. Tinie Tempah’s Pass Out. Those songs grabbed you. You couldn’t avoid them. When you hear a song that’s amazing and you want to hear a lot more, it’s great. But no one’s making music like that anymore.
GC: Is it going to be hard breaking away from that obvious tag of ‘Giggs’s brother’? You ranted on Twitter a few months ago about how you get annoyed being called his brother.
JG: The thing that annoys me is when people call me that as if it’s my name. I just want to be an individual. But to be honest, every artist in SN1 is in his shadow. So that’s just how it is. I just don’t like it when people call me ‘Giggs’s brother’ because that’s not my name.
GC: I suppose it’s going to be difficult to shake off, but if you’re good enough you will…
JG: Oh well. That’s just how it is.
GC: Do you listen to the UK underground scene at all?
JG: I listen to a lot of Youngs Teflon. I like listening to him. He’s very versatile. He’s the only one in the scene that’s out of my team who I really like listening to. I could definitely make a mixtape with him.
GC: I’ll pass on the message.
JG: We’ve made a few tunes together still.
GC: Do you listen to any underground American hip-hop?
JG: Nah, you know what, I listen to old skool American rappers but the new ones all seem to be talking about how much money they’ve got and I hate that kind of thing.
GC: But underground American hip-hop isn’t about money. The UK is the pioneer of boasting about spending money at the moment. America’s not like that when you get past the bullshit in the mainstream and right down into the relevant underground stuff.
JG: Is it?
GC: Yeah. You should check out some underground US stuff. It’s not about money. Anyway, what’s happening in the next few months with you?
JG: Well I’ve got an album coming out with Steelo; we’ve been recording it for a while and it’s not ready yet but we don’t want to rush. We’re taking our time. That’ll be out some time next year. I’m excited though because I feel like I won’t be able to make music like this again, it’s special. The end of this year I’ll be releasing a new mixtape called Joe Grind Versus Mr Virgo.
[I thought Joe said Joe Grind Versus Mr Burger and this discussion did go on for a while until I realised he was referring to the producer Mr Virgo. Not a burger.]
GC: So what’s that mixtape going to be like?
JG: It’ll be Mr Virgo’s beats that I’ve recorded over. I’ll have a few tracks about different things like make up sex and the world being fucked up and that. But it’s a bit of an experiment. I’m just testing myself really but yeah, it should be good, so watch out for that coming soon.
Follow Joe Grind on Twitter: @JoeGrindSN1