Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Music you MUST listen to: UK MC Lirix

For anyone else over here that is getting a bit weary of Katy Perry and Soulja Boy, take a gander at a different perspective. Look, hands down, the mainstream chaotic hurricane of pop hits and sad tributes that we know as music is really starting to suck. Whenever a new band starts showing any kind of ingenuity and promise, men in pinstripes whisk them into the cut throat and down right ugly music business. That makes me wonder, what does the future hold? It seems that music has become more about touring Japan, getting featured by MTV, and wearing Glamour Kills, than the art form that it is meant to be. I know that many feel my pain, the butcher knife shoves deeper and deeper into my face every time Avril steals lyrics- but I'd rather not digress with kitschy connotations. After months and months of endless suffering, I had a bone to pick with these so called musicians. So, I figure I'd chat with someone from a different world, maybe someone to offer up a different side to this corporate bullshit, and, lo and behold, that someone just happened to be down for an interview. I sat down with an MC on opposite sides of the planet, while he dished on grime, London, and territory. Meet Lirix, and dig it. Tell me about yourself.
My name’s Lirix, I’m an 18 year old grime MC and producer (I say MC and producer rather than just using the umbrella term ‘artist’ because that sounds horribly pretentious) from London, UK. Basically I rap over beats, a lot of which I make myself, and am also working alongside a few select electro, dubstep and bassline producers and DJs on some other side-projects. I try to find the right balance of conscious lyrics and hyped up, party-style flows in my songs. Meaning I like to put across a real message some of the time, but not to the point that it gets preachy, and always trying to keep in mind that the music is supposed to make people jump, it’s not just for people to sit around to.
As well as making music, I’m really into writing and journalism. For the past year I’ve been writing reviews of gigs and new releases, mostly of acts and artists on the London scene, and doing interviews and the like. So far it’s just been me blogging on MySpace, but now I’ve got a couple of online magazines asking me to contribute, so hopefully it’s going somewhere.

You describe your style as "grime". Can you give us non-dub heads a definition?
Grime is, essentially, the UK’s variation on hip-hop. (We have got UK hip-hop over here as well, which is more or less the same as American hip-hop except we rap in British accents, and it’s usually conscious underground rap rather than the mainstream gangsta rap which is more prevalent in the US, but this is different from grime). Whereas hip-hop is rap that draws its influences predominantly from soul, jazz, R&B and the like, grime is a genre of rap almost exclusive to the UK that has evolved from the British garage scene, and is heavily influenced by bassline, electro and drum & bass. It’s also much faster, the beats tending to be at around 140 BPM, so grime MCs rap double-time to hip-hop MCs.

So, what artists have influenced the hip hop aspect? The garage?
I grew up listening to a lot of hip-hop, mainly Jay-Z, Nas, Ludacris, Talib Kweli, A Tribe Called Quest, 2Pac, De La Soul, Dr. Dre, DMX, that kind of thing. I still maintain that Nas’ debut, Illmatic, was the best album ever made. That was probably what first made me try out rapping, and while it’s all still a background influence to stuff I make, my more direct influences for rapping these days comes from British MCs such as Durrty Goodz, Dot Rotten, Wiley, JME, Skepta, Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Stryder, and Kano.
In terms of producing, I’m usually inspired by really diverse and bizarre stuff: indie, electro, occasionally classical or even very mainstream R&B, even if I don’t particularly like it or aim to make an R&B song.

I can imagine the British music scene differs from that of the U S of A. Any defining factors?
Yes! There are huge differences, the main one being the size of the industry. The urban music scene in the UK – grime, UK hip-hop etc, is almost completely independent and underground. There is no mainstream grime. Very, very few artists get record deals, and there is literally only a handful of these who are established names. Compared with hip-hop in the US, which is a multi-billion dollar industry in which rappers can sell out huge venues and release platinum-selling albums, the grime scene pales into insignificance. Record labels don’t invest money in it and there is currently only one legal fully-grime radio show in the whole of the UK. This is partly down to the fact that grime is a very new genre, only having been in existence since around 2002, and is probably set to change over the next couple of years.

Describe the atmosphere of your shows-what kind of crowd do they draw? What goes down?
I’m a club-night promoter as well as actually doing music, so I host a fair few of the shows I play at. I started promoting about a year ago, putting on all age gigs that you didn’t need to be 18+ to get into, because there was a real gap in the market for that kinda thing in London. Back then I was mostly putting on local indie bands and electro DJs, really hype stuff; and because they were some of the only events that under-18s could get into, there were always shitloads of kids queuing up for them and we sold out every time, packing the venues out, so the atmosphere was really buzzing whenever we did it.
Nowadays I’m running a new 16+ club night, and trying to give it more credibility as a serious club thing so I’ve mostly cut out the bands and live acts, and am focusing much more heavily on electro house DJs. The aim is to make people come because they know it will be a great night rather than just coming to support their mate’s band. Got off to a bit of a rocky start but it’s really picking up now.
The last two I’ve hosted have had police riot vans turning up outside to because of trouble, and when I was doing the all age events we got kicked out of every venue we played at because the kids fucked the place up, so we always tend to bring a bit of drama along with us.

Personally, I think the current music generation is disappointing. In a sea of Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana, I'm starting to think the end is near. Thoughts?
You’re right, it is disappointing. On one end of the scale you have the trend of manufactured pop in which the industry forces puppet-artists to churn out shit until their albums and singles no longer sell and they are dropped. They grace the covers of magazines and feature in glossy videos for about two months until they are forgotten, and never leave any real legacy or make a dent in music history.
At the other end of the scale, and perhaps more depressing, are the hordes of talentless kids who churn out shit that no one outside of their phone book ever listens to or cares about, who insist and truly believe that they are gifted and make good music because it is underground and unheard of.
Everyone likes to have a favourite band that are unknown to the world, but if that band is genuinely good, then they will normally become more popular, slip more into the mainstream, and much of their original fanbase will cease to like them because they became big and were no longer their little secret anymore. Because of this, many people who don’t want to be labelled as pop fans will refuse to acknowledge their love of certain artists in the public eye, and opt instead to be fans of godawful artists who should not be encouraged, simply because their lack of any status gives them a rawness that can be appealing.
For me this is much more of a crime than sell-out pop, because it effectively ignores the music and focuses on the credibility and reputation (or lack of) of underground musicians. People who are fans mostly of generic pop music can only be mocked for having poor taste, but advocates of independent music who force themselves to like music which is really nothing special defeat the point of music.
By the way, just to make it clear: I’m not dismissing independent music as bullshit. I’m saying there’s just as much bullshit in the various underground scenes as there is in pop music.

Do you get shit for being a young white rapper?
Yeah a bit, but that comes with the territory really. I can’t really moan about it, I knew the hassle would be there and I made the choice to rap. I get less shit now than a white rapper would’ve done only a few years back; I think in general people have become much more open-minded in their attitudes and preconceptions (at least in some ways). But to be honest, I avoid a lot of it simply by not taking myself too seriously. I think a lot of people in music, not just white rappers but anyone in any genre, get people taking the piss outta them because they act kinda superior, as if they’re professional musicians who do music for a day job and are getting rich and famous from it. If you act like that and take yourself too seriously, you’re setting yourself up for a fall because people will take the piss, and by then you’ve put yourself on such a ridiculous pedestal that you can’t deal with it.

Any parting words for the Blogger community?
Umm yeah, sorry for inflicting so much writing on you. Oh, and of course, check out my music if I haven’t wasted enough of your time already.

Be sure to peep some of the illest beats around on Lirix's Myspace.


T. Walters said...

I'm proud of you, Anna.

Nimoranthu said...

riot vans of course. fat lot of good they did. can't believe william stole that kid's shoes...

JScully said...

Great job on your first interview. I like you already :)