Yizzy: Top 1 Selected

If you’re into grime, Yizzy is a name you should know about. Born and raised in South East London, he’s bringing back that gritty hyper-lyrical style to the genre, reminiscent of an early Ghetts. You would think he’s a veteran with his sharpened mic skills, but at the tender age of 18, he still has a long career ahead of him. I first heard the young MC spitting on DJ Argue’s U19 sets, and he was the MC that stood out to me. With his fiery flow and competitive streak, he put himself forward as someone who could be the future face of grime. Something further illustrated on his latest EP, S.O.S (Save Our Sound), a great body of work.

“If somebody didn’t know what grime was, you could give them this project and they’d get a good sense of what the genre is all about” is how the man behind the music describes it, and I’m prone to agree. Warm & Easy caught up with Yizzy to talk about growing up in Lewisham, how he got into grime and where he’s looking to take his career.

With these interviews, I like to start from the beginning, so talk about where you grew up?

I grew up in Brockley, Lewisham and I was born and raised there. Literally. I was born in my yard. I went school not too far from the area as well. I went Crofton Park, which is like Brockley Rise, next to Ladywell.

Nice, So as you were growing up, what were your first musical introductions?

Well marje always used to play old school reggae and R&B in the car. She would play Anthony Hamilton, Teddy Pendergrass. Then when it came to the reggae influenced music, she would play Buju Banton and my man that made ‘Night Nurse’. Whats he called again? oh yeah that’s it- Gregory Isaacs. Just a bag of reggae and R&B, like Keith Sweat, all of that. So I just grew up listening to that, like my mum would wake up early on Sunday and while cleaning the house she’d be playing Vibes FM. So you know it was a lot of reggae in the household. I’ve got older brothers as well so they schooled me on hip-hop, UK garage, grime and funky house, so that influence came from them. From early music has always been around me.

So it was your older brothers that started you off in grime then?

Ummm. I dunno if they got me into it totally. I’d say they initially showed me the music, but then as I grew up and got into it myself, I was able to understand the genre more. When I was younger I’d say I didn’t really understand the genre. It wasn’t until I got older that I understood grime for what it was. Because obviously when your younger you’re not really deeping the lyrics, but as I got older I understood exactly what they were talking about, what the artists stood for and how it’s relevant to my surroundings. Before then I was just into old school hip-hop like Tupac and Biggie, but my favourite hip-hop artist is Nas. My brother was a big big Nas fan so I had all the Nas albums growing up.

Yeah same, I still rate Nas’s first album as one of the best hip-hop albums of all time. But what about over here in the UK, who were your grime influences?

So I didn’t really listen to many songs when I was younger, as I preferred watching sets. My influences were pretty much anyone that was on Fuck Radio; so Devlin, Ghetts, Griminal, Brutal, P Money, Chip, Lil Nasty, like all of that period of time. Especially Lil Nasty, Griminal and Ghetto. A lot of those guys came together to form ‘The Movement‘ who are my favourite grime crew. They’re like a cheat code because individually they’re all ridiculously amazing MC’s and artists; Wretch 32 is one of the most lyrically gifted breddas you’ll ever meet on this earth and Devlin is just a different breed of MC, Ghetts has got the energy, the aggression, the flow, the creative mindset with his lyrics and then you’ve got Scorcher who can just put together some mad picture with his words. Even though most of his lyrics were bare road, the way he just described it differently would amaze me, he is no joke as an MC. They all make great music, but at the same time when it came to the clashing, they were all a problem.

So out of the clashes you watched growing up, which one would you say was your favourite?

The P Money and Big H one made me laugh. I just thought P was all over him throughout the clash. But don’t get me wrong, H was good. But I think overall P Money took that one. Then you’ve got Skepta and Devilman. Devilman came to that clash unprepared and got ripped apart. But I think if he had come more prepared, he would of done much better in that clash. Lil Nasty and Maxsta was also good. I like that one. Lil Nast was in a different type of mind frame then, his lyrics were a bit mad; he went in deep on that one there. Jaykae and Kozzie was sick as well. I like Jaykae a lot, because hes a great artist and he knows how to make songs that convey his feelings across. Like I listened to ‘Toothache’ and when he’s talking about what happened to Depzman, I can proper hear the passion in his voice. I think he really shone on that- I respect how he took advantage of the attention he got from the clashing.

Trust me fam. So from listening to these clashes when did you first start spitting yourself?

When I was 16, it just kinda happened in school. One of my boys was rapping but it was more like American hip-hop type rap. I was supporting him at first and it looked like fun, so I was like let me try this ting just for fun, just to spit a bar. Then from when I spat that first bar, we started spitting lyrics to each other like everyday and then those lyrics turned into songs. As I made more and more songs, my rapping ability started to improve and once I saw my growth, it went from just a hobby, to something that could be a proper venture in life. I was like you know what, let me stop playing around with this and take it more seriously.

So from there, how did you sharpen your skills?

So I was going to every radio station, every open mic, I was doing shows in front of one person in the crowd. I would travel all over London, basically any opportunity that was available to me, I took it. For example, I live in south, but I would travel all the way up to Mode FM in North, just to spit a bar. The journey would be like 1 and half, 2 hours, it was no joke man. But I would take any opportunity, no matter how far away it was. It was a madness all the travelling I was doing up there- but it was one of the only ways I could get my lyrics out there. I would also send my tunes out to every radio station’s email I could get a hold of, that’s how I got onto Reprezent radio and other stations. Then the more things I done, the more on point my lyrics would get. I would also practice a lot at home to sharpen my skills.

Well the first place I heard you on, was DJ Argue’s under 19 sets on Radar Radio, how developed would you say you were by that time?

I was quite late to jump on Radar sets compared to a lot of other man, so by the time I went on there I was in my zone. I didn’t really feel any type of way spitting on them sets, because by then I had already spat on sets with P Money, Skepta and Novelist, so by the time I got on Argue’s sets, I was comfortable. Its like when your young, if you start kicking ball with older man, by the time you start kicking ball with man your own age, its not a ting anymore. So when I started spitting bars around people my age, It was a lot easier for me to just shell. I was hungry to show that I’m the best my age and then also I had been around serious MC’s, who had been in the game for years.

So from these freestyle and radio sets, how did that translate into you making actual tracks?

Well for me I’m always in one of two modes; I’m either in MC mode where I’m just writing lyrics for radio or I’m in artist mode where I’m writing actual songs. So when I was younger, I was more in my MC mode because I just wanted to write the sickest bars for sets. But as I started to perfect my craft with the sets, It gave me more respect among the radio DJ’s and meant that when I started making actual songs, they were more ready to take them in. So once I knew I had their ears, I started making and sending them songs and the reception I got from them was good.

Your first project was the EP Insanity, how did that come together?

I’d never put together a body of work. So that was me warming up to the idea of how a project works. It helped me to realise the amount of time and effort you had to put into a project for it to be good quality. I also learned that you have to group together a diverse range of songs, if you want to appeal to a wide demographic of people. But to be honest I think the project weren’t all that when I look back at it, but it was definitely a learning curve for me and I was able to build off of it and improve to put out better content following then. I always want my next thing to be better than my last- that’s why for me every experience whether it be good or bad is something I can make use of to get better.

This is Life EP came after that, what was your overall assessment of this one?

Kinda similar to the EP before that, in that I’d learnt a bit more. I had a proper studio to go to and I knew a lot more producers by then. Around these times I also got a manager and he told me that I needed to get my music on Spotify and Apple Music. But this time it had to be done correct, to give the people a proper introduction to my sound. So from there I started putting it together and building it up, with the producers and it didn’t take too long to be honest, I think it took around two months to put together. I wouldn’t say it was the most well thought out body of work, but as my first proper introduction to the scene, I still rate it as a good project. With this one it was the first time I ever did a PR campaign and it was the first time I heard my songs on the radio- the EP definitely established myself in the industry world.

Would you say that was the point where you started to take music fully serious?

Nah, I put out a song called ‘Grime Kid’ in 2016 and I’d say that was the first real song I ever did. when I put that out, I got my first BBC Radio 1 play off of it; that for me is when I started to see things pop off. And it was after ‘Grime Kid’, that I put out This is Life. ‘Grime Kid’ was good, because it showed me that I can actually get my songs on Radio and it doesn’t matter what type of music it is, if its good they’re gonna play it. Also think, my first radio play wasn’t on 1xtra, but was on radio 1 which is even harder to get. Then after ‘Grime Kid’, the stuff I put out on This is Life also got a decent amount of radio spins- I’d say it was from then that I knew I wanted to do music full-time.

I saw earlier this year you quit your job to do the music full-time?

Yeah, I quit my job in March this year and it’s funny because I put out This is Life last year March, so literally in the space of a year things were going so well in music, that I didn’t need to work anymore. Even when I look back on that, its crazy, because it went from you know what this could actually be my reality, then to a year later it is my reality. I just had too much going on and it was a leap of faith where I knew if I don’t do this now, It would have an impact on the music and I might not end up where I should have been. But when I see where I am now, I am glad that I took that leap of faith and I don’t regret it at all.

Yeah you’re doing well man, I also saw that you performed at BBC Introducing earlier this year and your Mum was there to see you- talk about how that felt?

That was one of the best moments of my life. Because obviously at first my mum had a lot of worries about the music thing, as parents often don’t know how everything works- they see it as really unpredictable, which it is. But given the age we live, with streaming and PRS for music. There are so many avenues for you to make money that its more of a reality to do music now, then say it was 20/30 years ago. So as much as I tell my mum all of this, some stuff you have to experience to fully get. But when I physically take her to Brixton Academy and she sees me performing in front of 5000 people with everyone going crazy, that’s something she can see. Then on top off that when I was on the stage, I was like make some noise for my mum and 5000 people made noise for my mum, it was mad. After that a lot of my worries were settled, because as long as she’s happy I can do my ting- she’s the main reason I do this.

So coming off the back of this momentum, you released your latest EP S.O.S. What was the inspiration behind that?

I made the project after linking up with some of the producers at radio. They had seen me on sets and had constantly saw me popping up everywhere. So then a couple of them started reaching out, and from there we started linking up in studio. They would make me riddims and I would pick out the ones I liked the most to rap over. The whole thing took a lot longer than the last EP, this one took around 6/7 months to put together. But with the names on production, if you want the best music possible, its always gonna take time. From the mixing, to the mastering and the visuals, all of it was of a quality I hadn’t reached before, so it was always gonna take time to put together. But by the time I wrapped everything up, I thought that we had put together a great body of work and if somebody didn’t know what grime was, you could give them this project and they’d get a good sense of what the genre is all about.

I agree, with the first song ‘S.O.S’ you broke down what grime is all about. You also talked about how a lot of mainstream media platforms group grime music together with other urban genres, but grime is a genre of its own.

Yeah exactly, grime is its own genre. It’s own culture. It’s got its own struggles that its had to face. It’s got its own achievements that its made over the years. For me it was just disrespectful to group loads of different genres together and put it under the one thing of every black brother who is rapping or that does any type of vocal is called a grime artist. Literally over half of these man that they are saying are grime artists, aren’t even part of that genre. Like you can literally google their names and it will come up with a Wikipedia page telling you what they do. Yet for some reason, people are just being consistently ignorant and calling it all one thing.

People like Skepta, Wiley, Dizzee and Stormzy have taken the genre to massive heights and have made it one of the most popular genres in the world, yet we’re still not getting the respect we deserve. For example, you’d see when Stormzy is doing well hes a rapper. But then when they would try paint him negatively, they would label him as a grime artist. It’s kind of like subliminal messaging, because if a random person picks up the newspaper and sees that Stormzy is in the papers for something mad and its saying hes a grime artist, they are going to assume that these grime artists are always doing mad shit.

Is it this sort of thing that came into your mind when you were coming up with the concept behind S.O.S?

The whole point behind the name, is that I wanted to make a statement of what I think of the grime scene right now and how certain media publications are just grouping it together with other sounds. And I thought that people needed to see it for what it really is and its authenticity is something that needs to be preserved. So for me, the easiest way that people can get seen or noticed when they are in a situation of stress, is to sound out an S.O.S signal. At the same time I was playing around with the meaning of it; it started of as Save Our Souls, but then as the project developed it ended up as Save Our Sound.

Yeah I like that name, it’s very relevant to EP’s content and I’d say that my favourite track from the project is ‘Chief’, the Ruff Sqwad – ‘Pied Piper’ sample is too hard with that one.

It’s probably one of my favourites as well you know. Other than ‘S.O.S’, its probably got the biggest reception so far and when I perform it. That’s the one people go mad for.

I’m not surprised, the song is an absolute banger. So aside from that, what has the overall reception been for the tape so far?

Its been amazing. Its opened so many doors for me and its only been out for a month and the amount of doors its opened for me is crazy. From opportunities that have come up, things I’ve been planning and the meetings that I’ve been in. I’ve met with some mad powerful people in the music business, all off of this tape. I’ve had things presented to me I never thought would come my way. So to even be receiving those words of praise is mad for me. I’ve only released two of the videos I done for the tape and with more to come, I’m excited for the reception I’ll get once I drop all my visuals for the project.

So with all these offers you’re getting, do you think you’ll end up signing to a major record label?

Nah I don’t want to sign to a label, because I’d rather build my own. I want to build something in the way that the american man have built it, like how Diddy and Jay-Z were able to build up their labels and make something as amazing as Ciroc and Tidal.  In the future, I want to make those type of business moves and I feel like you can only do that by making it yourself- signing to another label is just gonna help their ting. Obviously it could help me as well, but whats going to help me most in the long run, is if I build my own thing from the ground up. Because even if the major record label ends up going bust tomorrow, I’ll still have my own label to keep things pushing. Don’t get me wrong, I listen to label offers that come in, but the majority of the time I just stick with what I’m doing with my label LivinLegendz.

What other ventures will you look to do with your record label?

I want to set up studios around Lewisham for people who want to create music and make a career out of it. Because I feel like I’m very blessed to receive a lot of the opportunities that I get and at the same time I know that there are amazing talents out there, that might never get the same opportunities. I feel like everybody deserves one chance to shine- and provided I make it in the music thing and I get to that position- I’d definately be able to give opportunities to people in Lewisham and London as a whole, to make careers within the entertainment business.

That sounds sick man, I hope that works out for you. What other aims do you have for the rest of the year?

By the end of the year, I would have liked to do a tour around the UK and hit a couple milli streams across all media platforms. But mainly, when anyone talks about whose next up in grime and about who is the new face of grime, I want them to be drawing for my name first out of everyone. I want to be popping and doing so much, that i’m at the forefront of it because of my consistency and quality of music. I feel that if I can achieve that, then that’s how I can become a household name like Skepta or Stormzy, where it goes beyond grime music and it just becomes music full-stop. I believe that if I can put that ground work in before the end of this year, by the time next year rolls round and I start thinking about what I want to do in terms of features and singles, that’s when I can start blowing fully and start reaching the levels of the likes of Wiley, Skepta and Stormzy.

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June 30
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