Amidst all the attention that Grime has been receiving recently, you could be forgiven for overlooking the impressive and exciting developments also made within the UK Hip Hop scene. The many recent successes that Hip Hop artists from these shores have experienced have birthed talks of a renaissance, allowing space for emerging rappers to thrive in a once deprived environment. Someone in particular who has capitalised somewhat on this renaissance is LSkins – the North London raised rapper who is of the belief that now is the time for Hip Hop from the UK to really make an impression.
LSkins made an impression of his own last year, as he officially introduced himself with the four-track EP, The Loud Pack, as well as his full-length debut, The Brainstorming Project, both with producer Flyo. The lazy, languid flow that LSkins employs is in no way a reflection of his work ethic, as he is currently in the process of completing another project to be released in 2016.
Though his focus is on music now, this was not always the case. ‘Skins had his heart set on a career in basketball, until serious injury halted the “mad opportunities” he had in his late teens. Once he had accepted his basketball aspirations were no longer realistic, he looked for something to replace the void the sport had left, “I gave up basketball and I decided I was going to write music. It was an overnight thing. I just started writing and it almost became something that I needed to do just to calm myself down”. The therapeutic nature of writing verses was the element that captured LSkins the most, as he explains, “It was definitely an outlet. At first I didn’t even take it seriously, it was because I didn’t know where I was at. I’d gone from [basketball] being the only thing that I wanted in my life, to, ‘What do I do?’ and then music came and gave that balance. It was a new target to aim for”.
His aim was partially directed through the help of his manager, Lux, and fellow Payola affiliate, Flyo. Upon gaining their support, LSkins attained further motivation to continue on this path, “My main motivation is the whole Payola thing – our team”, he says. “I feel like Flyo, Lux and I have worked really hard to get to where we are, and that’s kept me motivated. I wouldn’t have been able to keep motivated if I didn’t have them around me, because then it would be an artificial dream. If you’ve got people who have the same focus as you, you’re in good company”. The aforementioned members of his team helped to put together his two releases from 2015, though the rapper himself reveals the difficulties he initially faced, “At first, it was mad difficult because I didn’t have studio time and all those kind of things, but then I met Lux and Flyo, and from there it became easier. I could get to the studio and I could start putting pen to paper”.
The first example of which resulted in The Loud Pack EP, a project that formulated almost inadvertently, “The Loud Pack, even though it was our first project and it was only a 4 track EP, took us a long time to make. We didn’t start with the intentions of making The Loud Pack EP, we went into the studio and said, ‘Let’s just work. Let’s try and get to know each other’. [Flyo and I] have always known each other, but not on a musical level. Then, we had all this music, so we put out The Loud Pack, and as soon as that was finished we started working on a next ting”. The “next ting” LSkins refers to eventually became his full-length debut, The Brainstorming Project, an effort that he believes was well received, “[The response] was good. I had mad blogs hitting me up, like [Set Off Mag], About To Blow, SB.TV, Complex UK, so it went far and beyond what I thought it would”, he confesses, before also affirming, “I had high expectations [for The Brainstorming Project], I can’t lie. I thought The Loud Pack could have been better received, as it was the tape that got us a bit more recognition. From my point of view, I went away and worked really hard on [The Brainstorming Project], and Flyo did as well. It was the same process [as The Loud Pack], just making music – it was all natural”.
Reflecting on The Brainstorming Project, LSkins suggests it was part of the process that assisted defining himself as an artist, by clarifying, “That’s what The Brainstorming Project was for me – to figure out what my best style was, what the people like more and from there you can go and solidify that. We’ve found what we think is the remedy to make everyone happy, but we’ll see”. Based on his previous shows, ‘Skins remarks that ‘Must Be The Drugs’ receives a “crazy” response from the audience, though his personal favourite from the project is ‘Kosher’, which features a remix with Black The Ripper.
Speaking on the growth that Hip Hop in the UK has made over the past couple of years, LSkins believes that it is in a position to thrive, “I feel like this is the time that it could. We’ve been in shit predicaments before, but if you look on paper, you can see how much it’s grown. These things are always going to take time to grow”. He speaks positively, but is realistic in his expectations, “I don’t think UK Hip Hop is at the forefront the way it should be right now, because of what’s going on with Grime, but that’s what it is”. He believes that the distinction between Hip Hop and Grime, though apt, is perhaps becoming detrimental to the overall success of rap music in the UK, “I feel we should pull it back and say, ‘This is just music’ ”, expresses the rapper, “But I don’t think it’ll ever get to that stage because we’re from England and I think the thing that hurts us a lot is that we’re [too] proud and we want to have our own sense of identity”.
Although LSkins accepts that Grime has evolved from its most raw form since its inception in the early 2000’s, he fully appreciates the affect it’s currently having on UK music, and beyond, “I grew up on Grime, I know what Grime is. If I’m totally honest, I feel like Grime stopped a long time ago – the real Grime, anyway – because if you were around that era, you would know. You would go to them raves, and it would be tense. A lot of man didn’t want to be at them raves!” Laughs the rapper, before allowing his usual laid-back demeanour to be significantly impassioned, as he continues, “It’s not the same feeling. If you ask any of them man, they’ll tell you it’s not the same feeling. [Back then] You wouldn’t be shook going to a Grime rave, but you would have your backup, because you knew that something might happen. It’s not like that anymore. I still think Grime is a great movement. I think Skepta and a lot of guys have brought it to the forefront of UK music, and that’s sick”.
After a strong introductory year in 2015, LSkins is very optimistic as to what he can achieve in 2016, “Sky’s the limit for 2016, to be honest, man. Release a tape, definitely, lots of visuals, just ill shit, really. I think a lot will come from Payola, Flyo and LSkins in 2016”. We’ll hold him to those words.