With the hectic nature of inner city London often garnering the most attention, it’s sometimes easy to forget the role that suburban areas of the capital play. The fringes of the metropolis offer a tangible transition between city and countryside, with residents of these areas often attaining a portion of both lifestyles, without being too invested in either. Someone who is familiar with this concept is Collistar – an emcee from what he describes as “suburban west London”, who believes that he can provide a unique voice through his music.
His path into music began to take shape around the closing of 2015. “I had a couple of friends in the area who were getting back into the Garage/Grime flex, which I was into when I was younger, and I just started writing to it”, he explains. “I went to a couple of gigs and shows and I started to watch a lot of Kurupt FM at that time as well, and I dunno why, it just sort of resonated with me that you can do this, so I just started writing a few songs, [and] wrote a few bars”.
Since then, Collistar has gained some exposure and recognition by appearing on various radio sets, which only increased his belief that music was something he could do more actively. “Ghostly – an emcee from West London, shout out to him – brought me to Mode FM for a set with Reece West on his birthday and I sprayed on Mode, which is a quite big station now and back then that was massive for me. That inspired me to keep writing”. Further motivation for the young man is shedding light on areas of the capital that aren’t recognised for producing emcees. “There has been a few in my area and in the past, but I think I just want to show that there’s a uniqueness to my sound and also just tell the story of a suburban lad in London” he says, before adding, “A lot of what you hear is from the streets and from the roads but I’m not from that. I’ve got friends that do that and I’ve had acquaintances that have done that but at this moment in my life I’m just a university student, I’m living in a posh or rich part of London and I just wanna show what I’m going through – just trying to tell my story, really”.
The idea of storytelling is very pronounced when Collistar talks of his music, and it also relates to his musical influences. “A lot of Mike Skinner, Plan B – I think just storytelling artists”, he determines when discussing some of his most significant artists. “When I was younger, I used to listen to a lot of road rap – I used to listen to a lot of Nines, a lot of K Koke – so I like a lot of storytellers, and I think that’s what comes out in my music, I’m able to tell stories about what’s going on”. Due to his profile, it would be easy to place Collistar into a box alongside the likes of Mike Skinner and Plan B, but he’s determined to show his individuality with regards to his microphone skills. “I think it’s just [about] varying your styles of writing [and] changing up your flows. I’m not one of those emcees that stick to one flow. I don’t think I pick one flow, but I think I know the sound I pick [and] it has elements of the artists [I mentioned]“.
The sound he is aiming to master is among his Venn diagram of Garage and Grime, with Collistar admitting, “I don’t know how to describe the sound, it’s just like…more…R&G. There hasn’t been a specific R&G emcee, there’s only ever been Grime emcees that have done R&G. I think I want to make that my sound. Not make it a subgenre, but just push the sound of having the bpm at 140, spraying with Grime flows but on different sounding beats. Just to get as many different sounds as possible into the 140bpm formula. I think for the foreseeable future that is the kind of vibe I wanna go for.”
The introduction of this style was presented on Collistar’s debut Valentine EP, which was appropriately released in February and based on relationships. The project included his fan’s favourite ‘Friday Evening’ – a fun and upbeat track that details meeting a girl at the start of the weekend that has since been played on 1Xtra. Keeping to the seasonal formula, he then waited until the middle of the year to drop his second effort, English Summer. “It sounds weird but my music is quite seasonal, so I like doing music [based on the time of year]”, he professed. “I was thinking, ‘What can I talk about that a lot of English people can relate to when it comes to the summer time?’ So I just thought, ‘Girls, music, booze, house parties, late nights, BBQs’, then quite a few tunes just came to me. I just made a project that tries to take you back to what happens during your summer nights and summer days”.
With the two aforementioned projects being Collistar’s first releases, he is beginning to get a sense of how people are responding to his music. “I think the music’s gone down quite well”, he humbly insists. “‘Friday Evening’ is obviously quite a sing-a-long tune, so people have enjoyed to dance and skank to that. The new stuff [from English Summer] I haven’t performed yet, but I think it will go down well. The thing is with Grime is that it’s sometimes hard to perform your songs if they’re not danceable, I like to have that element to my [music] that you can bop to the tune”. This subject leads us to us discussing a video that is circulating on Twitter that gives an indication that Collistar’s initial assessment of the response to his music is spot on. “[That was] in Brighton, yeah. That was a very interesting set. That was intriguing because Brighton’s got a big Grime scene, but we thought that people from Brighton were just [about] House and Techno. So it was good to see our sound could resonate with people in Brighton”.
With positive feedback evident, the emcee hopes it’ll sew the seeds of a greater following, something he believes is more possible due to the scene’s current climate, despite some disadvantages. “Even though the market is a lot bigger now, it’s very saturated, so there’s a lot of the same songs being released. They’re only hot for a week. So I think it’s about taking time and not getting lost in the Grime sauce. Getting lost in that, ‘I need to make a hit right now’ – just take time and make good music, because good music will prevail”.
And Collistar has plenty of good music at his disposal as he intends to add to his collection of releases before the end of the year. “Hopefully I’m gonna release a couple of projects maybe September/Christmas time depending on what the uni schedule’s like”, he reveals, with a perceptiveness that belies his 20 years. “And a couple of singles after to this to just like…keep the fans happy. I’ve got so many songs written, it’s just a case of dropping them at the right time”. And the right time feels like it may have arrived for Collistar.