With his lyrical savagery and flow, Skrapz could fittingly soundtrack a cage fight. Whether a physical, mindful or social battle, the Harlesden rapper possesses the musical energy of combat and success. With an impressive batch of mixtapes under his belt, including ’80’s Baby’ and the original ‘Skrapz Is Back’, October 2017 sees the release of his new album, the follow up to 2015’s ‘The End of the Beginning’. Combine the endless amount of material he’s created as a member of SLK and Church Road’s Ice City Boys movement and you begin to understand the force of Skrapz.
Walk into the Church Road estate we’re meeting in to shoot, you get the sense that if we wouldn’t be welcome long were we not a guest of Skrapz. Any hostility from locals evaporates as soon as I’m in the company of Skrapz and his entourage. Neither loud, nor quiet, Skrapz’s energy is one of constant observance. Wandering further in the estate, we leave behind the squad thats gravitated around us and Skrapz and I sit down to speak; his lap loaded up with smoking paraphernalia.
He’s aware of his intense presence, acknowledging, “You see, me as a person, I’m not very outspoken. I keep myself to myself, I observe and listen rather than talk loud. I can express myself through music easier, I find it easy to express myself through writing. A lot of rappers will go into the studio and be able to express themselves through freestyling their verses. Whereas I have to write before. All of my music stems from ideas and emotions I’ve experienced and written down, not from freestyling.” Skrapz talks of how aside from emotions and ideas his music is formed from personal experiences, “Things that I’m going through, the places I’m trying to get to, for example me wanting to be successful in general in the whole music thing. I wouldn’t say it day to day in a conversation but in my music, I can express it.”
Writing to channel essence and truth has been consist throughout Skrapz’s career. He has an extensive collection of work, yet this is his first interview. It has as much to do with staying honest to the music as it does in revealing that Skrapz has one true form of expression, his bars. “I’m inspired by a lot of things day to day, I wouldn’t say governmental things, but people around me, my surroundings, people in similar positions to me, what they’ve achieved, similar artists who have managed to turn their life around. Those things inspire me. Even in different countries, it’s worldwide, it’s not just music, they could be a footballer, a drummer, they could be anything but to see people make the transition from one way of life to another; that’s inspiring.” He calmly continues to think about his music and how he works, explaining, “You see me, when it comes to rules and regulations set by the government, like you must do X, Y, Z, I’m very against all that, I just move by self belief. If you believe you can do something, no one can tell you, ‘you can’t’. You don’t have to go down the path that they said, to achieve your goals, you’ve just got to do what feels right in yourself, to get where you’re going, by any means possible. When I see people that have been through similar situations and they’ve come up, that they’ve become what they intended to be, those things inspire me.”
At this point in the interview, the wind has picked up and Skrapz is having difficulty rolling and my gold glitter notebook becomes multi-purpose, transformed into a wind barricade. Sheer determination and shine stationary are the only things preventing a mass decimation of the joint Skrapz has been preparing since we sat down. But – with a shout out to hard spine notebooks worldwide – it’s rolled and ready. With an inhale, Skrapz delves further into what constructs his vision, acknowledging, “I’m setting myself out to be very successful in regard to everything, not just through the music. Music to me is like a stepping stone into other paths. It’s the first step I had to take to make the transition from my other lifestyle. It’s a stepping stone that I intend to use to help other people in similar situations to me, in anyway I can. When I’m in a position where I can help them.”
With his deep voice, he explains how his music has come to represent a strain of masculine independence. Skrapz recognises this saying, “Day to day, when people approach me, I get a lot of people saying my music motivates them.” He sounds surprised by this, not due to doubt of his talent, but more because of his extreme humility. He goes on to explain, “When I’m writing it’s not intentionally to motivate, but just a recognition of a personal experience or things happening around me. But my story itself seems to motivate people and I think it’s what I was talking about before, to see someone from a similar background and lifestyle turn their life around; it’s inspiring. I think anyone going through hard times or even good times, they can take things from my music. I don’t know if it’s necessarily going to be motivation, but there’s going to be something for everyone to take and apply to their own [life].”
It’s with his final exhalation on the joint that very nearly blew away, that I ask him about the feeling of Anthony Joshua entering the ring to his song. For his April 2017 fight with Wladimir Klitschko, Joshua came out to ‘They Ain’t Ready’. Coyly he answers. “That was crazy, that was a mad feeling, I was at the fight. When I was looking around, some of the crowd were into it, people I know would never have heard that song on a day to day basis. People wanted to know who and why and started checking me out and it boosted up my fanbase.” He goes on to recognise “A lot of people thought that’s why I started my new campaign, but it just kinda fell into place. I’ve always been writing even though I was quiet on the music front for a little bit, I was still making material and in the studio; I just wasn’t releasing anything. So when I decided, I’m gonna put out my album towards the end of the year I didn’t know about the Antony Joshua thing. I just decided I was gonna shoot my first video, I did the video for ‘Enemies’, we went to Barcelona to shoot the video, all of that was in place before the AJ fight, so when he came out to my music, it was just a bonus to the whole campaign, it wrapped it up nicely.” It’s this idea of ‘wrapping up nicely’ that Skrapz continues to move with through all phases of his career. With every chapter of his career, he ties these narratives together to form a fluid and raw account of his life. His next release will certifiably be nothing short of fiercely perceptive commentary and intrinsic truths. Bars and humanity alike. Skrapz is the embodiment of a warrior.
Words by Anastasia Bruen
Photos by Vincent Chapters