We’re blessed at Yin&Yang to individually and collectively have some very, very talented mates. Yin mentioned how strange he found it interviewing good friend Folaju in our last feature – well, in this feature we broke bread with my good friend, Shadez The Misfit. The 22-year old South London up-and-coming rapper – who performed at our launch event – is currently working on his latest material while also keeping his hand in fashion and design. While stuffing our faces with goodness from Apostrophe, we spoke about food, music, fashion and influencing the masses.
Okay, [prior to the interview] you spoke about liking Sam’s fried chicken over Morleys. What are some of you’re err…more refined culinary spots, Shadez?
I try to eat as much different food as I can. My favourite place is a little spot in China Town, it’s cheap and convenient. The customer service is SO bad, but the food is amazing. If you’re open-minded you see it as part of the experience. But, if you go to a Chinese in your area you get food in a little container. For the same price you’re getting a big arse plate that you can’t finish, and it comes with green tea. It’s nice.
Bodeans is a main spot for me. (At this point Yang yelps ‘YESSS!’ in solidarity and they go off on a tangent about the chicken with Montgomery cheese they both adore) Byron Burgers, but sometimes I cheat on Byron Burgers with Meat Liquor. I sometimes hit Wagamama for a katsu curry, but I cheat on Wagamama for Wasabi. I prefer Wasabi actually.
Okay – enough food, let’s talk music. Two mixtapes deep so far – what’s the next step?
Right now it’s about quality and going back to the craft. And making sure I’m really working on something that’s undeniable. More than just doing something for the sake of putting it out because music right now is so disposable. A mixtape or an album comes out every week, so for me, amongst the hustle and bustle, [I think] what will make me stand out? What will make people’s head’s turn? First and foremost I’m focussing on music, and stand out music.
When you look at the culture rap is in right now – 10 years ago it was about the dealer, the drug dealer; ‘I sell this, I do this.’ Now it’s about the consumer – ‘I take the drugs, I’m part of this culture where I get high off life and high off the drugs.’ For me, I don’t take drugs – life is my drug, so I’m just giving you my life story and that’s it. Trying to find my truth through music, and getting experiences through I know to create something great.
Interesting point you made about there being more focus on the consumer. Why do you think that is? Do you think it’s because people recognise that audiences want to feel more connected with the artist?
To be frankly honest, I think it’s just a sheep culture. A ‘monkey see, monkey do,’ thing. They see an artist, or someone that they like taking drugs, they’re going to imitate that culture. They want be one of the cool kids – it’s a very peer pressure led-scene. But at the same time I feel they just want reach a deeper realm. They don’t want to think, they just want to feel more than anything. But it’s finding a way where I can make them feel and think simultaneously.
That ‘monkey see, monkey do’ culture – you spoke about it on Misfit Maximus II, and you spoke about everyone following trend. And I guess as well, you’ve always been talking about it because calling yourself a misfit is about not fitting in right?
Yep, exactly that. But I can counter-argue and say that everyone’s a misfit. It’s just trying to find what suits you, what you like, and what represents you, and that’s what I think people are scared of the most. They live life based on the opinions of other people.
At the end of the day, we all get influenced. You get influenced easily; you’ve got adverts, you’ve got music videos, you’ve got things that are just in your face all the time – you can’t help be influenced by it. It’s the decision you make after it.
I like the whole thing about everyone being a misfit in his or her own way. Is that what you’re trying to impart on your audience?
Exactly that, I’m letting people know you can do this too! I started out on the streets, in gang culture, and left that whole gang culture for fashion design. People were like ‘what, what are you doing? You were making good money on the streets, what are you moving into fashion for?’ Obviously, the streets have a very narrow mind and people think you’re gay if you’re doing fashion. So [some people] tried to attack me and slate me.
How did you deal with that? What was your coping mechanism when people you used to hang out with turned against you?
I had a good support system. People were like ‘don’t touch him,’ because they knew the consequences and who I was associated with. Besides, as a person I’m very unpredictable because I don’t say anything, I just do it.
You’re sounding like a mafia member now…
(We all laugh) No, I mean people don’t bother me as they don’t know how I’ll react and that makes people [with bad intentions] nervy. The truth is, I’m a cool dude. The real me is cereal, Cartoon Network, and I chill! Maybe some Erykah Badu and D’Angelo playing. But yeah, so basically I moved to fashion and then decided to do music. Because I felt like music is the space where I could involve my graphic design and fashion, and make it all [contribute to] one thing.
With so many creative skills to your bow, how did you decide that music was THE main expression for you?
I can’t keep a diary for shit. I found it easier to vent and voice my opinions, thoughts and feelings over music. Because music on it’s own makes you feel. You play music when you feel a certain way – you’ll play a certain song if you’re happy, you’ll play a certain song if you’re sad. I just thought it was the easiest way to bring out my thoughts. The first tape was just opinion and thought and feeling and getting things off my chest like a diary. Then with time you get into more quirkiness, wordplay, and you go deeper [into the music].
My first performance was ILuvLive’s open mic. I won it, and I wasn’t expecting to. So I did more open mics to test the waters and see if there was a demand. And we saw the crowd response, and I had people asking ‘where can I find you?’ so I thought ‘alright, cool, I just gotta carry on.’ Then from there I did Channel 4, and that’s where it took off.
Content wise, if the first mixtape was like your diary, the second mixtape, in our opinion, felt more like you were trying to show you had something to prove. If you were to release another mixtape tomorrow where would you be? What conversation would you be having with people?
I’m in a space where I’m just having fun, being cheeky and letting go. Not taking things too seriously. Being carefree with it and, like I was saying, trying to find truth through music. But not just being biased and seeing it through my eyes; actually seeing it through the people around me who are influenced by me, and the people I’m influenced by.
I’d be speaking about deeper stuff, yes, but I wouldn’t say I’d dumb it down, but I’m making it more digestible so people can just take it in. It’s like Andre 3000, someone I really look up to – he’ll spit lyrics but when you listen to it again you hear it from a different angle and it’s like ‘whoa!’ that’s something I’ve been really into. One of my favourite verses from him is on [UGK’s] ‘International Player’s Anthem’ – it’s the wordplay and the metaphors. Double-meanings, I’m into that right now.
You’ve name-checked 3-Stacks, Erykah Badu and D’Angelo. Who else inspires you musically?
Jamiroquai. Definitely Kendrick [Lamar]; he’s changed the retrospective of new rap, he’s made it more open, more creative, more poetic. He’s just changed the stigma of a stereotypical rapper, especially from the area that he’s from, and it just shows you don’t have to be your area. Then the usuals – Kanye, Jay-Z and 50 Cent, only based on their business ethic, how they carry themselves professionally, and the fact that they exude success and excellence. All time faves include Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, N.E.R.D, The Clipse – the old Kelis albums. I text Kelis ONCE a month, and say to her ‘you need to go back in the studio with Pharrell! Kiss, hug, make up, whatever you’ve done, just fix it, it’ll sell!’
I love AlunaGeorge, I love the fact that they’ve got the R&B taste to it but it’s their own thing.
To be honest, I listen to more neo-soul than anything. I try not to listen to too much new hip-hop as it’s very one-track minded. I love listening to it, it’s great, but I know I have so much more to give and to offer than saying I’ve got the freshest clothes and the bad bitches, and girls shake their arses when I enter the room. That’s not reality.
On Misfit Maximus II you worked with Toddla T, AL and Josh Osho. Is it important to you to stay active in the UK scene, and to also work with other up-and-coming acts?
I just like to embrace other acts and work with them but at the same time still have my own essence to everything.
When you collaborate with someone, you collaborate because of their skills and your skills, to see where it goes. But sometimes people get lost within the collaboration. I try to always keep my essence, and let them have their freedom. For example, if someone’s a tailor I don’t want to tell them what to do because that’s their job and they know how to do it. It’s the same thing with music; I don’t want someone who doesn’t do what I do to tell me what to do.
I love new acts. I just love hearing new refreshing things, especially in an age where you have to, in order to get noticed, you have to stand out. So the newer artists are being much more creative and more thought-provoking, and I’m inspired.
Let’s talk fashion. A lot of what I see online about you isn’t necessarily about your music, it’s, ‘we’ve snapped Shadez at this fashion show…’
To be fair, I’m not a particularly fashionable person – I just like wearing things that suit me, and that suit my silhouette, body and shape. Style-wise, I’m trying to be more of a tastemaker. If I upload something on the facebook or the instagram people see it as a new trend [that I’m supporting]. I like that I’m an early adopter of certain things and people start latching onto it afterwards, but in reality it’s just me being me and having my own truth and my own style. If I put on something it’s because I want to put it on, it’s not because Tom, Dick and Harry’s got it.
While it’s been less of an issue in today’s creative climate where people are celebrated for doing lots of different things, do you find that you still have a bit of a struggle with people trying to define you as just one thing? I’m sure you don’t want to be seen as a rapper who’s not really a rapper, but someone who’s always out there being a fashionista?
I only do the fashion thing at fashion week. Then that’s that. During the normal week I’m putting on bog-standard clothes! It’s not a fashion show every day. I think there is a time and a place for everything. First and foremost I’m an artist.
Apostrophe - Market Place, 40-41 Great Castle St.