When it comes to Grime, there are few people more knowledgeable than Joseph 'JP' Patterson a.k.a The Hoods Journalist. Vanessa Laker caught up the with grime specialist and up and coming media mogul, to discuss one of the UK's most flourishing genres…
EM: The UK urban scene has really taken off in the mainstream over the last couple of years and a lot of home-grown acts are dominating the charts. What affect do you think this boom will have on grime music?
JP: Well, to be honest, 'real' grime music still has a long way to go before the mainstream pay full attention to it and really get what the artists lyrically have to say, as they do for example (with) pop music. But slowly and surely, we're getting there.
EM: A lot of the mainstream grime artists have switched up their sound since finding success and can be considered more pop than grime. How does this transition affect underground grime MCs who are keen to break into a mainstream audience?
JP: I'll be honest with you, there are a lot of grime MCs out there that really want to become the next Dizzee Rascal and Tinchy Stryder by making that pop/grime music, but there are also many of them who say that they'll remain quite underground and wouldn't dream of going down that mainstream/pop route. It's a sticky subject, that one.
EM: Tinie Tempah's 'Pass Out' was a song that appealed to the underground, just as much as it appealed to the mainstream. Bridging the gap and solidifying the genre's strength. How important is Tinie Tempah's career and presence in the scene?
JP: Yeah, I was going to mention Tinie Tempah in the last answer actually. When Tinie came with 'Pass Out', I'm sure it shocked a lot of people when it went to number one. It proved to all those grime MCs out there that decided to make pop music that they didn't (and) don't need to make that sort of music. 'Pass Out' was definitely one of those breakthrough records.
EM: Dizzee Rascal is often described as the 'UK Jay-Z'. He was the first to really put the scene on the map and his success speaks for itself. Even though Dizzee stopped making grime music a few years ago, is he still influential and significant to the current grime scene?
JP: Dizzee Rascal will always be respected as the person that took grime to the masses, but his lack of love for grime has been disheartening to many of his old grime fans, to say the least. The only association that Dizzee still has with grime these days is those featured on his record label, Dirtee Stank. The Newham Generals are certainly repping Dizzee's corner when it comes to grime music. I think it would be great to see Dizzee release a 100% grime track for the mainstream, as if it were a pop/electro one, it would be a landmark occasion!
EM: Rinse (radio station) recently got their FM licence…
JP: All I can say is it's a bout bloody time. BBC 1Xtra do rep a lot of underground sounds, but not as consistently as Rinse FM. Logan Sama's 100% grime show was the first legal show to play only grime music, but when it was cut down from two hours to just one every Monday, it was a bit of a shame, as it was one of the main platforms that people tuned into to hear the genre. But he's still using that hour to the fullest.
EM: Plan B, Professor Green and Tinie Tempah have all been nominated for EMA's (MTV Europe Awards). With these guys being recognised in Europe, what does this signal for the future of UK urban music on an international level?
JP: I mean, it can only be a good look for the scene. Those guys have been putting in the hard work for years, especially Professor Green. From battling MCs, to hiding from the paparazzi, he certainly deserves to be in the place that he's currently in, if anyone.
EM: We did a feature on Giggs earlier this year here on Earmilk, which is a US based site. The general feedback and comments were positive, but quite a few of our readers commented on not understanding the UK slang in the lyrics. Do you think the culture barrier and usage of slang will be a problem for UK grime/rap acts hoping to crack the American market?
JP: Potentially. But I look at it like this, if someone is interested in an artist, then they'd go far to try and understand where that artist is really coming from and that goes for fans of music around the globe. So if fans from the US are that interested in what Giggs or any other UK artist has to say, then surely they'd do a bit of research and I'm pretty sure they'll find out what some of the slang terms mean, it isn't hard. We get what US rappers say. There are fans of grime/underground music from India to Spain that read my blog regularly and I'm sure they're in the same position, if not a worse one when it comes to this issue, but if you love the music that much, then you have to go to certain lengths, this being one of them.
EM: We've spoken about grime going international, but on closer inspection, there are questions that should be raised on our home territory first…Bashy, Wiley, Chipmunk, Plan B, Tinchy Stryder, Mz Bratt, Scorcher, Griminal, Tinie Tempah etc – All these artist's are from London and the majority of the well known successful grime artists tend to be from the capital city, but there's so much talent across the whole of the UK. Why do you think this is and what steps do you think need to be taken in order to change this?
JP: This is a subject that I've been figuring out for a few years now. I've always tried to bridge the gap between artists from outside of London and artists from London. If I'm not inviting an MC from Birmingham to come and perform at a grime night somewhere, I'm writing about them on a regular basis to try and get their voice heard to people that they might not be able to reach. I think it boils down to hard work at the end of the day. If an artist is determined enough then they'll get to where they need and want to be. There are a few artists from outside of London that have really impressed me over the last year and a half: StayFresh, Lady Leshurr and S-X are just some of the few names that come to mind.
EM: You're the editor of MTV UK's urban site The Wrap Up; tell us a little bit about TWU…
JP: MTV – The Wrap Up is an urban music blog that covers everything from grime and dubstep, to R&B, hip-hop and even dancehall music. Ever since I took over the site in February of this year, its really grown to become one of the main sites out there for news and interviews from the urban music scene and whilst it is still growing, I have really big hopes for it and hopefully it will be able to contend with some of the big players out there in the near future. As it sits on the main MTV.co.uk website, it's able to get A LOT of views – from lovers of pop and indie music and that's the great thing about it. The sound and culture is able to spread that much further.
EM: You're one of most influential young writers in the UK, working for the likes of The Guardian, The Sun, NME, The Independent, NYLON, The Metro, The Huffington Post, Vice and Dazed & Confused, to name a few. What advice would you give to any up-and-coming journalists and aspiring writers?
JP: Just stay dedicated and hone your skills. When I started out in 2007, my spelling and grammar was awful – still is to some degree, Vanessa you can vouch for me on that one, haha! And it's only recently that I have really seen a change in my work and how I approach my writing. I really don't believe that I'm the best writer in the world, far from it actually, but with a basic understanding of putting a sentence together with the knowledge of what I'm talking about, I feel that I've earned my place with some of the other well-known music writers out there. There are some people out there that hate my writing style, but there are more that do (like it). You will have haters, but that comes with everything that you do in life to be honest. So yeah, just do you, learn how to do things yourself and you'll get far. It isn't about having people saying that they got you to where you are. I never went to college or uni, but I'm an Editor at 22, I really only have Jesus to thank for that.
EM: What's your association with Boxfresh (clothing)?
JP: I do some consultancy work for the streetwear brand on a freelance basis. I've worked on events, photoshoots and a lot of other good things for Boxfresh and they've really become a staple brand within the UK music scene and it's a great feeling to have had a helping hand in making that happen.
EM: And do you plan to get more evolved in the fashion branding side of things in the future?
JP: Well, I've just started doing some fashion pieces for The Metro Newspaper, it is something totally different to what I'm used to, but I'm liking it. (I've) got a lot more interviews to conduct with some big names in fashion, I'm enjoying it. I always manage to mention my love for underground music in the features though, haha! You have to read one to understand what I mean. I also want to do some more consultancy work with other clothing brands too, as it's something that I feel I have the knack for. Before Boxfresh I was working with Maharishi on their streetwear brand, MHI, that was an amazing experience.
EM: So you work within journalism, events management, fashion branding and PR – a mogul in the making. Who and what inspires you?
JP: God is my inspiration. No PERSON can inspire me as much as he does. That's all I really have to say on that front.
EM: Where do you see yourself in five years time?
JP: I really came into the music game wanting to be a big events promoter. That's how I started out in the beginning with my club night, ChockABlock in 2007, or a big-shot A&R. A&R is something that I still want to get into a bit more. I've done a few bits and bobs here and there for some labels, mainly independent ones – big up Twenty One Records – I want to expand on that in the future. I'm also doing some music PR for a couple of artists too, which is fun and challenging at the same time.
EM: And what does the future hold for grime music?
JP: Grime is more than music. It's a culture, so it will be around forever. Like rock music even. A lot more people will get signed, some will do well and some won't, but those who stay true to their grass roots will reap the benefits.