After leaving his position as center-back for English football team Leyton Orient, East Londoner JIIK went on to drop his first Heat On The Street mixtape in 2003, marking his journey into the world of grime. As he continued dropping Heat tapes, JIIK amassed a loyal following that would eventually see him join the infamous Roll Deep collective in 2008. As a member of Roll Deep, he earned two number 1 records with "Good Times" and "Green Light".
This increasing success would spread internationally in the coming years, when Adidas featured his single "WTF" as part of its "All In" campaign of 2011. As he continued to cement his legacy as a mainstay artist, JIIK expanded into the world of business. He channeled his love for trainers into the development of a shoe protection spray known as Crep Protect. Crep Protect would soon become a must-have amongst trainer lovers, receiving endorsements from the likes of Joey Essex, Jamal Edwards, and Reggie Yates, among others.
Presently, JIIK has returned to his solo grind with the release of his new single, "Fresh" off the upcoming LL COOL J EP (September 15). I caught up with JIIK to discuss "Fresh," what it means to be "on your LL," influences, trainers, and Roll Deep.
EARMILK: How are you doing today, man?
JIIK: Good, man, just chillin'.
EM: It was a good weekend to be a Liverpool FC supporter, wasn't it?
JIIK: I take my support of my team very very seriously. I'm glad you brought it up. We're top of the table, can't complain, 3 out of 3. A lot of guys aren't really talking to us right now. (laughs)
EM: You're winning on the T.V. too. "Fresh" is out and getting some play.
JIIK: Yeah, yeah, definitely. That's doing its rounds now. I'm very, very happy with it. It's probably one of my favorite videos I've done. I'm not usually happy with videos when they're done. I like that one. I'm happy with it.
EM: What do you think people are gravitating towards in that video?
JIIK: I think the originality of it. I take time to really go through what I want to do and how I want things to look. And I take time with my director and producers to really do that. So, with the visual we really went for everything that we wanted to do. We wanted it to look very smooth, very neutral. A lot of people think we shot that in the States. I didn't shoot it in the States. I shot it around the corner just to give it that nice, universal look that could be appreciated.
EM: Can you talk about the sample that serves as the hook in there, because it's really cool. Who is that?
JIIK: It's a guy called Fuzzy Jones.
EM: Is that the guy from "Mercy" in Cruel Summer?
JIIK: Yeah, same guy. I remember him from when I was young. My dad used to have a lot of his stuff. My dad was a reggae DJ. And basically, Fuzzy Jones was a guy that used to make a lot of dub plates for sound systems and people of that nature. A lot of war cries and dissing the other side. If you were to hear the full sample of that, it's basically along the lines of "you ain't fresher than us, we do this cuz we're da da da da cuz we fresh." All of his material is kind of like that, so a lot of people tend to sample him now, because it's very braggadocious.
EM: How many more visuals can we expect?
JIIK: There will be at least three for this project. I'm shooting the video this Saturday for "Brand New, Fuck You" and the last one will be the tune with Roses Gabor and Wiley.
EM: I heard you say you're on your LL right now. You know, with the LL Cool J EP.
JIIK: (laughs) Yeah. When I say that, I mean LL Cool J is so iconic in what he does and what he's known for. He embodies smooth coolness, as well as being a sick emcee. So when I say LL Cool J and I call it LL Cool J, I'm explaining the mode that I'm in and that the music is in. It's a smooth kind of mode. Do you know what I mean? That's basically why I called it that, and I'm a fan of LL Cool J anyway. So, I just thought it would be cool. Like I could be talking to a girl and the way I'm going about it, my mate could be like, "you think you're LL or you're on your LL, you think you're smooth." So, it's just me being in that mode and recording this music.
EM: You mentioned that he was an icon, but was he as much of an influence to you as The Heartless Crew or Pay As You Go?
JIIK: They would have influenced me in different ways. It's like, you grow up and listen to a lot of American music, rap, and whatever, because that's what you're exposed to. But as far as So Solid, Heartless, Pay As You Go, those have been inspirational on a different level because those are people you know and see around in your area. Those are more local. Those are the ones that can give you the vision that you can actually do it. You can watch an LL Cool J and think, "ahh, that's sick," but you don't know if you can get to that stage or level. When I see Pay As You Go, like these are guys literally from my area. They're really doing it on a scale where you would want to be. So, that would be inspirational in that sense. Like, LL Cool J would be sick, because he's this big rapper in America. You always want to be that.
EM: Are you going to get the Kangols and dookie ropes?
JIIK: (laughs) I used to have a rope chain. I used to have a couple. But yeah, I don't really wear… you know I'm lying. I do wear Kangol, but I wear fisherman hats and bucket hats. Not really the ones he used to wear. I've been wearing them for years. Not the whole outfit though. I couldn't do the hat and the chain. That would be a bit lame, you get me?
EM: Yeah, but he does the Adidas tracksuits, and you've had connections with Adidas before?
JIIK: Yeah, I've always been affiliated with Adidas, even up until now. So, I suppose in that sense we wear the same clothes sometimes, but not purposely. (laughs)
EM: A couple years ago, you had mentioned that you were trying to release more honest songs. Is that something that we're going to see on the LL Cool J EP?
JIIK: When I say things like that, I mean things with more content, more feelings that you can reflect on, visualize. Being in the group with Roll Deep, we make a lot of party tunes and things for the clubs, holidays, and things like that, which is all good. That's a whole a different mode to be in and that's cool for the summer. But when you've been doing a lot of that, I feel the need and the urge… I write songs anyways. I'm always recording. I want people to hear these songs now, because it's not just all of that. I'm not always partying. I'm not always in the club. I can't reflect that in every song. I want to reflect my life and life as I see it. So, it's important for me to do that.
EM: As a songwriter working with Roll Deep, it seems like you've only got that one verse to really go in. Do you enjoy having the whole song?
JIIK: It always is. I've been asked that before. You prefer it, because it's all on your terms. It's your vision. It's your way of putting something together. So, that's always the benefit. I always prefer to do a solo record. Obviously, there's a time and a place where you want to get some other vibes from some other people. But yeah, doing your own stuff always gives you some satisfaction.
EM: You posted a snippet of a song on Instagram. Can you shed some light on it?
JIIK: That song's called "Brand New, Fuck You". That's just more of the same coming off the "Fresh" vibe. This is the new vibe. Get with it. Again, just people celebrating who they are. This is a new age, a new generation. People do whatever they want, and you either get with it or you don't have to, but it's going to happen anyway. You know what I mean?
EM: It seems like you're trying to set the pace for the whole scene with this EP.
JIIK: I always try to make a mark when I release something, to stand out amongst what is happening. Whatever's happening, I don't want to do that. Obviously, I don't want to go too far off and stray into another planet and be unreachable and unheard. You can like it or not like it, but you can see it's not the same. As long as you can see that, I'm pretty satisfied.
EM: You mentioned some of the features. Which were you most excited about?
JIIK: Probably Shezar, just because I haven't worked with her before that record. I'd heard that she's a sick vocalist, but I hadn't worked with her. But obviously Roses Gabor and Wiley, these are my people for years. I know them inside out. I loved what we did.
EM: And on the production side?
JIIK: Actually, I've just worked with a producer called FootSteps who made "Fresh". We sat down and did the whole EP together, bar one tune. Actually, the tune you heard the snippet to is from a producer called Ayo, but that's the only one. The rest is FootSteps.
EM: You've worked with Ayo before right?
JIIK: Yeah, we've got a lot of work together. We've got loads of work that hasn't even come out yet. Me and him work well together. He's sick.
EM: That's great that you were able to keep that relationship going.
JIIK: Yeah, that's how I like to work. I feel better when I have a relationship with the producer, we know each other, we know how we work so we can get stuff done more efficiently, and the ideas flow better. I'd rather do the project with one person or two people. Really minimal, so we're on the same page.
EM: And you're really into trainers. You've got Crep Protect. What was the impetus for that business?
JIIK: Like anything, it was an idea, I worked on it, I believed in it. We put our money where our mouth was and invested in whatever it took to make it where it is. It's working so far. I don't want to act like it's successful because I don't think we're where we need to get to, but it's been getting along nicely. Obviously it comes from me being a trainer lover and wanting to maintain my trainers at all times.
EM: And you've been shooting new advertisements for it. What's it like creating that brand?
JIIK: Yeah, I was just shooting some more yesterday. Just make sure the brand is seen and heard everywhere. That's what sets us apart from other shoe sprays. No one is branding their stuff and putting it about like how we're doing it. I don't know how it is over there, but over here, shoe spray's not really promoted. It's something you see. It might get sold to you, it might not. I wanted it to speak for itself. I wanted the visual to be seen anywhere and the badge to be understood everywhere. That's the aim.
EM: If you could use Crep Protect on only 5 shoes, which would they be?
JIIK: Adidas Nizza, any one the ZX's, Jordan IV, a suede Clark Wallabee (laughs), and maybe like a Superstar shell toe or a gazelle. There are so many, it's hard to choose five.
EM: Are you planning a solo tour to promote the LL Cool J EP?
JIIK: Yeah, I'm going to do whatever I can just to get it out there. This, for me, is just warming up for more, because I haven't been on my summer grind for a little while. So, I just understand that I need to build it up still. This is just the beginning of it. Then I'll put out more music after that, build up the listeners back again and give them some strong material to understand that I mean business and I'm serious.
EM: It kind of reminds me of "Momma Said Knock You Out," where LL says "Don't call it a comeback, I been here for years." You've been in the scene a while.
JIIK: Yeah. I could have used that skit on the EP. That would have been pretty sick. But, I understand that especially in this day and age, people's brain span is like three days and then that's it. (laughs) It's really short. If you're not putting out anything out consistently, they consider you away, even though I've been floating around here and there. The content hasn't been there on a consistent basis recently. So, I understand if you want to call it a comeback or whatever.
EM: Now, just as a fan, sometimes when I'm listening to the Roll Deep stuff, I'll hear your verse and be like, "man, I want JIIK to go back in!" Do you ever feel like…
JIIK: Yeah, yeah. (laughs) I'm feeling like that as well. Like, I'll have one more time, but there's so many men. You have to give up sometimes. The thing is, it's not enough sometimes. I'll be in the studio, in and out within minutes, because it won't take me a lot of time to write it and then throw it down. It's just not enough. It's one of those things you have to deal with.
EM: I've also been jammin' to that track "Palava" off No Comment Star, but I have no idea what Palava even means.
JIIK: (laughs) Yeah, Palava is like, "What's the problem?" What's the palava like? A palava could be a madness like, "Look over there a wife arguing, screaming in the street." That's a palava. They're involved in a madness right now. It's whatever the madness is.
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EM: I'll be throwing that around all day now.
JIIK: (laughs) That's mad, because the chorus in that tune started off as my verse. I was writing it, writing it, stopped, and thought "this could be a hook," stopped it and wrote a verse again.
EM: I want to see you rated, because JIIK is always underrated.
JIIK: Yeah, exactly, I'm so tired of even hearing that because then just rate me then. If everyone thinks that, then everyone should rate me. Everyone has to take responsibility for what they are thinking. If you rate me, then your friend will rate me, and it will be a chain effect and I will be where I'm supposed to be.
EM: Thanks for your time today JIIK.
JIIK: Respect. Cheers.
Buy the LL Cool J EP here and rate the man.