It's not often that a battle rapper is able to make the jump to album-based success. However, Bradford's Lunar C is hardly a normal rapper. Fresh out of the Leeds Festival, and in advance of the release of his upcoming EP Good Times and Dead Braincells, Britain's most popular battle rapper met up with us to discuss how he got his start as a rapper, his relationship with the UK hip-hop scene, and some really weird meat.
Be sure to pick up Lunar C's EP Good Times and Dead Braincells, out September 16. In the meantime, check out the pre-release track "Contradict," available on the upcoming album.
EARMILK: Give us a little background on how you got started rapping in the UK scene.
Lunar C: I started recording and stuff when I was about 16, we got a free studio at a youth center I used to go to when I got kicked out of school, so it kind of just started there. I carried on doing music, I was doing shows until I was 19, which was when I did my first battle just to promo my music. It kind of blew up a bit more than I expected, so I stuck at that, I did like six battles over the course of a year. I eventually got back on my music and use the hype from the battles for that.
EM: Were you looking up to and being influenced by battlers as well as album rappers?
LC: Definitely – I always watched battles but I never really thought I could do it, or have the confidence to battle. But I used to watch 'em every night, just as much as I was listening to music, more as a fan, and it got to the point where I watched so many that I learned what crowds like, and I kind of mastered it in a way.
EM: In your battles, you're extremely attentive to your audience and the live medium – how do you perpetuate that energy in an album setting? Do you have different goals in mind?
LC: It's definitely different for music, you can't really go for as much shock value without looking tacky and rubbish, but it's definitely the same with the punchlines and stuff – you still need that hard-hitting punchline. Well, you don't really need it but I like it to be there. Most people are either good at one or another, but I like to think that I can do both. It's a big challenge and not a lot of people do it.
EM: When you think of a UK rapper, you usually think of electronic production and the artists coming out of the grime scene. You don't really seem aligned with that.
LC: Yeah, I'm definitely more of a hip-hop MC – I don't really do grime. Hip-hop is my main interest, to be honest. My dad listened to Wu-Tang, my dad got me into that when I was young so that's probably one of my biggest influences. He got me into Cypress Hill and Wu-Tang and Mos Def and all the obvious 90s influences, so I didn't really know about UK hip-hop until I was 16, and that's kind of what made me decide to do it myself. I heard dudes like Jehst, Task Force, and Skinnyman and they made me think I could do it.
EM: How does that effect your relationship with other UK hip-hop artists?
LC: In a way I'm not as much "in the scene" as a lot of people are at my level just because of the fact that I don't try and do grime or any poppy stuff, I don't specifically make anything for radio but I think that's good, man! I like the fact that I'm set apart a little bit, it give me a little bit more of a niche.
EM: Who are some of your favorite producers?
LC: My "favorite anything" always changes, even my favorite rapper, but my favorites are probably Alchemist, DJ Premier, RZA, as well as new stuff like Hudson Mohawke, but I'm kind of getting bored of that sound.
EM: What goes into you picking a beat?
LC: Whatever I like! Producers ask me what kind of vibe or style I like, and I always just tell them to send a mixture of stuff so I can see what they're good at or what stands out from their beats. You'll hear on my EP that it varies a lot – I don't just stick to one style at all, I like to play with it and I like my music to vary a lot. I never want to do a project where it all sounds the same, that's my worst nightmare.
EM: I've gotta ask, what the hell is that chunk of meat on the top of your Bandcamp page?
LC: It's "bumbatripe," it's a UK delicacy, a quid a kilo! It's just something I say – if something's shit or it's rubbish, it's "bumbatripe."