Here at Flavour we have been a fan of multi-talented singer, songwriter and rapper Bobii Lewis for a long time. He has graced the Flavour Live stage twice and blown the audience away with his spine-tingling voice and bright red hair. He is definitely one to watch. We caught up with the north Londoner who is currently riding high off the success of his single Grenade.
How did it all begin?
I started singing when I was about 11 or 12 yrs old, in a choir. I actually didn’t want to be in the choir, but I got forced to do it and it turns out it was actually a great choice to make. Some choir leaders came to my school when I was in year 5 or year 6 and it was through those same people, that I met Jazz Ellington, from ‘The Voice’. He used to sing for that choir.
I started recording little features with rappers in my local area when I was about 16 and then it got a bit more serious at around 17yrs, 18yrs. That explains the background [laughs].
You are quite versatile. You rap, you produce, you sing… What made you choose singing as a main focus initially?
I started singing before I started doing anything else really. I wanted to make myself as good as I could basically, which is why I started rapping, producing etc… When I was in sixth form I started studying music as well, so I kind of know the theory behind music too. If I’m in the studio and someone tries to sing a note that doesn’t quite fit the chord, I can give them the technical feedback and tell them why it doesn’t sound right. I think the more you know about music and the more you try different things, the better your work is.
Without speaking out of turn, you aren’t a ‘conventional’ looking rapper…
[Laughs] definitely. Originally, I don’t think people were expecting it. Everyone was expecting me to come on a singing vibe. With rapping in general, unless you are confident, no one really wants to listen. I thought, ‘let me just take action and see what I can do with it’. At the end of the day, if you are delivering quality material you can’t really do much more and that goes for all aspects, rapping, singing, producing…
You must have been compared to Ed Sheeran?
Oh, all the time! I think everyone compares me to Ed Sheeran, until they actually see me perform or they hear a song of mine. People are just conditioned that way. I could literally be walking down the road with a friend and if they see another person who is ginger, they’ll say ‘oh look, there’s your brother’ [laughs]. People just clump all ginger people together like we are one of a kind. So that comparison always comes up. It doesn’t bother me at all. Ed Sheeran sells ridiculous amounts worldwide. It doesn’t bother me, I don’t think it’s an accurate comparison, but I can see why people do it. If my hair was brown I would be Pro Green, if my hair was bleach blonde, I’d be compared to Eminem.
Would you ever just dye your hair a random colour so that you don’t get compared to anyone?
[Laughs] from when I was young I always liked the fact that I had ginger hair, because it made me different to everyone else. I’ve heard stories where people have been bullied for having ginger hair, but I was always really popular because of my hair. I got loads of attention, so I don’t want to change my hair colour. I like it.
If you had to put into a file with a group of other artists, who would you file yourself with?
I always get stuck on questions like these… I haven’t been able to show the public all my different styles yet, but I have so many. Before I did any rapping people said Justin Timberlake, because of a couple of features that I did. I did something for Link up TV, where I did a little rap in the break and sang in a deeper voice. A lot of people were like, ‘oh he sounds like Drake’. So every time I bring something new, I’m compared to someone different. I wouldn’t compare myself to any one artist, but I would put myself in the category of… [Laughs]… It’s a big name, but I am inspired by Kanye West. He doesn’t follow the format. He never really makes music that is ‘hot’ at the time, he’ll make whatever he want to make, he’ll sing when he wants to sing, rap when he wants to rap and that’s what I feel like.
Kanye is a big name. Once you think you’ve figured him out he completely changes it up and comes with a different style, which is very similar to how you have presented yourself so far.
Yeah. That’s exactly why I think we are similar… but obviously not the same, if you know what I mean?
Going through your mixtapes, they are quite eclectic. What direction do you think your music will take in the future, have you found your niche, or are you still trying out lots of different things?
I am definitely still trying out a lot of techniques and styles. Going back to Kanye, he is still doing things I didn’t know he was going to do. So you couldn’t technically say that he has found himself, because he is still doing new things. I have my lane, my foundation is singing RnB, but I wouldn’t box myself off and say that is all I’m going to do.
You have a Freddy Krueger inspired cover for your new single (which I find quite disturbing being a child of the 80’s). Why did you choose that theme, what is the message behind such graphic artwork?
First of all, when I was shown previous work that this make up-artist had done, I couldn’t look at the picture myself, it was very graphic. The message behind it is… it kind of represents all the frustrations and the ugliness of everything that is going on in the system. It’s all of that anger coming out.
You also have the ‘Hackney Heroine’ in your video, a notable figure during the London riots, how did her cameo come about?
She knows my manager. She was shown my music by manager and she loves it, so it was a mutual thing. She was really excited to be involved in what I was doing and I was really excited to have her there.
Did she tell you off or give you a stern pep talk, as in her infamous YouTube video?
She was really just an inspiration. I can’t really tell you exactly what she said to me, but it was very positive having her around. She just encouraged me to keep doing what I’m doing and stay focused. As the riots showed, some of the kids nowadays aren’t really doing anything and she just advised me to stay away from that route.
Your first mixtape was called ‘Invasion’. The second one was called ‘The Mash Up’ and your new single is called ‘Grenade’…
It sounds all sounds a bit war-like?
[Laughs] no, no. It’s all positive. I’ve just seen the finished version of my next video and it looks absolutely crazy, so make sure you stay in the loop and check all my stuff out.
CLICK HERE to buy ‘Grenade’ on iTunes