Iron Braydz is an emcee that from the studio to the stage and beyond can kill a mic in any situation. He’s known for strong lyrics with meaning and production skills to match. He’s hitting us hard with his new EP release ‘Verbal sWARdz’. But as deep as his lyrics can be, he can still run jokes and I captured the light hearted side in our exchange. Iron Braydz is far from one-dimensional. We spoke on subjects as diverse as RZA to gentrification to The Karate Kid to heavy life changing moments. If you’ve ever taken the time to read up on Che Guevara you’d have realized that rebels and revolutionaries have a sense of humour, and like to have fun too!
What’s the first record/cd you ever bought?
Ice- T ‘Colors’
How did you learn how to produce beats?
When I learned how to beat box. I was always interested in instrumentation especially the drums. That always captivated me. Whenever watching a music video with Earth, Wind & Fire or Kool & The Gang or something…there was a band in particular I think the 70s or 60s called Apostrophe who I thought were incredible. It was always in the back of my mind, production and drums. Learning how to beat box was my way of producing so to speak. I never knew anyone else was really into that stuff until I came across that character in Police Academy lol. Obviously I really got into it after meeting RZA on that 21st August day ….been into it ever since, I’ve never stopped.
It’s nuts that you remember the date (Laughs) I remember what happened at that legendary day but not the actual month and day…
C’mon there’s no way I’d forget that!
Care to elaborate a bit more on that day? You got up on the stage at RZA’s gig…
Meeting RZA. 21st August 2001 when The Militia Street Squad were promoting his ‘Digital Bullet’ album. We met up and we were backstage for time just talking and then eventually he went on to do to the show. He brought on Ty first I think then Skinny Man then RZA just turns to me and was like “Braydz, come bless the mic.” I was like for real?? I got on that mic and the place erupted! It went bonkers! I remember there were a lot of people saying that RZA was on the side of the stage with someone from KOCH the label he was signed to at that time. People were saying they were looking at RZA while I was doing what I was doing and that he seemed quite shocked…
I was there myself on the opposite side of the stage and I can agree with that, you killed it that night and RZA was, I would say, impressed with your bars…
I couldn’t believe it. It’s funny but whenever we talk about that day I only ever focus on the conversation we had and the stuff he was showing me on his MPC. I think I’ve only ever spoken about performing one other time. It was an amazing moment …one of my greatest moments ever.
Have your expectations of what you can achieve and share as an emcee changed from your early days in the game?
Definitely, my expectations in particular for what I can achieve have become a lot more realistic due to my experiences obviously. And just being the person I am and the kind of things I talk about , I wouldn’t say I’ve dumbed it down, I’ve become a lot more selective with what I say cuz I’ve noticed certain treatment I get in comparison to other types of emcees and other kinds of artists. So my expectations have become more realistic but at the same time it all depends on my hunger and my determination. I am still determined, but not quite as hungry as I used to be. You learn to live with the hunger after a while. It’s about being consistent and putting out quality stuff.
You’re a member of Triple Darkness, arguably the amalgamation of the hardest hitting emcees out there right now? Is it a take over?
That’s really for the Generals to say, but there’s nothing you’ve said that I disagree with when it comes to TD (Triple Darkness). It is an amalgamation of incredible emcees and I think a takeover is something that will happen naturally. But to outright say it, I would leave the answer to the Generals Melanin 9 and Cyrus Malachi. But I do think it’s something that will inevitably happen as long as we put out the material that people want and do it consistently. I think that’s the key for any kind of material coming out in this day and age, consistency and quality. It’s not necessarily about quantity any more. I think we’ve moved past that stage now of quantity meaning more than quality. As long as Triple Darkness sticks to that formula, a take over will be inevitable.
‘Dredd’ from your EP is a heavy track from the electric guitar to the uncompromising reality tale you tell. Upon listening to the lyrics my mind wandered over to thoughts of gentrification. Your background is Harlesden, are there any signs of that in Harlesden yet?
It’s kind of happening, it’s a lot more subtle than it is in Wembley Park for instance. It’s started to creep up towards Craven Park, not necessarily shops but housing in particular. There are now standard high street shops like Argos & Tesco. We got the standard stuff we didn’t necessarily have before. However, in saying that, just around the corner from me are houses that are worth millions and I’m not even exaggerating. There’s an eight bedroom house around the corner from where I live. Back in 2007 there was a funeral and I remember the owner of the house saying he’d been offered £2.5 million for the house. So imagine what it would be worth now?
There are houses in Harlesden that are just as expensive as in Ladbroke Grove. Gentrification hasn’t really kicked in yet though. We’ve still got the regular stereotyped shops that make up the ingredients for a ghetto. They are blatantly working on it though. Two years ago we were sent a survey asking us how we would feel if they completely renovated Harlesden. I didn’t take part in the survey because how I feel, regardless of what ever we say, they will the do the opposite and do what they planned to do anyway. They are following a process, a formula. This is what the government requires; they have to tick the box. It doesn’t really matter what we say.
I know a lot of people that want to leave London. I’m one of those people. I don’t particularly like it here anymore. I like my own space, this isn’t racially driven, but I think Harlesden has become very overcrowded. As soon as you step outside of your home you have someone in your face, literally. You get on the bus, you’re sharing that space with someone’s armpit. You literally have no space to yourself. Ultimately we’re sharing that space with people who are destitute as well. It’s not their fault; they are seeking salvation in their existence. They’re looking for an outlet in order to escape the poverty they are in. They think if they come here it will be a solution for them. Unfortunately they don’t have the luxury of bathing themselves or whatever, in order to keep up with hygiene. Some people don’t understand that. I understand that. However I don’t necessarily want to have to be in the position where I have to share that.
Even without the guest artists your EP would be dope, but it’s a bonus that you have the addition of a stellar line up of incredible artists chomping on the Mic spitting. Where did you record this EP and how the hell did you hook up with Prince Po?
I recorded the EP mainly at Chemo’s actually, at Kilamanjaro Studios. And Prince Po, I’m gonna say this in every single interview, I don’t care. Prince Po is the most down to earth, humble, helpful individual I’ve ever met in Hip Hop and that’s from his status alone. He’s helped me more than some of my closest friends as far as music is concerned. I hooked up with him just by Facebook. He put up a status once in 2008 going into 2009 and that December I got in contact with him in order to get a feature with him. I’ve looked up to him since the flipping ‘Stress’ album you know what I mean?! Equinox, Chuck Cheese y’know. I’ve always loved Po. I even remember when Pharoahe came over when we did the promotion (street teaming) for that event in Finsbury Park?
Jam In The Park, Rawkus Records had an arena…
I love Pharoahe Monch, no offence to him, definitely one of the best lyricists of all time in my books. But I wasn’t that bothered, I was like “where’s Po at?” I wanted to see Po more so. Sometimes it’s not about who gets the most coverage out of the two of them. It’s not about everyone’s on Pharoahe so I must be. I love the way Po constructs his rhymes, his technique. He’s second to none and not a lot of people clock that. You need to be maybe a bit more technical about things to notice that about Prince Po. He’s got a unique style. And you know another thing that people don’t really know is that Po played a really big part in Hip Hop History and a really big part of Wu Tang’s history. He’s one of the first people to have hooked up with RZA and showed RZA the way in the beginning and not many people know this, that’s something Po shared with me.
There is a Wu Tang documentary out there, I think BET did it. People may watch it and think why the hell is Po in there. He’s in there because he took a potent part in the early stages of Wu Tang. I think it’s incredible and highly commendable for ‘Oh No’ to do an album with Po. As far as Hip Hop goes, Po has a timeless style as far as technicalities and lyricism is concerned. Ah man, if I had that kind of budget I’d do that for Po as well, he deserves that kind of coverage.
I’ve never seen you walking road with blunts or rapping about the joy of Marijuana. Does this take people aback who expect every rapper to be down with weed or cops who think every black guy is a walking drug cabinet?
I stopped smoking around 2 years before joining the Militia Street Team. I found it did nothing for my life. It was a means of escapism. I did feel my creativity got heightened when I got high, but I’ve always had a natural high. I’m mad if I don’t bun’ an’ I’m mad if I do bun so there ain’t much of a difference LOL. I know there’s a lot of rappers out there who dedicate their whole album to weed and alcohol. So some people are surprised that I don’t smoke and have never dunk alcohol before in my life. The only thing that’s ever changed my life is the things I talk about. Alcohol and smoking didn’t make hits for me, it didn’t produce money for me. They didn’t change my life.
They are taking the p*** out of our lives
Apparently ethnic minorities only make up 11% of the Metropolitan Police, whereas ethnics make up 41% of the London population. There’s been calls for a quota to be put in place. Have you any thoughts on that? Would quotas make a positive difference to the London Police Force?
Affirmative action? (Laughs) They are taking the p*** out of our lives, that’s all I want to say. They execute us in broad daylight in front of onlookers then expect us to be a part of that after they walk away Scot free. They do their best to embed fear in us, intimidate us, make our lives as difficult as possible. Frustrate us. Aggravate us. Condescending, always expecting us to be naive to their s***. And they want us to join them? An added punchline to the joke, that’s how I feel about that.
Is there an event that has happened that changed how you view life?
Yeah, getting stabbed at a young age. I delved much more deeper into Hip Hop. That’s why I always say Hip Hop saved my life. It pushed me to a place where I had to make a decision on getting revenge or reading more. Obviously I couldn’t go outside and explore the world so best way to learn about the world was to read a book. That was encouraged more by the Hip Hop I was listening to, Wu Tang, Gangstarr, Rakim, Nas. Yeah I could have got revenge but God knows where I would have ended up. Hip Hop changed my life.
That was the first cataclysm; the second was losing my dad. That also made me resilient to failure. I developed this saying when I lost my dad, I was on the verge of being evicted and all sorts of things were happening as well. Friends were dispersing, disappearing off the face of the earth all of a sudden. Also having some friends I didn’t expect wanting to help me in a really deep way and I’ll forever appreciate them for that. So my saying is “Nothing can purchase me, I’m too expensive for that”, in other words nothing can own me.
This negative thing has happened but it can’t own me. It’s not going to break me down. It’s not going to leave me depressed and doing all kinds of things like smoking and drinking! I could have gone into that, I knew dealers at the time, I knew a lot of people that drank as well but never did I fall into that. I thank God for giving me strength. And that was also based on the memory of my father and how strong he was in that kind of aspect of life. He gave me a lot of strength. That was that and finally having my children. It’s still changing me as we speak. Those are the three things that changed my life.
I saw you acting in a play years ago and it was abundantly clear that you can hold your own in yet another creative field. What’s coming up for you in the acting world?
I’ve done a couple of short films. There’s the one I did last year with Simon Baker called ‘Night Bus’. It’s a simple concept, but the way the director Simon Baker delves into that world is quite insightful. It’s in fact why I explained the London question the way I did. You can’t just sit next to someone who smells and think “ah you stink!” like they intentionally want to smell. You don’t know what they are going through. You don’t know their story. You don’t know why someone is drunk or why they smoke. Like I said, my father died and I could have gone into smoking and drinking. I would have probably been a degenerate, you just don’t know, innit? Doing that movie and knowing the storyline did make me look at that situation differently.
I want you to be a part of my informal survey – have you ever secretly practiced the Karate Kid’s crane kick?
(Huge, Huge laugh from Braydz!) No comment!
C’mon Braydz, don’t be shy!
Ok when I was younger I did. I wouldn’t do it now though. That s*** would get me f***** up!
So we’re not gonna see it in a future video of yours then?
Hell No !!
I’m hitting you with another silly question – Dexter Vs Hannibal Lecter. Who wins?
OH! Hannibal! Hannibal would break him down psychologically. He’d make Dexter kill himself. Hannibal is so calculated. He’s twenty steps ahead of his victims. Hannibal all the way!
Informal survey number two: Can you recall if you or anyone else has used a word on a tune that nobody would ever expect to hear on a rap track?
Cyrus Malachi says on one of his tunes “corrugated iron”. Man that kills me. I can’t remember the whole line but I think it was a girl track. Cyrus always does that to me. He comes out with words that absolutely cripple me, on the floor dead! Yeah man corrugated iron, that’s the one.
Do you think it’s necessary to label rap from this side of the pond as UK Rap? Is it a help or a hindrance?
It’s a hindrance. Rap is rap. I’ve never been to France or America or Germany and gone into a record store and seen French rap, German rap, UK rap. Maybe in a passing conversation to differentiate, but I’m always conscious to say rap from the UK. It’s ridiculous. Why are you trying to separate yourself from the world. It’s a global thing you’re dealing with, it’s not a national thing. There are not enough nationals in the country to make money off it.
What word do you love to say?
I like to say F***. I also like ‘Like’. I’ve been using the word ‘condescending’ a lot, I think because of the people in the industry I work in, not music but my day job.
What word do you hate to say or hate to hear other people saying
‘Drink’. Man says you can get a drink out of this. For instance when I’m working on the doors man will say “yeah let me in fam I’ll give you a drink out of it still…” He doesn’t literally mean a drink ie coca cola, Sprite, he means money. Just say flipping money bro! Obviously trying some Raekwon, Ghostface street vernacular lol. It’s annoying man, I can’t stand it!
What’s the concept around the spelling of your EP Verbal sWARdz?
Double meaning y’know…I’m being aggressive with this release. In WAR you’re not gonna be subtle are you? It’s lyrical warfare and in war you’ve got the sword, chopping the enemy down with vital blows. You have to stop the opposing force with an aggressive swing of the sword. I’m saying the pen is mightier than the sword. Some say the tongue is mightier than the sword. It’s a culmination of all that falls
Imagine there’s no …
Iron Braydz “Verbal sWARdz” EP released on Unorthostract Records on 14th April 2014 and is available from braydz.bandcamp.com
Interview by Delphina Scott (Follow on Twitter @RawBlueCheese)