radio1 DJ Ras Kwame001Currently presenting Radio 1’s Urban show, Ras Kwame is best known for being a pioneer of Urban music in the UK. He receives hundreds of demos every week and is always on the look out for new music.

As well as presenting his weekly show, he is also a television presenter and regularly travels across the UK with his popular club nights.

Ras is getting ready to judge Live and Unsigned 2010, so we caught up with him to find out what he will be looking for from acts, what he thinks of the UK Urban scene and we grab some top tips for acts on how to break the industry…

L&U: Have you judged many events like Live and Unsigned?
Ras: I have judged events but on a much smaller scale. I used to judge The Jump Off – which was more of an MC battle. There was a panel of 3 judges and it was judging on live, raw ability and I really enjoyed it. But I haven’t judged anything like this so I’m looking forward to it.

L&U: What do you think makes an act stand out?
Ras: Originality. They also have to be really into what they do and be artistic. Vocal clarity is obviously important, and I’ll be looking for an act that has the desire to take it to the next level. As well as being in tune, there needs to be real energy about the performance. If there is any choreography in it, it needs to be tight. Overall, I’ll be looking for a strong effort.

L&U: How should acts get their name out there?
Ras: By any means possible! Use every avenue you can, no matter how big or small. Social networking is an obvious one as its free and it works. It’s probably the easiest way to build your fan base with very little expense. Make sure you have your events on your Myspace and interact with your fans.

L&U: Any top tips for acts performing?
Ras: Come prepared!

L&U: What would really catch your attention and make you play a track on the radio?
Ras: Well obviously the track needs to be good and I need to like it. But it’s all about originality – something I’ve not heard before. Even a cover can be original, as it’s about the interpretation of the music. It obviously needs to be technically right and it has to be catchy and grab your attention. I also think the performance needs to say something – it needs to do all of that in three minutes. I get a lot of demos sent in every week and they are all sent in a variety of ways – and those are all the ingredients that would make a song stand out for me.

L&U: Any under the radar acts that you are tipping for success in 2010?
Ras: There are too many to mention! Maverick Sabre is great – very unique and a strong song writer. He’s a fusion of Bob Marley and Bob Dylan.

L&U: What do you think about the charts today?
Ras: It’s dominated by Urban music and I don’t see that changing for the next couple of years. I think there’s still a lot of new talent to come through the UK charts.

L&U: What do you think of the UK Urban scene, compared to America?
Ras: They are completely different. The US is twenty years ahead. It’s matured into an industry there with an independent status and there are a lot more followers and fans of the music than in the UK. I think it’s being introduced in the UK. Dizzee Rascal, Chipmunk, Taio Cruz and Tinie Tempah are just a few of the names that are on the scene at the moment and doing very well. I think we’re at an early stage of defining the sound and overall I think success breeds success. The success of the latest artists in the charts, will only mean more will be in the charts in the next few years. The UK Urban scene is now being recognised on a global level, which is great.

L&U: Where should acts perform to get recognised?
Ras: Anywhere and everywhere! It doesn’t matter if it’s in a local bar, a big venue or on the streets. Perform anywhere you can and get your music out there.

L&U: How did you become a radio presenter?
Ras: I have always been a big fan of radio . I have always loved how it delivers hot news and fresh music and admired superstars like Westwood and Trevor Nelson. I was originally into record producing in the UK garage scene. As Urban music progressed in the UK and became really original, I felt like we needed a figure to represent the sound and get it out there. Westwood has always been Hip Hop, and I wanted to represent Urban. A spot came up at the BBC which I applied for and the rest is history.

L&U: What’s the best thing about presenting on Radio 1?
Ras: It’s a national platform. There aren’t many Urban shows that present to the whole country and I see it as a major blessing that I get to present and play the music I like to the nation. It’s great to be a part of the team.

L&U: What song do you really like in the charts at the moment?
Ras: There are a lot but I really like Tinie Tempah – Pass out. It’s got a fresh sound to it and I never get bored of hearing it.

L&U: Any other songs or acts that stand out, past or present?
Ras: I love Soul II Soul.

L&U: What else is coming up for you this year?
Ras: As well as presenting and DJ’ing, I run a night called Urban Goodies which we take all over the country. It’s a compilation of UK sounds and it’s in Oxford on a monthly basis in The Regal. I also work closely on government initiatives including My Place and Youth Culture Scheme. I do all radio production myself and I am also working on some TV projects that are due for release later this year. I love spreading the Urban sound and scene, and do as much as I can. Last month I was in Texas with Estelle working and it was great.

L&U: Finish this sentence, ‘In five years time I would like to be…’
Ras: The pinnacle of the flourishing UK Urban music scene!