London MC Slickmouth talks to Flavour Magazine about hip-hop culture and the passion behind his sophomore album, ‘Superstar’.
You’re from London but you grew up in LA what do you feel are the biggest differences in the hip hop industry in LA and in London?
When I was in Cali I wasn’t rapping, I was just a fan of hip hop but when I returned to London I became a rapper and that’s when I really formulated myself as an emcee. Appreciating hip hop and wanting to be a part of such a phenomenal culture came from living in California. New York was all about skills and getting on the mic but in California it was more so about the culture. The music painted a picture. When you listened to Too Short you knew what Oakland looked like and if you heard Snoop you could get a vision of Long Beach.
It was really the soundtrack to my life growing’ up there but I never really wanted to get into music at the time because my focus was elsewhere. Coming from an African background my mother always encouraged me to follow the academic route, so music only ever seemed like it could be an extracurricular activity.
But when I returned to London I was older, more mature and saw what life had to offer and felt that I would be selfish if I opted to sit behind a desk especially as music transcends beyond that for me right now.
How did you actually get started in the industry?
There were some guys I had met at university who had started an independent label and one day we had an argument about what the best hip hop labels of all time were. I’m a huge Big Daddy Kane and Nas fan and my friend was trying to tell me that Illmatic was the best album of all time. So we put in the CD’s on and started flipping through them track by track in this debate. When they realised how much I knew about hip hop they encouraged me to come into the studio and got me to get on the mic. I was so far then from where I am now in terms of ability but I guess there was some kind of potential in there which then got harnessed. So I started writing and studying music more and that was the evolution.
You refer to hip-hop as phenomenal – what makes it phenomenal to you?
Cause you can go to a country where they don’t speak English – but they speak hip hop. Hip hop bridges all gaps and it’s such a powerful medium.
Tell us a little bit about your new album ‘Superstar’?
The basis of everything I do is positivity. As I mentioned earlier I believe that hip hop is a powerful medium of connecting to people and sending out messages to people. If you have so much power at your hands, why not use it to do something positive.
When I make songs like ‘Universal Soul Music’, I make it personal – I wrote exactly about what I was thinking about and thankfully people have been receptive to that. The title of the is almost an irony cause it’s just about a regular guy tryin’ to get through in this industry but he has to be a superstar. But you can be a superstar without doin’ the things that ‘superstars’ are supposed to do and the album outlines that.
You moved to Cali when you were 9 – what was the transition like? As a 9 year old British-Nigerian?
There’s actually song on my album called One in a Million where I tell the story about how growing up kids would make fun of my African name. I got in trouble in school for wanting to fight them, but my mother taught me to embrace who I am.
Who are your top three hip hop artists?
That’s tough! I would say Big Daddy Kane, Lupe Fiasco, and depending on the day either Nas or Jay-Z
‘Superstar’ will be available in August on Amazon and independent record stores. For details on Slickmouth’s upcoming performance dates go to his Myspace.
Words by Shaherah Jordan