Illustrate is a multi talented producer and MC who has released his Work EP and followed that up this year with his The Stuff LP. Find out what he had to say about going to Australia, producing for your self and artists he has collaborated with in this interview with Certified Banger…
Certified Banger: What’s up Illustrate? How’s it going?
Illustrate: All good, thanks.
CB: Can you start this thing with telling us anything about yourself that the peeps out there might not know?
Illustrate: I’m left handed and dyslexic. I’m shit at reading and spelling. I’m good at art. I manage a bar in Greenwich. My favourite colour’s purple. I drink and smoke too much. I went to private boarding school from a young age. My mum was a radio presenter on XFM. My dad flew tornadoes in the RAF. I’m moving to Australia for a year in two days. I’m claustrophobic. I repeat myself a lot. I repeat myself a lot.
CB: Let’s talk about your new album ‘The Stuff’: The mood of the album is like an emotional rollercoaster. Is this what you intended?
Illustrate: No I didn’t intend for that. I just produced a load of songs about different topics and I guess when they were put together on an album there was quite a contrast. I like that on an album. I get bored of an LP if all the tracks are about similar subjects.
CB: You race through so many topics and concepts, some that other rappers wouldn’t touch such as a song about their hat (‘My Hat’) or a down and out junkie (‘Winter Lady’) – what’s your reasoning behind that? Do you deliberately do that?
Illustrate: No I didn’t do it deliberately. With My Hat, I’d produced the beat and sat there listening to it in my room thinking of something to write. Then I saw my hat just sitting there and thought that would be a good thing to write about.
CB: Is there anything you’d avoid rapping about? Have there been any song ideas that you’ve thought ‘nah, I wont do that’?
Illustrate: I’ll write about anything I’m interested in and have an opinion on.
CB: You have the ability to carry a mood; your music is actually emotive (where so many other rappers fail). Have you always been like that? Are you like that in real life?
Illustrate: That’s a tough question. Yeah I guess I have always been like that. When I write, I focus on the mood of the music and I guess that maybe why I come across like that on tracks.
CB: It seems like you have more than just rapping in your skills belt – now’s the time to boast – what else do you do?!
Illustrate: I produce. A lot of the beats on the album are produced by me. I love producing as much as I do writing. I’ve just bought the MPC 1000 to take away with me on my travels down under.
CB: So let’s talk more about your production in relation to your writing – how does a self produced song come into being?
Illustrate: I always start by producing the beat. And the topic of the song is always determined by the mood and sound of the beat.
CB: What are the advantages / disadvantages of self producing? What are the advantages / disadvantages of having someone else do your production?
Illustrate: It’s less work when someone else is producing your beats. When you produce and write it can take ages to finish songs. But I prefer it (producing) because I have more freedom. There no one else making decisions on how it should sound.
CB: What was important to you in the making of the album? What advice did you take? How did you go about the whole process?
Illustrate: It was important for me not to rush it. Sometimes trying to finish songs can be frustrating and in the past I’ve rushed them and not been 100% happy with the final result. This time I took my time with the album and I’m happy with all the tracks. There wasn’t much of a process really. I focused on producing tracks individually and then tied it together with ‘The Stuff’ theme.
CB: What’s been your biggest break so far? What’s given you that little push you need – or are you still waiting for it?!
Illustrate: I’ve been lucky to work with some good artists such as Si Phili from Phi Life Cypher and DJ Tigerstyles (DMC champion). Also it was amazing to work with Will Savage, the guy that produced my video for ‘Do What You Like’. He did such a good job and worked really hard on it.
CB: You released your ‘Work’ EP on vinyl – how important do you think vinyl is in hip hop today?
Illustrate: There’s not much money to be made in vinyl anymore, but we love vinyl so we thought f**k it and pressed it anyway.
CB: What UK rap are you listening to right now? Do you have any recommendations for our readers?
Illustrate: I’m not listening to much UK rap at the moment really. I’m waiting on Yungun’s new album.
CB: Last of all – recommend yourself to our readers in three concise sentences:
Illustrate: Ollie Bates, Headcount records, if you don’t know, get to know.
CB: Cheers for that!