Having produced for people like Asher D and Jamelia, wacky rapper Lil Chif is ready to unleash his unique take on rap with the release of his EP, ‘Soon Come’, out this week. Describing himself as “on the eclectic side of the fence”, Chif’s music is definitely a breath of fresh air, so we decided to sit him down and find out more…
How would you describe your sound and what makes it different from others out there?
Lil Chif: My sound is a melodic blend of hard beats with eclectic rhythms. It stems from the fact that I’m a big fan of music across the board. Lil Chif comes across different to others maybe because I am rooted in the music as much as in the lyrics…unlike some artists I don’t have to wait for that elusive instrumental to be able to say something exactly as I hear it in my subconscious. I try to exude as much of my personality as possible so that the listener can feel that the more they listen to my music the better they get to know me.
Your music is different to a lot of UK rappers, how did you come up with this unique sound?
Lil Chif: When I make music, I don’t feel the pressure of making something generic to what the most would think is a banger, I make something that feels right to me in the hope it will make others resonate right where I’m buzzing too. I deliberately stayed away from generic presets and I make my own drum kits and I infuse Afro Soul into my records. I also sound on the record exactly how I sound in real life if you were talking to me down the pub or something.
I hear you’ve just come back from Paris. How long were you there for and how would you compare the scene over there to here?
Lil Chif: I was there for time. Almost two years. I completely threw myself into the music. That was like me going off into the mountains to perfect my art. I wanted to come back with the freshest shit, no undue influences apart from arts, culture, pretty girls and good wine.
The scene there is vibrant, and it’s a great city to be inspired in. They have their hip hop culture ingrained into them from way back. Their market is thriving in homegrown sales. I wish we could get to that level of independence over here. Soon Come! I worked on some cool movie soundtracks, from art house project to straight big budget cheesy comedies and rocked a couple of shows in mad venues from pirate boats to opera auditoriums with trapeziests above the crowd. It was definitely an experience. Big Up Paname Paname!
Sampled any other scenes abroad?
Lil Chif: Yeah I can be found hiding out in the bushes in Holland. Amsterdam is a bit rinsed so I stray more towards the rural zones, I like to just get away, take my mac, my ipod, a keyboard, mic and roll out. I lived in Nigeria for a bit, Lagos is a mad mad town; it taught me some survival smarts. Its’ movie and music scene is coming up though, and our Ghanian bredas are strong too. I had my studio in my backpack for ages, so when you listen to the EP, some of it was recorded in my friends’ kitchens, beats built on buses, guitars laid in the weirdest places, vocals recorded in quick built booths, I had to be as inventive with the engineering process as with the music and lyrics. I had no budget to do it, but I knew I had to do it…
How were you received as a UK rapper living out in Paris? Are they clued up on UK rap out there?
Lil Chif: They showed me a lot of love. They are very on their head nod, Premo / Dre style of beat, 90bpm and rockin’, but they loved jumping on my madness. I got a couple of cuts out there with a hip hop crew called AMS, and also did some a record with a Japanese female rapper called Sachiko. That was quite a trip, trust me. They know lots about us, and they are curious to know more. They keep up with the grime, indie and electrop scene quite good.
The artwork with your CD’s pretty impressive. Tell us more about that?
Lil Chif: We don’t do things by halves at MIzchif Records and we have to stand out in a crowd. I loved Roald Dahl books as a kid and I was a big fan of Quentin Blake’s illustrations. Lil Chif is a character in my own pop up book of life, he is one chapter to my whole story. I worked with a wicked design team, big up 21Media, Judith and Kay. I mean I was lucky enough to have people who after some hanging out and a lot of listening to the record, we ended up with a bespoke sleeve that mirrors the uniqueness of the music. I wanted something that people would want to keep and show off, and could also tell the story of where I’ve popped up from. Also with all the CDs I have different hidden tracks on each batch, so people get some extra flavour with each helping.
What have you been up to recently?
Lil Chif: I’ve been finishing off other projects for my new label Mizchif Records; I’m making a soul album that’s gonna change the game, its goes by the name ‘Seulja’, that’s gonna be crazy. I’m working on Leon Black’s debut EP, me and the bullet boy go way back.
What’s next for you?
Lil Chif: I’m trying to get my music mogul thing going on. It’s about more than just making tunes for me, I’m trying to create a brand, a sound that defines young London and is not pigeon holed into any urban category just because ”we’re young and we’re black and wear our hats real low…’
I don’t see myself releasing four rap albums, and I’m not trying to say I’m the hottest spitter on road…that is not the prize for me. I want my label to be like what Factory Records did for the early rave scene up north, what Motown did for Detroit, that as soon as people hear the name Mizchif Records, they wont just think ‘oh rap’, but instead they will think high quality, innovative, melodic, quirky, eye catching, out the box, commercially viable, the shit!
I’m in talks with a production company about making a musical that I have been working on, so you could soon be seeing Mizchif Films either at a cinema or theatre near you! I’m also off to Japan to rock the dojo with crazy Japanese female MC Sachiko and General Johnson.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Lil Chif: Yeah, two years ago I lost everything I thought was worth anything in the world; my studio, home, car, money, friends, it was all proper dramatic, hence my hiatus. I was gonna quit music and do something else, but I knew I had to make this record even just for my sanity. I thought this album would be my last piece of musical work before resigning myself to a life less ordinary as a 9-5er, so I put my soul into the grooves that make it up…through the whole process, I healed, I strengthened and I have turned the tables round on my situation, So I dedicate this record to all the people on the grind, as tough as times get, don’t forget your dream, keep pushing and it will happen for us all. We just have to Breathe.
Look out for Lil Chif’s EP ‘Soon Come’, available from this week at Wyld Pytch, Sisterray, Deal Real, Uptown and at www.indiestore.com/lilchif. There will 361 limited edition pop out CD cases, so grab yours quick!
Lil Chif’s album will be out in Spring 2007.