If you took away the N5 postcode Highbury Park in Islington could rival any greenery in the tropics! Perhaps a slight overstatement, but it was that 'week' in April where everything was romanticised, even the weather. But, meeting LyricL a spoken word and rap artist was a genuine pleasure. She is an interviewer's dream who majestically navigates the boundaries of confidence, modesty and answering questions.
Her creative CV is as interconnected as the London Underground; she has worked with MJ Cole, Heidi Vogel, TY and Daz-I-Que, of Bugs in the Attic produced her anticipated first album. She is the cool-older-sister your best friend had and her song 'Sweet You' was considered the best vocal house track of 2011 by Blues and Soul Magazine. Do see you what I'm working with here?! With all that under her belt she sits nonchalantly in the park whilst we casually talk music.
Janine: Let's starts with your debut album.
LyricL: It is called 'Amazed' and is released through Fresh Rotations a label based in Wales.
Janine: You have been around for ages but it's your first album, how comes?
LyricL: I've been around for a hot minute! It is because of all of the features I have done and it got to the point where I felt my name is not 'Ft. Lyrical'. So, I gathered songs together and brought them to life with my wordplay wonderment. It landed and I love it!
Janine: Your album was released this year to critical acclaim, how did the launch go?
LyricL: My album was launched at 'Jazz Refreshed', and Mau Mau [the venue] can only hold a hundred people and that's how many that came. I sold ninety CDs on the night that is people who had money to buy it after buying drinks and all that.
Janine: Tell me about the concept of the album?
LyricL: It is the theme tune for my life and is orchestrated by Daz-I-Kue. The conceptual vein that runs through it is inspired by my upbringing as a B-African [British African] child (laughs) of B-African parents. Being the only girl that rapped and played basketball at my school as well as being the tallest. So in my school pictures there looks like there are two teachers but it's just me! Having a lisp which you don't notice until I said having lisps! Knowing that I'm mad hyped and energised.
Janine: So what took so long in getting it out there?
LyricL: I had the album done and there was a label in Japan that was going to sign it and we lost contact with them during the tsunami. It was quite weird because I had people saying what are you going to do about your album? I was like my album doesn't even matter; there are people who don't exist right now. There is building that does not take place and there were people working in that building that wanted to support me! It kind of created numbness in my life.
Janine: How have people responded to your album?
LyricL: I have had people hit me up on facebook dropping my lyrics to me or telling me they play it all the time in their car. It is a humbling feeling and its proof that I can do it.
Janine: You put the album out there to positive reviews. What will be the next release from this project?
LyricL: The next release of the album is the track 'Away'. It was produced by Kevin Montreal he is vocalist, solo artist and song writer and has worked with the likes of The Streets. This track is about taking yourself away from situations and not being afraid to do so.
Janine: That is a really evocative concept, how do you go about writing your material?
LyricL: The best pieces I used to write were when I was injured from basketball. I realised I don't need to get injured, I can just take time out too write. I write about what I live, what I feel, it's quite empowering without being "that girl".
Janine: How do you marry your lyrics to the beats provided to you?
LyricL: Conceptually there has to be an idea or a feel. Sometime I can hear track and there will be feel, I can hear one word and then I run with. For example, like the track, 'Away', it was about getting yourself away from the situation. Everything I do has a premise which I think comes from my Media Degree. A song should be like a whole story; you should take people somewhere because they are giving you three minutes of their life and if you don't, you are mugging them off!
Janine: Why did you pursue Music and not a Media career?
LyricL: I think it was finding and being comfortable with myself by letting go off my inhibitions. I nearly died; I'm allergic to penicillin and my body shut down! I had to work out life wise what was needed to be done.
Janine: Apart from music what else do you get up too?
LyricL: I facilitate rapping and poetry workshops with young people in Pupil Referring Units, Tuition Centres and Youth Clubs. Young people face so much adversity and people don't seem to understand why these young people need extra help. By doing workshops with young people in Ireland and Vienna for example, and helping them to express themselves through rapping; I am just doing my little bit. But, I can only do that through example right?
Janine: Have you bumped into any young people you have previously worked with?
LyricL: Yeah! I remembered meeting a young man called Mohammed and in my workshops everybody has a rap name and he called himself 'Little Mo'. He was like Miss! I had to flash back which school, what youth centre, what place etc! I was like yeah, how are you doing? He was like do you remember me? I was like of course I do; you are Little Mo, in it!
Janine: Whilst on the topic of youth and nostalgia, can you remember your first performance?
LyricL: I used to enter music competitions and creative writing at school. One time I ended up representing the whole school, I had to stand in front of everyone and it was embarrassing with a piece of paper shaking in my hand. I did Anita Baker's 'Sweet Love' chorus and rapped to Run DMC's 'Peter Piper' because it a Church of England School I got the drummer involved and all of sudden he became all cool!
Janine: You are really creative and buzzing with so much energy, is this where your name 'LyricL' derives from?
LyricL: When I was born, I was really light in complexion that the 'Lilly' and they could not pronounce Nkechi at school and so from writing I came up with LyricL. People call me Lyrical or Adam Rock from Jazz Refresh calls me Lyrics from Hell! It makes me smile when I hear it or see it.
Janine: Is there a creative gene that runs through your family or are you one-off?!
LyricL: Musically, I found out that my dad was a DJ at his funeral. You don't equate your dad having over one hundred records playing at this and that meeting as a DJ. The same way Beyonce's daughter would not equate her as a singer, it would just be my mum sings. My dad always had words of wisdom; he really instilled lot stuff into me.
Janine: How has your music been received outside of the UK?
LyricL: It was nice and to be able to go to Germany after the launch and I performed at the Winter Outdoor Festival at the Latin Quarter and TY was there. I performed in front of two thousand people and it was beautiful. There is an event called the 'Poetry Basket' run by Isabel it was a lot more intimate and I got some positive feedback, from there I did radio show with FM 4, they cover Germany and Austria. They were pulling out tracks from way back; I'm like wow you guys did your homework! It was nice to be acknowledged for your creative efforts over time.
Janine: What is the rest of 2012 saying?
LyricL: I've got this Nigerian soiree on 23 July 2012 and it is a collection of Nigerian Artists who will be performing for Nigerian Athletes participating in the Olympics. I will be at the Southport Weekender supporting Kev Beadle. I'm going to Austria to do workshops at the 'Poetry Basket' and I have a gig in Atlanta. I've got people in Nigeria and Ghana who is trying to arrange a tour for me and that and me would be amazing!
By: Janine Francois
Album: Available on iTunes and all good download stores worldwide
Single: Away feat Kevin Mark Trail May 21st