First impressions count. The beginning of an album. The first beat of a live show. The first item on the shopping till… Red is good reminder of artists who do have their own minds, views and surprise surprise, songs. As he lays down the best first impression you'll ever get.
First off – introduce yourself – where are you originally from and how did you get into the scene?
Red: Well, the names Red and I’m originally from Leytonstone, East London. I got into music from an early age. In school I used to get kicked out for writing lyrics in my books instead of doing my work. Apart from music nothing else really interested me except for my English Lessons because that was the only time I could be experimental with words, that’s when I really noticed I had the ability to put words together and possibly write songs and poetry.
As time went on I got better and better, I used to go straight home to chuck on a CD and rap over the vocals on the beat. When I was about 14/15 years old I used to carry around a Dictaphone in my pocket so when ever I thought of a sick lyric I would hit record, but this was also the reason why I got jumped one day, I was rapping into my mini cassette player in a park in when a group of about 10-12 guys started beef with me because I was rapping, after shit hit the fan I stopped rhyming for a while and began to roll with some elders who taught me things schools never teach you, I know it sounds stupid now but when you’re around 15 years old you don’t know what’s right for you… you’re gullible.
Luckily enough for me I decided to go to college where nobody really knew about my rapping, until someone found out and before I knew it I found myself in a MC Clash. Having memories of when I got jumped when I was younger I wasn’t really on it, but I was not gonna back down. The guy I was clashing had all his man dem there and everyone was expecting me to get lyrically murked. This guy began spitting, telling me how he’s gonna ‘shoot me’ and how I better ‘invest in a bullet proof vest’ and all that gangster shit, I looked at the guy and thought to myself ‘this guy is on the chubby side, let me win this by making everyone laugh’ at the time I was holding my sandwich and it was my turn to diss this guy, so I replied “You might be Obese but you ain’t Big Pun, ey yo, who wants to know how to make a fat boy run?” and I threw my sandwich over his head, that was the end of the battle and from then on clashes were a weekly thing and I would get all the Emcees together and hold battles on road.
Just before I got kicked out of college I was introduced to my boy Renegade through my best friend YSR because he knew both of us rapped and thought we might be able to do some music with each other, I listened to a few of Renegade's songs over his phone and thought ‘this guys got flow’, not long after that I went round Renegade’s yard to record some tunes on a basic Dynamic Microphone, the quality was shit! There were crackles and the vocals were clipping all over the place. When I look back at it now it makes me laugh but everyone starts somewhere huh?!
Not long after, I met a guy called Ryddem in college, I heard he could rap from someone else and introduced myself. I asked Ryddem if he could spit some bars for me, after he spat me something I offered him to join Renegade and myself to record some tunes, he agreed and from then on making tunes were a day to day basis thing helping each other on flow, technique and lyrics through friendly competition and deadlines. To cut a long story short, a couple years passed and things began to look on the up and up when Renegade met our current Manager Bashir Khan in a local Café, Bashir heard a rough version of our current forthcoming debut release ‘Fallen Angel’ and believed we had talent to be something big in the music industry. Bashir professionally set meetings and deadlines with us all to discuss ways for us to move forward. The dream of one day becoming something important in this world were coming true, we were not just a group of boys from East London, we were artists signed to our own label now named Huslin’ Entertainment.
Where's the name 'RED' come from?
Red: Ha-ha, well first of all it’s not just because it’s my favourite colour! I basically began calling myself R.E.D based on everything I went through in my childhood, it stands for Ready Every Day meaning I’m ready for anything else the world has to throw at me, and a more embarrassing reason is the fact that when I was younger and I had done something wrong my face used to go bright red and when that happened that meant I was lying, I used to get clocked and get some beats! Ha!. But now I just go by the simplified name Red.
Who or what really influenced you growing up?(I'm talking music / TV shows / films / relatives / sports personalities)
Red: On a real? My mumzie, growing up in the council estates were hard man, especially for my mum trying to raise three bad boys, I caused a lot of grief growing up I was a lil nutter! Plus my Pop’s was away trying to make money to put food on the table.
Musically wise I was brought up listening too Michael Jackson, Elvis, Freddie Mercury, Barry White and all the oldies, when I got old enough to choose my own sort of music to listen to it was 2Pac. 2Pac was a very important role model for me growing up because I liked the fact he was brave enough to talk about the truth when he could of talked about living the high-life.
Sports wise it was Muhammed Ali, I can’t remember anyone who could debate or fight like him. My favourite film is and still is Scarface, even though the guy made all his money the wrong way I admired that a nobody could be a somebody and it kinda gave me faith in that way with my music but also taught me to leave whilst you are ahead and to not be too greedy, saying that so was 8 Mile, that’s something I really related to.
Do you remember the first album you copped with your own money?
Red: Yeah, the first album I copped was 2Pac’s ‘Me Against the World’ album, I listened to the whole of the album for ages man, I was just amazed with what he used to talk about and the sincerity in his voice when he rapped.
What would you say is the best act you've seen live, full stop?
Red: Hmm… That’s going to have to be either be 50 Cent or believe it or not, Usher! They are both great live, it’s sick how Usher can do all that dancing and singing at the same time, the guy is unbelievably talented. But to honest I think you’re going to have to re-ask me that question if I ever see Eminem live.
So I've caught the mint new track 'Fallen Angel'. Could you tell us a bit about where the lyrical content and idea for that came from?
Red: This song is basically the introduction to Huslin’ Entertainment, the chorus was written by Renegade. It’s about where we come from and what we stand for, the way we see things is that everyone is Huslin’ for something out of life, and this doesn’t necessarily mean one has to be doing so in an incriminating way, whether you want that flashy car, a pay rise, a job or a career in music, you are in some sort of way Huslin’ to get there. That’s why in the song we talking about being ‘Fallen Angels’ meaning we are good people at heart who want to be legit but find it hard because of various situations we are put in, thus we are ‘Fallen Angels’.
When discussing our debut release we felt it was important for us to release a song which was real to us but was also commercially friendly enough to get air play, we felt that ‘Fallen Angel’ was the right song because everybody can easily relate to something being mentioned in that song. Huslin’ and I also felt it was too easy to release a club song that becomes a hit talking about the typical things, how much more difficult is it to make a hit where you’re talking about realer things nowadays?
How involved are you in the production of your tracks?
Red: Production wise all props have to go to the Huslin’ Entertainment producers Icesoundz and Fizzle P, in my honest opinion I wouldn’t change them for any other producers right about now, they have the potential to become one of UK’s finest producers. Other than that I have more experience in dealing with the live instrumentation, engineering and song writing for our songs, you will hear more of my production when my solo album drops in a couple years time which I’m working on as we speak, I want to be able to keep myself in some sort of challenge as my career develops, I don’t want to try and do everything too soon so I’m leaving my production skills for a little later on in my career, also to offer the fans and general public something new, keep people guessing on what I’m planning on doing next, you feel me?
Living in London, how accurate would you say the media's perception of post-7/7 tension is?
Red: I don‘t think there is a lot of tension, something like that could happen again but the way I see it, the news and media is made to keep us all in fear, always on the edge so we feel we need them for safety. They mention floods and everyone runs out and buys ridiculous amounts of sandbags! We can’t believe everything the media tell us, it’s down to us if we want there to be tension, people can’t go on living their lives in fear, as I say in Fallen Angel ‘If it’s gonna happen it’s gonna happen, move on’ lets stop thinking about what’s happened, because if we don’t learn to let go of the past we can’t move forward.
What about the whole 'guns, bitches and bling' postcode gang culture which the government are unjustly blaming on hip hop?
Red: Now we have to ask ourselves, why is anyone pointing blame? Can you ever imagine the prime minister standing in front of the nation saying ‘it’s the governments fault’, that would be the day! I’m a strong believer in life is what you make it, and the world is yours only if you work hard enough for it. I mean I grew up in the same council blocks, I had a messed up childhood as well but the fact is no one cares, to everybody else you’re just tax that they have to pay for. I really think pointing the finger isn’t getting us anywhere, the one thing that changed my life from negative to positive was having ambition, if you ain’t striving for anything in life you’re going to be heartless. Even though I hate to have to say it, there is still racism and prejudice happening, it’s happened to me, there‘s bad in every side of society. One thing I would like to say to gang members is stop attacking each other, because then you are just conforming to the stereotype that they want you to be. I ain’t no preacher or nuttin but it’s down to us as individuals if we want things to change.
Do you think stuff like this affects the music you write and choose to listen to?
Red: Well I always keep my eyes and ears open because things such as that can inspire you on your next song, and Hip-Hop is all about what you see and hear, it’s about the truth. So if I’m seeing violence or if I’m seeing the ‘bitches and bling’ as you put it, I’m going to talk about it, but it’s down to the rapper if they want to promote it as a good or bad thing, so there it is again, it’s up to the individual to make the choice. But you can’t blame a type music for violence, that’s just a pathetic excuse, because violence and unlawful crimes have been happening since the birth of mankind, I’m pretty sure The Romans or The Vikings didn’t get down to 50 Cent.
What kinda stuff do you like to do away from rapping and that?
Red: Weekdays it’s all music and work, on the weekends I turn into a party animal! I like to go out and have a good time, I’ve got a split personality, one minute I’m quiet and the next minute I’m loud, I’m the most introverted extrovert you could ever meet! I always try my best to attend gigs showcasing new talent, the last thing I attended was Project Talent, I feel the urban UK music scene needs more support, I mean there so much talent out there and if labels took more chances they would be successful.
I went to an A&R meeting the other day with a label, I won’t mention which one but they based the successful candidates demo’s on if they sound like someone who is already out there, and this needs to stop because this is the thing which is preventing people from being original. I also think shows like X factor, even though they’re entertaining to watch, are just looking for one hit wonders to make quick money via getting that Christmas number 1, whilst that is happening the next Mariah Carey is getting over looked. Just my opinion.
I know I accidentally belled you when you were at Uni the other day. What're you working on there?
Red: Yeah I recently got accepted into Uni, I’m doing a course in Commercial Music, the main reason behind this was not for the education or the certificate you get out of it at the end but the different types of musician I would meet. Since going to Uni my perception of music has broadened completely, I’m now working on projects for my solo album which will contain live Electric Guitarists, Violinists and even a Choir! The music industry has seemed to come to a stand still, but the likes of Gym Class Heroes have got the right attitude in trying something different, I feel Fusion will be a new craze in the near future.
Which artists in the current UK scene are you really feeling at the moment?
Red: I’ve always been a fan of Dizzee Rascal, he took the Grime scene to another level. I also gotta rate Kano as well, both these guys haven’t sold out you can listen to their albums and say they’ve kept it real as possible.
Any that you'd fancy working with?
Red: In the U.K? That would definitely be Dizzee again. From the US, that would be either Timbalaand or Eminem.
How do you feel about the negativity surrounding mainstream hip hop at the moment? Is it something you want to work away from?
Red: The way I see it you’re going to have people who hate on you or dislike what you’re doing no matter what you choose to be in life, as long as I make good music, I don’t sell out and I’m real to myself and my fans it doesn’t matter what category people want to put me in. This is my first proper interview and I’ll say it now, my solo album will be very controversial but it will also be the truth and nothing but, if people don’t like it then the fact is they can’t handle the truth. But if you’re talking about ‘look how much money and hoes I got’ then nah, that’s not my sort of thing. If you get once chance to tell the world something and all you gotta say is ‘money’ then that’s a waste.
Could you give us one line to describe what hip hop means to you? (can be your own rap or just a general bla)
Red: When The Minority Become The Majority
What have you got planned for the big 08 then?
Red: Ha-ha, what have I got planned? You can expect more releases from Huslin’, you can expect the Huslin’ album to drop, you can expect ’Fallen Angel’ to be a soundtrack to a forthcoming film called ’Cash & Curry’, you can expect performances all over the plot, you can expect a buzz around the Huslin’ Entertainment name and most importantly you can expect UK to be on a rise!
Will you be doing a bit of touring? Where can we catch you?
Red: Yeah, Huslin’ Entertainment will definitely be performing, our manager is currently in talks with various booking agencies so it would be great to see you guys at any of our shows or appearances!
What are you like live? Do you freestyle a lot? Do you have a live band?
Red: We are very energetic live, we like to get the crowed involved with catchy hooks, we give out free gifts and the way we see it the audience paid money to be entertained and entertainment is what they’re gonna get! Performances are the best thing about being an artists because that’s the time you can really interact with your fans, enjoying performing and giving people a good show means more than anything else.
Anything else you want to tell your British audience? Those who know you, those who don't and those kids who want to be doing what you're doing right now…
Red: First and foremost I just wanna say thanks to everyone who has read my very first interview and thanks to everyone supporting the UK movement because without that not one urban UK artist would be here, those who don’t know me, nice to meet you my names Red! And all the young talented rappers / singers / producers out there keep working hard and be prepared for a long rocky road, you will meet people who will want to use you, there will always be people who think you’re not good at what you’re doing but keep at it because the sky is the limit.
But one other thing I would say is that make sure you have a back up plan in case it doesn’t work out the way you hoped it would but most importantly learn the business! I can not stress how important it is to know about certain societies like PRS, MCPS, PPL, etc. because knowing about things like that and not diving into the first contract you’re offered could make or break you. There are artists out there who have been in the charts and still are working in Safeway's, don’t end up like them. Don’t be a product of the business, be the business!