Reps used to hang with the Janomi Crew in Brighton and has his own group Skill Mega, but recently he has found himself firmly ensconsed in the Polish rap scene. Find out what it is like to release your own material simultaneously in two countries and the problems involved in promoting it in this interview with Certified Banger…
Certified Banger: Yo Reps! How are you? Can you start us off with a little summary of who you are and what you’ve done music-wise or otherwise?
Reps: Hi! Thanks I'm good. I’m a Bookbinder / handyman / rapper and right now I'm taking a break from bookbinding and handymaning. I’m from Devon, Brighton and London and have spent pretty much a third of my 30 years in each of these places. Right now I'm living in exile in Lodz Poland. Actually I'm just out here writing some new material and promoting my CD, which came out in the summer in both Poland and the UK.
I came up with the Brighton based Lost Souls releasing 12s on Janomi Records between 2002 and 2004.
In 2004 my current group Skill Mega was formed with myself, Dan Fresh (also former Lost Souls rapper) DJ Rod Dixon and Polish rapper / producer OSTR (at the time on his 5th solo album, now about to release his 10th and Gold selling in his home country of Poland!) We released a 12” on Leeds based Cryogenic Records in 2004 and went on to release a full length album in 2007 on Asfalt Records (Poland) entitled Normal Magic. Since meeting Adam (OSTR) I’ve been going to Poland alone or with Skill Mega to play shows and record tracks and have played over 40 shows alongside OSTR or performing solo with support slots for among others, Craig G, EMC, Talib Kweli, Sean Paul, El Da Sensei and Pharoahe Monch. This has been alongside living and working in London and playing shows around the South East of England again with Skill Mega or performing solo. As I mentioned previously I'm putting all my time into music and right now I’m in Poland permanently and return to the UK for shows and to see friends but as its only the end of November and its snowing pretty hard I'm not sure how much longer I'm gonna stay!
CB: You live in Poland? What’s the Hip Hop scene like over there? Who are they into? How do things go off?
Reps: I have been coming here for around four years and there is a pretty active scene here. Like everywhere I think the Hip Hop bubble kind of burst a few years ago in terms of sales and shows but there are a lot of artists here making quite diverse stuff and some selling pretty big.
CB: You brought out an excellent album this year: ‘Sagas Of A Peaceful Man’. Pick two of your favourite tracks from that album and tell us about them:
Reps: Thanks I appreciate that. Two favourite tracks? That’s difficult. I guess the first one would probably be ‘Don’t Like It’. I just have very vivid memories of writing it and it came to me pretty quickly, I had to get it done before I went to the States for a month last year and spent no time writing it and recorded a messy version of it round at Zeeny’s with Uncle Dicky the day before I left. For me the lyrics are pretty inventive and I just like the flows. It’s pretty big live as well.
Second track… mmmmmm… I'll choose Park Ranger. I wrote this track in one day and its one 48 bar verse. I wrote it in Tijuana, Mexico after driving round the national parks of the West coast of America for a few weeks. I was sitting on a veranda overlooking the city and again the track brings back very vivid memories of that time. The original beat was produced by G-Petz from Brighton, but after I got the OSTR remix and then the video together it kind of took on a new life very different from where it started. I think the beat, the vocals and the video all really compliment each other.
CB: It seems that where you are in the world inspires you. What else inspires your lyrics? Do you sit down and write or do ideas come to you all the time? Can you give an example of when you were inspired recently to write?
Reps: I write best when I’ve got something to write about, most the tracks on my album are about things, whether its just weed and sex or personal feelings and emotions. I guess I'm inspired by the things that get stuck in my head or heart. Recently I wrote a track that was kind of inspired by an attitude I frequently observe in fellow fans and creators of hip hop, something about the purity of it and the authenticity of different sounds and styles. I’m pretty open to listening to a lot of different stuff and always have been and I think this allows me to draw influence from many styles – and also remain a fan of music.
CB: How did you find the whole process of releasing an album?
Reps: Well this is my first solo record and the first release on the label I co-own (Flash Fry Records) so I was involved in pretty much every aspect of it. Obviously for me the part that comes easiest is writing and recording, I love being in the studio and when you build up relationships with certain engineers and studios you can really get the best from yourself. Then the hard work begins. Because we were releasing the album in two countries there was a lot of extra work coordinating things and this also meant it was necessary to travel to Warsaw to have meetings with Asfalt Records.
Then there was all the artwork and design, which I oversaw, and we had our fair share of trials and tribulations along the way. It was defiantly a learning experience. After that I’ve been involved in promoting the record and again this isn’t something that comes so naturally to me, I can sell CDs to people in the street or at shows easy enough but I’m having to learn about the business more and rely a bit more on Noah (co-owner) to deal with the press and promotion. I think it’s still early days in terms of the label and releases from me so it going to help for the next releases and the one after that.
CB: Who has influenced you as an artist? Are there any UK MCs who you really look up to?
Reps: I definitely get a lot of influence from the people I work closely with, outside of that rappers like Big Boi, Casual, Slick Rick, Lil Wayne are inspiring to me. I’m really from the early deal real days when Skitz, Roots Manuva, Task Force etc. were first destroying things and this era and these artists will always be close to me, but I'm listening to different stuff from across the field of UK hip hop right now.
CB: Celebrity play list style – what are your current top three songs?
The Game (feat. Lil Wayne) – My Life
Ludacris – Big Ass House
Elephant Man – Gully Creeper
CB: Aside from Skill Mega do you work with anyone else?
Reps: We also work with rappers Witchdocter Wise, Mr J and Uncle Dicky (Lost Souls), Jid Sames (Beer And Rap), Rup (Rup on Zebra) and singers Amanda Stevens and Andie Paige (Dark Room Project).
CB: What are your tips for up-and-coming rappers? What has helped you to get to the stage you are at now? – aside from the talent!
Reps: Nothing like hard work. Seriously some sort of talent is sort of essential, but hard work and persistence are the things that will help you to establish yourself. Also taking advantage of opportunities that come your way. I’ve worked with a lot of different musicians over the years and each project whether it was finished or not has helped me progress or learn something new.
CB: UK producers the P Brothers recently said, "UK Hip Hop is wack. It's just corny people on the scene… In my opinion it's just rubbish” – what is your reaction to that statement?
Reps: That statement might be true if you looked at a very small part of UK hip hop. It depends what you define as corny, but really for me UK hip hop is as strong as it’s been for a while and this is reflected in the diversity of the scene. I guess ‘cause there’s a lot more of everything there’s more corny shit but you just have to check for something else. I think it’s about things changing as apposed to things getting worse.
CB: Are you a Dr. Dre fan? What do you think his next album will be like? Will it change the game like his others have?
Reps: Yeah I'm definitely a Dre fan. I think now something has to be so big to change the game because things get swallowed up so quickly. I haven’t thought too much about the album, but as my brother said, it’s gotta be something, its taken seven years.
CB: next from you? Are you working on anything new?
Reps: I’ve got an EP I wrote and recorded recently and I’m thinking what to do with and now I’ve started writing some tracks with a view to the next LP. Also we’re finishing up the second Skill Mega album due out March 2009.
CB: Cheers for taking the time to do this interview – any last words?
Reps: No Problem, thanks for getting it to me. Well people can find out what I'm up to on my myspace and thanks to anyone who got the album or came to a show. Keep an eye out for the next release from Flash Fry Records: Uncle Dicky, ‘The Drunken Uncle’. Also as I mentioned I got a video on youtube ‘Park Ranger’ right now from the album, so check that and remember, keep it peaceful!