He is straight talking, honest and unafraid to express his opinions and take chances, and that is part of what makes ‘Smokers Die Younger’ a classic debut album. On the album, Shameless spars with Rock, Jungle and Ragga, never confining himself to one format; Shameless successfully manages to cross over genres without losing the essence of Hip Hop, or himself. His live sets are not to be missed, backed by the splendidly titled ‘PaddyRagga Band’, Shameless jumps from track to track with a passion and an energy for music a lot of UK artists have lost, and on top of that he’s a pretty decent singer!
This year alone he has supported Naughty By Nature at the Jazz Café, performed at UK Takeover and is supporting the Clipse on their UK tour. Britishhiphop.co.uk speaks to the PaddyRagga man himself about his eclectic musical background, repping East London and a Hip Hop EastEnders!
You are a bit of a musical thespian but what in particular drew you to Hip Hop- as you could have taken a number of musical directions.
Shameless: Yeah I know what you are saying. I think it was a mixture of things, your friendship circles have a lot to do with what music you’re into. A lot of my friends listened to Hip Hop when I was coming up and I was into it but I used to be like the odd one out. They used to be like ‘he’s a hippy, he listens to all that Nirvana business!’ but I never really payed any attention to the crowd. Hip Hop spoke to me from a young age, I think the first Hip Hop I heard was Ice Cube when I was about nine years old but I was just a little white boy from East London so I don’t know what made it speak to me so much. I think when I got America’s Most Wanted I was just hooked from then, I think I just liked the energy and the aggressive of it and that’s probably why I like Rock, Punk and Jungle: it’s all got a lot of energy and is not afraid to say what’s on it’s mind.
Tell us about your debut album ‘Smokers Die Younger’ and what inspired your choice of album title?
Shameless: As a whole, it’s a very varied album; there are a lot of different sounds on there. It’s predominantly a Hip Hop album but I’ve got a live band together at the moment called The PaddyRagga Band and I’ve got them on a couple of tracks on the album as well, so there’s the rocky element to it. I emcee in a pretty much standard Hip Hop way but on the musical side of things I wanted to bring different elements. The album is not just for the smokers (laughs) don’t let the title twist you. Unfortunately I lost a few friends and it hit me quite hard and I turned around and I looked at the way a lot of people were living their lives including me and I just thought sometimes you can raise all the warnings, but sometimes you do things just to get by. The album was a way for me to say life’s too short and this is how I feel at the moment and this is what I need to get off my chest.
Would you say you are a conscious rapper?
Shameless: I know exactly what you mean when you say conscious rapper but to be honest it’s always been a term that has confused me a bit. I mean I use that term all the time, like if I’m talking about Talib Kweli or someone like that I might use it as well, but I don’t really like to pigeon hole things. I don’t like to talk about things in my music that isn’t me or that I haven’t done but I ‘m not gonna be talking about driving convertibles or Bentley Coups on South Beach because I aint done it yet! I think I m fairly conscious, I’m not too political- not that I don’t have political beliefs but I don’t like to bring that too much into my music. Really my music is for me, I love that people like it but I do it to express myself and exorcise some demons. When I writes rhymes, as long as it makes sense to me I leave the rest up to the listeners.
On ‘ No Hats, No Trainers’ you worked with fellow East Londoner Plan B, but what is it about East London that produces all this raw talent?
Shameless: I don’t know but I can see what you mean! I don’t know what it is! I remember going to raves back in the day and the DJ would be like ‘South London’ and most of the dance would go mad and then he would say ‘East London’ and I’ll be like what am I the only East Londoner in here? So I don’t know whether it is just our time in a weird way. East London has always had a strong community on the pirate radio front, like Cool FM, Rush and all that, so I don’t know if it’s all come off the back of that. Also I suppose it’s like a sign of the times, people my age and younger have all come up being influenced by all these things. I don’t know, you’ve got the likes of Plan B, myself, Kano, Wiley, Roll Deep- bare people, so we are getting there- we’re definitely shining the light! They should do like a Hip Hop/Grime version of EastEnders, you’d have like Wiley in the Queen Vic with whoever, Jammer would come out- it would be wicked (laughs).
Do you think that Hip Hop has been given a bad rap recently- or is it well deserved?
Shameless: I think Hip Hop hasn’t really changed that much I mean you had groups like N.W.A rapping about things that people are pretty much rapping about today. The thing that frustrates me is you have someone like Pete Doherty in the media- but people come down hard on Hip Hop. It’s easy to point the finger at Hip Hop artists and be like they talk about guns and stuff but actually Pete Doherty is in The Sun like every week, off his face and you think if that was a rapper, if that was me off my face on crack everyday- they’d put me down quickly. I think it’s a real shame that our music gets demonised because of certain acts. I think it is has always happened, they criticise what they don’t understand- it always been that way, they did that to Elvis and said he was a devil worshipper. They don’t understand our culture, or where we’re from and what we are trying to say with the music. There is a lot more to Hip Hop than guns and knives and hoes and that.
What artists are you feeling at the moment?
Shameless: I still listen to Jay Z and Tupac, Biggie, Talib Kweli and all that. I’m liking Wiley’s new album at the moment, I‘m liking that Mr Hudson guy, I’ve been listening to his album, again it’s not straight Hip Hop but I’m feeling that. There’s something I heard recently but I don’t have a copy of but they are called SA-RA, they’re a three piece, I think they are with Kanye’s label but their album is different. I’m been listening to a lot of Lupe Fiasco as well over the last year, for me he’s a tight lyricist, Lupe’s album was hot. I’m looking forward to Kano’s new album and of course I’m bumping my stuff.
The PaddyRagga Band. First of all where did that name come from…
Shameless: Do you know what, enough people have said they like that name! I’m half Irish, my mum’s Irish but my mum’s partner would play a lot of Reggae, so I grew up listening to a lot of Reggae and stuff and a lot of friends were into their Bashment tapes. What it actually comes from is, in my mum’s home town back in Ireland there was a man called Paddy Halligan and I used to go over there as a kid. He’s like the town’s witch doctor, like if you break your arm, you don’t go to the hospital; they’ll send you to him. I was always hearing this name as a kid ‘Paddy Halligan’, ‘Paddy Halligan’. I was probably stoned or drunk and I was thinking I love Ragga and that whole culture and I’m also really proud of my Irish roots, so it just kinda sounded the same ‘Paddy Halligan’ – ‘Paddy Raggaman’, if you say it quick enough (laughs)
… and what kind of music do they play?
Shameless: We do live renditions of my album tracks. Every one compliments us on the fact that we aren’t one style of music, in a half hour set we do like Hip Hop, Punk, Reggae, Drum and Bass- we do a live version of Chooper. We are a real mish- mash of genres.
If you could collaborate with anyone dead or alive, from any genre- who would you choose?
Shameless: Erm that’s a good one. I’d do a track with Jimi Hendrix and BobMarley. Bob would be on the rhythm: the Ska kinda ting. Jimi would mash up the solo business and then I would get Bob to sing a killer hook and then I’d spit a verse.
Sounds pretty good…
Shameless: Yeah sounds like a big track!
Smokers Die Younger is out now.