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Interview with Shaga (YaggaYoLondon)

Updated: Nov 6


What do you think about the changing face of the music industry since when you got in the game,

from when it was dominated by major labels and album sales?


If I’m honest, I don’t think there’s a lot that’s actually changed, apart from it expanding, with obviously everything going digital now. But, everything still kinda runs how it used to, I reckon, it’s easier now for labels to promote things.


I think it’s easier for everyone including the labels, but in the same way the game is changing, in a way where it’s easier for labels, but it’s not easier for artists to come out, because right now, the UK scene is not how it was, say 10 years ago.


The way I see it has basically gone from Radio 1 playlists, to now Spotify playlists, and it’s the same people in the offices that are controlling what goes on, and what used to be the record labels is now distribution deals so I dunno what you think about that?


Well, I dunno because I think it's a good thing for artists to go independent, it’s a good platform, all of these things, I dunno. All I know is, right now, record labels, if we’re talking from then ‘til now, it was a similar thing but it was probably easier to get through to a record label, 10-15 years ago but right now, it’s like, you can’t really get hold of the record labels. The record labels are the ones that will get a hold of you and they’re looking out for the people who are getting numbers, who are going viral, getting 100k+ views, then they start looking at people.

Yeah, like the way there’s “industry plants” and the way they sell you an artist.


Of course, and you can sort of see it in artists like Stormzy and the younger generation like Frosty, you can tell which ones are signed to labels like EMI and Relentless and have the label backing and not, because you can tell from the videos and the ad campaigns, and all of that stuff..


Do you think that plays into the longevity of an artist’s career or do you think that burns them out in a shorter period of time?


It could do, but you don’t know, because you see for example you see Meridian Dan, he made that “German Whip” tune, it was a banging tune, it was everywhere and it’s like, where the fuck is he now? Nothing was to follow up. But I dunno, maybe a good example would be from, you know Aitch? He’s a young artist and I met him literally two weeks before he got signed innit. We became friends for a short time, before he got big big and the labels had taken him away from people that he knows, but I met him cause I was going to Sir Spyro’s studio every other day, and Spyro’s manager brought him down, and this is another thing innit, Aitch has got a manager innit, like you have to have a manager Unless you’re clued up yourself.


And a booking agent and everyone else on your team all who take a percentage here and there.

This all comes after being signed and when the label back you. Aitch had this manager that was a year younger than him imagine, he met him when he was 18 I think, that’s when he got signed when he was 18. ????


And that’s the same manager that doesn’t want him on tunes with Wiley and people like that, and wants to push him to the 18-25 year old girls?


I haven’t spoken to him for a good while now so I don't even know if he’s got the same manager, but I know when he got signed he had that manager, but yeah, Spyro’s manager, who is Dave’s manager, he brought Aitch through, and we had a little convo and that’s the first time I met Spyro’s manager, cause obviously I’ve been moving with Spyro since 2010, so I had a little convo with his manager, cause his manager wanted to get to know him and Spyro told him everything, so cool, me and Benny Scars, he’s the manager, me and him developed a relationship with some other business stuff, but yeah. So he brought Aitch down, and literally, this is like the manager, trying to show Dave’s manager if Spyro and everyone should take Aitch under their label innit, so the manager was like “Yo I’m gonna leave him with you for a few hours, and let me know what you think innit.”

And this was around the time that “Straight Rhymez” had dropped?


Yeah this is literally when Straight Rhymez went viral, literally in that first two weeks he came down London, they were having meetings with bare labels and stuff, literally Dave’s manager was one of the guys, so he came down and met him, me and Aitch started talking, two weeks later, he got signed. A week later, he got signed to Sony, it was a good deal like an EP and a single deal, I dunno how much he got, but I think it was over £60k, and I literally continued chatting to him for a good few months, when he was rolling and doing his ting, and then he told me “Bro, everything’s done, we’re about to release everything” and I was like bro “Wagwarn for the single?” and he told me “Bro the single’s gonna bang” and as soon as that got released, he was gone, he got a new number, gone. Hahaha, but yeah the thing is, yeah things can happen, having that manager made things happen, maybe if the labels would have got to him on time, cause obviously he banged it out, it went viral like what was the numbers on that? Millys? So obviously the label didn’t get him in time. But nah if you watch his previous videos, that was probably the best video what he done, but bare of them was grime, that was the hip-hop one init, and then yeah, I dunno it just had the effect after releasing all the videos they did, he finally had an impact. But that’s another thing, you’ve gotta put in the work as well.


In the UK, I think, we don’t allow someone like Aitch or AJ Tracey to make garage songs until we hear that they can spit on grime, really and truly, grime is the thing that people use for them to become certified in the UK, I think, personally.


Well, this is another thing with labels, like even now, they’ve always been like this. Think about it from Cassidy days, like hard rapper, even mainstream all his tunes are cold, but they were all R’n’B / Hip-Hop tunes like about getting with girls, mainstream tunes innit. It’s not what he wanted to do and obviously after he’s finished with the label, he’s made bare ps, he’s independent, he’s releasing all the music that ​he likes init, all that hard gutter stuff, so that’s the thing. It’s probably like with AJ Tracey, he came in with that tune ​Naila​ which is purely a grime tune.


Yeah of course, on ​XCXD BXMB​ by Zeph Ellis.


Yeah, and then these other grime tunes, like that one with Dave, the PSG one they did in Paris.


Yep, Thiago Silva


Yeah, so obviously now he’s blown, the labels like okay so we need to go for a different vibe, so they were probably the ones who were like okay let’s do a garage vibe, like cause that’s the thing as well, with Aitch, I know for a fact he recorded over 50+ tracks in a quick time yeah, and what would happen was the label would sit down and they would be like “Right, we’re gonna take this one for the single cause we think it’s gonna blow, and then we’re gonna take these 5 for the EP, or sometimes man would make 50 tunes and they’d be like “Nah we don’t want any of them we want this kind of style”, and it’s like “Fucking hell back to the drawing board then”.


Was this SLK days with Van Damage?


He was around at them times he was just from North he wasn't part of any crew, because until Skepta and that lot came through, North London wasn’t really bussing like that, it was all East London and North West, then North starting bussing. But you see with Rowdy, to give another example of the 50 tracks and then they might not even pick one, Mighty Moe saw Rowdy, and obviously Mighty Moe was white, and he saw another white Grime artist who was very good and he was like “Yo, you’re levels”, he loved all the tunes he had, but he was like “Right cool, we’re gonna do suttin fresh”, go to the studio, so they went to the studio and Rowdy literally wrote about 30 16s in that day, cause Mighty didn’t like the bars that went with the tune, and then in the end, I don’t know if they did, but they didn't even release one song, cause he wasn’t happy with it, even though all the bars he wrote, he used them after in other tunes, like bro they were sick bars how could you not like them fam?


So it was on different instrumentals, like more palatable for the mainstream?


I dunno about the Mighty Moe thing, but with the labels, they are gonna be looking for the mainstreamest tune, they don’t want you to be too underground and gutter, like where you came from, d’you know what I mean? They’re gonna be like “we want you on this one”, and “You can you do that style” and you’re thinking “Shit now I gotta go proper out of my comfort zone.” Yeah, cause obviously all the mandem that wanna hear your tunes and skank out in the clubs, they wanna know that you can spit as well. Nah, course course. But then again, it’s all about marketing init, like at the end of the day it’s all about how you wanna see yourself be, so right now, it’s like no one can really call Aitch or AJ Tracey or Stormzy an official full Grime artist, they’re pop / mainstream artists now, like that’s it, they’re mainstream, they’ve gone clear. Everyone else here, either you’re a Grime artists, you’re a Hip-Hop artist, or you might be an all rounder, but a lot of people are put off of being a mainstream pop artist, but at the same time you want to be in the same league as Stormzy and Aitch and AJ Tracey, so you have to do that, but bare people get stubborn. Like I remember there was a phase when Grime started getting big.


Like 015? That’s Not Me times?


Yeah, and there was a phase of a lot of artists were like “I’m never gonna sign, I wouldn’t sign, I always wanna be independent”, like thats stubborn talk. “Its like bro, it’s been 15 years now, you’ve still got the mentality you don’t wanna be signed and you’re still in the same spot where you are. D’you know what I mean, it’s like, at least if you get signed, it doesn’t mean you’re with someone for life, you’re just signing a little contract, or a little deal.

For like music videos, they’d fly you out, and cover ur expenses. They’d give you a budget, which you’d probably have to try make back, but you have to execute everything, everything’s marketing as well. Obviously you don’t go in the deal without knowing that your tune’s gonna bang, and make that money. But then obviously they’re not gonna invest in you as well not thinking they’re not gonna make no money back, d’you know what I mean. So yeah man, it’s a tricky one. It’s like easy and it’s hard for artists to get in.

Cause obviously people like Yizzy say they’ve made like 100 bags off Grime.

Yeah! That’s what I’m saying, it’s like, think about it, P Money, he’s a big artist, but he’s not mainstream pop big, d’you know what I mean?


Yeah, he’s got the KSI song. That’s probably his biggest song innit?


But he still gets numbers, and he still makes a massive income from music.


Because he sells his albums to his core fan base?


It’s not even that, it’s just that the thing with grime yeah, it’s just like a lot of artists can just live from bookings. See like P Money, he doesn’t really have to, he probably doesn’t live off the money from his tracks init, like whether streaming or played on whatever radio or what-not, probably mostly his money is coming from bookings.

Yeah cause, you know what, I was talking to Rhymestar and the reason why I met Rhymestar is cause he was working at my school as a pastoral leader, like doing youth work, and the salary for that was about 12k yeah! This was around 010 probably - 012, and I remember man had a drop-top 3 series, like 58 plate Beemer, and I was like “Bruv, I knew you were like on stuff, cause you had that when other teachers were thinking how’s this guy making ps?” And he told me “Yeah, that was all booking money.” That was all from shows with Shabba, Skibba and Stormin.

Yeah exactly, there you go. There’s all different levels to this game, like it depends what level you wanna be on. A lot of people, they all wanna be famous like AJ Tracey, and it’s like, it’s not always gonna be that like, there’s a possibility it could be, but it’s most likely that you won’t get that big, but there is a possibility where you can make yourself big where, you get a decent bit of money out of this.

Yeah and obviously I don’t wanna get too political and that, but like, what do you think about stuff like Form 696, and like the closing down of Fabric and stuff like that, in terms of how that affects live music and income for performers?

Places like Fabric, like you gotta see with Fabric, alright fair enough, they done a lot of raves where it's forward-rewind, which is like Dubstep, Grime

House raves?

Yeah, fuck House raves man I hate House with the skanking and the balloons.

I reckon House ruined the whole rave scene.

Really?

Yeah yeah yeah, that’s when I started, then P Money came in 2008 we started, but I did everything backwards. I was jumping into the clubs, where them man had to make tracks to get them out there innit d’you know what I mean? So like, I had a touch of being part of this crew cause I grew up with them, and then obviously, they ended up bringing out one of the biggest brands in the rave scene from that era, then yeah, I got a touch of it innit and when House came in everything was segregated.


And do you think that probably drug usage increased at events in line with House music and D’n’B and sort of Jump Up?


Haha bro man, look, the recreational stuff was, has always been into play bruv, regardless, it’s been in there since the 70s and probably long before, that’s just the rave life though innit, that’s just typical innit.


And we’re talking like Hackney Chimes and all them places?


Yeah, Brick Lane, like 93 Feet East, that’s, like we dominated it and then the House scene came, they took over. Then there was a regular House event at that 93 Feet East every Sunday, and then everything went downhill, 93 Feet East is not how it was before. Like House music ruined a lot of things, I reckon it did. It obviously elevated a lot of things, but that’s just on the rave scene, not for anything else really, or helping other scenes, it’s just like “Yo, we’re House, Deep House, we’re gonna try and take over everything”, it’s like no, you’re part of the UK scene, stick with the UK scene, keep everything mixed, show love to everyone.

Of course, cause it’s not like, Grime MCs weren’t spitting on Dubstep like 180 riddims anyway bruv. Really and truly, if you hear Slang Like This, it’s not really a grime beat bruv.

Yeah, yeah, bro, like when P Money was getting booked for those events, he was on Dubstep sets man.

100%, when he was on boats and in different countries, and doing all that stuff.

Yeah, yeah, trust.

Yeah, and that’s what Stormin buss off as well, really and truly. People didn’t really - people my age, 21 and under, know Stormin because of SASASAS and Skibadee and Shabba bruv. They don’t really know him because of Ghetto and N.A.S.T.Y...

Oh N.A.S.T.Y. Crew. Yeah, yeah.


People my age don’t really know about Nasty Crew, people younger than me who know Drill and go to Jump Up raves and listen to Harry Shotta, they know Stormin from that bruv.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s what I’m saying, like they don't know man, they don't know half of the bars he spits on Drum & Bass are Grime bars

Trust, bars like “​I saw your nan, in Geneva’s I saw your nan”. Yeah exactly.


Do you think any showbiz scene can truly be healthy?


I think it’s okay right now. During this lockdown thing, not right now. But this is a good opportunity for people to start pushing stuff, but obviously, talking about shows and stuff, like obviously I’ve got events as well, I’ve got a brand called Yagga Yo London. We started in 2010, done one event then, took a gap, brought it back 2012, battered that year, ‘til 2013, took a big gap again, brought it back 2017, but yeah it was a good little Grime event. But I took a pause on it cause this last year, last 4/20, last year, I was tryna do an event before 4/20, I called it the “Night Before 4/20”, and I lost £500, like it was a bad turn out.


Yeah that’s hard, we need that bruv cause ever since Fire in the Booth went to Apple Music, we don’t have that anymore.

Oh shit haha, d’you know I’m basically, like I’m on the outskirts of Team Sloth innit.



Oh is it? Swear?


My mentor, like one of my close friends that I grew up with since I was like a little teen, he basically is one of the guys that was part of the team to help get Charlie where he is now, and obviously when Charlie buss, he took the whole team with him.


Yeah yeah, he’s from North as well Nah? From Camden?


Yeah yeah, North West. Yeah so my guy’s with him.

You see this is what confused me a little bit, because I was thinking what has his political opinion on a land mass belongs to got to do with “Boasty” and his music, not to say that what he said wasn’t a bit dodgy, but only because right wing people say far worse racist, xenophobic and even left wing people get away with much worse systemic anti-Semitism, so yeah I was just thinking like he is an artist and he has an opinion, what has that got to do with his art? Yeah, well this is the thing bro, Wiley’s powerful, he’s the Godfather of Grime, he’s got a lot of people that idolise him, that look up to him, even still now for this argument people are on his side.

And do you know what it is as well bro, I think since he was in Buckingham Palace and he got the MBE they’ve been waiting for him to step one foot wrong so they can jump on him.

What he should have just done was spoken about his experience in the industry and not made it political or about race.


By Azure Jamali @AJ_KBK_ @deliveringthehype

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