What music did you listen to when you grew up, who were your influences and how does that differ from the music you listen to now?
When I was about 13 I started listening to a lot of US Hip Hop, my biggest influences back then were Big Pun, Big L, Biggie and The Fugees. Big Pun and Big L had a big influence on me in terms of the way they flowed on a beat. When I was 16 I discovered Hip Hop from the UK such as Task Force, Jehst, Skinnyman, Klashnekoff, basically all the Low Life stuff, from then I realised that people from our country were making Hip Hop and topically what they were talking about was a lot more relatable to me than the US stuff I was listening to before. Hearing those guys from the UK was what really inspired me to pick up the pen and start writing myself. Since then I fell in love the with culture and music and have never looked back. Now I’m in this for life! In terms of the music I listen to now I listen to a lot of Hip Hop, Grime, Reggae, Dub, and rate Jungle, Soul, music etc! At then end of the day if it’s good music it’s good music I’m not to fussed about the genre!
The Britcore scene had good artists like Derek B and Hijack, but was quickly overtaken by a vibrant rave movement. Presently with the absence of such a cultural explosion, how do you think the UK hip hop scene can win the hearts of the listeners over what the US is producing?
I think with insurgence of trap music and this lean sipping movement Hip Hop has kinda lost it’s way over in the US a bit. The UK is really holding the torch for the realness, you still have guys like Roc Marciano, Joey Badass, Conway etc holding it down for the more old school sound which is good but the sound. Lyricism and content on the whole probably isn’t as strong in the US as it was in the golden era in the 90’s. Due to this, I think a lot of people in the US are starting to clock on to what we are doing over here and giving it respect.
At what point did you change from whatever career choice you were doing whilst making music as a hobby and switched to making a career in music?
I was lucky, I decided at about 17 that music was what I wanted to do and just went full force with it but it wasn’t till I was about 25 that I was able to make a full time living off of it. They say if you love your work you will never work a day in your life and I feel real blessed to be my own boss and do what I love for a living. The thing is I got here by dedication, self belief, and thousands and thousands and thousands of hours of time put in to my craft and the label, at the end of the day we all manifest our own reality and can achieve what ever we put our mind to, you just have to believe and not get brought down by the constructs of society. Also if your dreams don’t scare you then they’re not big enough!
What’s more important to you… the label or your solo career?
Ha that’s like asking someone which one of their 2 children they love more. I love them both equally and get different feelings and rewards from both. I love all the talent on the label and feel proud to have helped with all the artists careers and by us all working together creating a great independent platform that is known and appreciated worldwide. I love the creative process of making and writing music, the message in my lyrics and the powerful effects that words can have on the listener. I’m very conscious about how much of a powerful medium music is hence why I like to try and keep my vibe and message a positive one!
What’s the reason behind High Focus’s success above others as an independent label?
The dedication to the culture, the amazing talent of the artists, the sheer quality and quantity of releases, the realness and messages found within the music, the fact that we have come together as big family and all support and push each other and the fact that we are all friends. What has happened with High Focus is truly special and pretty unique in my opinion.
What drew you into signing the grime influenced double time sound of ocean wisdom?
His talent to write great songs; as I mentioned before in reference to Big L and Big Pun I’m about my flows and boy Ocean Wisdom can flow. He is an incredible artist and as soon as I heard a selection of tracks he had been working on with Dirty Dike I knew I would love work with him and release his music on High Focus. He’s young, got a crazy amount of talent, really believes in himself and I’m sure he can go as far as he sets his sights! Watch this space for a new album coming from him on High Focus in the future and if you haven’t heard ‘Chaos 93’ yet make sure you check that with the quickness!
Has High Focus been receiving more attention from the signing from a more diverse audience and will this change the future of High Focus and who you sign.
Yeah I’d say some people who were predominantly into grime heard Ocean on the radio etc and therefore have probably been exposed to the label who may not have heard of it before which is a positive thing.
Would you ever sign an original grime artist?
There is always a possibility, I personally really rate grime and have been listening to it on the regular for over a decade. I don’t really get caught up that much on genres, styles, and pigeon holing. To me if you’re rapping over a beat it’s all the same kind of thing, if I think someone is really dope, original with what they do and I don’t feel like there is anyone else on the label that is bringing the vibes that that individual is bringing I could be open to signing them.
Where would you place yourself and High Focus..in terms of the recognition you’re getting on the whole of the UK hip hop/grime and urban scene including underground and mainstream?
I would say High Focus is at the forefront of the UK Hip Hop scene purely due to the amount of artists, releases, nights we put on, video views, sales, social media statistics etc. However that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of really dope artists and labels all doing their thing out there that I have a great deal of love and respect for, we need more artists and labels and in turn by everyone doing their thing we all collectively help to build the scene and bring awareness to it. It would be wack if HF was the only label about and I encourage the youngers to build platforms for themselves, they just have to be prepared to put in a hell of a lot of work and time if they want to succeed. I’ve dedicated pretty much every waking moment of my life to this for more than a decade.. In terms of where High Focus is in relation to the mainstream I think the recent insurgence of people listening to rap from this country and the whole grime movement getting really popular is definitely helping. People are backing rap artists from this country hard and independent music is in a great place at the moment and I think it’s only going to get more known worldwide!
There’s recently been a big discussion on social media about the lack of recognition High Focus artists are getting on the more mainstream radio representation of UK hip hop, do you think there’s a reason for this lack? Like content perhaps? And if it is that, is there a way you guys can and plan to change this without changing your style?
Yeah, I mean since that popped off we had Dirty Dike on BBC Radio 1Extra with a phone interview, MistaJam dropped his track ‘Isleham Swamp’ and gave it a triple wheel up. I was invited on to Kiss FM for a interview and dropped some bars for them which you can watch on their Kiss FM UK Youtube channel and Dabbla & Strange U have been getting played on those stations so those provocative tweets actually worked wonders. I think sometimes these big radio DJ’s can end up loosing touch with what is actually going on in the underground. It’s also clear that HF is rising up from the underground hence their recent support. I think another reason for lack of support in the past is also due to the music not necessarily fitting in to what their radio producers want therm to be pushing and certain tracks and artists they are made to push. At the end of the day though people are really starting to catch on to what we are doing and the radio stations in this country are now starting to show love and I think the future is bright and there will be a lot more support for what we have to offer over the coming years.
Why do you think there is a lack of female presence on the UK hip hop scene? And would you potentially sign a female artist?
To be honest I’m not really sure why there is a lack of presence, obviously the fact that Hip Hop is a very male dominated genre probably puts some females off getting involved in the first place but personally I would love to see way more females getting involved in the scene. Also in regards to signing a female MC, yes I would love to sign a female MC and I have actually been looking to sign a female MC for many years but at the end of the day I’m not going to sign someone on the basis of their sex. They have to be an incredible artist and be able to hold their own in all regards of creativity, bars, freestyling, vision, dedication, live performance etc against the very best in the country and also fit in with the label. Until I find one that really amazes me like the rest of the artists on the roster there won’t be one but trust me I would love to sign a female. That is one thing that I feel is really lacking from the label and the scene in general. If your an epic female artist, or know one hit me up!
Six albums later, how do you still find the inspiration to write solo material? And do you ever write bars with the intention of using it for something else and then think, actually ..this is off the hook and has got to go on my solo track?
I still find inspiration to write solo material because I’m still living life, everyday I learn new things, meet new people, go to new places, have new experiences and get sent new beats by producers so I’m constantly inspired to create. I truly feel that my sole reason to be on this planet is to be creative and spread light through my messages, if I’m not making music it makes me feel sad. At the end of the day when I leave this planet I want to leave a legacy behind like many of the musical greats have done. If you make great music that is respected worldwide you never die… And yeah sometimes I write a flaming verse for something and end up using on a solo track haha.
Does your new album ‘Patterns Of Escapism’ differ greatly from the last ones and if so how?
Yeah all my music is a progression, a journey, there is always a constant development so that is always reflected in the music. ‘Polyhymnia’ was kind of a dark album as I was exploring death in that record quite a bit, I feel I’ve got that out of me now so this album is lighter and the production I’ve chosen for it is more uplifting as a whole and I feel I have explored concepts and ideas in the lyrics that I haven’t explored in previous albums. I’m really happy with ‘Patterns Of Escapism’ and I’m confident that a lot of heads will be feeling it! Big respect to Illinformed for blessing me with his epic production!
Here’s a crystal ball for you… What do you see in it for the future of yourself as a solo artist and for the future of High Focus? And is there anyone in particular you’d love to sign or collaborate with?
I see nothing but progression and elevation, lots more music from myself and all the talented artists on the label. High Focus is going from strength to strength and will continue to do so. As long as I’m here I’m gonna be creating and trying to push the label and culture to new heights. Much love to all the fans and supporters out there making our dreams a reality! In terms of signing new people I’m really happy with the roster at the moment but I always keep my eye out for new talent and as I mentioned before I’d love to add a female/s to the label! In terms of collaborations I’d like to work with some people out of the genre like Seun Kuti, D Double E, Congo Natty, Sizzla to name a few! Peace!
Fliptrix hosts a special album launch party on the 10th December 2016 at Brixton Jamm, London and he’s performing as part of the High Focus Records Christmas Party on Friday 16th December at Lakota, Bristol.
High Focus has released a new single ‘Thunder Clouds’ – a no nonsense banger lifted from Fiptrix’s collaborative LP with producer Illinformed called ‘Patterns Of Escapism’ which is released on 25th November 2016.
Words: Sammie Spungold
by 247 Magazine