Novelist, one of the grime new wave’s youngest and brightest hopes, has launched his own label, celebrating the occasion by posting a photo of him popping a massive bottle of bubbly on Twitter. The genre has long championed self-sufficiency, but the 19-year-old’s motives go beyond that. As he tell us, he’s looking to spread the wealth and throw a light on his less established peers too. Here he speaks to NME about his hopes for the brilliantly-named Mmmyeh Records and hanging out with Drake.
You recently launched your own imprint, Mmmyeh Records. What was your reason behind setting up the label?
“Basically, I’m the kind of guy, I like to enable the people that are around me. It’s easy to get a name for yourself… but when you can use that position for your friends and they do well, I feel like that’s why you start as a musician in the first place. Not to just live good, but to actually live good with your friends. So that’s the main reason why I started the label because I felt like, if we’re going to govern our music and make the most out of ourselves we should own everything that we’re doing and own everything that we can possible. I feel like I’m in the position to do that.”
Are there any artists you are looking to sign to the label?
“Every artist that I’m signing to the label is not majorly established at the moment. It’s not a problem, because they will be in due time. I’ve got a reason because these are some [artists] from my local area that I’ve personally been working with for a couple of years. We have SBK, you might’ve seen him on our last Rinse FM video. I’ve just brought him in, shine a little light on him. We’ve got a whole roster of producers but the whole thing is, at the moment, we might just sign projects and see what actually works. Rather than, ‘Yeah I want to sign you for a lifetime’. We’ll be more flexible, more convenient to the artist because then we actually think about the specific campaigns tailored to the projects, rather than what’s the plan getting lost in the source.”
Artists like Giggs have spoken recently about the importance of being an independent artist. Why is going independent important to you?
“I look at it like this, we see major labels and we look at them like ‘oh we need to get signed, we need to get signed’. I believe I could make a major label, so in a sense we can seem like we’re independent but in the future we’ll be looked at as a major organisation. It’s independent in a sense that, we’re at the foundation of building something that’s going to be big. It’s just about owning our own shit man and really having more of an understanding because I can get put into a situation that’s cool… Everyone I’m working with I fully understand their circumstances, our whole team understands where they’re coming from and what they’re trying to get. Rather than we need to make 100,000 sales this month, it’s not about that, it’s more about them as a person.”
What were your experiences like of being on a label? How was XL?
“That’s a big misconception. I was never signed to XL. What inspired me to make my own label was that I did a project with XL. It let me know that yeah you can make a label, you don’t have to have an artist tied down to you, you can do a project with them, and the project still be successful. That’s kind of what happened with me and XL… People think that being on a label there’s millions of phone calls made and all that jazz, no it wasn’t like that at all… XL allowed me to just be myself, I dropped my project with them and the relationship was cool. I know that I can call people that work at that label and there’s nothing to it other than ‘What next and how you doing?’ When I spent time around different crowds, different labels, it was good. It allowed me to see how things work.”
Your fellow south Londoner Santan Dave recently teamed up with Drake on his ‘Wanna Know’ remix. If you could work with any artist in the world right now, who would it be?
“When I made this label I wasn’t thinking about if I want to work with bigger artists or less established artists. I might collaborate with someone in my local area and make a song 10 times better than what I could’ve made with Drake.
“I talk to Drake sometimes. I went to Toronto the night [Drake’s album] ‘Views’ dropped [in April]… When I meet these people, these big musicians, I recognise that they’re people like myself they’re striving to great things and they’re making it happen. I look at them as fellow artists but it’s not even necessarily that your relationship with these people is based on music. You might meet these people and chat with them and they’re so normal that you don’t even think about music until the day that you’re actually in the studio with each other… It all literally depends on the vibe… do we click? They might be a great singer but if you actually don’t like each other, because it’s not about making money. I didn’t start music to make money. I did it to create vibes that when I listen back to, gives me a good energy. Drake’s a nice person… it was just like good vibes. No music or nothing, it wasn’t about that, it was literally about vibes, and I feel like it should be like that with every artist.”