NME Radar: Breakout

Pinty: Peckham MC’s bubbly love letter to south London

The Peckham MC – who's worked with King Krule and Emma-Jean Thackray – enters a new phase with optimistic new EP 'Tomorrow's Where I'm At'

Each week in Breakout, we talk to the emerging stars blowing up right now – whether it be a huge viral moment, killer new track or an eye-popping video – these are the rising artists certain to dominate the near future

Pinty’s music is a love letter to the south London streets, pubs and people that raised him; oozy and woozy one second and skippy and trippy the next – not to mention occasionally clubby and dubby. Slow-burning beats twist and turn through garage, jazz and jungle as the Peckham MC’s soft, introspective flow bounces along over the top. It’s an intoxicating sound that inspires all kinds of reactions – Elton John called it “sexy” while Lewis Capaldi thinks it’d be good for killing people during a Grand Theft Auto sesh. Different strokes. We just think it’s brilliant.

After collaborations with his old Brit School mate King Krule, Pinty’s forthcoming EP, ‘Tomorrow’s Where I’m At’, sees him working with nu-jazz trumpeter and composer Emma-Jean Thackray on the buzzy ‘Comfort Me’, and discussing matters of the heart for the very first time on recent single, ‘Found It’. The perfect soundtrack to the last days of lockdown, we spoke to Pinty from his home studio about protest, the best boozer in SE15 and dreams to ship out to Sheffield.

Morning Pinty! How are you today?

“I’m good! It’s a lovely day today, innit. I actually went for a little run, probably the first run I’ve done all year. I went to Morrisons to buy some oranges and some ginger, too. I’m trying to stock up on Vitamin D. I’m in my Peckham studio; it was our spare room, but my mum very kindly let me change it up. Last year, at the beginning of lockdown I got my first MacBook and Ableton and I painted the room and everything seemed to come together.”

You’ve got a Warriors poster up…

“That’s my favourite film. It’s kids running through New York dressed in outrageous outfits. It reminds me of West Side Story. I’ve got a soft spot for musical theatre like that.”

What other stuff do you have on the walls of your studio?

“My brother was a graffiti artist back in the day and he did a big piece on Peckham Rye station which lasted for years and years. It got cleaned off around 2007 and I used to scour the internet looking for pictures of it, but I could never find one. Then years later, a good friend of his turned up to my house with this big photo of it. It’s really special to me. I also have a portrait of Amy Winehouse. That was made by [King Krule] Archy’s mum – she made a t-shirt with it on years ago and knew how much I loved it, so gave me the original.”

How do you know King Krule?

“I met him at Brit School when I was 15. He came up to me because he knew who my older brother was in the graffiti world. He showed me a lot of love, especially when I was going through not the best times of my life. We made a song called ‘Midnight Moods’ where I had just written some bars scrappily on a piece of paper. I remember being blown away that he’d taken a few lyrics and made it into a song. I’m still very self-conscious with this new music, but he’s one of my go-to guys to send stuff to. If he said he didn’t like it, I probably wouldn’t put it out.”

Is the new EP, ‘Tomorrow’s Where I’m At’, what’s been keeping you busy over the past 12 months?

“Without a doubt. My last EP ‘City Limits’ was two, maybe three years ago, but a couple of weeks before it was supposed to come out a good friend passed away. Then two more friends passed away. It all just became a bit too much. People were asking ‘where’s the new single?’, and I was like ‘I’m on my way to a funeral, I can’t deal with this right now’. I was going into sessions, trying to churn something out, but it just didn’t feel right. I was grieving. But I started doing therapy at the beginning of last year, and that’s gone hand in hand with the new music I’ve been writing and understanding myself. This music is the most honest reflection of what I’ve been going through. This is me, fuck it! ‘Found It’ is the first time I’ve ever spoken about love in a track, but I feel a lot more free and ready to show the world that side of me. It’s a very transformative point in my life.”

How did Emma-Jean Thackray get involved in ‘Comfort Me’?

“We’re friends of friends. That track’s really nice because it’s kind of a hint at the past scene I was at, the south London jazz scene. It’s nice to pay homage. She’s a beautiful person and an amazing musician. We thought it’d be great to get some brass on that song in a classic house track way – they’ve always got a trumpet or a saxophone on them, that smokey New York feel. She just completely nailed it.”

You mention The Gowlett in ‘Found It’. What’s the significance of that pub?

“My dad used to work for the Royal Mail, and I’d help him out on Saturdays. When he finished his shift he’d sit in the Gowlett for the rest of the day, I’d be there with him eating pizza and drinking a Coca Cola. Then when I was 18 I got my first job there. It’s kind of my second home.”

The final track, ‘OFF’, features the EP’s name, ‘Tomorrow’s Where I’m At’ – what’s the importance of that line?

“It represents a whole shift in what’s been going on in my life, in terms of the whole therapy thing and drawing a line in the sand behind a lot of the things that have been holding me back my whole life. I’m moving forward now, tomorrow’s where I’m at. Just bring it on. I’ve definitely got plans for the future. I’ve got a lot of tracks I’d love to tell you about! I’m fully in work mode now. Every single day I’m in the studio. I’m hyper focused with what I want to do.”

You recently shared a photo of you as a kid at the Iraq War demo in 2003. You must have some thoughts on the proposed police crackdown on protest?

“I do, I think it’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s just part and parcel of what this government’s doing. No matter whether you’re on the left or right, you can see that they’re absolutely doing a shit job at the moment. I was raised in a very leftwing, socialist household but I choose not to be too political in my music. I look at it as a bit of an escape, really – instead of shouting at people I want to do it more subtly. I don’t really like the idea of preaching to people.”

Do you still involve yourself in activism?

“Yeah, though I don’t know if watching too much Adam Curtis has made me apathetic… But having said that, I do have a placard that says ‘Remember Smiley Culture’ in my window [Smiley Culture was a black British MC who died during a police raid on his home in 2011]. He was such a big influence on me and my emceeing from when I was really quite little. My dad was in Brixton in the ‘80s, so when I was growing up there was always dub music being played, and ska.”

Were you born in Brixton not Peckham then?

“I was born in Loughborough Junction and then we moved to Peckham when I was one, so I’m about as Peckham as I can be. Right now though I have a bit of a dream of moving either to Sheffield or the South of France. There’s part of me that worries what’s in the future for Peckham. It’s about gentrification and it not having the same identity that I grew up with, and that I love. I see that slowly slipping away and that’s what I’m writing about at the moment, narratives and stories about these lost souls that are looked over by gentrifiers. I feel worried by things like food banks. There are people here that are really hungry.”

You’re named in honour of your habit of drinking a pint of milk every day. What’s your preferred brand?

“Just give me any pint of semi-skimmed. I’m ashamed to say I’m drinking lactose free milk nowadays. I’m not yet on oat milk or anything like that though…”