Keeping up with Kurupt FM: “Geniuses aren’t always realised in their own time”

Sometimes you've got to go where the music takes you – how the UK's premier pirate DJs swapped Brentford for Tokyo in their debut film

Pirate radio never died. Its golden age may have faded, but the DIY broadcasts that shaped a generation of UK rappers in the noughties are still going on. You just need to know where to look…

Based in Brentford, west London, are Kurupt FM, the group of dodgy DJs and inept MCs whose BBC mockumentary People Just Do Nothing first aired in 2014. Led by MC Grindah (played by Allan Mustafa), the core group of station co-founder DJ Beats (Hugo Chegwin), unpredictable weedhead Steves (Steve Stamp) and deluded manager Chabuddy G (Asim Chaudhry) have spent five series chasing their dream with the misguided belief that they are… well, good. They are not. At the end of last season the gang finally split up, but have regrouped for a debut feature film, set in Japan.

“In Japan, they truly appreciated my talents”
–MC Grindah

It starts with Grindah and co discovering that one of their songs has been used on a popular Japanese game show. With a new audience of millions, the witless crew embark on a fresh quest for world domination, this time overseas.

“It was nice to go somewhere where they truly appreciate my talents,” says Grindah of their Tokyo trip. He’s chatting to NME via Zoom from a swanky hotel in Soho, far from Kurupt FM’s Hounslow habitat. The group are all here, dressed down in their usual hoodies and tracksuit bottoms (Chabuddy rocks a garish cheetah-print shirt) – and remain as deluded as ever. “No disrespect to England, but Japan is so far ahead in the future that they’ve realised how high my lyrical skill is. I’d legit walk into a room and people would bow.”

Kurupt FM
CREDIT: Ewan Spencer

The film is a predictably chaotic trip – and a big-screen intro that’s long overdue. Starting out in the late 2000s with a series of online shorts, Kurupt FM have progressed to headlining Ibiza clubs and collaborating with Stormzy. Debut album ‘Kurupt FM: The Greatest Hits (Part 1)’ arrives on the same day as the film – and is a more polished record than their first mixtape from 2017. The feature list also includes starrier names like Craig David and Big Narstie.

Top things off with a head-spinning BBC documentary about their own documentary and 2021 feels like Kurupt FM’s biggest year yet…

Hey guys, it sounds like you had a fruitful lockdown?

MC Grindah: “It was alright. I actually cling-filmed everything and wore gloves, even inside when I didn’t have to. I divided the whole house in two and let [girlfriend] Miche and [daughter] Angel have the bedroom with the en-suite – that’s me being caring – and I had the living room, spare bedroom, and kitchen.”

DJ Beats: “I’d go ‘round but I’d have to cling-film my face with a mask…”

Grindah: “So we Zoom called and watched A Place in the Sun instead.”

Steves: “I was a farmer in the pandemic. I was bringing plants to people – and it’s been a huge success. People have been smoking… er, I mean, buying more happy plants, so I’ve been thriving.”

Chabuddy G: ‘I’m an opportunist so I took people’s pain and misery and tried to make money. I was making my own hand sanitiser, although it did burn a bit. I sold toilet rolls because of the shortage. I was making masks out of the lining of nappies. It’s the same material. And I sold a lot.”

“I wasn’t scared of the ‘rona because I’ve had so many STDs that I’m immune”
–Chabuddy G

Did you all get vaccinated?

Grindah: “Yeah, I’ve been double vaxxed. It’s Steves we’re worried about.”

Beats: “He thinks it’s something to do with 5G microchips. I did get a bit of back hair after the second one to be fair…”

Steves: “I feel like it’s one of those where people have to do what’s comfortable for them. If I wanted to go raving, then I’d be comfortable with having proof that I’m double vaxxed. Does that mean I was? Yes and no.”

Chabuddy: “I wasn’t scared of the ‘rona because I’ve had so many STDs from the past that I’m immune to pretty much everything really. I was vaccinated by some geezer back in 1998 and he said that was your vaccination for life. So I’m pretty good.”

Your first film, People Just Do Nothing: Big In Japan, is coming out – how does that feel?

Grindah: “Mad, innit?”

Steves: “It feels like a dream.”

Kurupt FM
In Tokyo for ‘People Just Do Nothing: Big In Japan’. CREDIT: Universal

How did you get on in Japan?

Chabuddy: “I enjoyed it. Japan was filled with freaks like myself. My favourite part was the toilet. They give you the full service.”

Beats: “When you go away [from Brentford], you expect it to be hot, but it’s not. So it’s not really a holiday.”

Grindah: “I find – with the best holidays – you hate being there, and you moan about it all the time. Then you realise you loved it when you got back home, because the true way of enjoying the moment is to not enjoy it until you’re out of that moment.”

It’s been three years since the last series of People Just Do Nothing – are you scared people might not care anymore?

Chabuddy: “Even though it’s been 15 years [since we started], people still don’t know that they love us yet. Geniuses aren’t always realised in their own time. When Einstein was around, everyone thought he was a crackhead. But look at him now.”

Grindah: “Visually, we haven’t been on the screen but our lyrics live on. If you break down something like one of my most famous works, ‘Monday Is The Day That We Roll’, that talks about the seven days of the week. Now that three years have gone by, that’s obviously been a lot of weeks. And as days turn to weeks, turn to months, turn to years, we’re still here three years later.”

Steves: “I don’t think people need to know who we are to watch the film. In Japan, no one knew who we were but we were still on TV out there and stuff.”

“We checked that we can call the album ‘The Greatest Hits (Part 1)’ – it’s legal”
–Steves

You’ve only had two songs out so far – is there pressure on your debut album?

Steves: “We were teasing you with those tracks. By the way, we checked that we can call the album ‘The Greatest Hits (Part 1)’ even though none of the songs have come out – and it’s legal.”

Beats: “We realised 99 per cent of artists have one good tune. What’s the point of banging out hundreds of them if everyone’s only going to like one?”

Grindah: “It’s like, ‘I’m a fan of the Spice Girls!’ – yeah? Are you a fan of the Spice Girls, or do you just like ‘Wannabe’? I don’t even need songs, I’ve got the lyrics. Fling on any riddim and I’ll spit and you’ll start singing on it.”

Are there any big-name features on the album?

Grindah: “Everyone ended up doing it as a favour. After our big success in Japan and all that went down, we had a little bit of money left. So the artists all volunteered to work with us but, by law, the labels said that we had to pay them something. And we’re only working with the cream of the crop like Craig David, Mist, JayKae, P Money…”

Beats: “Creed, Jase and Stafis…”

Grindah:Chase and Status.”

The BBC have made Kurupting the Industry: The People Just Do Nothing Story, which is a documentary about your documentary…

Beats: “Yeah. It’s really confusing. If you don’t want to watch it, just watch the film or buy the album.”

Steves: “It’s a bit like Inception in a way. Someone is going to make a show about how we made a show and then there’s going to be a show about that.”

Chabuddy: “And it keeps the BBC going because they’ve run out of ideas. BBC, buck up your ideas, you benchods!”

Will garage ever die out?

Grindah: “It will never die. It was started by DJ EZ in 1998, and we are now in 2021 — that’s been 30 years. Grime came from garage, grime turned into trap, trap changed into drill. They’re all garage artists.”

Chabuddy: “You can’t kill something that’s already dead.”

Kurupt FM
The Hounslow crew have a new album, film and documentary dropping. CREDIT: Universal

You guys are avid weed smokers on screen – should it be legalised?

Chabuddy: “Yeah, legalise it mate.”

Steves: “Yeah. In my head, though, it’s already legalised.”

Grindah: “It’s very important because without weed, Steves can’t think properly.”

Beats: “It makes you a better person.”

So what’s next for Kurupt FM?

Grindah: “Well, we’re done with the TV series. The film was them begging us after we found out about our success [in Japan]. I’m looking at doing a five-part documentary about my life. It’s either called How I Grind Through Life or The Daily Grind. It’d be a show about me before I met them, because I had done a lot. I had lived in America. I was in a private football league until the injury, and did martial arts classes for the Bloods and the Crips.”

Beats: “We’re actually in talks with Netflix for Grindah’s stand-up show. When he thinks of a joke, he voice notes me and I write them down.”

Steves: “With everything opening back up [after lockdown], it’d be nice to do a couple of raves. DJing and all that too.”

Chabuddy: “We should have a festival and call it the Kurupted Festival, or the Champagne Steams Festival. We’ll have DJ Stevie. Get Deeky [Decoy — the group’s mostly mute final member] to do the reggaeton, and the yagga yagga dancehall. Beats and Grindah and everything.”

Kurupt FM’s debut album, ‘Greatest Hits (Part 1)’ is out on August 20. ‘People Just Do Nothing: Big In Japan’ is in UK cinemas now and ‘Kurupting the Industry: The People Just Do Nothing Story’ is streaming on iPlayer