Metamorphosis; perhaps the only way to summarise the development in artistry when considering the journey of UK rap artist Potter Payper. After spending a portion of his teens walking through the revolving door of youth offender institutes, music ultimately became a saving grace by providing a medium for him to communicate his thoughts and feelings with the world. What began as a few simple lyrics and a desire to out rap his peers on the music course he undertook while at a young offenders institution eventually became the catalyst to a definitively fruitful career and the building blocks of Potter’s first mixtape, 2013’s ‘Training Day 1’.
From the early days of his Rap Attack freestyle, to appearances on Link Up TV, SBTV and BL@CKBOX right down to the release of 2020 rap mixtape ‘Training Day 3’, Potter Payper has captivated audiences with his ability to tell stories in an honest yet poetic way.
Exploring sounds ranging from trap to more classic hip-hop style beats, the rapper’s success to date can largely be attributed to sheer determination and the desire for growth despite numerous setbacks. In the latest edition of NME’s In Conversation series, Potter Payer sat down to discuss signing with 0207 DEF JAM, the creation of the 2021 mixtape ‘Thanks for Waiting’ and his plans for 2022. Here’s what we learned.
He switched to rap from grime because it provided a more authentic way to tell his story
A self-proclaimed Eminem stan, Potter’s appreciation for lyricism was sparked at a very young age. Drawing inspiration from Wiley, Ghetts, Nasty Crew and other prominent names within the grime scene at the time, Potter’s earliest interaction with music was as a young MC showcasing his bars amongst his peers on the estate.
However, some timely advice from a friend completely transformed his approach to creating music. “He was like ‘bruv you know would be able to get that out a lot more if you just slowed it down a bit – people would listen a lot more’” Potter explains. The rest, as they say, is history.
Acknowledging the difficulties of being able to truly express his feelings over 140 BPM he said “I could feel myself being able to say more at a slower tempo…there’s so much more room to say what you need to say”. With a further nod from his peers Potter left his MCing days behind and focused on sharing his thoughts through rap instead.
‘Training Day 3’ charting changed his life
In 2020, Potter Payper’s mixtape ‘Training Day 3’ reached number three in the UK charts. Having a body of work land in the charts is no small feat, but at the time of this milestone, Potter was completely unaware of its gravity and the way it would alter the trajectory of his career. Not wanting to place his happiness or views of success in measures beyond his control, prior to this point making it into the charts wasn’t even a consideration. “I know there’s a national chart, but we don’t get in the national chart…especially [with] what I am saying”.
‘Training Day 3’ receiving this recognition gave both Potter and the team at Groundworks – the creative agency who he closely collaborates with – the leverage and vindication to chase after bigger opportunities, proving all his naysayers wrong in the process. “I’m so grateful to everyone who supported me at that stage in my career because that was like make or break for me.”
He considers it an obligation to be a role model to those following him
As someone who has travelled down what can be described as a turbulent path and has now found himself in much better position, Potter feels an innate duty to inspire those listening to his music to do the same.
“Anyone in a position of power with a platform has got a responsibility, whether they touch one person, a hundred people, a thousand or a million.” Recognising that a large portion of his audience are of a younger demographic, the rapper has become more conscious of the types of content he puts out on his social media.
Whilst very much considering himself to be a work in progress and on his own journey of personal growth, Potter remains accountable for what he chooses to share stating “in my personal life I take responsibility for people that might be watching”.
Writing an open letter written to fans was a turning point
The cover art for Potter Payer’s latest mixtape ‘Thanks For Waiting’ features a handwritten letter addressing his core fan base promising to be a better man after learning from the experiences that landed him in prison in the years prior. “[this letter] was a response to an open letter that I wrote to my fans when I went to prison in 2017” he explains.
“To be honest that letter was more for me than any fans because I felt like I’d hit rock bottom and then gone through the floor” the rapper shares, explaining that at the time he felt completely deflated and that his dream of making it in music was rapidly slipping away.
“The letter was like an apology to my fans to say I’m sorry that you’ve been invested in me all this time and I’m not taking it seriously, and also to the industry people that I offended along the way”.
“Once I sent that out there [and] that was put in the universe, that was the moment where I had to stick to my word,” he explains.
His debut album is coming this year
2022 will be the year that the rapper releases his long awaited debut album, having now reached a point of stability and freedom. Despite spending the last decade putting videos on YouTube, doing freestyles and releasing mixtapes, he says: “I always held onto that album title. I would never let anyone use it loosely around my work, as I knew that I had to reach a certain point in my life…before I even considered making an album. It’s going to be everything like I’ve done before, but nothing like what I’ve done before.”
In the future Potter remains open to challenging himself both sonically and lyrically. “I could bring out my debut album now and I could focus solely on concepts of social injustice and economic downturn” he shares, emphasising that while his default is to rap about himself and his life it, would be exciting to explore other areas.