House of Pharaohs are the six-piece South London collective you need to know about. They’ve got friends like star producer Nyge [AJ Tracey, D-Block Europe] on speed dial and saw their early single ‘Run With Me’ feature on Frank Ocean’s Blonded radio show. After jumping on the scene in 2016, they firmly made their mark on the UK with last year’s headlining tour, but the collective insist that every season is “HOP season”.
Navigating through the UK scene any which way they like, ‘boundaries’ is not a word in House of Pharaohs’ vocabulary. NME got to talk to three out of the six residents – Bandanna, Danny Stern and Sam Wise – about their unconventional approach.
Your last tour proved the strength of your cult following, but you haven’t charted yet. Why do you think you’re still one of the UK’s greatest secrets?
Danny: “It isn’t something we really pay attention to – that chart stuff – because it doesn’t really measure your success. The charts aren’t really a measure of anything. You can be on the charts and the fans aren’t really buying your tickets like that. We’ve got our own things going on and we’re striving to be better than we are now.”
Sam: “I think the UK scene is very premature with a lot of new artists, and right now it’s really cool that we get props. Because what we’re doing is so unique, it’s gonna take time [to break through]. People now realise that London and the UK is a really cool place to be, and we show a different way of doing [UK music].”
How do you feel about having such a youthful audience?
S: “I think that the audience of hip-hop right now, and the branches of hip-hop – drill, trap, etc – is a young audience. They’re the driving force behind who’s popping right now. So it’s good to have young listeners supporting what we’re saying and putting out there.”
How was it working with Nike for ‘London’s Finest’?
D: “That was a good experience. Nike was definitely something we always wore growing up, and doing a campaign with them was quite an amazing thing. Showing your parents: “Aw, look mum! We’ve done a Nike campaign – look!””
Bandanna: “What’s wonderful is that, as a collective, we always said we wanted to work with Nike. It didn’t matter if it was a trainer, or even just an advert, a photoshoot, we said it. We put it out there. We spoke it into existence.”
How do you guys feel about doing solo stuff as well as being HOP residents?
D: “In the group, freedom is what has really driven us. We are all individual artists. We have all ventured into solo music already. It’s just something we do, something we can do, and we’ll continue to keep doing. Everyone has their own goals and ways to express themselves on their own terms as well.”
S: “We’re a collective, not a band. We’re not parting ways to make individual music, we’re individual artists that come together to make House of Pharaohs.”
Do you find it easy to work alongside each other?
B: “We all have that love for each other, and we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. So we know how each other moves within the group. It doesn’t matter if this person has more fans than the other. We’re all winning, in a way, since we all came up off the same thing. We’re positive with everything.”
D: “Having all the guys, a few people with the same drive and passion, is nice. It’s nice to have that support system. It’s nice to have that family.”
What’s your favourite thing about each other?
S: “Everyone brings their individual flair to the group. Bandanna has a very real approach to the group in terms of his spontaneity and his creativity. He can bring people out: when people feel tense, he makes them feel free and relax. It’s good having that in a group. Someone might second guess something and Bandanna will be like, “Go on! Just do it”, and it’s taught everyone a lot. It’s helped us a lot too.”
B: “Dan has a very mature approach to music and how he carries himself, which I think is sick and might inspire me sometimes. Sam has a hard work rate. He likes to think in terms of structure to make [things] look good, and that’s something I admire as well.”
Who’d be your dream group to work with?
B: “I think Destiny’s Child.”
D: “Maybe like Odd Future, A$AP Mob… A$AP Mob influenced a lot of the fashion at the time. Also, they have a strong following, and we have that. Odd Future; that relentlessness content, even down to the skits that they used to do. They’re just funny, not scared. Free and having fun with it.”
What’s your advice for those trying to follow their dreams?
S: “Just dive in. Whatever it is in life, you’ve just gotta be brave enough. All the finer things – God deals with that. You just have to be there and be in the present. If not, nothing will come to you. If it stays in your head, nothing will come. You’ll watch others and wonder why nothing came for you. You gotta go in the world and be punched in the face.”
What’s next for you guys?
S: “Loads of surprises. We don’t want to spoil it but loads of positive and good content.”
B: “A mixture of content as well. Whether that’s music, fashion, on different platforms. Everything.”
D: It’s all one big adventure. We’re branching out… It’s more than music.”