Giggs latest album ‘The Landlord’ shows that in less than a decade, he has grown into an artist that’s much more at home with his celebrity than he was in 2008 at his musical debut. A man much more comfortable with the pressures of leadership and knowing his place in the music scene. ( ‘rap really needs this album!’ ) He is also balancing as a leader, musician, comedian, father, friend, family-man, lover, and more.
He reveals he has learned lessons about keeping his friendship circle small (Whippin Excursion), keeping his personal life private, and like any true king emcee – warding off the pretenders, haters, and wannabees.
Yet while life has changed for the better, Giggs’ past experiences and memories still haunt his newer suburban dream-home lifestyle, as he highlights in the single “The Blow Back;” “mans living that life, popped to the shop in pajamas…just jumped outta bed, heard a knock from the gardeners, said no not today, what’s good, but you alarmed us.’’
On “The Landlord” Giggs lyrical flow can’t be pinned down. One minute he’s laidback, 2-step rhyming, spitting humor, the next he’s intense with high-pitched strained questions, then next dark ominous, eerie, foreboding stories as well as opening up – literally – about sex, love and relationships. This body of work has it all and really shows Giggs is learning, developing, and growing as a street poet with authority faster than most. He’s certainly more fully rounded with extra poise in his many roles.
The intro is reminiscent of the classic Jay-Z intro for “Izzo” (H.O.V.A) ‘’ Thanks for coming out tonight. You could’ve been anywhere in the world, but you’re here with me. I appreciate that’’. It also politely reminds us to ‘’stop assuming’’ we know about his life, his past, and his mindset.
“The Landlord” feels like Giggs is having fun experimenting with his style and content without pressure of a record label breathing down his neck. A “nothing too deep just let’s have some fun in the studio’’ vibe.
After a tumultuous start to our early music industry relationship a few years back, after which a chat over lunch and apologies were swapped, this past week we sat down for an hour, which I wish had been recorded for a podcast instead, as he was so entertaining and deep. Juggling his kids, new born’s sleeping patterns, literally holding the baby and cooing while chatting, he proved he was the perfect conversationalist, daddy, and multi-tasker.
Congrats on “The Landlords” no.2 album chart position…. Has it exceeded all your expectations?
Every time I’ve made an album I think its sick. If I’m really honest, it’s my fourth album and I think all the past albums should’ve done that well too. What’s really making me happy is people rolling in their cars to the music, it’s sick! The buzz out there, ‘its the hardest, its sick!’….-that means more than anything to hear all that and those comments have me buzzing, its mental! This is why you do what you do. When you first write lyrics at home and you think you could do this, the first thing that you want is for people to say this is sick! You don’t think about riches and chart positions. So I’m happy.
My favourite tracks so far on the album are “Lock Doh” (featuring Donaeo) and “The Best.” However in “Just Swervin” you sound emotional, which is nice because we see a different side of you. You sound vulnerable and reveal what it feels like to be low, lonely and losing friends. It’s important to highlight this realness in an age where young men under pressure are really suffering with mental health issues. Tell us about that, letting your harder persona take a back seat and being okay to open up about being just human?
I’ve always had vulnerable, emotional real shit. Its about balance. I like to always have two or three deep songs…I never write at all…. I just smoke, have a drink…the beat talks to me… there’s different ways of being lonely…when I had beef and madness years ago I felt alone. When people are trying to kill you, but at heart you’re a good person its lonely. I never asked to be a gang banger…I was actually a good kid…I used to work with disabled people a carer/support worker role…I looked after a brother for about a year….I was a Peckham boy from when I was 14-years-old. I didn’t get into that life to be a G, it was a necessity. We didn’t have money in the house. I didn’t want to bother my mum for money, like an impressionable kid thinks I thought ‘’if I steal my own shit I will make it easier on my mum. Then other things came with that lifestyle, not just stealing clothes. I then got caught up in fighting other gangs, and then that becomes a part of your life. Then I tried to work, that’s how I became a carer cos my mum worked there. I was paying off my Punto car. Man would hate on me cos I had a car!? People were tryna to kill me. I don’t think I’m a superhero, but I don’t fear anyone. I was going back n’ forth, then people were looking at me like a boss. I was like (the character) Knockout Ned in (the film) “City of Gods”.
I came out of jail in 2004 and saw “Adulthood” and the character in “Adulthood” was very similar to me, when he got out of jail and trying not to get into any trouble. The streets were worse than ever since I had been away and also I’m the oldest sibling, watching my brothers go through stuff too so its always been a lonely journey.
I’ve walked away from the streets now. I’m on another planet now. Now, I see things completely differently. I just know you don’t have to go through certain things….I understand though that when you’re down there and younger, it’s different. If peeps can see Giggs from Peckham can make it then it’s closer to them to see there is another life choice out there for them too. It’s not like as being so far detached to success like someone like Jay Z.
The way I see things now is completely different, some of the people I used to be around still see things like that, so I’ve always been a loner.
Your song THE PROCESS narrates the story about many typical relationships: the meeting, the dating, the loving, the first arguments over jealously and ultimately the split or not to split annoyances. You’ve become quite the sex symbol lol.
(Laughs) If you listen to “The Process” it starts with me seeing a girl, with good posture, I chat to her, I get a drink, that’s my girl, she passes the test, she’s cooking brekky, then my phone rings and someone calls and she’s like suspicious and questions “who’s that?” Then it’s your first argument, you might break up with her. It’s like a vicious circle, the same process each time. It’s the relationship processes from my perspective. A female should make a process reply / response….lol!
On your track “The Best” you feature Liverpool’s Aystar – how do you connect with up n coming new talent?
My son is like the A&R in my house, he’s like me. He’s 14-years-old, and he listens to whoevers got talent. I’m older, he is younger than me, I can’t keep up with what’s out there all the time. My son keeps me up to date. I was listening to this Liverpool stuff thinking this accent is hot, then someone on twitter put me onto Aystar, and then I got him on the album. I shouted at him via twitter. I try and make everyone eat.
Your debut album –”Walk in da Park”- was eight years ago- what have you learnt since then?
Mainly I learnt that business is business. I treat the music game the same as I treated the drug game years ago. I’m on point now. The music game is 60% easier than the drug game and I’m not ducking the police daily. I used to rise at 7am, bag up, take my son to school, and you’re paranoid the whole time. You find a trap house, bag up, come out, you’ve got all your food on you, and you got to meet people on time without being bait. In this here music game you’re using way less brainpower cos you’re not ducking the police all the time.
Having said that, although I’m a music star now, they still make me feel like a criminal. When I was first on Westwood’s show years ago, I took another young guy with music potential with me and the police ended up kicking off his mums door at home! I made him a part of SN1 to help start his music career. Then the next thing his mum was asking ‘’who’s this Giggs person!?’’ All I’ve done is try and do something positive to try and take him off the streets, but the way it looks is that when he was gang banging his door wasn’t coming off. Now he’s trying to do music his doors off. He then ended up in CAT D prison, he made a song whilst there, so I put him on the new SN1 mix tape. O his day visits outside prison he didn’t even come out and see family cos he was so dedicated to making his music tracks as it’s a new, different lifeline for him. But as he ‘’associated’’ with us, on his return they sent him back to a CAT C prison! They accused him of still being ‘gang affiliated’. They kicked him out of a CAT D into CAT C prison for associated with a music company?
It’s a struggle, so much misconception surrounds rap music. Your music has always portrayed the pain and grind stories of working class inner city youth, but now you’ve moved to the suburbs what’s inspiring your music?
The first song on the album with Stormzy (The Blow Back), the beat is as greasy as ever, but its not that dark n grimy, but I guess the delivery makes it sounds sinister…(recites and raps the track)…- I’m talking about what’s happening now…with my new life, my gardener…yes! I really have a gardener now! I couldn’t go to the shops in PJ’s before, in Peckham I had to be ready for war at all times. Now I’m peaceful. I’m happy to roll to my local shops in pj’s. I happy to rap about the good life and the struggle.
Do you tend to work with the same producers and mixers that you started out with…who’s Giggs dream studio team?
Dirty Saj, Dennis the engineer, Dukus the mixer, I’ve had the same team from early days, my Unit 10 man dem.
Speaking of your team, your manager Buck gets lots of name checks on the album and has been riding with you from day one. What do you think he saw in you that was a sure fire winner? And what’s the one moment that stands out for you working alongside each other?
With Buck its always a moment. The way he handles shit is great. I wonder if he’s done this in another life, cos he doesn’t just randomly jump at stuff. He’s careful and not driven just by money. When we had a PR he would say ‘I don’t want Giggs in the paper for no reason’. I know that he gets lot of his knowledge from Jay-Z albums. Back in the days when it was D Block VS Rocafella , Buck used to be Rocafella and I used to be D Block. Buck would say to me ‘you gotta listen to Jay-Z more cos you two are THE SAME minded!’.
How much input do you have with your videos? Do you insist on a dark, grimy vibe?
When I make a song, I see the video in your head before the video treatments even come in.
I direct the whole thing. When I was at XL (record label), I would clash with them cos I would want one thing, they would want another. My peeps would approach me and say ‘your videos are shit man’. Take ‘’Look what the cat dragged in’’….it was a straight forward video. It’s meant to be funny. XL were saying it can’t be funny…you’re meant to be gangsta. So it came out shit. It was crap.
Wow, stereotypes that the rest of the world wants stars to live up to are ridiculous. Shortly after “The Landlord” was released you tweeted that you cant sleep cos you need to put on a London show and celebrate with your fans and you can’t – explain?
It’s the usual live shows problem for me in London. The police. What they think I’m about…nothing’s changed there really.
“The Landlord” also includes stories about navigating the music industry. You have lived life as a music star both with and without a label. How much pressure is it being on a label and is it harder actually getting things done? Does your music then end up taking second place?
Yes, being at a label was pressure, as in; I didn’t wanna let people down and flop. It didn’t affect the music as such, but it affected the energy and energy is important. You need positive energy around you to make music. I mean, I brought a house from that deal so I was positive but stressed too. I’m a leader. I like things done the way I like it, so I realised that I cant be with a label. No disrespect to XL, I love them like family, but I learnt that you can’t mix business with pleasure. Since I’ve been doing my own thing I’ve been moving mad. The whole campaign around this album is just me, Buck, Trent and Raye. ….(Trenton and Raye between them have looked after a multitude of music legends from Goldie to Amy Winehouse)
What is it about your musical generation that has made things happen without record labels and big budgets?
We’ve been building the foundation for years. We built the house, we learnt, grew and watched and now its time to take it and live in it. A lot of man sold out, lets be honest (LAUGHS), but it helped the rest of us.
Some of your tracks have a slight west coast sound …how much do American sounds influence your music?
American sounds influence me but only in a sense that them man are going hard! Which means I gotta go hard. I think I’m the hardest! When I go in and hear American rap, I say Drake made a hard album so I gotta make a harder one. I always inspired by great music. In fact, I wish Skeptas “It Ain’t Safe’’ track was mine! Skepta had three bangers all at the same time and I told him I’m coming!
Your songs use a lot of very UK Street slanguage. Should we have a Giggs Urban Dictionary so that international fans can understand everything you say?
The beauty of it is some of it is that you’re not meant to understand it all. It’s called a code for a reason; it’s your job as a listener or fan to decode it. That’s the fun part of it.
You’re known by all the other UK hip-hop and grime acts as the one that brings them together for socials. Have u always been the social organiser and party planner?
I’ve always been like that. We get the whole hood together and have BBQ’s etc. I like to say ‘lets all be one & celebrate life!’ Also I know a lot of men are going through what I’m going through, so it’s like a boys / mans club for the artists. Everyone has a big house but no-ones coming round. I’ll go to (Tinchy) Stryders house or Chips house. It’s fun.
Kano revealed that you all teased him about his Radio 1 Fire in the Booth (Charlie Sloth) so much that you all strong armed him into doing one?
LOLOL. It was my dinner, he thought I set him up, but its all jokes…. But when he did it, its f***ing nine minutes long!…LOL us lot are always beefing….see Wretch, Kane, Ghetts, Skepta, they all think they’re the hardest, so its always jokes with us all throwing digs at each other. I was wearing a Christmas jumper for our get together last year!
You love to mingle, hang out, debate and are clearly very sociable, so then why is it, that you say that you are so miserable, and why do you like being known as the miserable one?
I’m always moaning. People say that about me, that’s why Kano and me get on so well, he’s a moany brother too!
As well as your other musical peers, DJ’s are the ones that are often the cornerstone of musical hip hop culture. Who are the DJ’s that you love and have championed you most? Do you have a favourite?
It’s not really a competition, Westwood has done what he’s done and Charlie and Semtex continue to do stuff. I was grateful when I was banned from the radio and Westwood did Cribs Sessions to accommodate me but Charlie’s Fire in the Booth is huge too….
Your musical career has now seen you fly around the globe to perform live, what’s been your best, most breath-taking memory?
There are so many different memories from all over the world. I loved Nigeria, it wasn’t a show, it was a mansion party-like an old skool house party, runnin riddems, smoking, drinking, it was sick.