As a legendary figure within the UK hip-hop scene, Rodney P has helped to lay the foundations of urban music in this country, paving the way for some of the current crop of stars we see in the charts today. The ex-London Posse member also played a big part in bringing N.W.A to these shores to perform in the early 90s, something which he still gets praised for today...
Demand is high for a man who has collaborated with everyone from Skinnyman and Roots Manuva to Omar and Common, but The Wrap Up's James Walsh was granted time to speak with the lyricist to get his take on the state of hip-hop in 2012, as well as some exciting news regarding his upcoming projects!
The Wrap Up: Rodney, thanks for taking time out to chat with us today. First off all, tell us what your thoughts are on the current state of music in 2012?
Rodney P: If we're talking about hip-hop, yeah, it's good and healthy. The sound has changed and society has changed, it's more materialistic. In terms of business, there are young people making power moves, which can only be a good thing.
TWU: So, who are you rating in the scene at the minute?
Rodney P: On a commercial level, Wretch 32 is killing it! Labrinth is making some incredible music, too. Further underground, there's Malik MD7 – among others. There's a lot of talent right now, too many to name everyone.
TWU: Why do you think the urban music scene is in such a healthy state right now?
Rodney P: The turnaround's been due to money. The scene is generating money and labels don't give a f**k what they're selling, just as long as it's making money. More and more urban artists are coming through now, which isn’t a bad thing.
TWU: Would you say it was harder coming through and trying to forge a career in the 80s?
Rodney P: Way harder! Everyone's an artist now, everyone has garage band, but you had to really want to do it back then – it wasn’t cheap, it was time consuming and there were minimal opportunities. I was signed to Island in 1990, making a living and had been round the world by the time I was 21, but the industry in England wasn't geared to sell black music in any way whatsoever. Being a famous musician seems like a great job to young people, but so much goes into it. For me, it's like therapy. We were making up the rule book and new artists today owe a lot to the So Solid influx and how the industry has developed off the back of that.
TWU: What's been the secret to your longevity?
Rodney P: I may be a hip-hop kid, but I'm also a fan of all types of music. I've always been interested in doing other s**t, and that's how I've maintained my career. I've never ever chased the charts and because of that, I can do what I like and stay true to what I want to do.
TWU: You're working on a lot of things at the moment. Can you tell us about the various projects?
Rodney P: I'm popular as a live act and I’m constantly performing with DJ Skitz. I've been on the road the last ten years, which means it's been a while since my last album. However, I've got a lot of new music coming out now. I've got an album coming with the Dub Pistols, which has been handed in, and myself, Zed Bias and Fallacy have joined together to form Sleepin' Giantz. We've got a self-titled album coming out on the Tru Thought's label. The first track from that will be 'Badungdeng', which is out on May 28. It's had a lot of spins on BBC Radio 1 from the likes of MistaJam, Benji B and Giles Peterson and the feedback from everyone has been really positive.
TWU: That sounds really interesting. How did the Sleepin' Giantz group come about?
Rodney P: I've known Fallacy for around fifteen years, he's had some big albums on Virgin and he has a very pioneering sound. I did a tune for one of his albums, but I've known him since he was a young guy. I met Zed three or four years ago at a video shoot, Fallacy then came along to chill when I went up to see Zed and the next thing we had done five tunes together! It’s just carried on from there.
TWU: Great stuff! What else can you tell us about the Sleepin' Giantz album? Like, what kind of sound will you guys be coming up with?
Rodney P: Well, it's out on July 2. Sound-wise, it's dubstep, D&B and house. There'll be different vibes on there, but it's all our sensibilities and more current. It's f*****g incredible and we've blown it out the park! I'm just really excited for the people to hear it. There are usually reggae elements in my music, but Sleepin' Giantz is more collaborative. 'The Ting Went' is a really interesting track on there, it contains four verses that take place in the same time space from four different people's perspectives. The track revolves around a party where there's a guy with a gun, kinda like a hip-hop 'Whodunnit?', and it has been getting a lot of airplay on BBC Radio 1.
TWU: You've also been running a remix competition for your work with the London Posse too, right?
Rodney P: Yeah, that's also through Tru Thoughts. We're gonna be re-releasing a London Posse album and have been running a remix competition with SoundCloud. The re-release is going to have a remix package, which will include tracks from the competition winners. It's closed now, so we'll be picking those very soon!
TWU: And lastly, where can people see you performing live soon?
Rodney P: I'm going to be everywhere! I'm a festival season kind of guy, and I exist in a lot of different forms. Sleepin' Giantz will be big and we're all getting booked individually and together. I'll be out playing the new Dub Pistols album, too. I'll be at the Boom Festival, Reggae Fest and the Outlook Festival Boat Party, to name just a few.
Stay up to date with Rodney P on Twitter - www.twitter.com/Rodney_P
Words: James Walsh (@JW_DittoMusic)
Online editing: Joseph 'JP' Patterson (@Jpizzledizzle)