Wrap Up And Watch Out: Smartz
Smartz, formerly known as Smart Kid, has gone from strength to strength over the last couple of years. His 1Xtra 'Fire In The Booth' and 'Warm Up Session' for SB.TV have helped him showcase his talent to a wider audience, and now his fanbase continues to grow. The Wrap Up’s James Walsh caught up with Smartz to talk working with Gappy Ranks, the lack of Asian artists in the mainstream and more...
The Wrap Up: First off, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today, Smartz. For those people who don't know, could you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
Smartz: I'm Smartz, formally Smart Kid. I've been underground for a while and I was doing grime originally. Over the last year and a half I've been motivated to make other music, mainly hip-hop. The stage that I'm at now, and the music I've made in the last year, I think I've proven that I can just make good music.
TWU: Who were your earliest musical influences and when did you realise that you wanted to pursue music as a career?
Smartz: I'd listen to everyone and everything, but namely Bob Marley and 2Pac. Biggie was also a huge motivation, as well as Big L and Big Pun. I've always loved music and was always rapping in the school playground, but it was around 2005/06 when my passion really grew and I began to take music seriously.
TWU: Your latest single, 'Whole World', features Gappy Ranks. How did the collaboration come about and how has the release been received?
Smartz: I've actually known Gappy for a number of years. We both live in north-west London and I know his producer well, too – it was actually him who then went and hooked it up. Gappy came down to the studio and we had it done in an hour. Charlie Sloth showed support for it on 1Xtra, then I went and did my ‘Fire In The Booth’, Charlie was also the first to play 'Legend', which featured K Koke, but it has only really had love from Limelight and Candyman on BBC Asian Network.
TWU: As an artist of Asian origin, have you found that people tend to pigeonhole your music and you as an artist? Have there been barriers that you've had to overcome?
Smartz: Definitely! At first, it was always comments like, 'Yeah, you're alright for an Asian' but as things have progressed, especially in the last year, people have been embracing it more as good music, first and foremost, regardless of origin. People are now tending to focus less on colour and more on the music that I'm making.
TWU: There's a distinct lack of Asian artists in the mainstream. What are your thoughts on why that is?
Smartz: The problem I see is that a lot of platforms support the same artists, especially on the Asian side, they support the same few and there's not really a movement there like you have with the UK grime scene at the minute. There's definitely something wrong if people are pushing music by Asian artists and I'm not involved. Platforms like SB.TV are great at giving artists exposure to lots of new people to hear them, but there's not really the same avenues to that extent in the Asian scene. At the same time, my ‘Warm Up Session’ on SB.TV has over 20,000 views – while that's great, you can't just rely on that. Everything is a piece of the puzzle and you have to keep putting in more work all the time.
TWU: Tell us a bit more about your setup, 1nelimited...
Smartz: 1nelimited is the company set up for me, ManiBgz and Ren. Mani's my blood cousin and we set it up in about 2006. We've done a lot for an independent company in a short space of time, it's not a crew, it’s just a company set up to utilise the contacts that we've made to push ourselves forward as much as we can – get our music out there, get it heard, increase exposure any way possible and continue to build and grow. Crystal Visuals handles all our videos and the rewards of our labour are soon to come.
TWU: And finally, what's the highlight of your career so far and what's next for Smartz?
Smartz: Highlight would have to be having my song, 'Doing My Thing', in the ‘Adulthood’ film and others would be working with Gappy Ranks and K Koke. Next up, there's a pre-album coming at the end of the month – it’s called 'Interrelations' and there'll be videos for every track on there. It's the first thing that I'm really giving to the Asian scene, and I'm currently working on material for the album. It will definitely be a classic.
Smartz Feat. Gappy Ranks: 'Whole World' – is out now.
Stay up to date with Smartz on Twitter – www.twitter.com/SmartzOnline
Words: James Walsh (@JW_DittoMusic)
Online editing: Joseph 'JP' Patterson (@Jpizzledizzle)