2015 has been a great year for East London Hip-Hop artist Rageouz. In January, he had everyone talking when he dropped the visual for his track ‘Eastside [Sup Preme]’ and shortly afterwards, he was selected as one of GRM Daily’s favourite emerging independent artists. I caught up with the 21-year-old for a chat about growing as an artist, his involvement with creative collective one50, originality in the UK music scene and his upcoming EP.
Rageouz’s route into music stemmed from growing up in a family full of music lovers. “My mum made garage music in the late nineties. When I was younger I just grew up watching everybody so interested in music around me. My uncle made music, my aunty used to make music. My mum would bring songs home from the studio and play them. I feel like I got a great understanding of it from young,” he says. Like so many other UK artists and MCs, he fondly recalls the days where he would spit 8 and 16 bars in the playground with his friends at secondary school, during the Golden Age of Grime.
”Even though I started in Year 7, I only really thought I started properly last year… As someone who enjoyed the hobby before, I feel like I’m a musician now. Before it was like, I was just another rapper but now I feel like an artist.”
Would he say he’s finding his place in music? “Yeah, definitely. I had to take a lot of time out to figure out what I really needed to do because I think a lot of people feel that music is just music, like you write some lyrics then put it on a track, or you talk about something and put it on a track. But to be an original artist, you have to know yourself. I am me in my music now. Before I felt like I was a lot more entertaining as a person than as a musician, so it was like, how do I put the entertainment in the music?”
Last Spring, Rageouz and fellow artist Ayar released their collaborative project ‘Authentape’, which received rave reviews. The project was hailed most of all for its quality, something that is often considered to be lacking in UK Hip-Hop.
The two are part of a creative collective called one50, which also includes artist Preacher Soul and director Manny Grey. The team has been friends since school, with the exception of Preacher Soul, who Rageouz met at university.
‘Authentape’ was born after Ayar and Rageouz decided that working together on a mixtape was the best way to back out there, as they didn’t get to release much material previously. “We’ve kind of gone through these music stages together”, he explains. “We’d come to a new understanding musically, together, but we done it on different paths.”
This new understanding clearly translates on ‘Authentape’. The musical chemistry between the two very different artists is one of the things that makes it so enjoyable to listen to, something that has been echoed by many fans. “Ayar is deeper lyrically whereas I’m a bit more bouncy, aggressive. I feel I’m a bit easier to understand on first listen. Ayar is a bit more poetic.” Both were determined not to conform to each other’s styles and wanted the tape to be as consistent as possible. Rageouz admits to feeling confused about why this isn’t happening more often [UK artists being distinctly themselves].
“I personally feel that a lot of people in the UK conform to each others styles…I think people are too similar, you know what I mean? And that’s only now. Maybe it wasn’t like that 5 or 6 years ago.”
Around the same time Ayar and Rageouz began working on ‘Authentape’ (around December 2014), Rageouz started producing, making a beat every day for a couple of months. At the moment he’s doing sound engineering, so he’s able to engineer for himself. Producing is something he wants to do more of one day so he’s making it a task to improve his knowledge in this area.
Rageouz’s musical influences span widely. It started with Dizzee, Kano and Wiley in his early teenage years. He also cites Skepta, JME (and the rest of the Boy Better Know group), Giggs, P Money, Griminal, Lethal Bizzle, Chipmunk in his early days and Ghetts as influences. The list is long and he takes his time, not wanting to miss out any names, eventually saying, ”All the best UK artists have influenced me at some point.” They tend to be on the grime side, as he admits he doesn’t listen to much UK rap. He also name drops Loyle Carner, Coops, Novelist and Stormzy as current inspirations in the UK scene. The last three are artists he would like to collaborate with in future. “I think me and Novelist would go well together on a track,” he muses.
Before we move onto his US influences, Rageouz tells me that when he was 16 or 17, he stopped listening to UK music as he found it too generic and opted for American music instead. I understand why because I did the same thing a few years ago for the exact same reason. At the moment, he’s particularly rating J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Vic Mensa, Mick Jenkins and Chance the Rapper. “I think there’s a lot to be influenced by now,” he says. “I try and listen to as much good music as I can, as I feel it helps me make my best music. But at times, it can be hard to remain yourself after listening to something so inspirational, so even though I listen to all these artists I don’t let it sway me.”
He expands on this point by using Drake as an example. “I know a lot of people who listen to, specifically I think, Drake. They listen to a lot of Drake and they make a lot of Drake music,” he laughs. “If you’re not conscious of it, it can be hard. I don’t think a lot of people are ‘cause they’re making Drake music and they don’t even know.”
One year on from ‘Authentape’, the release of his forthcoming EP is around the corner. It’s a project that, he says, will help people understand him. “I don’t think they had a lot of me to understand in the first place, other than the mixtape I put out with Ayar and the [Eastside] video. This will let people know where I’m at now, definitely.” It will consist of six to ten songs and won’t have many features, as it’s his first serious project. He also plans to release a second EP before the end of the year and reveals that there could possibly be an ‘Authentape’ part two in the pipeline with Ayar. I really want that to happen, and I know I’m not the only one. He makes it clear that Ayar definitely shouldn’t be slept on, and that we’ll be seeing more of him in due course too. “I think he knows what he’s doing, basically, as much as myself. He should be looked out for as much as I should.”
Rageouz isn’t too interested in categories or labels, saying, “I don’t want to limit myself, as in, the best hood rapper, or in terms of videos, say, I make the best hood videos. When we make our stuff, we try and make the best, that’s it.”
Rageouz is an artist with a lot to offer. His realness and self-assurance are unquestionable and inspiring, no doubt. There are many promising up-and-coming artists in the UK right now and we need to celebrate those who are being their authentic selves. Rageouz is someone who is taking his time with it all and it’s working. Everything he has done up to this point has spoken for itself. “I’m going to have a lot more to say,” he says with a smile. And when that time comes, we will have to sit up and take note.
Download ‘Authentape’ here