London Hip Hop artist Smiler chats to SB.TV about his new mixtape The Coming, jammin’ with Ed Sheeran and tells us why Liverpool is the place to be…
If you look at the most known UK rappers you find that many are named after bratty childhood nicknames, you’ve got Dizzee Rascal, Tinie Tempah, Wretch 32 – you get the impression that these guys raised hell…but you’re Smiler, so can we assume you were a good boy growing up?
You could say that I guess, regardless of what I was experiencing or going through at a particular moment in time that name stuck with me because I always seemed to be OK. Always seemed to have a smile on my face and things were good.
So no causing trouble?
[Pauses] I was smiling…[laughs]
What do we need to know about the mixtape The Coming – any favourite tracks, personal highlights?
The whole process of making the mixtape was really interesting for me – I enjoyed it. In terms of mixtapes this is one of my favourites so far. I don’t mean to sound cliché but I really did enjoy making the whole tape.
The intro called The Coming is special to me because I felt like I managed to encompass my whole journey in the space of four minutes. Track six called So Good [featuring Yana] is sort of the signature Smiler sound, and I had so much fun making that one because I felt like I was reminding people – this is what I do. Also track number ten called Downtime was a bit of a personal moment, I felt like I was offering myself to the listeners.
Tell us a bit about the track Brand New Style with Ed Sherran?
Brand New Style is that club, festival, Hip Hop, indie, special amazing Hip Hop [laughs] It’s just a really fun record and I enjoyed making it. Ed and I were chilling at his place and playing some music, he played me stuff from his album and I played him some stuff from mine. When he heard Brand New Style he just lost his mind and was like ‘man, that is crazy.’ Obviously Ed is a guitar man as well and the riff just caught him, after a couple of days the song was done.
You just finished performing at the Wireless Festival on SB.TV’s very own stage and you also made and appearance at the British Summer Time Festival – what was that like? I know you have been pretty busy recently…
I was actually touring that week too with an Irish band called The Original Rude Boys. The festivals were crazy last year but I didn’t really get the opportunity to hit the circuit, this year I have been fortunate enough to do Wireless and the British Summer Time Festival – I have few others pending as well.
I opened on the SB.TV stage pretty early on in the festival, so naturally not a lot of people were around, plus Micha B was killing it next door and she had over 200 people in her tent. But the minute our sound went on, the minute I grabbed the mic, and people felt the energy they began to trickle in and by the end of my set there were a couple of hundred people there and so that was a great, great look. That’s always the highlight for me, being able to turn something around, creating, bringing people in…achieving. It was a similar situation at the BST festival too, minimal people and by the end of it, it was packed. Hands in the air, people going mad, sweating, raving – it was sick.
Did you catch any other performances?
At the BST festival I literally just managed to hear – not even see – J.Lo’s performance because I was getting ready to go onstage and we got to the site in thin time. At Wireless I got to see A$AP Rocky, a bit of Nas too and my bredrin ran over and said ‘Yo, Giggs is killin’ his set’ but I didn’t get a chance to see it.
Not bad, I know you’ve been touring hardcore – are there any places that you hear you’re going to play that make you think ‘YES!’ because you know you’re gonna go and have a good time?
100%. I love going to Liverpool.
They are going to love that…
[Laughs] I love going to Liverpool. I love Cardiff too, Scotland…and Manchester. I would say that they are my four favourite spots. Liverpool, Manchester, Cardiff and Scotland.
Any on-tour horror stories? Not like broken mic’s – any proper disasters?
[Pauses] No we’ve pretty much had a smooth run on tour – touch wood [Touches wood] we’re working with real professional people and everyone is good at what they do…we have been lucky.
I saw many UK rappers react to a story in a top shelf UK music magazine that seemed to suggest that The Streets’ Mike Skinner was the only decent MC to emerge out of this country – ever – what did you think about the piece?
Yeah I heard about that the other day. Well I think how ignorant can you be? Who influenced Mike Skinner? [Laughs] I think by making a statement of that nature you’re clearly trying to achieve something. I don’t really feel like they thought the only good Hip Hop artist was Mike Skinner, I feel that there were others that they didn’t necessarily want to shed any limelight on. But everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, they may have listened to the four front runner MC’s in this country, such as the Dizzee’s, the Tinie’s, the Wretch’s and the Professor Green’s and thought ‘I don’t necessarily like what they are doing’ – but I am from here and I know talent. The writer of the article is probably not on the creative side of things…I dunno I just feel it’s a really primitive thing to say. There are a lot of good artists in this country really doing their thing…
Kanye West opened up a discussion on Twitter by saying that second verse on his track New Slaves is the best rap verse ever recorded. What are some of your own personal favourite verses?
Wow…we’ll be here all day. First of all Eminem’s verse on Renegade, Nas on Everybody’s Crazy, Nas on Take It In Blood [thinks] AZ on Life’s A B, AZ killed that verse. Big Pun on Twinz [begins to do the rap] he is just crazy and that’s what I was raised on. Big L with the freestyle with Jigga. I consume Hip Hop. I love it. There are so many we would literally be here all day…also I can’t forget2Pac’s verse on I Got My Mind Made Up.
Your hometown of Woolwich has been in the papers for some very unpleasant reasons recently, what would you want people who are not from Woolwich to know about Woolwich?
That Arsenal started there as a football club. It is a home for the troops of this country, and there are some really nice houses down there.
It is pretty much the end of south-east London before we get into the countryside. We are as an area pretty much deprived of some of the privileges that inner London towns may have. If you haven’t judged Woolwich up until this incident with Drummer Lee Rigby – don’t start now because the history of the town doesn’t start and end with what happened. There is a lot that happened prior, there is a lot of good that happens in the town, there a bit of bad but there is bad everywhere. So I’d say before making statements about a place just do your homework.
What advice would you give yourself this time last year? If any?
That’s actually a really good question. If I could give advice to myself this time last year [thinks] it would be…to make sure I decipher who wishes well for me and who’s got ulterior motives around me, also to continue to do what I do to the best of my ability and never to doubt myself. To work harder than ever because luck only presents itself to people that work hard…that’s what I would have said to myself.