Exclusive Interview: Big Narstie – “There isn’t any substitute for morals”

Big Narstie breaks down his history in the scene, speaks on getting his own show and states how he will bring grime back to the top

Denzil Bell

21 days ago

By Denzil Bell

Big Narstie is aiming to keep the grime dojo alive!

He is a strong believer that the scene can make grime a household name once again. The BDL leader is pissed that Afroswing has been able to take over grime music as the youth’s go to sound and why? Because they’s been unified and stuck together.

So ahead of the release of his grime EP, Shirububaku, with producer extraordinaire Dexplicit, Big Narstie sat with RWD to talk about his history in the scene, his new track ‘Pony’ with Spice and his journey to attaining his own show on Channel 4.

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How did you link up with Spice for the track ‘Pony’?

Well you know me I like to do weird tings. So basically I was out in Jamaica filming a documentary of my experience over there and last time I was out there, I got left over there because I was naughty. Going back this time was the first time I was in the country as an adult, to see it with my own eyes, under no restriction. I was all over the place in Jamaica, I even recorded some stuff at Tuff Gong studios and that’s how Spice came to be in my documentary. But how we initially got our connection is a couple of years back I did Red Bull Culture Clash and I was in Mixpack along with Spice. So in Jamaica, we went to the studio, hit a vibe and then as I heard the instrumental I went all stiff and I just went, “PONY, giddy up!” and from there we made the track.

It looked like you had a good time at the video shoot?

Owwwwwwwwwwwwwa, “to write that it’s one o, 54 w’s and one a at the end”.

In terms of big moves, would you say ‘When The Bassline Drops’ was a turning point for you?

100%. That was my first top 10 and that great thing about the track is that I’m not a featured artist on it, it’s actually me and Craig’s song together. So it’s my top 10, as well as his top 10.

Did you ever believe you would be collaborating with the likes of the Spice and Craig David?

Bruv, never. Remember cuz, man was drawing chicks to the park, drinking Watermelon Bacardi Breezer listening to Craig David on my Nokia N-Gage. Then when I first met him, my boy Stanza asked me to come on his Kurupt FM show and he didn’t tell me that Craig David was going to be there. But as soon as I got there and I saw Craig David, I broke down. bruv, when I was grounded yeah, hear what I’m saying – BACK IN TIME (says laughing)! – man was playing Craig David’s music on the tape man. So when I saw him, I just broke down and told him, “I used to move chicks to your music”.

So going back to the start, how did you join N.A.A?

Originally it was N.A.P and that line-up included Suicide, Stamina, Duke and Lady Iceberg; they were on Choice FM with Commander B. At this time, they didn’t want me. I got into music on a mad one. I’m not really a music guy; I was road. I just used to rob guys. All the industry stuff was weird to me. The only people who were cool back then were the DJs. DJs had the chicks; DJs had the jewellery. Whereas MCs drove Metros and Cleos, and wore Argos gold chains – I can’t pawn that. So when I saw Major Ace with the Averix and doing it big, I was like “raaaah, this might actually be possible”. And these times, all the motives were house parties.

How I connected with N.A.A, was that there was some house party in Norwood and at first they didn’t want me there spitting on the mic. But then when I stepped on to the mic and they saw how I had the party, they were like, “nah Narstie is sick!”. But at this time, I’m not really fully musically orientated. Shortly after this, I ended going to my aunty Milly’s and her son was NE, “RIP”, who originated the OGz. I used to go there for my six week holiday, so from being around NE a lot, that’s when I started to take music seriously, because I was around it 24/7. So when I came back to Brixton now, I was more on the music. From there, we get New Age Army (N.A.A). I said if we’re doing this ting, then we’ve got to change the name.

How did you transition from there to Dice Recordings?

Before I got to Dice, I had the biggest under 18’s event in South London; On Top FM was N.A.A’s radio station. We used to do our thing every Saturday from one of the members mum’s house. As things progressed with the crew, I got to a stage where I realised that because some of the guys in N.A.A were from the generation before, their main thing was holding events, but the majority of us didn’t know how to make any songs. I didn’t know anything about song structure, I just used to write two pages of lyrics and just spit. So what happened was, when I first met up with Dice Recordings, I went to a studio session in Kings Cross to do a song with P-Jam, Frisco, Flirta D and Compass, called ‘Compass Riddim’. And I remember I walked into the room and said, “you lot are all sh*t, I’m better than all of you” and the only person who wasn’t having it was Frisco; he said, “no your not, your not better than me”.

From that day, I thought to myself, “if I just stay doing what I’ve got going on in Brixton then I won’t ever become a respected artist”, because no fault of their own, but with the older guys in N.A.A, there skills were in holding events. So because there was so much going on with that side of things, I couldn’t make any songs at the time. But then when I got with Dice Recordings, I was able to make my first tape which was called: ‘I’m Better Than You’. It was during this process that I learnt how to structure songs properly and that’s why I choose to go with Dice, because I wanted to be an actual artist.

‘Spun a Web’ is one of my favourite tracks in general – what did you think when you first heard the beat?

That came from my guy Ledge, who wanted to do a mix of grime & indie, so he sent some stuff over to P-Jam and that song was originally for Shystie, but she didn’t want it. So I was like, “I’ll take it and shell it”.

After years of grind how did it feel to land your own show on channel 4?

It was good still. The greatest thing about the ‘The Big Narstie Show’ is that I co-produce it, so Dice Productions have full creative control over it. Hence why what you see on the show is so free-spirited. Because man made sure that we had control of it. If I didn’t control it, could you imagine the type of funky stuff they would be trying to do to the bruddas. For everyone out there trying to get their thing of the ground, God bless the child that has their own and their isn’t any substitute for morals. It might take you longer to get to the top, but at least you’ll get there in a clean way.

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Quick Fire Five

‘I’m Betta Than U Vol.1’ or ‘BDL Bipolar’?

Wow, that’s way too hard. ‘I’m Betta Than U’ is me at my rawest – I was fresh off the pavement. ‘BDL Bipolar’ is me at the stage of my life where I’ve grown up. For the raw essence ‘I’m Betta Than U’, but for the overall sound, ‘BDL Bipolar’.

Bob Marley or Koffee?

Bob Marley. If you’re listening to Bob Marley then you’re listening to Koffee. He’s the originator.

Uncle Pain or The Big Narstie Show?

The Big Narstie Show, because that show is Uncle Pain. Uncle Pain can’t exist without Big Narstie. I am the product.

Shenseea or Spice?

Spice (starts singing a Spice song with passion).

Pain or Love?

Love is pain. It’s an alfa/omega. You can’t get pain without love. You can’t get love without pain. It feels so wrong but it feels so good. INTERCONNECTED!

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Follow the artist’s journey: Big Narstie

Interview by Denzil Bell