Exclusive Interview: Chiedu Oraka and Deezkid are hoping to be the gateway to Hull’s rap scene for the rest of the world
Chiedu Oraka and Deezkid talk about coming up in Hull, their breakthrough moment and aiming to make an impact around the UK
Having recently released ‘Men Behaving Badly’, Hull duo Chiedu Oraka and Deezkid are ready to bridge the gap between the Hull rap scene and the rest of the world.
First breaking through with the grime bubbler ‘Flex’, the Lockdown crew members haven’t looked back since and even with Hull being a band centric city, the vibes of ‘Flex’ were so irresistible that the city started to clock on.
Next came the funky house infused ‘Darcy’, which took the Hull mandem to the next level, helping them to get their current situation with eOne Music UK and ‘Men Behaving Badly’, which is currently in serious rotation and with the north/south divide in the UK rap scene rapidly getting smaller, it looks like Chiedu Oraka and Deezkid could be the one’s to open up the gateway for the bubbling scene in East Yorkshire.
So with the momentum the two are currently gaining, RWD caught up with the duo to find out where they’re looking to take things next.
How did ‘Men Behaving Badly’ come together and what is the concept behind it?
Chiedu: We’re influenced by so many different sounds. We definitely grew up on rap music, but then we’ve also ventured into various genres, like funky house, grime, garage and before this tune, our previous track was ‘Darcy’; so we were trying to do something with a similar vibe, but obviously try and up the levels. Deezkid made the instrumental for this one and we got the hook from a guy called Jacob Aaron who we did a gig with about two years ago in Clapham. With Jacob, he’s more got that Usher R&B kind of vibe, so I wanted to take him out of his comfort zone with this song. When he initially recorded the vocals, we were rolling around with it for ages. I was kinda shook to even touch it, because he had done such a good job. The verses that are actually on ‘Men Behaving Badly’ from me are the third version I wrote for it, because I just didn’t want to spoil it.
In terms of the lyrics, we wanted to try and incorporate northern culture into a sound like that – something that know one would expect – when that song comes on I know people would never expect us to start rapping and talk about the things we speak on during the track. So we just wanted to do something that is totally different, but to a sound that is familiar.
Where do you guys get your inspiration from?
Deezkid: We get our inspiration from everywhere. I listen to a huge range of music, so like Chiedu said we started with rap – I’d say we were both proper hip-hop heads – we then ventured into grime and UK garage, and then when I first started going out at age 17 UK funky was massive, so with ‘Darcy’ and ‘Men Behaving Badly’, I was listening to a load of of funky house at the time, that’s where the inspiration for the groovy tambourines and the drum loops with the snares came from.
What was it like coming up in Hull?
Chiedu: it’s definitely a guitar centric city, which made it tough for us rappers. A lot of shows I did coming up, it was me sandwiched in-between an Ed Sheeran wanna-be or a four piece band who thought they were Oasis. It was very much that all through my come up. I’m not saying that there weren’t other MCs coming up around us, but there was no one else really rapping and talking about how we live in Hull. I feel like there was a lot of artists rapping about things they would never do, rapping in a southern accent – I mean you’d think they were from the streets of Peckham. I feel like we brought that realism to the Hull rap scene and people bought into it. At first it was tough, but then eventually they got used to hearing a Yorkshire kid rapping.
I know Humber Street Sesh is a big festival up in Hull – what is the best memory you have of it?
Chiedu: I’d say Humber Street Sesh 2017, it was mad!
Deezkid: I’d agree with him.
Chiedu: 2017 was a mad year for us; Hull had won the city of culture and in that year, I released a track called ‘Flex’ which got on the Spotify Grime Shutdown playlist. In that year, I also dropped a song called ‘North Hull Estate’, which is about the area I grew up in and that was BBC Introducing track of the week on 1Xtra and then we played the BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend which came to Hull that year as well. From there, things just went from strength to strength and the Humber Street Sesh came up, which was just another way of topping it off. It was crazy.
Deezkid: The crowd was huge, it went all the way down the road and you had people moshing like crazy. My mum and the dog almost got crushed as they were right in the middle of the audience (says laughing).
Chiedu: Yeah my mum was in the crowd as well, so that was definitely the best one yet.
Two years ago Hull was the UK’s city of culture, what was it like being part of the opening ceremony Chiedu?
Chiedu: I’m going to be brutally honest about it. That’s what interviews are for right.
As I said before 2017 was a great year for us. A lot of press came to Hull and off the back of this a lot of good opportunities came to the city. But after that there was nothing. I think there’s been beef with the powers that be in terms of creating a legacy and about where the money has been going. The first year was fantastic, but if you came to Hull now, you would never know that we were the city of culture two years ago. There’s a couple of pretty pavements in the town centre, but that’s it.
Do you think it had any real effect on the city?
Chiedu: Nah man, for the year we had it things were brilliant. But the legacy – rubbish.
How is rap and grime music generally received in Hull? as it’s quite a band centric city.
Chiedu: The young kids seem to love it. They’re into their grime; they’re into their drill and they’re into their hip-hop. I’d say all the youngers from 11 up to like 18, they love it to be fair. It does alright. But the club scene in Hull is trash. It’s rubbish. The DJs and their choice of music, is not a true reflection of what’s going on in the city. There are a lot of older DJs, like guys in their 40s and 50s still playing all the local clubs in Hull. Still playing songs like Fat Joe ‘Lean Back’. They’ve actually got Fat Man Scoop coming to Hull soon, it’s like there is a disconnect. Maybe we have to wait for these young kids to start going out more.
Deezkid: Thats why we’ve nurtured the DJs that have come around us, so we can start doing our own nights.
Chiedu: We’ve got a club night called Audacity and we started that because we were sick and tired of going out and hearing songs like 112 ‘Peaches and Cream’.
Deezkid: You know these tunes, they should be throwbacks like when you hear them you should be like ‘oh this sick’. But now when me and him hear them, were like ‘ oh for f**k sake’ because we hear it week in week out (says laughing).
Chiedu: We just thought, you know what we are sick to death of this, so we’re gonna do our own nights where the DJs are playing current music and get no backlash from the club owner and thankfully they’ve been a success.
What do you guys think of the north/south divide in the UK rap scene?
Chiedu: I think its getting better. A couple of years ago you would hear of no one. But now you’ve got Jaykae (from Birmingham); you’ve got Bugzy Malone (from Manchester); you’ve got Aitch (from Manchester); you’ve got Mist (from Birmingham); you’ve got Young T and Bugsey (from Nottingham); Coco from Sheffield and there’s even more. I feel like the divide is definitely getting smaller, Jaykae even announced earlier that he recently had his third song on the BBC Radio 1 playlist, so things are moving in the right direction. Aitch is smashing it as well with his song ‘Taste’, which just got to number four in the charts.
So I do think its getting better for the bigger cities like Manchester and Birmingham, But in terms of Yorkshire, hopefully me and Deezkid can be the gateway.
Does your music get positive reception outside of Hull?
Chiedu: Yeah, for the most part it’s good. But there are a set of people who take the mick, calling us chavs and all that, but we love it. We love the negative comments as much as the positive ones. Luckily we get miles more positive, like we’ve had people emailing and messaging me from out of the country, as well those from outside of Hull in the UK and it’s all sick. The vibes have always been great man, we just want to continue that and gain more support.
When would you say was the breakthrough moment in music for you guys?
Deezkid: I’d say ‘Flex’.
Chiedu: Yeah I think ‘Flex’ changed the…I’m going to say weather. I feel like we were just be very experimental when we made that one. That tune was the first time we went away from what we were doing before, which was mostly grime & rap and people just seemed to love it. I don’t think we’ve looked back since.
Deezkid: With that tune, we also put on a ‘Flex’ party in Hull and everybody was just vibing to it, singing the song word for word, which was big for us.
Chiedu: That’s when the Hull people realised and went you know what ‘these guys are actually doing something’ and from there we just went from strength to strength. Obviously we are no where near where we want to be, but that’s when things really started to pick up for us.
Deezkid: We’ve had other notable moments earlier as well, like supporting Stormzy at the Attic night club in 2015, that also helped us get a solid foundation to build from.
Was your song ‘Darcy’ the big one?
Deezkid: ‘Darcy’ was like the next level up for us.
Chiedu: ‘Darcy’ was the tune where people from outside of Hull really started to check for us. As I said before ‘Flex’ was the one that initially changed the weather, but ‘Darcy’ made the world spin for us (says laughing). ‘Darcy’ gave us a lot of big looks, even the eONE Music UK situation for the song ‘Men Behaving Badly’ came off the back of that. We owe a lot to that track.
Wicked, so how did you two initially link up?
Chiedu: I released a mixtape in 2011 that did quite well in the city and I used to go to events around Hull, with a back-pack full of these CDs and sell them for £3. It was at one of these events that I met Deez initially. Shortly after then he started working at a youth club called The Warren in the town centre, where he would record artists at the studio and I was going there as well, as you could use the studio free of charge. I was doing music with a guy called Stewart Baxter, but after some time he said ‘I can’t take you any further now, so work with Deez’, so from there me and Deezkid started doing music and the rest is history.
Deezkid: Ever since then I’ve been his in-house producer.
Chiedu: He’s been there with me every step of this journey, from being my hype-man on stage, to being my business partner with Lockdown.
I know you’ve got the group Lockdown, what’s the current status of that?
Chiedu: That started when I first began to rap. I used to rap with a kid called Crafty and then we had a producer called Rory as well. Rory fell out of love with music and Crafty ended up moving to Australia, so I was flying the Lockdown flag on my own. Then I met Deez at Warren studio, and said come along, let’s do this Lockdown thing. At that Stormzy gig, we met a kid called Joe, whose our DJ now – we basically forced him to be our DJ (says laughing).
Deezkid: We bought him these real shabby decks and from there we became a group.
Chiedu: After we gelled musically, we started with the merch and the brand has just caught on so much in Hull, like you see people of all ages wearing the merchandise. But yeah Lockdown is a movement, its a family. I’m like the big brother and we’re all different characters that bring a myriad of skills to the table. So we do the music, merch and put on our nights. The club events have had some good artists on the line up as well, we’ve had: Manga, Devilman, and we’re currently trying to get some big names for our next show in November.
In terms of future plans, what have you guys got coming up?
Chiedu: We’ve got another single coming after ‘Men Behaving Badly’, which will be out before the year ends and then hopefully we’ll have an EP out next year. But really what’s most important to us at the moment is our artist development. We are not young anymore, so we feel like we’re at a stage where we need to start making an impact around the UK. We’re ready for that journey now, whereas before we weren’t quite ready for it.
Interview by Denzil Bell
Photos by Stewart Baxter