Exclusive Interview: DJ Target sheds some light on The Rap Game UK show hosted along with Krept and Konan
Ahead of The Rap Game UK's premiere tomorrow, we caught up with DJ Target to find out about his experience hosting the show
This Friday (tomorrow!!!) episode one of The Rap Game UK airs on BBC iPlayer from 10am and it will also be on BBC1 on Saturday straight after Match of the Day.
The show will be hosted by DJ Target, along with Krept & Konan, who will be putting the seven artists through various challenges, as well as mentoring them throughout the series. This will culminate in an epic finale, where the winner will receive a contract with Krept & Konan’s label, Play Dirty Records. Guests on the programme include: AJ Tracey, Steff London, NSG, Mist and Ghetts.
So ahead of the programme’s premiere tomorrow, I caught up with the renowned DJ Target, who is also the head of music at BBC Radio 1Xtra, a founding member of the legendary grime collective Roll Deep and author of the book Grime Kids, making him more than qualified to be a judge on this show!
What was it that initially drew you to getting involved in a show like this?
Originally it was BBC Three who had plans to produce the show, and they wanted to partner up with BBC 1Xtra, so I met with them at first from just a BBC 1Xtra angle, just to give them advice and help to guide the programme. There were a few things that needed tweaking and as the relationship grew over time, they were like actually ‘what do you think about being one of the hosts with Krept and Konan’, so I was like ‘let’s do it’. From there it developed to me being more involved, as I was only going to play a background role initially, but they were like ‘nah, we want you to present it also’.
How has your come up in the scene helped prepare you to be a judge on a UK rap talent search show?
It’s mad, because before this I was never really interested in doing TV, my main focus was the music with me doing my radio show and running my record label. But then when this came along, I realised that everything that I’ve done up until this point has made me qualified to be a judge on this show; because I’ve seen the progression of the whole scene, from pirate radio all the way to Stormzy headlining Glastonbury; I’ve seen what it takes to become a big artist, I’ve done it with Roll Deep; I’ve been a DJ on radio and supported new artists for years – so with all of this experience under my belt, I felt very much like I was qualified to host this show along with Krept & Konan.
It’s important that people who are really from the culture, are involved in steering these shows, as in the past other individuals who are not from our scene have tried to do shows like this and it hasn’t ended up working out. So our main thing with this, is that it had to be loved by people from our culture and fans of UK rap and I feel like me, along with Krept & Konan have definitely brought that real authenticity to the table.
In the same breath, what is it about Krept & Konan’s résumé that made them ideal to be critiques on the programme as well?
They’ve come up from the very ground up; they’ve had battles to overcome; they’ve not had it the easy way; they’ve literally got it from the mud: from doing the freestyles, to putting out the certified hood videos, to where they are at now, about to drop their second studio album. With all of their achievements, they know what it takes to be a successful rapper in 2019. They know the different skills you need to have to come through and make it. Plus the winner is going to be signed to their label Play Dirty, so it’s a great opportunity for the contestants as well.
Why do you think now is the right time for a series like this?
We’ve never seen the UK rap scene flourish to this level before. Obviously the Stormzy moment was huge, but there’s artists across the board who have been killing it: we’re having artists in the top 10 every week, number 1 albums, sold out tours, people are making movies, people are writing books. The whole world is looking at the UK and even U.S. artists are looking to us for inspiration now. We’ve never been in this position where we’re top of our game and I think in the past it may have been too early to have a show like this, but now the time is right and I think as long it was done correctly, which feel it has been, the people are going to really enjoy this.
Were you involved in picking the artists for the show? And if so what was the criteria for selecting the contestants?
Because there were so many applicants – I reckon a few thousand – they had a whole team dedicated to going through the applicants and picking them. The whole process was very thorough; we didn’t want anyone that was too big, we had to make sure we had female inclusion and that artists were represented from all over the country. So once the production team narrowed it down, it was me, Krept and Konan that had the last say over the final bunch. Overall we were happy with the process, as the rappers come from different backgrounds, they have various stories and are all at the early stages of their career.
The first episode was great and had some highlight moments from the artists, as well as mishaps – what was something that surprised you about the whole experience?
I’d say how quickly these artists were developing and grasping things. With some of the challenges, the people watching will think ‘ah, I can do that’, but when you’re under the spotlight, you’re not really that experienced and you’ve got two huge rappers, me and guest judge watching you perform, it’s pressure and the artists involved were still managing to pull of some great performances. It’s been interesting to watch them grow and progress as musicians over the weeks of shooting.
Your debut book Grime Kids came out last year and it was a great read – how would you compare creating the book, to being involved in crafting The Rap Game UK – would you say there are any similarities?
Doing the book was very different, because I was going back in time. But I guess it all ties into each other because the show is looking to the future and trying to find the next generation of great MCs and then the book is about celebrating how we got to this point. But for me producing the two, were very different, as I was sitting in my room typing up the content on my laptop for around six months by myself with the book. But with the show, we mainly filmed in Birmingham, so I would have to be commuting back and forth between there and London. I’d say the main similarity between the two was that they are both about this music scene we love, but in terms of how I had to approach them, it was very different.
What would you say was the most challenging part about judging and producing a show like this?
In many instances, it was difficult to do the rankings for the artists at the end of the two challenges each week, because some weeks it was so tight between a few of them. It was also challenging balancing filming the show in Birmingham every day and then getting back to London to do my radio show at 7pm, then after finishing at 9pm I’d have to get back to Birmingham to start filming in the morning again, which lasted for around 5 weeks, but I enjoyed it.
On the flipside what was the most enjoyable thing about making it?
We were catching so much joke every day on set and in between shooting. Being on a show like this about our culture and everyone being there to help push it forward was great. I had loads of fun with Krept & Konan making the show and all the rappers on the programme were really cool off camera as well. We just proper enjoyed ourselves, it was almost like being back at college, just catching vibes with people you like being around and making something that we hope the viewers will enjoy.
I like how it had a nice balance between showcasing solid UK rap talent, as well as having some funny, light-hearted moments – was this done purposely?
Yeah, the film crew who edited it and put it all together done it so well.
Coming into the show, did you have any key expectations for the rap talent involved and if so, were they reached for you over the course of shooting the series?
In the beginning, one of the first things we wanted to achieve is to make sure that all the contestants were credible in some way. It can’t just be seven washed rappers, that everyone’s going to watch and were all going to say ‘hang on a minute, what’s going on here’. We did go back and forth on who we felt had to be represented on this programme and everyone was really accommodating to our ideas. Our expectation was that it had to be of a high level, it had to be of a level were the people at home can say, ‘this is something we want to watch’.
We didn’t want seven MCs who are literally the sickest rappers you’ve ever seen and we didn’t want seven crazy stage performers, it had to be a mixture of various skills and different vibes. You’ll also notice that each of the artists we included make different types of music, as well as their rap styles varying. Also the talent level always had to be high, because the winner has to be co-signed by Krept & Konan – but I’m sure off the back of this show, all the musicians will get great exposure, so it’s a good opportunity.
In terms of the younger generation of MCs coming up in the scene, what do you think they can take from a show like this in order to improve as musicians?
As you’ll see over the series, there are so many factors that go into being a successful artist in the UK and we wanted to highlight a lot of those factors. It’s not just, you make a big tune and that’s it, you’re in; there’s a whole building process: whether that’s lyrics, being in the studio, your image – all of it is essential – and for us it was important that we get all of this across in the programme. I think anyone that is watching who thought it was going to be easy to jump into the music industry, you might think okay this has given me stuff I need to make sure I’m on top of the skills I’ll need to make it. I’m hoping that those who are watching from home, such as aspiring musicians will be learning as well at the same time.
There’s a lot of good tips in there, obviously with myself and Krept & Konan, as much as we are judges, we are also mentoring the guys, so throughout the show we try and give them as much advice as possible.
Interview by Denzil Bell
Follow @DJTarget and also catch him on BBC Radio 1Xtra Monday to Thursday from 7pm-9pm