Exclusive Interview: Giggs – “We’re writing the history books as we go along.”
The Landlord calls in to discuss life as Giggs in 2016 and his forthcoming album...
It’s difficult to imagine British rap music without Giggs. In 2016, with the Peckham rapper hotter than ever off a string of incredible guest features, you can hear his influence whether you’re a grime kid or your bumping the latest road rap.
Equally, the scene has never been healthier. The possibilities are broader, and artists have more freedom. Labels are no longer calling the shots, and compromising for a chance at chart success is becoming a thing of the past. Right now people want that hard s**t, and this is where Giggs finds himself right at home.
Proclaiming himself the Landlord with his new album which drops this Friday 5th August, he intends to prove this – with his sole aim to go as hard as possible for the mandem.
While he runs errands and prepares for the release like a kid making final amendments to his Christmas list and putting the star atop his tree, we had a phonecall from the Landlord to discuss the new album and how it is to be Giggs in 2016.
How does it feel to finally be releasing this Landlord album?
I’ve been waiting for months to release it, so it’s a bit like Christmas really. I can’t lie!
You’ve been keeping this one really close to your chest, you haven’t been playing it to press – even your PR hasn’t heard it! Does that add to the excitement that nobody has heard it yet?
Yeah I just want everybody to be as excited as each other. Because everyone is a person whether you’re press or another artist. Even the artists featured on the album haven’t heard it, so I just want everyone to hear it at the same time, to enjoy the moment together, but not together.
With a big record like a Kanye West album we’re all part of a moment when everyone experiences that album for the first time. But it’s rarer that we get that over here…
When Drake’s album was coming out the other month – because albums are just dropping randomly now, man just drop them like “Album’s out.” But when his was coming out I remember everyone was excited for that day, I remember thinking “It’s feeling like f**king Christmas is coming or something.” And we rarely have that anymore, so it was good to bring that element back.
Compared to your other album releases, how is this one feeling? Are you more excited this time around?
Every album is exciting, I can’t really say one over another. To be honest I can’t really remember how I felt the last time, but I’m sure I was very excited as well. It’s always exciting, but in different ways. It’s different times. This one’s just about music. The other times I was with a label and I was thinking “I don’t want to let them down.”
This time it’s just straight music, I don’t give a f**k about all that. I just want man to say “This CD’s hard bruv!” And that’s it. It’s just for the music, nothing else, not chart positions or whether it’s going to sell. I just want people to listen to it and say ‘Nah, man is murking!” You know them ones?
That brings to mind that Kano line on ‘Endz’ where he says “This won’t chart, that’s for certain, But I know that Giggs will say that I was murking.” – How did you feel when you heard that?
That’s just the way we talk. Like ‘Nah, your murking that cuz.” So there’s not really any feeling, it’s just like, “Yeah for real, man’s just got to be murking!”
I just thought that was such a personal song, and he names you specifically as the one that he wants to impress…
I didn’t even look at it like that you know! Rah. I more looked at it like, he knows that I’m on to him! (Laughs)
Has releasing independently given you a lot more freedom then?
100% bruv. Even like you said, “You’re playing it so close to your chest, no one ain’t heard it.” You couldn’t do that with a label. They’d be like “We have to release something, we have to drop a single.” You drop a single and it’s spinning for like two months and it gets boring, then another one comes, then that’s two months again, then the album. It’s just dead bruv! It’s not fresh. This time I’ve just done it the way I wanted to do it. I didn’t want to drop nothing until two weeks before. ‘Whippin Excursion’, I dropped that when I wanted to drop it. I didn’t do no interviews or none of that. Just none of that bulls**t, just straight music.
What was it about ‘Whippin Excursion’ that made you want to lead into the album with that one?
Because that’s just a banger bruv. Every time I hear that one in the whip, I know like “Nah, man need to hear this!” Then when I shot the video that made it even more of a banger. I was like “This is my f**king tune bruv!” I was very confident with it.
I saw in your recent Tim Westwood interview that you put this album together in two weeks.
Do you know what, I wasn’t even doing an album bruv, I wasn’t even doing one. Even the day before, one of my bredrens rang me and said “We need an album.” I said “Nah, maybe next year.” This was in 2016. And then I think the 67 ‘Lets Lurk’ feature was the last one I’d done, and by then I’d done like fifteen, twenty features, and I was thinking “Lets see if I’ve still got the juice.” I went to the studio and did three songs at the same time, starting one, stopping and going to another, doing all three of them at once. Then when they was finished I was like “Rah, this is sounding like some album s**t.” And then I went to studio the next day and made ‘Whippin Excursion’. That week I made like six bangers.
A couple of months later I booked some residential studio in some cottage near Bath. I booked that out for a week and finished off the other half of it. So it wasn’t like two weeks straight. But because I wanted it out in August, I wanted it out the same day as Walk In Da Park came out. So I just banged it out. It was just bare fun.
You were having a incredible couple of years just off the back of features. How did that feel?
It was sick man, I’ve never seen anything like it, I can’t lie. The reaction the first time I ever performed ‘Man Don’t Care’ with Jme, that was the first time I ever felt energy like that. I couldn’t believe it, I was gassed, “Did man see that? That was mad!!” I was walking up and down gassed up! And then it was just happening all the time. There was a Skrapz tune, and every tune was shutting down the place, and then Kano. It just happened so quick, I couldn’t really process it.
It doesn’t feel like anyone has really done that over here on that level, the way you kept consistently knocking out those verses.
Do you know what it is as well yeah? Right now, music-wise, everybody wants the hardest s**t, and that’s what I’ve always made. I can go harder than ever now, so I just feel at home.
Do you think that what Skepta achieved with Konnichiwa has helped to pave the way for that?
Yeah man, everything plays a part. Every move we make is shaping the game. We’re writing the history books as we go along. So every little thing that happens is important.
You’ve always had a presence in grime, without necessarily switching it up to double time flows or anything like that. What made you choose to occupy that space?
Nothing made me anything… Jme asked me to jump on ‘Man Don’t Care’, so I jumped on it. I didn’t even really want to do that tune with Kano, ‘3 Wheel Ups’, I actually turned it down! I said “Nah man, it’s too much grime.” Then he got Wiley on it and came back after and said “Bruv, just give it a shot man.” And then I jumped on it. So it’s only really two songs – well there’s a Dizzee one as well.
You see me yeah, I don’t even think about it. That’s the only time I thought about it, and that’s because I made like four or five grime tunes. But if I like a beat I’ll just jump on it, and that’s it. I’m kind of a cat as well, if I like a beat a lot I just have to jump on it! Like “Go on, just turn the mic on.” I don’t even think that deep, like let’s start murdering grime. It’s just straight music man.
I was listening back to Walk In Da Park today, and it still sounds very relevant. Listening to the Road Rap sound that the current generation, like Section Boyz, Nines and 67 are doing, do you feel like a pioneer of that?
To an extent, but I don’t really watch it though. I don’t really think it’s important. What’s more important is man getting off the street and getting money legally. Living the dream, flying here there and everywhere. That’s more important to me than “Oh, he opened the door.”
I know you’ve compared this album to Walk In Da Park a little. Is that your favourite album of yours so far?
Yeah it is my favourite album, album – because I’ve got mixtapes as well. But this one might overtake that. It’s different stages in my life innit, so I don’t really compare them. They all hold different things to me, so I can’t really compare them.
Would you say it’s the energy of Landlord that is comparable to Walk In Da Park?
Yeah that same raw energy, you know them ones? I wasn’t thinking about nothing except going hard on this one.
And I guess Walk In Da Park was your last independent album as well.
But in one way I was still thinking about hits, Let Em Have It I was thinking – “You’ve got to go hard for the label. Can’t let people down. This is it, this is your chance.” Landlord there was no pressure.
You’ve got the pop up Beats 1 show tomorrow night – what should people expect from that?
That’s just me DJing, because I DJ innit. Well I don’t DJ anymore, but you never lose it. So that’s just me running bare old school Giggs and a couple of tunes off the album, so that will be sick, that will be a vibe. I didn’t have long enough, I wanted two hours, because there are so many Giggs songs – you can’t play them all in an hour! I’m talking on it a little bit, but you know me, I’m not a heavy talker. It was a vibe. It would be more vibesy if the mandem was there, but it was just me and Buck running old school gangster tunes!
I know that you listen to DJ Khaled’s show as well – is that still your favourite radio show?
Yeah I reckon that’s the best show still, he runs riddims bruv! Have you listened to it?
Yeah, it reminds me of how hip-hop radio used to be. When he hypes a tune for half an hour before he runs the whole thing, you don’t get bored because of his energy.
He’ll play old school tunes as well, like old school Jigga and D-Block, then he’ll go new school. It’s so sick bruv. I literally roll to that in my whip. That’s the vibes man, I like that show man.
Would you say that US rap has influenced you more than homegrown?
Yeah, 100%. I’d be lying if I said otherwise.
Walk In Da Park has a bunch of references to the likes of Master P and The Lox, and then listening back now the production reminds me of Dipset and G-Unit, but at the same time it sounds authentic and British. I wondered how you strike that balance between taking that influence without sounding derivative?
It’s because of the beats. The beats always give you the inspiration. Whatever the beat tells me to do that’s what I do, so there’s not really any room to imitate. I just do me on the music. The ad-lib thing, Jeezy got me into that, because when I used to listen to his first album, when he’d say a bar he’d be like “Uummm!!” So if you listen to early Giggs tunes the ad-libs sounded like that, but then the bars started getting harder so I started to make them harder. There’s little bits of influences all over the place.
There was definitely some heavy ad-libbing on Walk In Da Park.
And do you remember Lloyd Banks from G-Unit? Every time he used to say a sick bar he’d be like “Ohhh!” So if I heard the song for the first time and I weren’t listening properly, but I heard ‘Ohhh!” I used to rewind it, and think “Ahh what did I miss?” So that’s why I always make sure if I say something cold, I’ll hit them with the “Ohhh!” or the “Jheeze” so you know man said something serious there!
As the industry continues to get more digital and music becomes more accessible, it’s becoming increasingly important for artists to make money from live shows. Obviously since the Police are blocking you from performing live, I was wondering how much you think that has had an impact on your career?
It’s had an effect, but I just try not to focus on it. I just try not to focus on negative bulls**t. There’s nothing I can do about it, so I just have to keep it moving. The main thing [way around it] is just to be positive and know that everything happens for a reason.
If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
I would have taken music seriously from earlier. I started a bit late. The streets had me for years, so I wasted a lot of years. But then I probably wouldn’t be the man I am today, so there’s not really any advice I’d give myself to be honest. Your past makes you who you are today.
When you did get started at that late stage, what was it that gave you the belief to push forward and get to where you are today?
There was some bredda, he kept trying to act like he could take me to the stars and beyond. You know them ones? He was full of s**t, but then I was thinking “If this bredda is so desperate to make me a star, then maybe there’s something there.” So I just started getting on it hard.
So I guess his bulls**t ended up being important!
Yeah yeah! You know them ones!!
What does success look like to you?
Success for me is just getting off the street, and being able to support my family from doing what I live. That’s success bruv.
The last thing I wanted to ask, I’ve noticed the Batman caps and obviously the reference in ‘Man Don’t Care’ – so how do you feel to be dropping on the same day as Suicide Squad?
Yeah that’s sick innit! I didn’t even think about that. I forgot Batman was part of that. That’s sick man.
Will you be going to see the film on the release day?
Yeah I’m going tonight, someone just text me to say I’ve got two tickets to the red carpet. So I’m going to take my son!
Landlord is out this Friday 5th August, pre-order here
Tune in to Beats 1 tomorrow night, Thursday 4th August at 10pm for Giggs’s Landlord special
Interview by Grant Brydon
Image by Liam Ricketts