EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: SHARKY MAJOR TALKS HIS VISION FOR GRIME ORIGINALS
Sharky Major’s place in grime history is firmly secure. As a founding member of the legendary N.A.S.T.Y. Crew, he has been around from the sound’s earliest days, before he or anyone else even knew it as ‘grime’, and is held in the highest regard by your favourite MCs. He’s still got plenty to offer the scene too.
The roster of Sharky’s label Major Muzik Entertainment has grown to encompass a number of artists, with the boss offering his wisdom and experience for their career development, while Sharky himself released Resurgence, his first full-length project since 2010, on the label earlier this year. 2017 has also seen the launch of two Major Muzik event series, Grime Originals and Next Legacy, that host not just nostalgia for the golden age but a platform for the genre’s future legends. The inaugural Next Legacy event took place successfully on the weekend just passed, while Grime Originals is on its fourth instalment following some headline-grabbing surprise guests.
Ahead of this month’s Grime Originals, which takes place at its biggest venue yet, we spoke to Sharky on the phone to learn more of Major Muzik and his vision for the brand in the future. There’s also a moment to reflect on his career to date, and what it’s like to work with MCs that grew up listening to him…
How does it feel working with MCs like Grim Sickers, for example, who grew up as fans of yours?
It’s mad, even up to now. When people tell me ‘Sharky I grew up on you’ or ‘you’re the reason I do this’, it’s a great feeling because you obviously want to inspire people and want them to relate to you but at the same time it was just us doing what we felt was normal without realising what sort of impact it was going to have longterm, and contributing to what the scene is now.
It’s weird, because you don’t realise until people tell you what sort of impact you’ve had in their lives, or on the scene. When we started off – me, Stormin, Marcus Nasty – we just went on radio, spat our lyrics and then from there built our buzz. We became N.A.S.T.Y. Crew and started recruiting people. At the time there weren’t many people who were doing the sort of things that we were, in terms of what we were saying over tracks. At the time we first came it was still a lot of garage-style MCing, whereas we were trying to talk more about real life situations, what we were going through and what was happening in the ends. From that it made such an impact. People couldn’t see us, all they could do was hear us. You had tapes flying around in different areas and verses circulating in our local area, and the next thing you know there’s people from out of London saying ‘I had your tape’, which you know they didn’t pick up it on radio – they’ve gone out of their way to get that.
When did you begin to realise quite how many people were listening to tapes of you, or to you on the radio?
When we first did one of our first raves, I think it was Stratford Rex or Palace Pavilion in Hackney. Where we are obviously from East London – the Newham, Stratford area – it was a situation where we were just doing our thing, but when we got the rave and said our lyrics it was maaaad. People were going crazy and we were like ‘whoa, people actually like this stuff!’ Obviously we were doing our bits in the area, just like house parties and youth clubs, church halls and little places wherever you could put on a rave or event, but it was mad, everyone screaming our lyrics.
That was our first experience of reloads in the rave, yeah. It definitely did gas us and was more fuel to encourage us to keep going. Before you knew it, people all around the UK knew who we were and what we’re doing. Things started happening, bookings in Europe, our first experience of Uni tours. Little things in the area that, looking back, was the start of things to come.
I’m really happy when MCs pay homage to me in their lyrics – Kano, Ghetts and Devlin, for example…certain guys that are some people’s favourite artists. Some of their fans might not recognise or realise, or might hear me now and think ‘what’s the hype about?’ but it’s because of the work that I’ve done that no matter where I go, if I say my name these people that know what grime is should know who I am. Oh, apart from the new lot of people, unless they’ve really studied the scene properly. Because I’ve had those gaps and pauses for a minute to take care of whatever else I’m doing, obviously it’s meant that some generations don’t know what’s going on. That’s another reason why I’m doing this now, not just because I’m putting on events and have my record label – I don’t need to be an artist for that – but just to keep showing I’m the guy from then and I can still do it now.
The funny thing is I’m a lot younger than a lot of people’s favourite MCs, because I was doing it from the age of 15 so people look at me like an OG in this ting, but a lot of them are older than me. BBK, Roll Deep guys, certain guys in this game are older than me but I’ve got the OG status! It’s all good though. I’ve brushed off that whole old school MC tag even though some people might use it. I’m still relevant to today.
A quick one on N.A.S.T.Y. Crew…during Frisco’s recent Channel 4 documentary Marcus Nasty essentially takes responsibility and apologises for N.A.S.T.Y. not being in the same place as, say, BBK is now. How aware were you already that he felt that way?
Yeah, obviously what he said on camera was maybe news to people that haven’t had the same convos that I have had with Marcus. We go way back. We started N.A.S.T.Y. and due to life and things going on or whatever he was away for a while. He came back, and things were different. When he came back, and where we had all built something from scratch and now we’re actually somewhere, and he had missed those few years of us recruiting and building up the brand. Obviously we were still young as well, making mistakes. If business was run how it is now back then we might not have had certain problems. He came out and got back involved, and it obviously didn’t work out at the time, and he’s thought maybe he could’ve handled things differently.
Everyone sees Marcus now, whether it be me, Stormin, D Double E, Kano, Ghetts, Jammer or whoever, and everyone will be cool and say safe. It’s bless, you get me. Everyone’s at a different stage in their life and career, there’s no time for headache or passas. That’s why he said what he said, because if the crew stayed together and if we knew the scene would get to the stage that it is at now, we would’ve been the most prolific, most recognised, most loved, whatever you call it. Every artist has gone on individually and there’s still references to N.A.S.T.Y., where they’ve come from and how they’ve got to where they’ve got to. If N.A.S.T.Y. Crew was still involved maybe they would’ve had a next path, or maybe they still would’ve been as big, but you can’t change history.
At least it all makes for rich knowledge and experience to pass on as a music manager now…
That’s why I try to make sure I bring in people today. I could easily set something up and go back for people who are already established or whatever, but as well as people like Stormin I’m working with up and coming guys.
Major Muzik’s a label and we have individual artists as part of that label. We’ve got Stormin, Teddy Bruckshot, Black Steve – Stormin’s younger brother, a new generation MC doing a lot and building a big buzz; King Rah, an up and comer who’s more of a grimy trap style sound, and K9, who some might know as K9 Kiloz. He’s hard as well. Biggaman’s our producer, and he’s been about from N.A.S.T.Y. days – he co-produced ‘Take You Out’ with Jammer. He produced a lot of tracks through Jammer’s label Jahmek The World, and might have been an unsung hero at the time. We’ve got lots happening.
It’s easy to just come in and care about what you do as an artist, but where I feel like I’ve had a lot of involvement in forming this genre to where it is now, coming back into the game it’s just not about me. I feel I’ve got knowledge to offer other artists, and I also know some of the people pulling the strings behind the scenes to make certain things happen. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and now I’m in a position where I can. We’ve got events coming up as well!
Of course! Tell us about Grime Originals, first of all.
Grime Originals is people that are the original MCs of grime. Where people nowadays might view grime and not know its full history, or what we had to do to get to where it is now, this is a chance for them to relive that moment or to understand it a bit better. If someone just decided to look into grime now, they probably wouldn’t see some of the history that we were speaking about just now. They might just think ‘these guys just spit’, but some people might be intrigued in the history, which is where Grime Originals comes in.
The spin on it is that we also have new school MCs as part of it. They can still be a grime original of the new school, do you know what I mean? More importantly there’s no separation, it’s one scene and one sound, in terms of genre. I didn’t want to make it out like it was just an old school grime rave. Remember a lot of the people that are performing are some of the people that have been smashing it back in the day and are still smashing it now, whereas some might not necessarily be smashing it now but have smashed it throughout the building of the scene and still deserve some credit and an opportunity for people to pay homage and recognise their contribution to it. Some people might not even recognise the power of some of these names on these lineups unless you’ve seen it, but if you believe in what we’re doing, and showing you what it’s about, how these people were a part of it, you’re still gonna want to hear it. We’re giving them everything. We’ve done three [events] so far, and for the fourth one we’ve moved to a bigger venue, Fire in Vauxhall.
It’s more of a business than a brand now. The plan for Grime Originals is to take it all over the country, and by next year I hope to be in all the festivals, with a Grime Originals stage or something. The plans are big on that, and I’ve got partners involved to help take it to the next level. The progression’s been crazy. The first one was like 5 March, and I’ve done May, July and now September. As a thank you to everyone that’s played a part in it, we’re giving out free tickets. You need to download it quick from the Grime Originals website before they’ve gone. It’s just about building something and giving people a chance to say ‘I was there’.
The last one, Skepta had just performed at Wireless then he turned up at Grime Originals. D Double E was there and extra people that weren’t even on the lineup that came and showed love. When I saw Skep after and said thanks, he was like ’what do you mean? You’re one of the originals, you’re a general in this ting!’ The way he spoke to me, I was like ‘rah, yeah let me just remember who I am!‘ A lot of man came and supported the ting, and they didn’t have to. Them man just showing up popped it off like mad. The next one we’ve got special guests lined up, even if you don’t see the names on the flyers, if you’re there you might see some people you didn’t expect to pop up. That’s the format for Grime Originals.
It provides us with an opportunity to see some seldom seen or cult hero MCs too. They might not be as active these days but their 8-bars are timeless.
There are certain lyrics and bars in this game that are legendary within what we’ve done. Fumin might pop up and say ‘you’re barking up the wrong tree’ and it’ll go mad. You might not have heard from Fumin for years but he’ll still pop up and do that and it goes crazy. There’s a lot of guys that can still do that, turn up on an old school one. Gods Gift showed up, did ‘Know We’ and it went mad.
See that song…some people ask where did grime start, and Pay As U Go were part of that crossover from garage to what was known as grime. Wiley produced it, and when you think about how that sounded in line with everything else that was going on, it weren’t the same sound. It was a bit more rugged, a bit more ghetto. The people like Wiley, Gods Gift, Maxwell D and all that, they’re the ones who started to go down a different road a little bit. Me and Stormin, when we came in, it was around that same sort of time when them man were started to see other stuff. We just took it to a next level, a bit deeper at the time.
You’ve just launched a new event brand too…
Grime Originals is more to do with where it’s come from, but Next Legacy is a new event I’ve started putting on that showcases more of the up and coming artists, MCs and DJs. It’s the people that will carry grime through to the next stages. A whole next batch of people are still representing this sound and taking it to the next level, spreading the word, so we’ve got to acknowledge them. If we put them on a Grime Originals event, they might have an earlier set, but you want them to shine and be the top guys of their events as well, so that’s why I’ve put that on. New Grime Order is involved in that. Building up the academy!
Are you able to enjoy the events themselves, with all the work getting them together?
I can’t lie, it’s a bit stressful sometimes when you’re trying to focus on one thing and you’ve got five or six different things dragging your attention, but I just look back to ask myself, why did I do this in the first place? And I think it’s to do with the fact I love this sound, I love this scene, I love the fact that I’ve played a massive part in the formation of it. Whether I took breaks out or not, there’s enough work that I did put in – some documented, a lot not – so those that know, know init.
That’s why I can still converse with some people who others might be like ‘what, how the hell did that happen?’ Is it coincidental that Skepta came to Grime Originals and spat, or is it a thing where he knew that the event was going on, that it was my thing and he knew that where it’s me he wanted to touch mic? And not charge me the crazy money that artists are making now. Brilliant football wages! Hopefully one day I start to eat some of that money, but even if I don’t I’m still ok. I’m happy with what I’m doing, building what I’m building. Even if I didn’t do music tomorrow, financially I’ll still be alright, but me doing this is not about making money. That’s why I started off doing small events in little places, not charging much to get in, giving out free tickets.
We’ve got big plans for Grime Originals. Thanks to everyone that has already supported and backed it, but we’re taking it to the next level now. We’ll go up and up, to bigger and better places. Whether you’re current or old school or you’re old and came back, just let everyone embrace the styles init and love the way we do. It’s like the original Eskimo feel. We just want everyone to enjoy what we’re bringing to the table.