Exclusive Interview: Things are looking up for Yizzy

The South Londoner pays homage to the original grime sound on his new EP...

Joe Walker

2 years ago

By Joe Walker

In the year since RWD last spoke to Young Yizzy, the South London teenager performed to a sold out Brixton Academy as the sole grime representative at a BBC Introducing showcase, opened for one of his favourite artists in Bugzy Malone and dropped the ‘Young’ from his moniker. As his songs and shows continue to attract more eyes and ears from beyond the grime radio scene, Yizzy’s next project was always going to be pivotal and in the new S.O.S. EP he has certainly made a statement.

Released via his own Livin’ Legendz label (licensed to Logan Sama’s Keepinitgrimy imprint, which also brought us the YGG project this year), S.O.S. sees Yizzy stand up for the sound he knows and loves, showing frustration with his peers whose silent is complicit while grime is mislabelled or abused. He does so barring to a backdrop of productions from veterans in Treble Clef, Lewi White, Terror Danjah, D.O.K. and Maniac, altogether making for a grime project to rival any in the last year. Radio sets tend to be the focus of young MCs as they look to make a name for themselves but Yizzy’s increased focus on quality songs at this early stage of his career – he is still just 18 – sets him apart, and the theme and execution of the new EP cements his place as grime’s most exciting prospect.

We caught up with Yizzy on a very hot Spring day ahead of his EP’s release, breaking bread at his local chicken shop in Brockley, to get the lowdown on S.O.S. and what he has mapped out for himself…

The list of producers on the new EP is a who’s who of grime legends. Were they picked out in advance for this project, given the concept?
To be honest it wasn’t intentional. I’d heard the tune with Terror Danjah & Swifta Beater [‘Radio Danger‘] loads of times last year and just wanted to make a tune of that. I didn’t think it was gonna be on the EP, I just knew I wanted to make a tune. [With] Treble Clef – the ‘S.O.S’. tune – we knew it was gonna be something epic but we didn’t know what, and we were messing around with the idea of a EP so we thought let’s do it; The D.O.K. ‘Pied Piper’ remix, Terror played it to me, and I was like ‘I’ve gotta have this, just to listen to’. That riddim is obviously old school and everyone likes it, but the way he changed it up sounds even merkier. The bass, the kick… ridiculous. The rest of the tunes just happened kinda naturally through linking up. The next thing I know I’ve got seven songs in front of me, all from producer pioneers. It weren’t even intentional. I was like rah, let’s put them together and try to make something.

Respect for the pioneers on the EP is alongside some displeasure with the current scene, with ‘Radio Danger’ as an explosive example. That energy has not made you the most popular MC among the previous generation…
I’ve been doing music for two years, and I’ve achieved a lot in those two years but I’ve worked every single day of my life. I started music while I was doing my GCSEs and I never stopped working – up until four in the morning, having to get up three hours later to go school. I never stopped working ever, and that’s why I achieved so much in two years. Them man, they’ve been doing this six or seven years. They’ve been around for ages, and they’re still only either just breaking through or making moves now, so when some random kid comes out of nowhere making moves in two years and you start seeing them pop up in the same places as you, you’re gonna be annoyed.

People think that I was just handed shit. I weren’t handed NOTHING. I didn’t have no bring in, no nothing. I knew Koder, I knew Nov, that was it. I sent out bare emails to everyone, that’s how I even got to radio to begin with. The only reason I can see they don’t like me is because they see their position’s threatened or they don’t like that someone’s come up and doing their ting. Everyone around them is in the same circle. I’m not in that circle and I’ll never be in that circle.

Who are you cool with?
I’m cool with Ten Dixon, namesbliss, Logan [OLM]… all the people that are actually coming up on radio.

I’ve seen a few radio sets that you’ve been on in the last year or so, and it struck me how still and serious you can be before touching mic.
I treat every set like it’s the biggest set of my life. I feel like you’re only as good as your last pieces of work – as an MC you’re only as good as your last show, your last song, your last set – so you’ve got to give it your all. Someone could see you or spot you at anytime and that could be the one bad day you have, but if they spot you on that bad day they’re gonna have an opinion of you as an artist that you know isn’t true. I said to myself that that’s never gonna happen. I could do it like there’s me in the room by myself, or like there’s me with Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and Skepta all standing in the back. I’m gonna do it the same way.

It’s felt like tunes have been your focus over sets for a while now. Is that the case?
I clocked when I came into the game: You can be an artist, you can be a MC, or you can be both. You can be amazing on a set, but not have great tunes; you can have great tunes, but be dead on a set. In my opinion, Novelist is one of the best MCs I’ve seen in my entire life, but he hasn’t got the greatest songs – not in grime, in his own sound he can make great music. I don’t even know someone who makes good songs but isn’t good in a set…

It’s been said about Stormzy, for instance.
There you go, Stormzy. Very good songs, but can’t survive on a set. He hasn’t come up through that structure. The people who are sick at songs and sets… they’re your pioneers.

When it got to the point where I was comfortable on a set, that’s when I started to focus on making tunes. That’s why I don’t really go on sets as much anymore, because I’m trying to make timeless music. In terms of catalogue, I’ve got songs ready. You’ve got the seven on here, I’ve got a tune with Spyro, a tune with Zdot; I’ve got a tune with Wiley that’s meant to be dropping at the end of the year. I had to build up my catalogue of songs because there’s not many man, especially now in this generation, that can make a good song or consistently make good songs. That’s why this EP was such a big thing to me, because this is me making a bag of sick songs. ‘BAP‘ got received really well, and showed me that I was on the right start. I could see that people were just jumping on the grime name to get buzz, and it was getting mislabeled in the media. Everyone has a moan about it, but nobody takes it further; I made a whole project about it and put the lyrics on the biggest single on there. I can’t do any more other than that, besides take it to shows and do it live. I’m not having a moan, I’m actually putting it in the public eye because I’ve got enough of a platform where people can listen.

The good thing about the message as well is that everybody’s got the same general consensus about it but nobody’s voiced it to the level that I’m trying to. It could’ve been me, it could’ve been Capo, it could’ve been Stormzy or it could’ve been Dizzee Rascal. It could have been anyone, but either people don’t care about it too much or they’re scared of what people will think.

You recently launched your own show on Reprezent Radio. What made you take that on?
I always said to myself that when it came time for me to retire, I wanted my label and I wanted a primetime radio show, so it’s a good way to see inside radio and what it’s like. I feel like I have stuff to say, and people that also have to stuff to say that I could bring. I feel like I could play tunes that people would like but also still portray a message that I’d like to get out there, which is obviously grime music and its significance in my life. Not pop-grime tunes like, original grime tunes. I’m only gonna be spraying on there for one show; I’d rather bring other people to spit. I spit a lot so I should sometimes take a backseat, plus I wanna make the most of the position I’m in there which is as a presenter.

Speaking of radio, what effect do you think the closure of Radar will have on grime MCs?
I think some MCs definitely relied on Radar, it was like their place to go on radio. What I’m hoping is that one of the original pirate grime stations like Rinse or Mode will start to become the forefront now, and people will go there. I hope people just don’t let things die down or move away [from music], they should still stick with it but just on another station. I feel sorry for anyone that had Radar lyrics in their bars!

S.O.S. will be playing out for a while yet, but how far beyond that have you mapped out?
This year is planned for me, it’s done. Next year I’m planning to take a big risk, and if it pays off I can potentially go down in history. If it doesn’t pay off, it could be a big flop, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. I believe this year and next year, if all goes well, can potentially put me in the grime hall of fame. If I can get into the grime hall of fame at 19 then I’m doing well! I definitely feel I’ve built a good path and a level of consistency so far, but this EP is a big step up so I hope it all goes to plan.