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After a meteoric rise to the public's attention, Bugzy Malone has built an empire within the now effectively mainstream grime and UK hip hop scene. With his third EP freshly released alongside consistent collaborations with urban clothing outfitter, Supply & Demand, Bugzy has unapologetically infiltrated the eyes and ears of popular culture, and is here to stay.
“You see Conor McGregor in the UFC, he’s coming straight from Ireland into an American industry and he doesn’t care, he’s just there to represent.”
A giddy line of tracksuit-clad individuals ranging from teens to thirty-somethings added another element of excitement to an already busy Henry Street. An eager busker dressed like he was on lunch from his job in the pharmacy was peculiarly rapping over classics like ‘I Spy’, ‘Gettin’ Jiggy With It’ and more, but as unique as he was, passers by were much more enthused with the growing crowd outside JD Sports.
There was a certain buzz in the air, so much so that when a middle-aged woman stopped, with her child in the pram, to ask who was inside, “Some rapper from England” wasn’t met with total surprise. In 2017, grime and UK hip hop has taken over, and one of the leading lights of its new wave has definitely capitalised on it.
A quick trek past a few eager attendees and a somewhat eerily secretive path led to a room somewhere in the depths of JD’s stockroom. Finally, when the door opened and the man himself was sitting atop the counter, it didn’t take long to realise what all the hype was about.
Bugzy Malone has just come off the back of his third EP ‘King of the North’ and the title is more than fitting, given his ascension to the top of the UK scene’s hierarchy, while not adhering to the London-centric vibe that the scene revolves around. Despite donning a noticeably weighted gold chain and a neatly diamond-encrusted watch, Bugzy’s mannerisms, in alignment with his music and his career moves up until now, have been totally measured. With his trademark Manchester edge giving him a brashness to match any grime MC.
By branching out to the likes of JD and working with brands like Supply & Demand, similarly to AJ Tracey launching the new Tottenham kit, it not only shows that Grime and UK rap is at the forefront of underground music, but that the artists behind it are at the forefront of mainstream culture.
I think it’s brilliant, it’s a really good thing. It shows that the UK thing is coming up fast to breaching into the big companies like this. It’s a really good time.
Even though the UK is really popping off, you still come from Manchester, which may be relatively close to London but not necessarily similar in terms of culture and the infrastructure around music, especially rap and grime. How did you get through that barrier?
You see Conor McGregor in the UFC, he’s coming straight from Ireland into an American industry and he doesn’t care, he’s just there to represent. I think it’s the internet, it just means that everything you do is in people’s living rooms straight away, so it’s not just about an area anymore.
Conor got a shout out on your latest EP too.
Always man! We’re always supporting him, he’s a big inspiration and I’m excited to see the fight.
The EP itself shows a progression from your last one, and the one before that. You have plenty of vocal collaborations on it and different styles, how do you approach each one individually?
I feel like I’m just getting better naturally with time. The difference with each one is that I’m working on each one longer. It took me longer to make this one because it had to be right and it’s just better.
How do you approach making new music as the scene as grown alongside yourself as an artist?
There’s definitely no throwaway tracks on a project, with mixtapes and stuff I might’ve put a track on there that now wouldn’t have necessarily made the cut, whereas now it’s a bit more accurate. You’ve got to make sure that when you do do something that it’s right.
"I used to box before I did music and I knew that I wanted to be a world champion"
It’s somewhat symbolic that by the release of your third EP that Dot Rotten and P Money are in the midst of a beef, given that you and Chip’s was the beginning of new era UK rap beefs.
The same as Conor McGregor coming into the UFC wearing suits and everyone started wearing suits. When somebody sees that something works and that something generates a lot of excitement, in the end people are going to have to jump on board.
When will we see the Bugzy album?
I’m definitely going to be working on the album next, but like I said it’s going to come, I’m not going to rush it.
Sometimes you get labelled as solely a grime MC, when plenty of your tracks have much more to them than your average grime track. Is it irritating to get pigeonholed like that?
Grime, that’s British rap, that’s British hip hop, that’s where it originated, that’s where all or most British urban acts emerge from, what I’m doing is trying to elaborate on the sound.
Trying to take the sound to the next level, so I always keep the grime tempo, but it’s not necessarily the same kind of style. It’s a different vibe; it might be a happy track or a sad one. Grime’s quite aggressive.
Did you see yourself making store appearances abroad when you first started rapping?
I don’t know if I knew that I’d be in this position. I used to box before I did music and when I was boxing I knew that I wanted to be a world champion, so I just knew that anything I did put my mind to that I’d be able to take it all the way.
The fact that it’s materialising means that the other stuff that I’ve got in my head, that I think I can do, are possibilities, which means that if they happen, we’re only really at the beginning at this moment in time.
So a boxer’s mentality goes hand-in-hand with grime rapper’s?
It’s just discipline, it works for life doesn’t it?
Bugzy Malone plays Olympia Theatre on December 1 2018.