To be an MC in the UK, is almost as a rule, to be a Grime artist. Traditional Hip-Hop is generally viewed as something ‘the Yanks do’ with UK rhymers preferring to recite 140 bpm Grime bars. So it’s a refreshing surprise to see South Londoner Giggs, catch the ear of the mainstream on both sides of the pond with his slow drawling delivery more associated with the likes of Scarface and Young Jeezy, than Kano or Wiley.
Years of grinding on the mixtape circuit both as a solo artist and with his group SN1 came to fruition when Giggs’ freestyle “Talking The Hardest” became a street anthem and could be heard all over the UK. His debut album Walk In Da Park sold out in record stores, and he won the award for the Best UK Hip Hop Act at the BET Awards.
Giggs’ success has however been marred by talk of his criminal past, with charges that his music glorifies crime. The rumors eventually lead to a public falling out with both the BBC and MTV UK. Quick to admit to his failings Giggs aims to set the record straight through his music and his actions.
AllHipHop.com: Nearly all of the big rhymers coming out of the UK at the moment are Grime artists whereas your style is a more traditional form of Hip Hop. Why have you made that particular choice?
Giggs: A lot of people don’t understand that I make Hip Hop and that I don’t make Grime and that they are two different things. I don’t understand how they can mix it up. Some people have listened to my music and said that they don’t like my style or that this bit is too slow, but that’s just how I rap. What do you want me to do? If they don’t wanna understand then they can just f**k off really, cos they don’t wanna give it a chance so I don’t really need their support.
AllHipHop.com: What sorts of artists have influenced your style then?
Giggs: Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, State Property – those kind of people.
AllHipHop.com: The artists you mentioned are pretty recent. Who influenced yourself to begin rapping?
Giggs: I’m gonna show my age now; I was listening to NWA when they were blowing up, KRS-1, then move forward a few years and I was into No Limit and then SP and then Jeezy. Do you know what’s funny even though I’ve had my recent disagreements with them, it was actually MTV that got me into hip hop cause I used to watch Yo! MTV Raps every single day after school. I’d record it and watch it back on repeat as well. Then one time I went to my uncle’s and he was playing NWA but it had all swearing in it and I was like ‘what the f**k? How come the song’s like this?’ It was the same song I knew except with cursing and it was the first time I’d heard music with swearing and I was thinking this sounds heavy. So my uncle lent it to me and my mum said I can listen to it when my little brother wasn’t around.
AllHipHop.com: How did you feel when your debut album Walk In Da Park sold out in all stores up and down the UK?
Giggs: I was p##### about that man cause I didn’t wanna sell out. Selling out is a publicity stunt. A lot of people went out to get my album and they couldn’t get it. I was like ‘what the f**k’s going on?’ But it all got sorted out after that and the feedback was good. Like everyone likes different tracks which I’m pleased about.
AllHipHop.com: How did that feel after grafting on the mixtape scene for so many years and not getting any sort of mass recognition?
Giggs: It was such a relief. I felt like about f**king time’ cause the music’s always been the same. Like I didn’t just get good now. You can hear on the old mixtapes that I was always hard, but I didn’t think it would get as big as it has now.
AllHipHop.com: At the same time you began receiving interest from the press as well. How have you been handling that?
Giggs: It’s alright but it’s a bit weird still. I’m not really used to it. It’s mad cause it’s new to me. You see in the hood, people don’t really ask people questions, we just live our lives and when someone’s asking too many questions you become a bit wary and think ‘rah why is my man asking them questions for?’ The only time we get asked loads of questions is when we get nicked [arrested], and when we’re ‘in there’ we’re not answering questions anyway, so the interview thing is proper mad and it’s kind of sad that I’m programmed to think like that. I’m still in the streets at the same time as well so I don’t wanna start slipping cause that could cost you your freedom or even your life. Same with a song cause sometimes I wanna go way deeper with my content but I have to hold back. People think that what I’m saying is proper hard but they don’t even know half of it.
AllHipHop.com: So are you still in that environment?
Giggs: Everything’s still exactly the same. It looks like everyone’s calling my name, interviews, photoshoots, radio, award nominations – but I’m still stuck in the same place. It’s harder cause there’s a lot of hate in the industry like they don’t want me in there cause of where I’m coming from. They don’t understand what I’ve been through up until this point, they don’t know my background.
AllHipHop.com: Can you see yourself ever getting out?
Giggs: Of course. I’d just like to f**king relax. Get away from it all. It’s been long and I’ve just had enough of it all now – the streets, the struggle, everything. So that’s why I get so p##### off when I’m doing so well, but everyone’s just holding me back so how am I meant to get off of the streets? The other day I went to MTV and they said they don’t play my music cause they heard that I’m killing people and selling drugs which isn’t true. They also said that I’m still around gangs and all that, but MTV are not helping me to get out of the streets so how am I meant to do it? Some people don’t even know I’ve got a video out already. MTV doesn’t play it. I sent them a clean version but they said the edits can’t be rewound and that they have to be removed and silly little things like that – just so that they can avoid playing it. They don’t like me, where I’m from and what I’m talking about.
AllHipHop.com: There have been accusations that not everything you say in your songs is the truth. Is that the case?
Giggs: It’s all true. I’m just portraying where I live. Obviously I change bits and pieces cause I don’t wanna get nicked, but it’s always truthful.
AllHipHop.com: Is there a thin line between portraying where you live and glorifying crime?
Giggs: Probably. People don’t really understand what’s going on in the lyrics so they might think it’s glorifying it, but you’re just talking about what you go through everyday and what you see around you. So the people who don’t understand ask why we do that – but that’s all we know init? That’s what is normal to us – it’s everyday life. It’s not easy at all but obviously if you grow up in it, you’ve got no choice but to get on with it and make do with what you’ve got. So what would you rather someone do? Get a gun and blow someone’s head off or take a breather and write something down in a rap? It’s an outlet – a bit like therapy in a way.
AllHipHop.com: What about those people who criticise your subject matter and think that you take a more responsibility as a role-model?
Giggs: I don’t even wanna be a role model cause everyone knows that I used to be a criminal and I’ve done bad things, but then again kids might hear me and then want to go to the studio and record some music instead of being on the streets or whatever. I’d rather be a role model in what I’m trying to do, but of course no one looks at that side of things. I look back and wish I hadn’t done bad things, but in some cases I had to. So I don’t feel like I need to make up for anything. I went through certain things and I’m still here now.
AllHipHop.com: You won the BET Award for Best UK Hip Hop recently and spent a bit of time in the States. What’s their view of the UK?
Giggs: They think it’s a joke over here.
AllHipHop.com: How would you describe your environment for them?
Giggs: It’s not gonna be much different from their hood. Just different accents, but I think people are realizing that now as more artists are coming over and that. But I can’t really go into what happens in the hood, it’s all on the CD though – I break it right down.
AllHipHop.com: What do you hope to achieve through your music?
Giggs: What I’m doing now – I’ve done so much as an independent artist but obviously there’s a big fight going on cause really and truly I’m not in the industry – it’s more off of the fanbase. If everyone stopped listening to me tomorrow I would just disappear. The industry wouldn’t do anything to save me, cause I don’t really get a lot of promotion cause they all work together to keep me out of it. So I’m just trying to break down that hate and get us through the door and help to get youts off the street cause when the industry holds me back they don’t see the big picture of it all cause if I can do well off of it – like really well off of it, it would get a lot of kids off of the street.
Most people when they come out of jail they don’t really have anything to look forward to realistically cause it’s hard to get a job – no matter what anyone says. When I was young I used to look for jobs you know. I would go for any job but no one wanted to hire me, so I hit the road, f**k it what else do you want me to do init? So the kids haven’t got anything else to do apart from hit the road or rob, but if there was something for them to look forward to, where they can use their talent to make a future for themselves then they would get on that, so if I can make it through that door it would help a lot of people. It’s much bigger than just me.
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For more on Giggs go to myspace.com/trapstargiggs
The Hook Up: