Tottenham breeds creativity - Soul singers Adele, Lemar and Keisha White hail from the area. But its grimy roots really are showcased by its hip-hop acts like Wretch32 and Chip. According to Wretch, he was once his schoolteachers worst nightmare, but now he's called the UK rappers rapper and metaphor man.
JASMINE WITH WRETCH IN THE STUDIO.
(Pic copyright Jasmine Dotiwala)
Jermaine Scott Sinclair - Wretch 32 (three-two) - is the son of a local reggae DJ in the Tiverton Estate, which explains the clear dancehall beats juxtaposed with his north London lyrics that are full of metaphors and soulful hooks and melodies, that will keep you humming for hours after hearing one of his hits. It's this partnering of dancehall vibes and his soulful melodies that are cool yet classy that have become his signature trademark sound. All Wretch's tracks are like his personal diary in music form as opposed to just another materialistic hip-hop ego trip.
A fully royal member of the #TeamUK family, a look at his twitter timeline shows that he regularly highlights and shows support to his fellow music peers and is as loved by the scene as well as his die hard loyal fans.
Now he's the kingpin act at the centre of a very talented collective called Renowned, which is also home to his peers George The Poet, Jacob Banks, Knox Brown and more as well as sports and media arms. Like Jigga said he's a 'business man''.
PHOTO COPYRIGHT- Rick Guest and Ministry of Sound Recordings.
He's a humble, understated character that has reason to trumpet about his many awards, hit songs, festival successes and more. If I were he, the temptation to brag would be just a lil bit tempting.
The end of this year will see him release his third studio album Growing Over Life. I sat down with him this week, for an update on how that albums coming along ...'I've had it finished for a while now. I was just touching up everything, doing my finishing touches. It's sounding like a great body of work, its exactly where I want it to be, and its where I exactly what I want it to be. So I'm happy. It's called Growing Over Life because I think it's something we all do without even realising. I always remember on my birthdays I would always jump out of my bed and run to my wall and see if I'd got taller. Sometimes I'd say to my mum 'mum I never got taller this year' and she said 'you don't grow overnight, you grow over life' and it's something that just stuck with me.''
I bear testament to Wretch's grind that he's put in over the years. Back when I was at MTV Base, Wretch used to come in and hang out as a friend of the brand and also our then intern (now super director) JakFrsh. Their friendship meant I was in the know about Wretch long before he hit the big time He is still today exactly the same well mannered, friendly, articulate young man he was back then many years ago when he used to come in and chill out at my desk updating me on his latest mix tape and putting down verses for MTV's Black History Month.
HYPER-MASCULINITY IN HIP-HOP
When listening to Wretch's songs or watching his videos, we are never under any impression that he's attempting to follow the blueprint for of the hyper masculine American hip hop that came before the UK acts blew up. Hyper-masculinity in hip-hop and the different stereotypes and pressures male hip-hop artists can face are heavy. There seems to be a lot of focus on how women are being stereotyped and objectified in hip-hop videos and lyrics, but this focus doesn't really extend to the men. With hip hop and black culture often subtly blamed for gang crime and black on black violence hyper masculinity is a problem.
Wretch doesn't think that the females or males have to stay in a box. ''I think you've got to look at the rapper that's at the forefront- there's the guy that wears his heart on his sleeve, Drake, and there's always people criticising him, but he's the man of the moment. I think it was a beautiful thing that he even came through to get to the position he's in now. He's not typical- he's not street, he's not hood, he's not from New York, he's from Toronto. So I definitely think him coming through and him being so successful broke down a lot of boundaries. I think there's a lot of other rappers coming through- it's cool because it did used to be strict and tough and people had to speak about a certain thing and project themselves in a certain way. But now people are allowed to be more themselves, there's a new wave of people coming through like the J Cole's who's not really 'hood', but what they do is make the everyday guy feel like it's possible and I think it's incredible to have the balance. Of course, in everything, it's right that there is a balance. I think the Drakes and the J Coles balance it out with the 50 Cents and the Young Jeezy's''.
PHOTO COPYRIGHT- Rick Guest and Ministry of Sound Recordings.
HIP HOP AND POLITICS
With the current 'all eyes on' political parties focus, both here and internationally, Wretch thinks that Hip Hop can better engage people with politics. "I think in order for hip hop artists to help people engage into politics they have to understand it better, if I'm honest it isn't something that I dwell in too much because I almost look at that like a separate world that I have no control over and it's like, I find it quite interesting that someone like myself couldn't tell David Cameron, Gordon Brown or Tony Blair, any of these people how to run the House of Commons but they can tell me how its gonna go in Seven Sisters and how its gonna run in Tottenham and how its gonna run in London, because I haven't been in your world and you haven't been in mine. So it should be you something you're coming to me, or you're coming to us and asking us what do we need''.
Now talking about an area he feels passionately about he adds ''How do you get in contact with these people? This is when you need someone who can translate and this is something we see in a guy called George the Poet, where for me, he is the direct mediator because he can speak their language and he speaks our language so if we can all support him and get him where he needs to be, where he can communicate with them, nobody else will have to. Cos we are two different people walking two separate walks of life they look down on us, and we look down on them, so automatically it's a conflict of interest, and it's a lack of knowledge, a lack of knowledge on our front and a lack of knowledge on their front, and understanding."
HIP HOP IS THE NEW SHAKESPEARE.
I've often heard rappers verbal dexterity described as modern day Shakespeare. America isn't the only place where hip-hop stars have university modules named after them and students study rappers lyrics. Wretch believes the UK should have rap studies in classes too ''There's many times where I've gone to school and given English lessons and we've broken down some of my songs and It's like I've explained some of the metaphors are and what the similes are and what the similarities are, It's a bit more than just rap''
Will Wretch's new music hit the top of the charts? Will he continue to inspire younger music acts across the UK? Will he continue to be a great musical role model in the #TeamUK movement? As he himself is known for saying...I'm certain the answer is ''AH YEAH!''