So here it is. The second part of our interview with the unstoppable force that is Wretch 32...
As an album, Black and White enjoyed a lot of mainstream success. What did you learn from making that album that you’re going to take into this new album?
Good question. I think I learnt a lot about myself in terms of recording. Sometimes you hear a beat and you think of a mad flow and want to fill up the whole thing with the focus on the rhyming pattern. Now I worry less about the rhyming pattern, as everything’s going to rhyme anyway. It’s more about asking yourself, “What are you saying in that verse? What’s your beginning, middle and end of each one?” Then I try and make sure each verse is better than the last. That’s something I’ve learnt from Black and White.
On Black and White you worked with a number of huge artists in their own rite, artists like Example and Ed Sheeran. How does it differ working with someone like Ed Sheeran to say, Example?
I made sure I got into the studio with both of them but they were both very different. ‘Hush Little Baby’ was already written, I sent it to Ed just to hear it and said “Look, man, there’s a hook on there and I know you could write something better, so go ahead.” He came in to the studio and we spoke about what the song meant to me and we had a good discussion - he got it and he nailed it.
When you’re working with people like that you learn things and I’m a sponge. I’m always keen to learn new things, new tricks and new things about myself. With Ed you always learn something, same with Example. The way he writes, he’s always confident and gets it just like that.
‘Don’t Go’ reached number one does that put pressure on?
Nah man you’ve gotta move on. It’s like, one game you could score a hat-trick, that doesn’t mean you have to be scoring a hat-trick every game, as long as you score. That tune was an eye opener and I think it was a massive eye opener for other rappers as well. Coming up I was always the rapper’s-rapper and you don’t see the rapper’s-rapper topping the singles chart.
When that happened a lot of the other rappers in the country hit me up and gave me huge respect because we didn’t think lyricists like us could get to the top of the chart. It was so humbling and obviously it’s a beautiful thing to know that for that week you were the most popular musician in the country. It’s crazy.
Were there tunes that didn’t chart high that you thought would?
I wanted more from ‘Blackout’, we got to number six with that. That was the first one coming back into the new campaign and I just wanted more than number 6. I felt like I’d let people down. Then I saw Tinie got to number 5 and when I saw that I just thought, “OK, this is what it is for our music at the moment.” I can’t judge what I do compared to Olly Murs because Olly Murs will get 4000 plays a week and I won’t. I can only compare myself to the people getting the same amount of plays as me, like Tinie. So it wasn’t so bad really.
A lot of your old tracks were given to Drum n Bass DJ.,Is there a love for that sound that you wanted to push?
Yeah, it’s old school man. I weren’t even allowed to rave back when I was listening to Jungle, but it’s that British energy. There’s one thing I’m very conscious of and that’s that I don’t want to make American sounding rap. And even though ‘6 words’ isn’t a rap record I still want that British sound within it. You know Jungle, Drum n Bass, Grime, these are our sounds, as far as I’m concerned. Even in the way it sounds I wanted it to have that texture. The way it can switch you from one feeling to the next.
If an RnB producer made a Grime Record it would make sense, and it would be natural, for that producer to give the track to JME, Skepta, Wiley or someone that knows the sound. Just to understand if they’ve got it right in terms of the correct sounds and patterns that these pioneers of Grime would use. So when we made this track we had two producers Mikey and Low Qui – they’re called SOS – and we then took it to Wilkinson who specialises in that. He gets where I am and he gets what I’m going for so when you get confirmation from him, that it sounds right, you know you’ve got it. You can’t be ignorant basically.
You've collaborated with so any different types of people. Who next?
I’d like to explore writing a bit more. I want to hear my lyrics on the radio but it’s not me singing them. It’s a little confidence barrier that I’ve got to overcome. I can come up with good melodies but I always second guess things and I’m always questioning myself. I’d love to be in a comfortable place where I can go in with just the singer and no one else and write a whole tune that suits their voice.
In terms of collaboration, I’d love to do something with someone like James Blake, something quite eclectic.
You're a guy that likes his clothes, and you've worked with Oliver Spence in the past, how did you find that?
I’m still learning man. Even the Oliver Spencer thing that was so new to me - Fashion Week and all that shit. As people, we always have a perception of what things or people are going to be like. So you’d assume the fashion world is full of stuck up people and people would be looking down at me. Then I met Alex and he was like, “I love your music, you’re a really cool guy and I’d love to get you in one of my suits.” Then I realised, it’s an art. And when two artists come together that’s what they do, they create.
We just got on and I would never get into designing and modelling usually, I don’t want to be a model, but I liked the guy. I’m still learning in terms of tailoring. I just assumed that when you’re getting a suit you just go to Ralph Lauren or you go to Versace or Prada. Then you realise there are other boutiques that are just as sick or even better. For me, someone like Richard James, that’s real stuff that I prefer to some of the bigger names. But without the education or understanding you’d never know that.
And finally, what brands are you feeling?
Alexander Wang, D&G, a bit of McQueen. Pretty understated, nothing too crazy. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m wearing. In a shop I’ll look at the cut or the shape or the finishes. Which can be a great way to shop. Unless you’re a fan and you love a specific brand, like some people do, it's cool to not look at labels. It’s like music, you don’t have to know who you’re listening to enjoy their music.
Words: Greg Tuck & Luke McCarthy
Images: Tom Morton