You currently have your own show on Kiss Radio, how did that come together for you?
Basically I was doing a show on Friday night on Rinse FM; I’ve been doing that for about two and a half years and I put together a free CD which I gave out. It was meant to go in a tape pack but the company never ended up using it so I just pushed it out myself. One of the people on Kiss heard that and really liked the music that was on there and had heard my show on Rinse a couple of times as well and I was asked to come in and record a demo show. Then they asked me to do a couple of cover shows for one of their DJs that had gone away for a couple of weeks and because the response was so good on the cover shows I did, they gave me a slot.
Do you believe there’s still a large audience for grime music?
Well just giving you an idea, in terms of listening figures for Kiss FM, when it comes to specialist radio shows, in the 11pm-1am slot which is when I’m on. There are obviously shows on everyday of the week; I’m only on one day of the week. In that time slot I have the most listened to show out of all the shows in that time slot. On the Kiss FM website, you know people coming and listening to the show on the player during the week, using the listen back feature, I am the fourth most listened to show on the entire station and that includes every show even including the day time shows. My listening figures are constantly over 100,000 people every time they do the radio figures so yeah.
Playing only Grime music, do you think that ever holds you back or limits your opportunities?
Well if I played any old pop music I’d have even more listeners. You can extrapolate that to the tenth degree and you’ll end up with everyone listening to you but yeah I am a DJ because I enjoy Grime music. I am a professional radio presenter because I enjoy Grime music, Kiss gave me a show to do a Grime show, they didn’t give me a show to do a Logan show, and they didn’t give me a show to do a UK Urban show or a British Black music show or anything like that. They got me on to do a Grime show, that’s what I do, no one else on legal radio does that and I think there’s too many DJs out there now that play anything and they don’t really stand for much musically and I think you know what I do is something different and it’s something important.
How do you go about selecting what music to play and what artists to invite onto your show?
Yeah Im on Kiss and Kiss is a very commercial mainstream station and Grime isn’t very commercial mainstream music. So my show is like a bridging point between underground music and a commercial audience. So unless you’re an artist that has done the work already, you’ve already got a fan base, people know who you are its unlikely you’ll be getting played on my show. When I started doing my show I thought it needs to be a tool so people who have come from the Grime scene are able to push on and go into the mainstream so that more names can come through because if you’ve got people like Wiley, Skepta, JME and Ghetto and those type of people who are big names in the Grime scene and they’re just staying very underground and not moving upwards then there’s not gonna be any space for new names to come through. And as you’ve seen Tinchy Stryder is doing really well, Skepta’s starting to be a bit more consistent for himself and Wiley’s had success and these artists are just starting to move through. There’s space being created for new names like P Money. We’re just seeing continuous upward movement; the artists are doing better and making more and more money. I think my show has done what I wanted it to do, which is become a platform for these artists to become more widely known and be more successful.
How important of a role do you believe DJs play in the music industry?
It’s strange these days because the music industry is going through a lot of changes. I think the DJ plays quite an important part but now with YouTube, Facebook, Mix tape and that sort of thing, you can have a tune that’s big and promote yourself. I think though you’ll always need a DJ cus the DJs the guy that gets your tune played on the radio and the clubs. So I think a DJs still important but it’s not like if you’re not getting a DJs support that you have to give up or that sort of thing, you can actually go out now and do your own thing and build yourself up so that the DJs end up supporting you as well.
In your opinion, which artist would you say is representing grime properly and to the fullest?
I can’t really say like only one person is representing Grime properly because there are many different aspects to Grime, so that’s not really something I could answer. Anyone that comes out and is making music and doing well is representing Grime.
Your predictions on who will be the next artist to get signed?
Well Chipmunks just got signed and I think it’s really obvious that he’s gonna get pushed and do well for himself. In terms of underground I think P Moneys got a lot of really good music, he’s making some good songs at the moment and also I wanna see what kind of work these young guys can do like Griminal, Dot Rotten and Ice Kid. When they really put their heads down and actually just start working hard. All three of them are very talented and have a lot of potential but they haven’t got as many releases out as some other people.
Some MCs decide to write about violence and so on in their lyrics. Would you say that’s one major factor why Grime isn’t as big as say Indie or Pop?
Well nope I wouldn’t say it’s one of the biggest factors. Indie or Pop is aimed at a certain demographic. I think its like 1.2% of the population in the country that is black or mixed so I think if you’re making music which is predominantly geared towards you know young black males and 98% of the country is not black then you know it’s not gonna be immediately accessible. Indie music’s made by you know middle class white people and listened to by middle class white people so you know it’s naturally gonna have a bigger volume.
What’s your explanation for why there’s so many more American MCs that are signed compared to the UK?
Hip-Hops been around for 25 years so you know that’s always gonna be an issue. You’re never gonna get as many British developed artists over here cus the music and the scene is so young, over here we’ve had Jungle, Garage, Grime you know then we also had British Hip-Hop, there’s not been a continual history of one thing so it’s broken up. It takes time for people to see results, you know no one was getting signed and now all of a sudden we’ve had four Number 1’s and we’re gonna have a fifth Number 1 from people coming through this scene in one year. Tinchy Stryder’s the biggest selling single’s artist in the country so far 2009. Dizzee Rascals the first black artist to have a Number 1 single on his label I think as well.
Having looked at your track listings the majority of the artists you play are London based, why is that?
The majority of the known artists are London based that’s how it is, you know if you go to any rave in the country they know who Skepta is, if you go to any rave in the country people know who Wiley is, they know who Tinchy is. You know these guys have been doing this thing for like 8 years, they just happen to be the most well known artists. I see London based artists doing bookings up and down across the UK; I don’t see guys from up and down across the UK doing bookings on the same level as that. That’s what it is, personally and I mean I’m on a London station but a lot of people might not even realise I’m not from London. I live in Essex so you know the thing of I’m only supporting London people is air to me. I just play the biggest artists and if everyone’s honest with themselves, the artists that I support on my show are generally the biggest artists. There’s a lot of talent across the country from various different artists and MCs but for whatever different reasons they’re not as well known, they’re not as well organised, as the infrastructure in their area is not there. They’re not putting out music or they’re not getting their music pushed out there as far as they can. Slowly it’s starting to happen because there’s networking going on, I mean you’ll see guys like Shifty and Wrigley working with Wiley. You have guys like Devilman and Vader coming down; it’s all about net working. But then you’ve got other artists that did a bit of networking and for whatever reason, you know life happens and they weren’t able to follow it up. I personally think that Wariko is a very talented MC but I never really heard a great deal out from him in the last two years. As I said before I do a commercial/mainstream show and majority of the known artists are from London you know that’s nothing to do with me or Westwood or anything like that. It’s just how it is; the biggest names are the biggest names.
How do you feel about Westwood playing grime music?
I think it’s brilliant, I think anyone playing Grime music is fucking brilliant. I mean if someone as famous and well known as Westwood gets behind Grime music and gives it a platform on his show, I think that’s great. 1Xtra is lovely and all that stuff but the real important thing for me is that Westwood is playing Grime music on his Radio 1 show and that gets out to loads of people. Radio 1 show has more listeners than mine so Westwood playing Grime is great because firstly when it comes to any type of Rap music in the UK, Tim Westwood is the biggest DJ. Whether that’s rapping on Grime, whether that’s rapping on Hip-Hop, Funky House or whatever. If you’re rapping Westwood is the biggest DJ. If he is really going in and endorsing Grime then that makes Grime look like a big deal and for me that’s a fucking good thing.
Neelam Atique – August ’09
How did you get into the music industry?
I started singing probably about 11/12 when I was in play centre, I use write songs, poems and I won a few talent shows singing my own stuff and also Mariah Carey covers. I’d go on pirate radio and get on mix tapes with MCs and Rappers that were in my area. I think the industry properly noticed me when I decided that I was gonna record a mix tape which was ‘Split Endz Volume 1’ and I was the only female at that time and all of a sudden I had a mix tape with people like Wiley, Professor Green, Sway, Pirelli and all these artists. Me and my best friend we literally were selling the CD on Oxford Street in Central London for five pounds. I then had a track called ‘Fire’ which I then took to some of the DJs, they first played my stuff on Logan Sama on Kiss FM and DJ Cameo who was on 1xtra at the time and they really started supporting and it was really from there where I thought okay I need somewhere for my fan base to listen to me so I set up a MySpace and a YouTube and that was kind of how I got into it.
Did you see being one of the few females in such a male dominated scene as a disadvantage or advantage?
Yeah I think it was both I mean the negatives were that you know you had a lot of people saying that this is grime it’s for spitters, you can’t sing on it. You always get that kinda stuff and you get people that are really like purist of any kind of music. They know how to keep it how it is and they don’t want any new stuff coming but at the end of the day the flip side of that was great because there were all these guys and I was the only girl which means automatically I stood out and I bought something new to it which maybe some of the guys couldn’t, so yeah I loved being the only girl.
Some people would say artists such as Wiley and Tinchy have forgotten about grime. What’s your view on Grime artists going on to make ‘commercial’ music?
As an artist you’re constantly evolving and I mean you have to remember that the word ‘Pop’ just means ‘Popular music’ and when music’s commercial all it means that people are buying it. So if commercial means selling out then I think well everyone should do it [Laughs]. I think in regards to people like Tinchy, I think he found a niche and that’s really helped him, and he’s got to number one, twice. With Wiley he’s somebody that jumped in and out of genres but he always represents Grime I mean the newest album has got a lot of Grime on it. Even with myself I’ve done all sorts of different music, I’ve supported people like Donell Jones doing more R&B stuff and then I’ve supported Richie Spice doing more Reggae based.
Is there any other career path you’d like to go down?
I love music with all my heart; I breathe music so I’d always do stuff to do with music. I really love drama and I wouldn’t mind doing a bit of acting and you know just some extra work and just have a bit of fun with it really. I don’t think its something Id go into as a serious career but I wouldn’t rule it out either. Also, on the side I actually teach music.
Who do you teach?
College kids and a lot of young people that haven’t been able to go to college for whatever reason, whether its bullying, crime or just problems at home. They have different courses that they put on in teaching all over really and it’s been really good.
That’s wicked. There are a few people that think music leads to violence, on this occasion though you’re teaching music to keep kids out of trouble. Where do you stand on this subject?
I think music is a form of expression and I mean I’ve just been watching a documentary on Pink and she said she likes singing about controversial things because it became her therapy. Sometimes music’s your therapy, sometimes it’s just your fun, and people need it for different things. It’s the same way people need to drink coffee in the morning you know what I mean. I think that everything and anything in the whole world is an influence. Yeah, to a degree a lot of the most popular music is maybe geared towards negativity because of the media not because of the actual artists because if you actual listen to all different kinds of music, you’ll see that there’s millions of artists that are good, some sing about love, some sing about sex, money, family, so I just think that it’s not that there’s a lot of negative music, but more so its the media because this country loves drama. It’s why we all watch Eastenders you know what I mean. [Laughs] There’s good and bad in everything, from TV, books to video games.
Which artists inspire you?
Growing up I’d say Mariah Carey was like a huge inspiration cus I never really got taught to sing properly and it was really listening to her albums that encouraged me because I thought okay she’s from mixed heritage, she can sing and so that was sort of my role model when I was younger. Also, both my parents were like really big vinyl collectors and played a lot of music growing up. So, I listened to like a lot of old soul and also a lot of reggae as well like Burning Spear, Peter Tosh, Bob Marley so all sorts of singers really but I’d say I love individual songs more than individual artists as a whole.
Okay then what would be your Top 3 favourite songs of all time?
Oh my gosh! That’s really hard, because when you’re happy you’ve got some songs, when you’re sad you’ve got some songs. Erm I love, ‘Beres Hammond – They’re Gonna Talk’ because I think it’s about me. [Laughs] I also love ‘Aaliyah – Missing You’ I think that’s a gorgeous song and I’d say I love ‘Bob Marley – Natural Mystic’
I heard you were selling puppies, are you a really big animal lover?
Ahh like my three loves in the world are music, animals and travelling so I completely love animals. All of them, the only thing Im scared of is wasps but everything else like snakes, spiders, I love all of them. Yeah the puppies, they all went to good homes and I’ve got a dog at the moment called Rain. Im actually going on a Safari in Tanzania in December, Im so excited about that.
Aww you’re so lucky, make sure you take loads of pictures!
Yeah Ill be video recording it, like ‘Oh my god there’s a lion!’ [Laughs] I actually wanted to be a vet when I was younger as well and everyone used to take the mick, like ‘Oh you can be a singing vet, and sing them back to hell.’ [Laughs]
You’re also a committed vegetarian, what led that decision on, was it anything to do with your love for animals?
Yeah, I’ve never eaten meat before, other than fish so technically Im a pescetarian cus otherwise people argue and say Im not a vegetarian. When we were younger my mum just chose not to give us meat cus she just thought that a lot of the meat we get isn’t very clean you know you get like battery farmed chickens and all that stuff so she just kept it really basic and healthy, fruit and veg you know pastas and we eat food from all around the world like we eat couscous and we eat Indian, Mediterranean, African and all kinds of food so we didn’t really miss eating meat at all and even now I’ve got to an age where it was up to me whether I wanted to eat meat or not and I just decided that I don’t want to eat anything that im not prepared to kill.
You’ve performed at many clubs and festivals which environment do you prefer and why?
Well last year I did Glastonbury which was amazing, and really last year was like one whole year of touring. We did some amazing tours we did Belgium, Pukkelpop Festival, also Roskilde in Denmark and then we also went to Canada for one day which was my favourite day of the whole tour, the club was just huge and extravagant and the crowd was completely mental so that was good. I love performing in general thought so it doesn’t really matter where it is.
Where was your favourite performance to date?
Probably Belgium, that was really cool and I’d say Nottingham as well one called ‘Gatecrasher’ and somewhere I’d love to perform cus I haven’t performed there since I was like 14 years old, is ‘The Forum’ in Kentish town, cus Im originally from North West London.
You recently released your single ‘Dangerous.’ What other projects have you been working on?
Like you said ‘Dangerous’ is out, it’s in all good online stores so make sure you get that. I’ve got a new track out called ‘Sea Sick’ which is produced by the great Davinche. Its a really nice song, its about being sick of love and just trying to get out of something but just still holding on and just knowing that you need to let go, so I think a lot of people can relate to that. I just finished working on a track with Saint he’s a new artist so watch out for him and I’ve done a tune with Ghettz.
Listen to a clip of ‘Ny – Sea Sick’ >
For more information on Ny, visit: http://www.myspace.com/nyofficial
Neelam Atique – August ’09