Monday 14 October 2013

The Mirror: Smiler Interview

By Joseph 'JP' Patterson

Plenty of rappers today try their hand at the old-classic thing, and fail, miserably. There's this one guy from south London, though, who seems to be doing it, and doing it ever so well. Flowing under the alias of Smiler, he holds an authentically retro delivery all his own; coupled with an overall presentation that's as fresh as a new box of Adidas Stan Smiths, it's going to be pretty hard for this lyrical front-runner to lose in the current UK rap race. Since he first stepped in the booth in 2006, Smiler has been on a mission to "bring the mid-90s rap sound into the post-millennium." But, single after EP after mixtape later, we're sure most of his fans will agree that said mission has long been completed – what with his work-rate being so high, and all.

The Nas-idolizing wordsmith's hard work finally paid off recently, in the form of a record deal with Warner. And he's had the opportunity to work with some of pop's elite off the back off it, too, including Lana Del Rey, Professor Green, Icona Pop and, more recently, Ed Sheeran. Where these gigantic collabs would have the majority of British rappers walking around with their chests pushed out further than physically possible, Smiler has remained a well-grounded, professional, and truly likeable character.

Wretch, Tinie, and Dizzee better watch out... There's a new rhyme-star on the rise!

On who he is, and what he's all about: I’m Smiler, a rapper south-east London. I just represent great music, man. I grew up listening to a range of different genres, from R&B to folk, but hip-hop really captivated me when I started listening to it. I started listening to 2pac, Biggie, etc., but was really mesmerised when I started listening to East Coast rappers, like Nas, and AZ. I highly respected the way they put rhymes together, their subject matter, they way they lived – just everything they were about, really.

On his style of music: My music is quality rap, quality cross-continental hip-hop music. I don’t believe I’m tackled by the language barrier. I pride myself on clarity and clear diction, and I believe that every word should be pronounced as if made for a universal listener. So, whether you’re in the States or whether you’re in Europe or Asia, I craft my rhymes in such a way that you can digest what I’m talking about. I hope people can take insight, inspiration and, all-in-all, a different perspective from my music.

On who’s currently playing on his iPod: At the moment, I’m feeling J Cole’s work. The position he’s currently in is great for our scene, and I personally think that he’s in a much stronger musical place now than where he was with the last album. I like a lot of different artists, to be honest, but J Cole’s Born Sinner album has caught my ears the most. Another guy from the States who’s right up my street is Joey Bada$$. He’s doing big things, and we seem to have similar inspirations. Icona Pop’s sound is crazy, too! I’ve been privileged enough to work with them, and I just love the eccentricity in their music.

On the competition, and the UK urban music scene on a whole: I believe I could give every mainstream artist a run for their money. If I didn’t believe that, then there would be no point in me doing what I’m doing. I have to believe I am the best. I could name every artist – Dizzee, Tinie, Wretch, Pro Green – you just give me the platform and I’ll put on [laughs]. The UK hip-hop scene is in a good place. If I could change anything, though, it would be the unity between artists. I believe the unity isn’t where it should be because everyone likes to do things on their own so they don’t owe anyone anything. No one likes a hand-out or a favour but, at the end of the day, there’s always going to be strength in numbers.

On his goals for the foreseeable future: My new single, 'Brand New Style' – which features a few vocals and guitar strums from Ed Sheeran –  is out now, and I want to release my debut album pretty soon. If I could reach the point of actually releasing my album, I would've officially arrived as a musician. After that, I want to do my own tour; my first tour. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most: my album and my tour.

This also appeared in The Mirror.