I Interview: Rizzle Kicks

UK hip-hop newcomers Rizzle Kicks have just breached the UK Top Ten with their second single ‘Down With the Trumpets.’ The duo have opened for Jessie J and Dizzee Rascal, and will tour later this year with Professor Green.

Rizzle Kicks, made up of good-time lads Harley and Jordan, have set their sights on creating a big bang in the industry. With their already trademark fun hip-hop records causing a commotion and a debut album on the way, the boys wind down with TaleTela for a chat…

OK lads, introduce yourselves …

Harley: My name is Harley Sylvester and I am the singer of Rizzle Kicks.

Jordan: I am Rizzle or Jordan and I am the one who does the rapping and that…

So, what’s your manifesto?

Jordan: We intend to bring something new and fresh to the current climate of music. I think we’ve got something different to offer and we hope that people will feel that we have brought something new to the scene.

Summer’s nearly over, what has it been like so far for you guys?

Harley: (laughs) We knew back in March that it was going to be raining in July and August. So I was kind of prepared and wasn’t really expecting much sun, but we did have a little trip to Majorca and Ibiza which was awesome.

Jordan: I think we are quite Summer-y people though, and we take advantage of every bright day.

I noticed your desire to put out positive hip-hop in contrast to what tends to dominate the radio waves – elaborate on your views on that…

J: We are not looking to preach or anything, about positivity or whatever – I just think our general outlook on life is more about fun. We love hip-hop, we listen to all kinds of music but hip-hop is what has filtered down into our sound. It’s that kind of early hip-hop when the messages were different with acts like A Tribe Called Quest, The Far Side, The Fugees and De La Soul that we try to capture. Our mind-set might be seen as different to what’s out there at the moment; but without trying to sound cheesy and cliché we do try to keep it as real as possible.

You guys have been Brighton based for quite some time, what are the differences between London and Brighton?

H: Brighton is very chilled, we both grew up in London for 10-11 years and then moved to Brighton for eight years and are now back in London, but I’m really glad I spent my teenage years in Brighton because it’s really chilled and more accepting.

J: It’s funny because Brighton isn’t incredibly diverse but it is more culturally accepting, and I think in terms of creativity there aren’t so many boundaries or restrictions and I think I was moved out of London just before I entered secondary school and I was like, “Yeah this feels a lot different.” It was definitely a place where you could roam freely in your own creative element, I think for those reasons we have come out as a reflection of that. We Love London though, Brighton is kind of small, so it can get a bit repetitive.

So you two are in a band together, in what ways are you different?

H: Us two, personally?

J: We are kind of opposite sometimes.

H: I’m very laid back, relaxed and tolerant Jordan is more…

J: I’m very particular about things I am a perfectionist. It’s those little things that I always pick up on and yes, Harley is a lot more laid back and tolerant of me because sometimes I can be quite full on and high maintenance – well no…I’m just particular. I think the magic to our relationship is that Harley does deal with a lot of the shit I sometimes give him, but it works as well because I think if I was allowed in my own space for too long I think I would go insane, and Harley tends to filter that out a bit…and he has a really nice voice and I haven’t…

OK, so with the debut album what can we expect? – You guys nervous?

J: We wanted to make this first album just us.

H: I’m excited, we wanted to make it has hip-hop as we can and I think that we did that. Obviously the singles are a little more poppy and upbeat but essentially it’s a hip-hop album. There’s lots of sampling, lots of live instruments and as long as we are happy with it I’m not bothered how it does – I mean we want it to do well, but as long we feel we’ve made an incredible album which maybe some people pick up on years later then we’ll be happy…but we are really excited.

So is it finished?

H: Not completely, not yet. We should be finished very soon.

So what is your working relationship like, what is your creative process – is it straightforward, do you write first, do make the tune first, or is it ideas first?

J: I suppose we are always in our element when we use that hip-hop method of a producer creating a beat that he thinks we might fit on and then we work off that beat. We also write lyrics and then work around it but we have always just loved hearing a beat, hooking up on something, writing it and then just going with it.

OK, so Rizzle Kicks where does the name come from?

J: Well the name was already there before Harley joined, it’s a nickname that I picked up in my old football school that stuck with me. I was called Rizzler, which turned into Rizzle and then I added Kicks because of football – but Harley also likes football and so it works – we were already in a competition to play at a festival and so we kind of just stuck with it.

If you weren’t doing music where would you be?

H: Well, we both went to the Brit School but neither of us did music. I did theatre and Jordan did media, I was always a keen actor before that. So I would have loved to have carried on doing that and it’s something that I would love to come back to, but I was actually working as a teaching assistant at the theatre department at my old secondary school – which was actually really fun. I thought it would be a good way to get back into the theatre side of things, but acting is something I would love to get back into.

J: I was working in a greyhound stadium, flipping burgers – typical rapper. I was writing a book and then I didn’t finish that and then I was writing a TV series and then I didn’t finish that. But I would have done something like that or went into directing some shit – well not shit, some good stuff (smiles).

So what are you guys listening to at the moment iPod wise?

J: The latest thing?

H: We love Maverick Sabre’s new tune. It’s an awesome tune.

J: I have been listening to the new album by a guy called eLZhi, he has done his own version of Nas’ Illmatic called ‘Elmatic.’ It’s pretty sick, and I’m always listening to Pharoahe Monch, he is a don. He has a new album out that I need to get.

H: Jordan was pumping out some Jurassic 5 earlier this morning. Nice vibe.

J: Q-Tip’s ‘Let’s Ride’, I always put on in the morning as well.

H: Our other flatmate didn’t really appreciate it.

J: He walked into my room and said (in low caveman voice) “It’s a bit early for a party ain’t it?”

OK, so what celebrities do you like and don’t like?

J: Oooh…OK, Let’s go in – I don’t like 4 out of the 5 of One Direction boys.

Which one do you like?

J: Harry Styles.

H: He seems like a good lad.

J: I like Professor Green and Olly Murs. We like Sasha Parkinson and Brooke Vincent from Coronation Street. We like Ricky and Melvin [Kiss FM], they are the sickest guys. We like Dappy [N-Dubz]– we have crossed paths but have never actually met before.

H: We like Tinchy Stryder.

J: We like Reggie Yates and Fearne Cotton. I met Ellie Golding backstage at Wakestock and she was lovely has well, in fact I was working out at a gym once once, and I mean one time – I don’t go often and she was working out next to me and she was killing it!!

H: I am personally not a fan of most of the music in the charts the moment, but when you meet these artists they are always decent.

J: JLS were cool, Ed Sheeran and Wretch 32 were safe.

H: We are good friends with Yasmin. Are there any songs in the charts that you wish you had done?

J: The beat to Maverick Sabre’s ‘Let Me Go’ is sick, I would have loved to have done that beat…’Unorthodox’ [Wretch 32 and Example] would’ve been nice. I think we should have put a cheeky little verse over ‘Goldust’ by DJ Fred (sings it proudly).

Have you listened to Kanye and Jay Z’s ‘Watch The Throne’ yet?

J: No, I was about to mention it as something that we are listening to at the moment but I haven’t downloaded it yet.

H: ‘Otis’ is a f*cking banger…

J: Only Jay-Z could come in with ‘I Invented Swag’ as the first line and get away with it.

Track 3…that’s all I’m gonna say…

H: I need to get it.

J: We will download it and then blast it out.

A lot of the fans on our site are girls who want to know your girlfriend situation…

J: We’re both single.

H: Well, to be fair I do actually have 18 girlfriends.

Harley, do you really play the trumpet?

J: Harley, actually has the natural breathing.

H: I can’t actually play but some trumpet player said that I would make a good trumpet player.

J: If you can pick it up and make sounds it means that you are potentially good at it. It’s about the (does loud trumpet sound).

H: …apparently I do that quite successfully.

You guys are still new and on a learning curve, have you had any disastrous gigs?

H: We did Party In The Park in Leeds and we were backstage and normally what we do is when they introduce us we run onto stage just as our track is about to drop in we do a bit of talking backstage to the audience so in Leeds the guy said ‘Here are the Rizzle Kicks!’ The crowd roared which was about 70,000 people but they didn’t turn the mic’s on for about a minute and a half so we were just standing backstage with nothing coming out [of the mic’s]. So we finally got them turned on and it was kinda going well and when we announced ‘Yo, this is our first track Prophet (Better Watch It)’ and some random pop track started playing over the system. But I think we pulled it off and I think people could tell that it was not our fault.

J: That was quite a hideous day wasn’t it?

Who would you like to work with?

Both: Damon Albarn

J: Q-Tip and…it’s a weird pick because I don’t know much about him but Frank Ocean.

H: I would love to work with Drake, he is an amazing songwriter isn’t he? We haven’t actually worked with any songwriters so it would amazing to see what that would be like.

J: We would love to collaborate with people who helped us develop our sound, so people like Roots Manuva and Jamie T would be wicked. I’ve never said this in an interview and I don’t know why but we got a phone call from Ali Shaheed Muhammad who is the producer for A Tribe Called Quest – which was a bit much for me – and he said he is down for something a some point. Their documentary is about to come out and I was watching the trailer and I was spinning the fuck out. That dude actually rung me, my phone rung and I answered it and the dude was like (US accent)“What’s going on, it’s Ali Shaheed – I’m feelin’ you guys steeds man.”

On a more political note – The UK riots…thoughts?

J: On Twitter I slipped up because I acted really harshly to the whole thing and didn’t understand the situation. Police is kind of a touchy issue I think, but in general it’s completely mindless – I don’t know what it says about our communities when if given the opportunity a portion of the community will smash up their own community and other people’s – definitely something to read into there. People are looking to the police to protect them from their own people. There is an element of understanding but shit is gonna come down when people start using this a case study for new laws – especially with the right wing dickheads who will say it was the blacks and Asians. It’s really hard to comment because there are so many angles and perspectives. I think it was the last straw for a lot of people but the bottom line is it was completely idiotic, there could have been a better approach…

H: I am just disappointed, it’s completely mindless. I can loosely understand how it started in London from this guy getting shot and how that sparked it off but the way it spread to the North that way – it became this opportunistic bid to get free stuff and to tear up a community.It doesn’t make sense – there must be something wrong going on upstairs with these people. I am glad that it is quieting down now though….

So what next for you guys?

J: We have our next single coming out called ‘When I Was A Youngster’, I think people can relate to the lyrics, it will reinforce our musical position and our angle and it samples The Clash which is cool. We’ve got the album and we will support professor Green on his winter tour. We have a couple of gigs in Edinburgh…and we’ve got a mixtape coming out that we’ve been trying to get out there for ages.

In five years time where do you want to be, what do you want to have, what do you want to be doing? – or who do you want to be doing?

H: Who do I want to be doing?

J: Three really good records and a supermodel wife – actually not wife, f*ck that – supermodel girlfriend(s).

H: I’m just gonna bell up Rosie Jones, if you read this Rosie Jones I love you…

J: Or Rose Huntingdon-Whitely or…Emma Rigby…(rapping) Rigby, ring me/ I just wanna fling see….

H: We just wanna be successful, and want to be seen

J: We wanna create a wave in music.

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