OTW #474: ItsNate

Lyrical insouciance making a mark in a broader, more polished realm
Clash Magazine Ones To Watch - ItsNate by Neil Bedford

You can’t be a British rapper, yet unaware of the stigma behind it. Whether North London spitter ItsNate is - or  isn’t - is irrelevant. Despite the odds, and perhaps because of them, his cultivation stems from growing up on artists within his vicinity. “When first I came across Wiley’s Eskimo riddim, I’d never heard anything like that at the time. I was just like, ‘What the fuck?’ And Sway came on a different tip. He wasn’t a gangster and I quite respected that; just people telling their stories in interesting ways.”

And so it goes when you’re in a volcanic crust of fiery, notoriously aggressive MCs eager to be heard. There’s a few respected globally - Roots Manuva, Dizzee Rascal, Tinie Tempah - but the roster is less than a handful. ItsNate’s an optimist, though. Britain’s underground circuit is not a new phenomenon, but the direction the platform is heading is felt tier by tier. “British hip-hop is as open as it’s ever been,” he says. “Before grime it was real narrow with what you can do and what is accepted, but now you do what you want.”

His three mixtapes (‘Never Ask’, ‘Suede Jones Smooth  Material’, and the recent ‘Never  Average Talking Excellent’) showcase a slow, steady evolution. On the grind for three years, a YouTube search reveals SB.TV cyphers along with a plethora of lowbrow music videos. Though he’s still young (well, he’s twentythree), there’s something that differentiates ItsNate from the cesspool. Who knows, as his peers conjure up new ways to build, the MC will more than likely turn to a borough - rather than the US - to take his ‘brand’ to the next level. “[Artists like] Piff Gang are the homies. I don’t see them as competition,” he begins, “they’re just doing their own thing. If more people did it like that it’d be better for  music. Them being around is good because it keeps me on my toes”.

It wasn’t too long ago that ItsNate opened for the self-made mega hype machine Mac Miller (organized by the clothing label Trapstar), a hook up that implies people around recognise his serious potential. Yet, he’s too deep into what he’s doing - nurturing UK’s playground - to glorify the American Dream: “At the time I didn’t even know that was a big deal because I was new to the whole thing.” Sometimes, to get where you need to be, peripheral vision works wonders.  

Words: Safra Ducreay
Photo: Neil Bedford

Where: London
What: Lyrical insouciance making a mark in a broader, more polished realm.
Get 3 Songs: ‘City Lights’, ‘#Momentum’, ‘Call Me A Cab’
Unique Fact: He’s a Brand Consultant (but when quizzed about a global British luxury brand, he failed… miserably).

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