Lurking in the black hole of the Internet, behind the thousands of legitimate label releases dominating the charts, are the mixtapes. With the blogosphere an ever-present breeding ground for young artists to share their music for free, we’ve rounded up (and downloaded) the ten best zip files of the year.

10. Lute ‘West1996’

To be honest, we remember downloading this mixtape because the cover bared a blatant resemblance to Nasty Nas’ classic album ‘Illmatic’. Luckily for is judging a book by its cover worked because the MC from Charlotte, North Carolina, is certified dope as he dropped a hidden gem in a stream that’s constantly flooded by throwaway mixtapes. Spitting hot fire bars on classic ’90s hip-hop beats, Lute gets to flex his lyrical dexterity and he finds a balance in applying his witty wordplay with his experiences in the trap of NC. Inspired by his environment but not a product of it, Lute says it best on ‘80 Proof’: “Catch me in these streets but nigga I ain’t got to trap shit /Thank God I got captured by the beat / What mother wanna see they youngest son in a casket”.


Download the Lute ‘West1996’ mixtape

9. Dom Kennedy ‘Yellow Album’

It’s always sunny in LA, but here in London we have to rely on things other than the weather to make June through September feel like summer. This is where Leimert Park native Dom Kennedy stepped in with his ‘Yellow Album’. Full of laid-back beats and an effortless flow so relaxed it’s almost void of emotion, this release gets pretty close to capturing the pure essence of summertime California amongst its tracks. Lead single ‘My Type Of Party’ is a typical hip-hop head nodder with easy rhyming couplets and a tried and tested lyrical formula that shines in its simplicity. Another standout track is ‘We Ball’ featuring fellow West Coast dweller Kendrick Lamar – it easily blurs the lines between mixtape and album track, and with guest spots also coming from big guns such as Too $hort and Rick Ross, Kennedy is making friends in all the right places.


Download the Dom Kennedy ‘Yellow Album’ mixtape

8. Action Bronson And Party Supplies ‘Blue Chips’

On the surface it might come across as another ’90s influenced throwback, but delve below the surface and Blue Chips was one of the most exciting and contemporary mixtapes of 2012. Created around samples grabbed from YouTube sessions conducted by Bronson and Fool’s Gold producer/one-man-band Party Supplies, Blue Chips showcases everything from rapping over percussionless instrumentals to messing up the first verse and starting again (all adding to Bronson’s likeable character) – and that’s only the first track. It’s the fun and easy-going nature of the two collaborators that comes through most, making it a hugely enjoyable listen. Just don’t fucking say his music sounds like Ghost’s shit!


Download the Action Bronson And Party Supplies ‘Blue Chips’ mixtape

7. Waka Flocka Flame ‘Salute Me Or Shoot Me 4’

Even though Waka Flocka Flame’s sophomore debut ‘Triple F Life: Fans, Friends And Family’ flopped commercially (it failed to even go gold), and lacked the spark that made his now infamous ‘Flockaveli’ debut, he’s pushing ten deep on the mixtape circuit. His most recent delivery, ‘Salute Me Or Shoot Me 4 (Banned From America)’, which dropped in September, is laced with trap beats and a string of guest appearances including Gucci Mane, Wale, Roscoe Dash and Chief Keef. Waka’s people’s champ persona has garnered him a new lesion of followers stretching well past the underground hemisphere. So, consequently, whether or not ‘Salute Me’ has any real substance, he’s been riding on consistency which works in his favour. There isn’t anything profound going on here, a point even Waka will admit about his existence in the game, but the reoccurring molly, money and loyalty themes over infectious 808 drums do resonate. One thing is for sure: hate it or love it, you can’t deny Waka’s unusual charm.


Download the Waka Flocka Flame ‘Salute Me Or Shoot Me 4’ mixtape

6. Bago ‘Sunday’s Best’

Add a touch of Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse’s soul and sprinkle it with an essence of Yukimi Nagano from Little Dragon and you get the fantastic Bago wearing her ‘Sunday’s Best’. The beautiful songbird from LA dropped one hell of a smooth mixtape in August and her sultry vocals were the perfect way to close out the summer. The overall theme of this ten-track mixtape divulges into poisonous love relationships and the betrayal that comes with it, or as Bago herself likes to describe it: “music for the screwed, blued and tattooed”. Credit also goes to her longtime producer Alexander Spit, who threw down the monster beats for her to sing over. Where Bago’s career goes in 2013 is a mystery, but if she continues dropping projects like this with bangers like ‘Dr. Lock’, ‘Devil Inside’ and ‘Bad On The Bottle’ then she’s going to go far.


Download the Bago ‘Sunday’s Best’ mixtape

5. Childish Gambino ‘Royalty’

Having given it a little thought, it’s clear that the title of this mixtape can only be referring to one thing: the sheer volume of legendary hip-hop royalty (and some bright young things waiting on a crown) who’ve thrown down a verse for it. Opening up and progressing from the one-man-band production of ‘Camp’, Gambino welcomes others into the fold for ‘Royalty’ to create something both recognizably him and yet distinctly curious. ‘American Royalty’ is one of the stars, opening with a marching band beat (provided by Hypnotic Brass Orchestra) huskily drawled over by RZA and slowly swallowed up by the electro noise Childish has become known for – and call him greedy but RZA isn’t the only Wu-Tang member on the roster; he saved a little room for Ghostface Killah too.


Download the Childish Gambino ‘Royalty’ mixtape

4. Joey Bada$$ ‘1999’

New York rap kids have a particularly tough list of forefathers to act as heir to. Patrons like Nas, Biggie and Wu Tang all hailed the Big Apple as their stomping ground and what a footprint they left. Seventeen-year-old Joey Bada$$ from Brooklyn was next up and with ‘1999’ planted a noticeable bedrock for his career. The beats were Nas-esque; toting plenty of boom bap steez and a revitalised East Coast bounce that flaunted his skill for nit-picking instrumentals. Cue jazzy, chilled numbers from the likes of MF DOOM, J Dilla, Statik Selektah and Freddie Joachim. Sure, it probably didn’t win many points for originality – nothing content-wise was especially fresh – but its strengths lied elsewhere. Joey’s style of lyricism married each of the beats to perfection and tracks like ‘Waves’ and ‘Fromdatomb$’ make MTV Raps flutter through the memory. With ‘1999’, Joey Bada$$ went and made those golden era hip-hop years revitalisingly tangible.


Download the Joey Bada$$ ‘1999’ mixtape

3. Flatbush Zombies ‘D.R.U.G.S’

After cleverly drip-feeding the blogosphere with videos like ‘Thug Waffle’ and ‘S.C.O.S.A’ there was a lot of hype surrounding the release of Brooklynites Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice’s debut mixtape ‘D.R.U.G.S’ when it dropped in July. Clashing together modern blog-rap with classic NY boom bap tendencies and laying it all down over ’90s Southern rap drum patterns, Erick Arc Elliot provides the backdrop to Meech and Juice’s back and forth rants. They rely just as heavily on their outlandish characters and insanity tinged vocals as their wordplay and rebirth-via-drug abuse subject matter – but don’t file them away under any ‘drug-rap’ sub-genres just yet though, this is only the beginning.


Download the Flatbush Zombies ‘D.R.U.G.S’ mixtape

2.  Children Of The Night ‘Queens…Revisited’

With co-signs from Large Professor and Young Guru, you’d forgive Children Of The Night for being a little cocky. But even a journalist’s claim that they’re “the new Tribe Called Quest” didn’t swell their egos much. They remain the fun-loving rap crew that incites girls moshing at their shows. COTN’s sound is ’90s with a 2012 twist; most production is courtesy of their in-house producer, Detroit’s Black Noise. But ‘Queens…Revisited’ also boasts beats by Odd Future’s Left Brain and Matt Martians, Hannibal King and Thelonious Martin, plus Danny Brown’s beat-supplier, Skywlkr, responsible for the bass-heavy party track ‘Ilyas’. Their fourth release, ‘Queens…Revisited’ put them on a platform for the world to see. Fueling the buzz were features from Roc Marciano, Flatbush Zombies’ Meechy Darko, Marz Lovejoy, Gita, Lakutis, Big Baby Gandhi and T-shirt plus the six-man collective COTN is a part of, World’s Fair.


Download the Children Of The Night ‘Queens…Revisited’ mixtape

1. Haleek Maul And Supreme Cuts ‘Chrome Lips’

Supreme Cuts hadn’t heard shit about Barbados-based Haleek Maul, then known as KIDGNS, when he called them up and began freestyling down the phone. Yet, his spontaneous credentials were enough to convince them to set about a mixtape. This mixtape; ‘Chrome Lips’. From the outset, Haleek breathes the dark imagery that haunted the narcotic melodics of his ‘Oxyconteen EP’; morbid and succinct. The mixtape artwork channels the eerie, as a blue stained Marie Antoinette, now a masculine corpse, hovers in the Palace of Versailles. Haleek’s lyrics follow the macabre, nodding subtly to distant precursors; Memphis rap, Horrorcore, Esham, Brotha Lynch Hung and Gravediggaz, but at a lethargic and codeine-soaked pace. Supreme Cuts’ production haunts the background with space and texture, making ‘Chrome Lips’ “a cloud of weed smoke, twisting shapes that animate your nightmares”. The duo combine loose snippets from Whispers In The Dark with cherry-picked samples, from King Crimson to Brian Eno. Add to that guest appearances from Deniro Ferrar, Kool A.D., Main Attraktionz and more. It all provides the vault for Haleek… only sixteen years old. Bright talent, dark troubles and an album on the horizon. Here’s looking at you, kid.


Download the Haleek Maul And Supreme Cuts ‘Chrome Lips’ mixtape

What to make of hip-hop in 2012 then…amongst its calculations back in January, Rapture & Verse forecast that Plan B would have a strong campaign (we’re gonna claim victory there, although it wasn’t exactly a long shot), that Azealia Banks would have plenty to say (she did. Over and over and over), and that we’d stand by taking a gamble on Diggy Simmons making a mark (aside from a minor beef with J Cole, this flutter barely left the gate).

Anyway, we thought some horse’s mouth gospel would provide a better, eyewitness summarisation of the past year, so see what the below, on-the-button rhymers and insiders made of how the previous 12 months came and went. Looks like a certain Comptonite did the business for the majority…

The Last Skeptik – @thelastskeptik
So, in 2012, hip-hop was, in my opinion… “Excellent. The cycle came back around and all those bandwagon fuckwits decided it was time to dickride hip-hop again. Far from being a bad thing, it cued a LOT of incredible albums, big nights and things looking very, very bright for 2013.”

This year’s best hip-hop release was… “Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Good Kid M.A.A.D City’, because…the beats, the rhymes, the vibe. Best hip-hop album of the past five years. Apart from maybe ‘How Not To Make A Living’ by Rewd Adams & The Last Skeptik, obviously.”

* * *

Ruffstylz – @Ruffstylz
So, in 2012, hip-hop was, in my opinion… “Rejuvenated. At the end of the day creativity always wins.”

This year’s best hip-hop release was… “Lupe Fiasco’s ‘Food & Liquor 2’. It was too commercial, but the good parts outclassed everything else out there.”

* * *

Chemo – @chemouk
So, in 2012, hip-hop was, in my opinion… “Pretty strong by all accounts. Everyone was talking about Kendrick Lamar, and he broke a few records which is impressive considering that the majority of his music is pretty creative and thought provoking. Really enjoyed listening to Joey Bada$$ as well. In the UK, High Focus and YNR consistently released quality stuff, and Onoe Caponoe cemented himself as a real exciting prospect.”

This year’s best hip-hop release was… “Jam Baxter’s ‘Gruesome Features’, because he is a master of his craft. His imagination and wordplay is beyond compare, and rewards repeated listens as all good music should.”

* * *

P.L.O. – @P_Leezy
So, in 2012, hip-hop was, in my opinion…. “Set free. Sales are smashed. No one's really trying to make hip-hop to be cool anymore. Charts don't care unless you're one of a handful of chosen few. So, we're largely back to hip-hop made for the love and the art, by people doing it for the love and the art. Don't worry though – it'll all swing back around by about 2018.”

This year's best hip-hop release was… “For me, Aesop Rock's ‘Skelethon’. Because everyone else is gonna say Kendrick Lamar and I don't like Nas anymore.”

* * *

Micall Parknsun – @MicallParknsun
This year’s best hip-hop release was… “Roc Marciano's 'Reloaded' album, because of its consistent sound throughout the whole LP and rhymes which were out of this world! 10 out of 10 in my eyes, hands down – a future classic.”

* * *

Ralph Rip Shit – @ralphofAM
So, in 2012, hip-hop was, in my opinion was… “Fucking ace”.

This year’s best hip-hop release was… “Kendrick Lamar’s 'GKMC' because it had everyone talking about it. Ain’t had that since ‘The Black Album’”.

* * *

Jazz T – @jazzt71
So, in 2012, hip-hop was, in my opinion… “A force to be reckoned with. I have played at loads of events this year and independent artists out of the UK and US are pulling in the masses.”

This year’s best hip-hop release was… “Kashmere & Jehst’s ‘Kingdom of Fear’, because it takes you away from life’s standard grind into a world of mayhem. It’s an aural movie, a masterpiece.”

* * *

Spin Doctor / @SpinDoctorUK
So, in 2012, hip-hop was, in my opinion… ”On its way back! There was a bunch of great indie and mainstream releases.”

This year’s best hip-hop release was “1993, because… Midnight Marauders & Enter the 36 Chambers! Need I say more?”

* * *

Metabeats – @chesusmetabeats
So, in 2012, hip-hop was, in my opinion… “Brought back to life.”

This year’s best hip-hop release was… “Anything by Action Bronson, because he has more style in his left nut than most of these fools have nowadays”.

* * *

Ti2bs – @Superti2bs
So, in 2012, hip-hop was, in my opinion… “A year in which real lyricists took hold of the mainstream. From Sway maintaining a healthy run in the charts without sacrificing any lyrical integrity, to the man of the moment Kendrick Lemar's assault on the mainstream. It's been a year in which hip-hop as a community has seen the impact of its influence on a global scale. From Jay-Z's involvement in President Obama's election campaign, through to Dizzee Rascal repping at the Olympics. In the UK I think there's been a shift of direction in the sense that ‘road rap’ has dominated the scene in contrast to the traditional ‘UK hip-hop’ sound, with artists like Benny Banks, Krept & Konan and K Koke all doing really well.”

This year's best hip-hop release was… “In my opinion, Saigon's ‘Greatest Story Never Told 2’. I say this because all of the beats bang, he is socially/politically vocal and bang on point in my opinion. Great album.”

Seb Merhej, DigiDJ – @DigiDJ
So, in 2012, hip-hop was, in my opinion… “Optimistic.”

This year’s best hip-hop release was… “Kendrick Lamar’s ‘good kid m.A.A.d city’, because it re-wrote the rules of what a hip-hop album should be, providing ample avant-garde moments, while still catering to an old school aesthetic which amalgamated into the best of both worlds. A truly stunning record, and one that won't be topped for some time.”

Mike Lewis, Lewis Recordings – @lewisrecordings
This year’s best hip-hop release was… “Stig of The Dump's “Cannon Fodder” EP, because his rhymes were as cutting as ever and Pete Cannon's beats are the perfect accompaniment. If that's no good because he's on my label, this year’s best hip-hop release was Kendrick Lamar's 'good kid, m.A.A.d city' because he's got the energy and style lacking in so many bloated rap albums.”

Words by Matt Oliver

Soul great Fontella Bass has passed away at the age of 72.

In an era blessed by wonderful female voices, Fontella Bass still stood out. Perhaps it was the clarity of her voice, the subtlety of her songwriting or the infectious nature of her music – whatever the defining factor, the St. Louis born artist built up a body of work which spans generations.

Brought up in the confines of a gospel choir, Fontella Bass came from a musical family. The singer's mother was gospel great Clara Ward, while her brother David Peaston built up a sizeable reputation on the R&B circuit.

Pulled into the orbit of Chess Records, Fontella Bass helped to put the label back on the pop map. Essentially a riposte to the all conqeuring Motown machine, 'Rescue Me' bares all the hallmarks of the Detroit label but with a Chess twist.

Effortless pop music, it became a global hit in 1965 and shot Fontella Bass into the charts. Unusually, the singer bares a co-write credit on the single – a sign of her independence within the powerhouse Chess complex.

Suffering a heart attack three weeks ago, Fontella Bass passed away in St. Louis on December 26th. BBC News carries an emotional quote from daughter Neuka Mitchell: "She had a very big personality. Any room she entered, she just lit the room up, whether she was on stage or just going out to eat".

Here's 'Rescue Me' live on cult 60s music show 'Shindig!'.

In Senegal, hip-hop comes with a kick. It carries enough social significance to bring real political change. In 2000, rappers led the youth to go out and vote, consequently bringing the first political shift in government in four decades, embodied at the time by Abdoulaye Wade. Twelve years later, as it became perfectly clear that Wade was oblivious to the needs of the Senegalese population, rappers once again stepped into the political arena, this time against Wade.

And they succeeded. On February 27th 2012, Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade lost his bid for a third term. With his defeat, the rappers’ fight also came to an end: ousting Wade had become the driving force behind Senegal’s hip-hop movement, so with Macky Sall now in office, the rappers are forced to look for different angles, in and out of music and politics.

Clash was fortunate to discuss this situation with seasoned Senegalese rapper Keyti, an artist who’s been at the forefront of Senegal’s hip-hop scene for well over a decade, and who has also been at the helm of the hip-hop movement’s engagement in the protests against the government.

Keyti first helped us take a step back, to better understand what happened in his country: at the end of Wade’s last term, discontent was at an all-time high in Senegal, an otherwise proudly peaceful country. The population suffered repeat, extended and unexplained power cuts. People couldn’t properly work for months, and without any answers or justifications, there was no hope for improvement. Meanwhile the president was busy erecting a $27 million statue on Dakar’s Corniche – it’s larger in size than the Statue of Liberty, and well worth a Google image search.

Wade also tried to bring his son to the political table, Karim Wade, making him his de facto heir. The president’s maneuvers were so blatant that father and son became known comically as Wade and Wade. But as Wade senior seemed to be obliviously provoking his country, rappers once again came together to mobilize the population: in 2011 they founded the Y’en a Marre movement (“enough is enough” in French) with a number of journalists and other activists.

Y’en a Marre was a powerful catalyst, turning the Senegalese’s frustration into action, by initiating protests all over the country. It also became a target: in June 2011 for instance, as Wade tried to pass a very controversial bill tampering yet again with the electoral process, Simon, one of the most influential rappers in Senegal, was beat up by the police. He was simply visiting a police station to meet with its commissioner, a routine visit to obtain information. He never met the commissioner. Instead, without any warning or justification, he was arbitrarily beaten. The next day, thousands took to the streets, and that same night, the bill was defeated.

This is an excerpt from the January 2013 issue of Clash magazine. Find out more about the issue.

Words: Benjamin Lebrave
Photography: Jasper Clarke

Super producer and Electric Light Orchestra founder Jeff Lynne knows the score. Heed these words…


Joining my first band The Night Riders in 1966 when I was eighteen was just the most wonderful day of my life: the day I didn’t have to go to work anymore. That was the most marvellous feeling. The next day I wasn’t gonna have to get on the bus, go on upstairs, sit in all this thick horrible smoke on the way to town to go into work – I never had to do that again. And I’ve never done it since, which is marvellous. I can’t say what a great experience it’s been not going into work.


The Night Riders changed their name to The Idle Race, and we recorded an album called ‘The Birthday Party’ – it was kind of wacky, very much George Formby-ish; not mainstream by any stretch, but very odd and quirky, and that was what I liked doing then, just to be different. I always wanted to be different, that’s what it was; I didn’t want to ever just be a three-guitar group doing what everyone else did, and I certainly haven’t probably ever done that.


Even though ELO were playing twenty-thousand seaters in America, I got fed up with it, because I wanted to be in the studio. I wanted to be writing new tracks. My song writing was coming on much better by now, I was getting more into it, and I got more knowledgeable as I got on – the more songs you write the better they get, because you get more knowledge of what not to do basically.


My dad said to me one day: ‘The trouble with your tunes is they have no tune.’ I said, ‘Bastard! You rat! I’ll show you a tune!’ And so I wrote this album called ‘Eldorado’, which was a very orchestral piece, like a big thirty-piece string section and a choir and everything, and I did all these pseudo-classical type of things in between the tracks. A lot of people really liked it, and it was the first gold album I ever had – half-a-million copies – so that was a really good incentive. And then I realised that my dad was probably right, that the more melodic I could be the better it was for me.


You’ve got to have a sense of humour otherwise there’s no point to anything really. You’ve got to laugh at all the mistakes and things, because it is comical: making stuff up and recording it, then putting it out for people to listen to – and people actually buy it, which is fantastic! Who would have thought that! Not when I was going to work on the bus I wouldn’t have thought. But it just shows you that if you keep trying really hard that things will happen for you.


The reason why I never got into the touring part and got into trouble doing that stuff – I didn’t do drugs or any of that; I was always a drinker, so we got into some trouble – was that that’s not what I was there for; I was there to learn how to make records and that’s all I cared about. Even when I was on tour and on stage singing, I could be thinking about another song I’m working on. Which just shows you my heart wasn’t in live performance, that it was in the studio, and it always has been. That’s why I became a producer.

Interview: Simon Harper

Christmas is a time for dis-engaging from hectic everyday life and indulging in something slower, more thoughtful.

If you're anything like the Clash team, then this probably involves a good book. A chance to let our imaginations wander, to lose ourselves in another narrative, the team will no doubt spend the festive period soaking up enormous amounts of prose.

Erased Tapes composer Michael Price seems to be cut from similar cloth. Following work on a number of high profile film projects, the musician is ready to release material under his own name. Recorded at Phoenix Sound inside the world-famous Pinewood Studio, 'A Stillness' matches a serene, soundscape quality with moments of pop clarity.

An imposing introduction, Clash invited Michael Price to enter Their Library…

– – –

What is your favourite book and why?
'The Bell Jar' by Sylvia Plath. When I was young, it opened up the terrifying and wonderful possibility of connecting with someone through their work.
 What other authors do you like? Sebastian Faulks, Henry Thoreau, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes, John O'Farrell, George Orwell, Jon Ronson

What draws you to certain books?
A commentary on our lives now, and an insight into other people's lives.

Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it and why?
I definitely didn't discover it, but Rilke's 'Letters to a Young Poet' is a constant source of creative inspiration.

Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?
They did early on when I was writing more contemporary classical works, based on TS Eliot and some of the Pre-Raphaelite writers. Now it's more oblique, but always there.

What are you reading at the moment?
The last thing I downloaded on my Kindle was 'Bring Up the Bodies' by Hilary Mantel.

What is the first book you remember reading as a child?
I remember reading, and copying out, the Beatrix Potter books, like Mrs Tiggywinkle. I've always been a geeky kid!

Did you make good use of your library card as a child / teenager?
My parents always had lots of books in the house, and we had both a great local library and a school one too.

Have you ever found a book that you simply couldn’t finish?

Lord of the Rings!

Do you read book reviews?


Would you ever re-read the same book?
Yes, for comfort and to chart the passage of time.

Have you ever identified with a character in a book? Which one and why?
It's a bit of a cheat, but like a lot of people, I really identify with Thoreau in Walden.

Do you read one book at a time or more than one?
On holiday, I read lots, one at a time, when I'm working hard like now, I dream of making the time.

Is there an author / poet you would like to collaborate with?

Simon Armitage, as I think he's a genius, and we were both born in Yorkshire.

– – –

'A Stillness' is out now.

Dipping our toes into the sea of Fashion Week focused events, back in September Clash held a party with Cutler & Gross at their Knightsbridge store. You can read all about it here, but in short you should know that we drank Tiger beer, admired photos of four eyed friends (which covered the walls), and enjoyed the sweet sounds supplied by Kindness on the decks. Yep, it was a bit nice that.

Only Real is a West London half-pint who’s scoffing Fruit Loops and existing digitally, as we young people just love doing. All the while, he’s making raw, under-produced stories about youth culture in West London suburbia. Note: he’s white, he raps, and he has a guitar. As a result, there have been lazy comparisons to Jamie T, but whilst we have the opportunity, and in his own words, we should dispel; “I’m not the next Jamie T. Jamie T is the next Jamie T.”

In person, Niall Galvin is a chilled guy, with one tongue placed firmly in his cheek, and a masterful wield of comic timing. He even describes his music as “Guinness-y”, a reference lost on us, unless each track is derived from roasted unmalted barley, which we believe to be untrue. On track, he’s an extremely versatile musician, and surfaced songs pay testament to this. ‘New Gold’ is a hypnotic grunge number, “pretty downbeat for me,” admits Niall, and it wouldn’t sound lost on a late-eighties Sub Pop release. ‘Cadillac Girl’ sees him thumbing guitar to slow drum beats, whilst rapping about a lost love with sharp colloquialism. In a similar vein to the playful youth discourse of ‘Cinammon Toast’, his latest single ‘Backseat Kisses’ finds him chirping falsetto above sun-kissed guitars and Four Tet-esque piano stabs. There’s a rough edge to every track, which adds a certain DIY charm, yet Niall admits this isn’t intentional: “To me, these are the best I could have got them,” he laughs.

There’s hip-hop influences here, and in the past he’s expressed a love for the ’90s output of Outkast and Cali crew Hieroglyphics, but essentially Only Real is an experiment in impulse. “Without sounding like a bell end… I think it, and then I make it rhyme.” He champions this approach – it’s known as “reppin’ real”, and when songs as bitterly sweet as ‘Cadillac Girl’ are fruits of this spontaneous labour, it’s hard to argue. Next for him? “I want to do another project that hasn’t really been done before by anyone in my position… it’s quite jokes.” We wait.

Words: Joe Zadeh
Photography: Sam Butt
Fashion: Chris Amfo

Where: West London
What: Guinness-y grunge-grime
Get 3 songs: ‘Cadillac Girl’, ‘Cinnamon Toast’, ‘Backseat Kisses’
Unique Fact: Niall hates camping. He just doesn’t get it.

Jacket by Clothsurgeon, T-shirt by Palace, Hat by Starter.

One of the most in your face things we saw at London Fashion Week, Nasir Mazhar’s SS13 presentation was set in a lime green hair salon, with rappers Merky Ace and Kozzie fighting it out as the models-made up of rappers, DJs and full timers-looked on, some sat in barber chairs, some playing on their mobile phones. Like a CBBC version of Dalston, or something.

Previous winners of the Vauxhall Fashion Scout Merit Award, for Spring Summer 13 Luetton Postle presented their strongest collection yet, with bright colours and epic fringing. Oh yeah, and they smothered sunglasses and glitter heels alike with perler beads, i.e., those beads you spent your childhood days ironing into stars and hearts.