“I Don’t Follow The Trends” Tariq Disu Interviewed

The South London auteur on his new projects, his love of nature, and beyond...

Currently residing in Streatham, South London – and of Ghanaian / Nigerian descent – 26-year-old rapper and producer Tariq Disu has gained an underground following as one of the most exciting emerging musicians in UK rap today. 

Eagle-eyed Clash readers would have spotted him on our Next Wave 2022 list, and Tariq has racked up a list of productions credits and features alongside the likes of Knucks, Sam Wise, Lava La Rue and Louis Culture. It’s his strong catalogue of solo work that allows Tariq Disu’s art to stand for itself, bringing substance, style and elegance to each one of his projects. 

Every one of his songs feels like an artistic statement; somewhat of an auteur, his music is instantly recognisable from the unique spaced-out vocals layered over his self-produced experimental trap rhythms and richly crafted beats. 

Clash tracked down Tariq Disu to pick apart his new projects ‘Ghetto Luv’ and ‘12.011’, zeroing in on his inspirations, origins, and the importance of staying true to himself.

Tell us about how you first got into making music?

I used to do a lot of poetry back in the day, I wrote a lot of stuff that turned into bars and then I needed to be able to produce, to be able to do both, now here we are. Apart from that I started to produce for people. Artists I knew at the time, they used to come around to mine and I’d make them beats. That’s what built the lil buzz around me, that’s what got people to know who I was, that was back in the Soundcloud days.

What musicians inspired you growing up ?

D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, J Dilla, Flying Lotus, MF DOOM, Nas, Biggie. ‘The Blueprint 3’ was one of my first albums I bought and it had an impact on me even though I wasn’t the biggest Jay Z fan. I used to like B2K for some reason a lot… LOL. Rage Against the Machine. Defo Pink Floyd – ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, KRS ONE, Big L… shit I could keep going… Miles Davis… I was one of the children on the internet looking for samples. I ended up getting into Gil Scott Heron, so many… an array of artists… Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross… too many artists.

Tell us about the inspirations behind your recent releases ‘Ghetto Luv’ and ‘12.011’.

‘Ghetto Luv’ is kinda warm and full of bounce. It’s different but it’s not something that is unfamiliar from me and/or hip-hop. The melodic side of rap that is. I was feeling more soulful. R&B vibes came in f’sho. It was originally called ‘4 Da B*tches’. Full bass, melodic beds with sharp percussion.

The mood’s sexy and mature but the themes are quite coming of age and unfiltered. Sounds sweet but some things I say are raunchy. I talk about love making but I’m really just talking about f**king. I really am asking what it’s like living sober but I’m not tryna do that. I feel like all four tracks ultimately make for this one mood.

’12.011’ is very electronic and experimental but nowhere near distant from hip-hop, yet I feel I’m tapping on something fresh. The title is inspired by the cover, (‘12.011’) it’s the atomic mass unit for Carbon. Carbon’s atomic number is also six, hence six tracks. ‘Skyfall’ really set the tone of the project so I kinda went off that and off flows I was free-styling with between ‘Focus’ and ‘Motion’. I feel like it’s very UK/LDN but also just very me. Definitely more influenced by city vibes, sounds and other stuff.

Outside of music where else do you find inspiration ?

I dance, I draw, I paint; all of that comes back into play. Even when I first started making beats, I had to learn to get the oomph that I get when I move my body, when I dance, when I’m just sliding… either way I can push myself with literally just movement, and wanting to feel that on the beat. All of those outlets come back to the music regardless.

Nature has a big part to play. Sometimes I just observe nature. Shit, I can watch the Nat Geo channel and maybe learn about an animal or a species I’ve never heard of or a place where things happen that I’ve never seen and it just sparks something. It’ll be the simplest things, and I like the simplest things as well.

How are you feeling right now as we approach the end of the year? Any thoughts or feelings that are surfacing ?

Resilience. More of the things I do daily are to signify my stance as an artist and towards what type of artist I look to be or am being perceived as. More with the business side though.

You have no control over how your art will affect people or how they’ll respond to it but I’ve been putting more effort and trust into the path I chose to take. More trust into my approach to relationships I value. Having no problem with how I feel or what I endure through my artistic process; and as I successfully progress to feel no way as things change for the better. It’s all towards me creating great art and putting it out.

How important is it to stay true to yourself ?

I don’t follow the trends. You know I might notice them and see what’s going on, but I just stay myself, be myself, all the way, always. As long as you are just focusing on you, you should know your worth, know what your sound is.

So yeah, I just stay what I’m doing and stay open regardless.

Follow Tariq Disu on socials.

Words + Creative Direction: Brandon Pestano // @brandonpestano
Photography: El Wood // (@elwoodphotography)
Production Assistant: Olivia Melkonian // @oliviamelkonian_
Creative Assistant: Ben Gibbons // @___brg_
Production Assistant: Dhieu Dong // @dhieu_md

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