“New Sound. New Name. New Vibe.” Clash Meets Big Fudz

Grime pioneer on his drill manouevres...

When it comes to grime, Fudz has seen it all. Joining pivotal East London crew Ruff Sqwad in 2006 as a late addition to their ranks, the now 34-year-old MC appeared intermittently throughout the group’s discography, making standout contributions spanning from the classic posse cut 'Xtra' to their 2015 send-off 'That’s How We Are'.

A former guest in the Lord of the Mics basement, the skippy lyricist famously clashed Slew Dem member Rage for the iconic brand’s second DVD, and later went on to tour Abu Dhabi and Dubai with frequent collaborator Tinchy Stryder at the height of his major-label success.

Reputed for his versatility beyond grime, the Bow artist once released a guitar-laden EP entitled 'Rock This 4 Now', has collaborated with drum and bass veteran Blame and dubstep heavyweight Loefah, and more recently laced the instrumental to Lil Baby and Gunna’s hit 'Close Friends' with a wholly sung freestyle.

Now gearing up to foray into UK drill with an imminent single entitled 'Ivar The Boneless', a contemplative Fudz catches up with Clash over the phone. First and foremost, he sheds light on his ambitious business plans, centred around passing on the tricks of the trade to a fresh cohort of talent and ensuring that they don’t encounter the same pitfalls that he once did.

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What have you been up to during this seemingly quiet musical period?

Completely rebranding. I’ve been working on a brand called Free Smoke. In America, I loved the fact that Bad Boy or Roc-A-Fella could be the middleman from the streets to the corporate world, and I want to build something like that over here. Not just on a musical level – I wanna go on to produce online shows and films later on.

I wanna give people opportunities to showcase their talent to the masses. To show that you don’t always need Warner or Universal, there’s another way.

So is it still in the conceptual stage for now?

I have investors involved and a plan I’ve been adding to for over a year. We’re in the foundation stages, but it’s finally moving now.

Have you already hand-picked a roster of talent?

Whether they be grime MCs, drill rappers, wavy singers or afrobeat artists, the new wave’s interesting to watch, but you have to conquer one thing before you go onto the next. My aim is to get all this music that I’d promised people out there and then gradually bring through the next generation – and not just musicians! Dancers, presenters, A&R, management. I wanna have an umbrella so massive that everyone can thrive underneath it.

How are you going to balance your own music career with facilitating other artists’ development?

Nobody’s gonna be an artist forever; it’s like being a footballer. I probably have five more years. After that, I wanna give back. Maybe I can become a gatekeeper with a clean heart. If you keep the inner people dictating, doing it how it has been, the culture suffers. If I don’t infiltrate the ting, that next generation is gonna face the same battles I went through, where they’re only letting one through the door at a time and tryna turn them into puppets. I’ve seen it a million times.

Your colleagues have been passing their wisdom onto the younger generation too – Slix and Rapid run the Ruff Sqwad Arts Foundation, and Roachee’s been mentoring. For him it’s taken on a political dimension, and he performed in Grime4Corbyn’s December livestream to campaign for youth services. Do you engage in politics?

I’ve never voted in my life. They don’t give a shit about us. I’ve seen my friends’ mums and dads work since I was a kid. They’re still doing that same job, breaking their back. Where’s the support system? Your mum’s a dinner lady. Your dad’s a caretaker. My dad works on a building site. My dad got made redundant. All he’s got is a shitty little pension. Tell me what they’ve done for them!

Knife crime is on the rise because you took away youth clubs. Now you want me to come and spit for Corbyn because he’s stood in a picture with Saskilla? If I saw you come out like Princess Diana used to and do things that you don’t have to do, then I’ll stand with you and I’ll spit my bars all day long for you. ‘Cause that shows ‘em that you’re really here for the people. If Corbyn really stands for this, then even now in his defeat, he should be fighting.

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Were youth clubs important to you growing up?

Youth clubs saved my life. Instead of being on the street, I was in youth clubs, MCing with my older brother and going on retreats every now and again. Those things stop us from doing stuff that will get us into trouble.

I respect what Roach and Slix are doing at Fight For Peace and Spotlight, but a lot of organisations are missing the real picture. It’s so deeply rooted.

Do you still consider yourself a part of Ruff Sqwad?

There is no Ruff Sqwad at all anymore.

What’s your relationship with grime at the moment?

Grime is always gonna be a part of me and I will always do grime. I love the energy and the whole thing it stands for. It’s changed a lot, but I’ll still come through and spit at a show. I’m part of it, you know? But grime is the most abused genre ever.

In the days of Dizzee and Tinchy, artists with mainstream record deals had to conform and change their sound. Anyone with a rough sound – like Giggs or Smoke Boys – was considered a grime artist. People like P Money, Jme, and everybody after them that actually lives and breathes this scene are overlooked because they’re grouped with rappers. Once MCs do hit the next level, they distance themselves from grime. It’s sad to see, so I wanna build a platform where real grime artists can shine.

Which real grime artist right now is making a proper living? You’ll see Fredo come in the rap game for two years and make a shitload of money, whereas somebody like PK – one of the most unique, talented grime MCs – wouldn’t get that same exposure even though he’s been going just as hard.

One thing that strikes me about you as an artist is that you’re not afraid to dabble in singing. Is this something you’re keen to explore more?

Definitely. Before I could rap, I could string melodies together. I used to hate garage! Drum and bass gave me a headache.

The very first music I loved was AC/DC, but being a black boy from the hood, that shit was kinda frowned upon. Everyone would look at you like you were a weirdo. I think stopping myself from singing – just because I was scared of what people would think – hindered my career.

When I started to do it, it even landed me in songwriting for a few years! If I’d been more confident back then, who knows what today would have been like. I do have a lot more melodic material coming.

How has the pandemic affected you?

Live shows being taken away has messed a lot of shit up, but the pandemic has given me time to open my mind to what I wanna do in life. How I’m gonna leave a legacy behind.

What’s the story behind your new single 'Ivar the Boneless'?

I love drill, but I’ve noticed that grime MCs – like Realz, Roachee and Novelist – excite me on drill a lot more than actual drill rappers. So I got AcenAtu to make a beat and I went blind on it.

What can we expect from you in the near future?

I’ve never had to self-manage before and it’s been hard, but I wanna change that narrative. I’ve gone from Fuda Guy to Fudz, or Big Fudz now. I’m signing a distribution deal with Despa [Robinson], who manages Jaykae, so I’ve got a project coming out through BE83. New sound. New name. New vibe. I’m ready to be consistent from now on, and then I’ll go on to build a platform for everybody to flourish.

Sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought into this. Looking forward to seeing the results. 

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Words: Luke Ballance

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