It's been a curious summer, to say the least.
The absence of festivals, gigs, and parties, though, music has played a different role. A series of tracks have blown up, with UK rap's imperial phase continuing to accelerate.
'Loose' pits rising force S1mba against KSI, whose debut album smashed into the charts earlier in the year.
Clash spoke to the duo about the new single, staying ambitious, and Magnums in the studio...
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How did the single come about? Who reached out to who?
S1mba: So I recorded the song, and obviously as you can hear it is just a fun vibe. I was looking for someone fun to just really add to it, to add some more fun to it.
KSI: Some sauce.
S1mba: Some sauce! I called JJ [KSI] up and he loved the track. It was just organic, it was just great.
KSI: I was doing the verse while S1mba was in the studio. S1mba: Yeah, the studio was a vibe as well.
KSI: Yeah! What was it - we had magnums?
S1mba: We had magnums! It was the first time the engineer had ever had a magnum.
KSI: I think it was my first time as well.
S1mba: For real!?
KSI: Yeah bro, I don’t have magnums! That made me waved really quick. Yeah, it was cool, it was fun.
Did you have a magnum at the end? Was that to celebrate? Instead of champagne you had a couple of magnums?
KSI: Yeah, after we did the song and put it together. Yeah, we just had a little jam.
Do the two of you have any particular rituals in the studio to get you into that mindset? I mean having a magnum’s a nice way to treat yourself; if you have any creative blockages, do you have any advice on getting past that?
S1mba: It happens, it happens. Every now and then you have blockages but there’s no formula. I’ll go studio and if it’s happening, it’s happening. If it’s not happening that day then… I don’t know. Magnums definitely help though.
KSI: I think for me I always do all my writing at home, literally on this desk right here. I’m always ready and prepared whenever I go to the studio. I just feel it’s a bit more efficient? I save a lot of money on studio time.
S1mba: See I’m literally the opposite. I must waste so much time and money because I don’t write anything at home. I’m one of them ‘it’s in the vibe, in the moment’ kind of people. I’ll go to the studio with no idea what I’m going to do and just hope for the best.
KSI: Nah, but that can also bring out a lot of good things, a lot of good music. It’s good to have both.
S1mba: Yeah man, everyone works differently.
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And being somewhere comfortable, when you’re creating does that help a lot?
S1mba: Yeah, environment’s important. It depends. Even the colour of the room gives off a certain vibe. Do you know what I mean? You’ve got to be in a vibey place, you’ve got to be in the right place for whatever vibe you want to come across in the song.
KSI: Yeah my comfortable space is my room, I’m here quite a lot. Whenever I want to work on some music I listen to some beats and I guess I just decide what song I want to make. I listen to a beat and go ‘Oh yeah, this is definitely something I want to work on’. And then I listen to the beat, how it makes me feel. Then I just write a verse, write a hook. And go from there. Sometimes the hook is fire, sometimes it’s not, and that’s when I get someone else to write the hook.
S1mba: I always just go to the studio and make sure I’m enjoying this whole process. Music for me was a hobby, I was just lucky that it’s become something I can keep doing. I just make sure that my love for music is what motivates me and I don’t let the success or how big the song’s doing, I don’t let it change the way I am, change my perspective towards stuff because that’s where everything starts to go wrong.
KSI: For me, music has always been a hobby. I’ve been doing this for 10+ years. I see music as a marathon, you know? I see it as something that is going to take a while to get good at. But eventually once you get to the end it’s going to be worth it. I’m already working on the next album. I dropped an album this year, ‘Dissimulation’, and I’m ready to drop another album next year for 2021. Then I’m going to work on another album for 2022, and I just want to keep going with this momentum I have.
That’s just how I’ve been, I’m a hard worker. I’m always pushing, I’m always going on to the next thing and the next thing. Because it’s that whole YouTube idea of you post a video, and then it’s like ‘Alright cool, now what’s next?’. That’s just what I’ve had ingrained in me, so I do the same with music. I go ‘Yeah, alright that album was cool. Now what’s next? Okay, this album was cool. Now what’s next?’.
I’m always working on music, always working on things. And the icing on the top is being able to perform, because there’s no better feeling. I go onstage and I’m selling out the show…
S1mba: Everybody’s singing your lyrics to you.
KSI: It’s crazy. I think that’s something I’m definitely looking forward to in the future. I’m here for the long term; I’m not just here for a quick buck. I’ve already got money, that’s not my main goal. My main goal is to have fun. I just enjoy it; I love making music.
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S1mba, you were nodding your head when KSI was chatting about work rate, and keeping things steady and keeping things going, and always working hard. Is that something you can relate to from your own path, from working in the studio?
S1mba: See the thing is, like I said music has always been something I’ve been doing. People don’t realise how long I’ve actually been doing it. So as JJ said it does take a long time. JJ said he’s been doing it for ten years, which is mad because I was starting to now calculate when I first started doing things.
When I started I think I was like eleven, the first time I started to take music in. I was playing piano, making beats. But you know when there’s a passion you just keep working, you keep going, you don’t realise that you’re slowly getting better. Especially when you’re young you don’t realise. That’s what I tell everybody when they ask me ‘How do you do it?’ and I tell them time is of the essence. The minute that I put all my time and effort into what I was doing, I just started to see results.
Like JJ said, it’s all about just going again and again. It’s only now that there’s a lot of stuff happening. With the success I’m doing interviews. If I could live in the studio, have my bed in there, I’m not even joking I would literally sleep in the studio. Work has to be always something you can’t stop. You can never stop.
KSI: Especially in this industry. The competition is so high; it’s so saturated. You have to always find a way to stick out, and you always have to be the person just putting out stuff. And then once you’ve got a little bit of a run going, that’s when you really have to start going even more.
This industry’s so fickle man; one minute you could be on top, and then if you don’t drop something for a couple months they forget about you and go straight to the next person. It’s so saturated, there’s so much competition there’s so many alternatives that people can go to. You definitely want to maintain the consistency that you have and just keep going, just keep going. And whenever you want to stop that’s when you stop. But it’s always something that you’ve got to always improve at, always reinvent yourself and look at the long-term goal.
You’re both very ambitious - is that a natural thing do you think? Do you become addicted to winning in a way?
S1mba: Do you know what it is? Do you know what I realised? Having money and power actually takes a lot of responsibility. The minute you have money you start to buy stuff, you start to spend it. You might buy yourself a car, you might get yourself a new house or whatever. But you forget that with all of this stuff you have to sustain this lifestyle you’re living.
Once you get to a certain point it’s like you can’t slow down, you can’t stop. You can only keep going higher and higher. Because your commitments and everything you have to pay for... it just keeps going more and more. If you stop you now can’t sustain the lifestyle you’re now living, if you know what I mean? It’s kind of inevitable.
KSI: I think S1mba’s said it all, really. Took the words right out of my mouth.
The single looks like it’s going to be a smash; is this something you can see working again in the future?
KSI: I always keep in touch with everyone that I work with. I feel like having chemistry between artists is very important and it helps towards making good songs.
And it was the same with Nathan Dawe; I have a very good friendship with him and that’s one of the reasons why the song is a smash. And even Ella Henderson as well you know, I’d talk to her and it all just comes together, it all helps. I’m sure we’re going to make some more music together, and hopefully make some more smashes.
S1mba: I’d definitely agree. It’s even crazy that I’m working with JJ in the first place. When I first met him, I felt like I had met him already, you no what I mean?
KSI: It’s the YouTuber effect.
S1mba: Yeah! It’s crazy, you work hard enough for something and the people you used to look up to become your peers.
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'Loose' is out now.
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