The spring of 2012 saw London preparing to host its first Summer Olympics since 1948. The general mood was that of excitement and the buzz of anticipation, but at just 21-years-old, Hackney-native Rimzee would not get to experience the historic event in the same way as the rest of the country. Instead on May 28th he was sentenced to thirteen years for shooting at an unmarked police car.
That same year had seen his star begin to rise amongst the underbelly of the UK rap scene, helped in no small part by his hood-certified debut mixtape, ‘The Upper Clapton Dream’. Since then Black British music has come forward in leaps and bounds with rap stars shining authentically across mainstream media. Unfortunately, that has been a pie that Rimzee has been unable to have a slice of, until now that is.
His time inside has taught him a lot, not only about himself, but about what he wants from his life. It’s opened his eyes to a wealth of possibilities, including a return to music. His homecoming has seen him experimenting with different tracks over the last year or so and he’s now ready to release his first project in eight years: ‘Upper Clapton Dream 2’.
In a phone conversation with Clash Magazine he talks about the new project, what he’s learned from his time away, being different from other rappers, not wanting to be a “washed-up guy” from the block and more.
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You were away for six and a half years. What did you learn about yourself in that time?
I feel like I became very self-aware in that time. A lot of things can tick me off, but me being away for so long made me become very self-aware so I know what does and what doesn’t do that. So now I’m thinking how can I avoid even being in that situation so I won’t be ticked off.
What made you call this project ‘Upper Clapton Dream 2’ rather than going in a new direction?
I felt like there was more to the story that I didn’t get to finish. At the time when I made the name ‘Upper Clapton Dream’, Black The Ripper – Rest In Peace – had one called ‘Edmonton Dream’, so that’s what gave me the idea to call mine ‘Upper Clapton Dream’. But in terms of songs, how I made the first one, I just put bare songs together. I had bare songs, put them together anyhow. Some songs I’m flopping, some songs I’m going off beat a bit. I just put them all together, put it out and it just went mad. This time it was more polished though because I feel like the game has developed a lot since those times. Everything down to the beats, the sound, the videos…The quality of everything has improved.
Do you feel pressure to reach the levels of the first one seeing as many people consider it to be a classic hood mixtape?
Personally, I feel like this one is better but everyone is entitled to their opinion and you can’t make everyone happy at the end of the day.
How did it feel to go to prison right when your name was starting to build a buzz?
Bro, that was all out of my control. There were some things I had to pay retribution for, that’s what it was. But I ain’t got no regrets, it was just something I had to go through. Like, going through that is what has made me the man I am today. That’s what’s got me so focused and feeling like I need to experience some life. Man was experiencing no life; I was just in the hood every single day. Doing the same shit. Now when I’m in jail and there’s bare older guys and younger guys, you’re getting worldly experiences just by being in the same place with different people. It just made me feel like there’s more to life. I need to experience stuff.
It opened your eyes a bit.
Of course man, 100%. When you go to jail your cell is small, the room is painted shit, the flooring is dead, so its like when you come from that to when you land, everything has to be perfect now. Everything has to be sick. I need to be in a mad car, my house needs to look crazy. Everything needs to be way better. It makes you hungrier. It’s like having everything and losing it all and becoming poor. You’re feeling like “next time I get it back I’m going to go even harder”.
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Potter Payper said a similar thing in interviews when he came home too.
It’s true, and why I have to work ten times harder is because I’m independent, I don’t have industry friends…I could potentially but a lot of the industry is fake so it’s like…none of my bredrins rap. I’m the only one of my friends that raps. So it’s like, I don’t want to force relationships just because we’re in the same music business. Yeah cool, if we build a relationship that’s genuine, that’s different. But I’m not trying to force stuff just to make songs with people and to be seen with people and to be popular. Man’s not wired like that.
So a lot of stuff man just does on my own bro and if a relationship comes through doing that, I’m all for it, but other than that bro, I just do my own thing. And with that I feel like as well, with the game its like there’s groups. If you’re not this group, then you’re that group and if you’re not that group, you’re that group. And I’m not in none of these groups. I’m my own group. So that’s what it is.
How important is it to you stay true to yourself and your sound and not to follow the trend?
It’s everything because you know what, when I landed…obviously when I was in jail I didn’t write that much. I wasn’t even going to rap anymore so I wasn’t really writing bars like that. When I came out now and was in open jail and I’m hearing the music, now I’m feeling like “Rah, I need to make something more current”.
I deeped all my songs. All my pain songs, they touched bare people but they never done numbers. And all my songs like ‘Keep Stacking’, ‘Everyday’, all my hustling songs, were doing numbers, so I thought, “You know what, I don’t want to come out of jail talking about jail, it’s boring. No one wants to know about that”. So then I made ‘Go Time’, just a fly ting. And yeah it went off, but people want to know my story. They want to hear it.
It’s not every day that a man can go jail, do a thirteen-year stretch, shoot at feds, come home and be normal again and still even be able to touch the scene. No one's done what I’ve done, no one’s done mans bird and no one’s lived my life. That’s what I had to realise. My ting is unique and a lot of the young yutes, they’re getting serious money right now.
So when I was talking down to people about cartiers and all of that, that was a dream bro. I was the only young yute with a cartier. Now its like these young kids, they’ve got mad jewellery right now. When I’m talking p’s now it’s nothing special because everyone is doing it. But when I tell my story it’s special because it’s unique and it’s like “okay, now I’m seeing life from your eyes”.
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You said there that you were thinking to stop rapping. What made you think that and what changed your mind?
I like music as a hobby, don’t get me wrong. But it was always secondary. Music never payed my bills, ever. So it was like why am I going to be in jail, writing all these lyrics, thinking I’m going to come out to rap? I need to get my business back intact. I’m getting older, I’ve grown up in jail, I’m landing road…I don’t ever want to be a washed-up guy. I always made a promise to myself that I’d never be that guy that talks about what he used to do. I only want to talk about that if I’m doing better.
So my main priority was making sure that when I land on road I’m not like these washed-up guys that are these old guys from your ends that used to do this ting but they’re washed now or smoke food. Obviously, I don’t even do drugs anyway, I don’t even smoke, but I never want to be like these guys. My main focus was that when I land on road, I’m nice, financially.
Going back nearer to the beginning, what inspired you to rap in the first place?
My older sister used to listen to bare grime. Like all them old school songs from the Wiley’s, Dizzee Rascals, Crazy Titch…that era. So I used to listen to grime, I used to MC at first. I had grime bars, but all my bredrins used to rap. I was the only that did grime. So then I switched to rap in like 07 and I’ve just been running with it from then bro. Grime is too fast. It’s live and energetic but I feel like rap is more me, it’s more grown. I can get more words out as well. One older guy from my ends used to tell me, “You’re hard at grime man, why don’t you rap though? You can get more words out!” But when all my bredrins started rapping, that’s what made me start to rap.
A lot of people will listen to anything and say it’s hard but for me I’m my worst critic, a critic for people, anyone. I listen to lyrics. I want to know what you’re saying. Where I’ve been rapping a long time as well, you can’t say a basic bar and think I’m going to think that’s hard. No, that’s dead bro. It needs to be proper. I’ve got high expectations bro. Unless someone’s just started or something.
Who did you listen to growing up in terms of rappers and who do you listen to now?
DVS, Blade Brown, Colours Miyagi, Margs, Chedda Boy, Rest In Peace…let me say all of Mashtown actually. L.O.R.D, they were cold, they’re from Hackney as well. Joe Black. I can do this all day bro, I can do this all day.
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How did you decide on the features for the new project?
Sometimes it’s like, someone will send me a video of them listening to my song and then I’ll hit them up like “Yo, love” or boom boom boom and then from there I might say “Yeah bro, I’ve got something for you to jump on” and if it comes through, it comes through and if it don’t then it don’t. Like there’s been many times where I’ve hit man up to jump on songs and they didn’t jump on it, and there’s been times where mans hit me up and I haven’t jumped on it. But you see me? I’m just long because I’m a perfectionist and I’m always doing bare stuff so with me I take long for everything. But that’s how it was.
With Snap [Capone], I was in jail with Snap. He came to the D CAT when I was there, that’s how I built the link with him. Stardom, I remember I was in jail one day and I was listening to him and I thought, “yeah this yutes hard”. These guys are rap rappers. Then M24, a lot of drill sounds the same to me, but I like M24, he’s cold.
There’s a few of them as well, they’ve got their own style and I like it still. So boom, I reached out to my man and got him on there and then Haile, I had to get him on something, on some street stuff anyways. And then I got him on a girl tune. Ay Em is wavey obviously. Potter [Payper], it was overdue, and he’s hard as well. And then there’s a girl, Tyler Monet, she’s a singer and she’s cold as well. My artist is on there as well, Tyson, he’s signed to me and he’s on there as well.
What do you want fans to take away from the new project?
I want them to know that I’m back in full effect.
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Words: Aaron Bishop
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