Grime MCs are multiplying by the dozen these days, as they continuing to serve us with raw, quality music over and over again. But despite the new talent that has jumped onto the scene, we are all aware that there are some artists who define grime music.
Footsie, one half of the Newham Generals, is probably one of your favourite MC’s favourite grime artists. Alongside his partner in crime D Double E, he’s seen it all and done it all. Respected both as a producer and MC, Footsie has navigated the trenches of grime through the dark days and the more successful ones.
His talent hasn’t wavered over the last decade, it’s only gotten better. He’s continued to make tracks whilst producing for most of the grime MCs we see today as well as running his club night, King Original, packed with heavyweights from the scene. Despite all this, Footsie remains incredibly humble, and his Newham ends are still home for him as he’s consistently upped his game in production and music, track after track.
Clash caught up with Footsie ahead of his slot alongside Oneman at XOYO to discuss today’s grime scene, the secret behind his talent, and the roots of grime...
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You’ve been doing to festival run with Boomtown, Lovebox? How’s that been? What’s always your favourite festival to perform at?
It's been wicked. Boomtown was actually our favourite because of the stage. I can’t say that there's been an all time favourite. There have been good experiences, like playing Glastonbury for the first time ever. When you get to places that you've wanted to play and you finally get there. It's like those, it's more experiences rather than the best shows. I think Boomtown, for me, that's been the best booking this year - the stage, the crowd, the setting. We were up in the air and everyone was down there. It was like a sea of ants. It was mad. That was my first time, I always heard that it was a big festival but I didn't know how big the stage was. It was massive and it wasn't even the main stage.
We all know you run your own club night King Original. How much of your time does this take up? Or is it as easy as having your mates come through to link up and perform?
Getting the line up is probably the longest thing. I’ve got another one coming up. I’ve just been on the phone doing phone calls and talking to people and trying to clear the date with guys. So that takes up a portion of your time. I get the promos done by someone else. On the night it is very stressful. I become everyone’s go-to guy when there are problems and I just want to be in my rave. You have to, though. It’s my business. I could pass it over to someone, but it would just end up in my lap eventually anyway. It’s a gift and a curse.
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If I wanted to work with someone, I could either holler at them or they’ll be onto me!
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Does it mean collaborations are also super easy to sort?
Yeah, you do come across everyone within the circuit. It does help. But I think collaborations are easily done where I’m at. If I wanted to work with someone, I could either holler at them or they’ll be onto me! It does help build relationships because you’ve then gone outside of the MC and producer role. It’s like a three prong attack - I can either book you, give you a beat, or do a tune with you! A lot of people on my line up are my friends.
You have always been consistently in regularly dropping new music. We’ve had ‘Mind Ya Business’, and recently ‘When I Say So’. What’s your secret to getting the inspiration to making quality so quickly? I think if I don’t, I won’t be me. I think that is my daily inspiration, to remain the best Footsie I can be. There’s inspiration within that whether it is to write a bar, build a beat and gather some stuff. Just remaining me, and not falling off. Falling off is one of my worst fears.
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I think that is my daily inspiration, to remain the best Footsie I can be.
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We’re obviously aware of how good you’re skills have always been on production, with tracks such as Skepta’s ‘Detox’. Are you producing any other tracks for other artists?
Yeah definitely. Our next General single is actually a track with Wiley. It’s called ‘Unruly’. I got Brakeman, I got stuff with Trim coming. There’s a load of people, who else? I’m always being asked everyday. The list just grows daily. Capo Lee I’ve done a thing with him. Frisco, I got stuff with Frisco coming, they’ve just used my beats. I’m not even on it. I’ve just given them an instrumental and they’re doing what they’re doing. Chronik, Big Narstie, P Money. It’s literally almost everyone! AJ Tracey, Giggs the whole scene!
Are you at a stage where you now prefer producing or MCing? Is there one that you prefer more than the other?
I’ve been asked this question, it’s hard. I produce more than I write bars. But that’s only to supply a need as well so when I do get a minute, I write lyrics. If I’ve got a session with Double and we’re doing Gen stuff then I’m writing bars and we’ll pick and beat and write. There was a time I was writing more than I was building. To be on radio, you need a lot of bars. It’s even. I want to do both of them to the best of my ability. I can’t really say. It’s hard.
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So grime is definitely getting a bigger profile. It’s capturing the attention of America. How important is it to maintain that local grassroots vibe?
I think it’s paramount to be honest with you. It’s got to progress and improve, don’t get me wrong. But you’ve got to remember where it’s from and don’t lose that identity too early and in that progression. Don’t lose it and turn it into something else. But I think it won’t do that because a lot of the main people in grime are still from the original lift of people, like Wiley, Skepta. A lot of the active people have been around in grime. So they keep the sound of grime ripe. The next generation are onto it and bringing it in. It’s growing, we can’t keep up the fight on our own forever. You’re going to need other little soldiers coming in and helping the fight.
You and D Double E have been building your legacy in grime for a number of years before the social media era. Do you think it has been easier for the MCs of today to become successful because of the ease of promoting music through social media?
Yes loads. It’s become a lot easier, to get promoted and you are getting emergence of younger artists because of it as well. Before, you definitely couldn’t get in the clubs on your booking. I know young MCs who were booked for clubs, but had a problem because they were young, but they were booked though. It was a weird in the early days because MCs were too young to get in the club, but you’re one of the biggest MCs. Like I know Stryder, Dizzy all these people had these problems in the early days. Age and the actual sound is another thing.
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You had a to face a crowd before you were big in my route.
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For the kids that are promoting themselves, they’re doing better because of the internet. You can relate your 15-year-old to the non-raving group of people straight away, and get millions of views before you’ve even seen a loud crowd. You can be big even before you’ve gone in front of a crowd. You had a to face a crowd before you were big in my route. YouTube views and that are good but it doesn’t make you a sick performer.
Is there anything that you look at from back at grime in the early 2000s and think, 'it was better back then...'?
The raves. This is going to sound mad. They were a million times more dangerous but the energy in there, it was so raw and real. Some of the best feelings on stage were in those days. The raves weren’t as nice as they are today. It wasn’t like a “uni-based” thing. This was like, you’re in Palace Pavillion, you’re in Hackney basically. It’s going down in there. ‘Young Man Standing’ and Eskimo Dance, Sidewinder, they were warm places. Life-risking, but the energy and the quality of the rave was impeccable.
I know mans is older today, I was more like the raver out in the crowd. Today I’m definitely older than that person. I can feel the gap between us a bit more. I still see them having the time of their life, and this is their time of their life. That’s the main thing. It was growth. I look to my left there was a young Kano, Double, everyone was here, and you didn’t know where it was going to go. Those days are special in my mind.
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Life-risking, but the energy and the quality of the rave was impeccable.
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What’s can we expect coming from up you?
From me, some good singles. I’m just trying to give people some good music. I’m working towards an album. But I just want to get some good music out there to give me the space to do an album. I’ve been actively doing one, but a lot of artists do an album and no-one wants one from you. You’ve got to create the want first. I’m always done tunes of more depth that’d you’d think are for an album. At the same time, I’ll just throw up a ‘Mind Ya Business’. In this generation, you need more music from the artist. You have to be careful what you care about, you could care about the wrong track. It’s hard, it’s a very hard time. It’s the singles I’m trying to work on, and the Gens, we’re in the same place. We’ve had a strong run with ‘Locked In’ and then we’ve got the Wiley tune up next and then a song with a singer.
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Catch Newham Generals supporting Oneman at London's XOYO tomorrow night (September 2nd) - tickets.
Words: Nikita Rathod