Slick Don has just come offstage at a Clash Live night, and he’s drenched in sweat, almost exhausted. He’s on alien turf, with this Birmingham rapper aiming to represent his home city at Miranda in Shoreditch.
It’s a sign of his blistering ability that no questions are asked by the partisan crowd – they’re here to watch one of the most technically gifted rappers in the country do his thing, and do it well. Initially inspired by his schooldays collection of DJ EZ tapes and his parents fondness for neo-soul, when Slick Don spotted a group of older kids spitting rhymes outside the gates he was instantly struck by their flair, and their ability to connect.
“I took influence from everything,” he recalls. “I did Music Tech but I didn’t really feel like I was learning anything in it. At break time all the mandem would come outside and spit bars at each other, and clash. I didn’t have bars in them times, I was just watching, being the by-stander; because of the energy of it and how sick it was, that made me want to write bars myself.”
Starting to scribble down some words of his own, Slick Don spent his teens having fun, but learning all the way. “It was a hobby,” he reflects. “Still is! I think it was just growing up. I experienced a lot between the age of 12, 13 to the time I got to 16. There was a lot that I went through.”
“When it came to me actually thinking, let me write something myself, and see what wha g’wan… I had bare sick bars, and good stories to tell. But I didn’t realise that before. It was only when I got to that age that I realised I had a story of my own to tell.”
Matching grime influences against a fondness for UK rap and an awareness of afrobeats, Slick Don has his own sound, his own flow. Coming from Birmingham maybe helps – sitting outwith the gravitational pull of London, he’s been able to construct his own sound, without the glare of the capital startling his gaze.
“I’ve always been a person who wants to be original, and do what I want to do,” he says. “I’ve got to go off what I’m feeling, my vibe.”
“At the end of the day that’s what sets you apart from everyone else,” he continues. “People are born with their own mind, their own feelings, and you’ve got to follow your own path. We all set out on a different path, we’ve all got our own journey, so if you don’t follow that, and if you follow someone else’s journey, then you’re just leading someone else’s life, basically. It’s not original.”
New EP ‘Hold Out’ is a bold, brash statement, the sound of an MC laying down some new rules. He’s got help, too – breakout cut ‘Murking Again’ features production from Jammz, while the whole package ripples with Slick Don’s positive unrelenting energy.
“I know a lot of people who from the struggles of everyday life just get disheartened on a day to day basis when they can’t see a way out, and all they can see is a black tunnel,” he explains. “There’s no light at the end. But life is about holding out. Because tomorrow is going to be another day, and if you just keep focussing, keep positive, keep doing you… things will get better. And things will get brighter.”
- - -
- - -
Join us on Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.