After years being a staple in the UK Grime scene, rap collective Roll Deep have morphed into a well-oiled pop machine with two UK number single under their belts ‘Good Times’ and ‘Green Light.’ The group are looking to follow up their mainstream success off the back of another line-up change, with group co-founder rapper Wiley out and singer Tania Foster in.
With the release of new single ‘Picture Perfect’ out this month and an album due to drop later in the year crew members Tania, J2K, Breeze, Brazen and Flo Dan sat down with TaleTela to talk about their new chapter, online racist rants and Tania plays Buff, Marry, Kill with the men in the group…
Speak to us about the new single ‘Picture Perfect’…
Tania: It’s wicked!
J2K: Basically it’s called ‘Picture Perfect’ it’s out in January, we shot the video in a nice hot location, nice views, nice scenery. We kinda just wanted to capture the title of the song ‘Picture Perfect’ – the song is about capturing that perfect moment on camera and celebrating it.
What can we expect from the new album?
J2K: Songs (Laughs)
Tania: Different songs. More variety.
J2K: I feel like this album will show that we have matured as artists. There is more of a variation of sounds and styles of music – that represent the country and the sound we are trying to push. Each song will be for everyone, even if they’ve got different angles or take from different genres like Dubstep or Reggae.
How do you guys feel about the new chapter concerning the bands sound and image?
J2K: It’s all good, it’s just music and sounds – it’s a continuation of the last album, the new material doesn’t sound like the last album but there is a new lane that we now travel in as well as others that we were brought up in… and we are just keeping it moving.
Breeze: Well we are progressing; it’s new to us every time we do an album because we have got new fans and we are going to new places – we are just learning as much as we did back then.
What are the feelings within the band about not having Wiley as an official member?
J2K: We are all adults within ourselves; this is what we do with or without anyone of us. He does music, we all do music, and it doesn’t rely on anyone person. So we just crack on with our jobs so whether you are there or not, the work is still going to be there so we just keep it moving and that is really it.
Many speculate that Wiley wasn’t happy with the new chapter so he left the official line-up and wasn’t thrilled with where you guys were going… can you comment on that?
J2K: Well no – I couldn’t – that’s not true, that’s not true.
Brazen: I don’t know where you got that from but he is just Wiley, he does what he does.
J2K: He is a character and he moves and he flows, nobody is going to pin him down – not his mother, not his manager, not anyone. He is a free spirit that just floats about, so it just reverts back to what we do. We can’t concentrate on what any one person wants to do, we just know that Roll Deep has something to do and we crack on.
Tania, did you notice the controversy that ignited upon your arrival into the group?
Tania: Definitely, I thought I was gonna get cussed out and I have because it’s like ‘who the hell does this girl think she is?’ and ‘Roll Deep have been around for ages and this girl thinks she can just come in sing a song and join the group?’
J2K: (To Tania) what you on about?
Tania: No, this is what I’m saying a lot of people think…
J2K: They think that, really?
Tania: Definitely! For me that was the most terrifying thing but I just want to do music and as soon as I met these guys I realised that they just want to do music too. They allow me to do my own thing and work with them, I think anyone would jump at this opportunity because they are Roll Deep – I’d be an idiot to turn down the chance to join – and I haven’t regretted it ever since.
I love being part of Roll Deep and anyone can say what they wanna say but I’m here to do music, I’m taking this very seriously and I feel like I’ve earnt it. It wasn’t like I just came in and was like ‘hi, I’m pretty and I have boobs’ – I know that these guys have had some girls before me and I am happy to say that I am still here. No-one has even seen me sing properly yet…it’s fair enough people are going to say what they want to say but it’s my job to prove them wrong.
J2K: As long as they’re talking…
How do you guys deal with the commentary that accuses the band of not reppin’ anymore and selling out?
J2K: It’s easy to deal with that because comments like that are from people who just like a certain genre of music…that’s cool that’s what you like but we will see you in six songs time.
Tania: The guys were number one for three weeks with ‘Good Times’ and for one week with ‘Green Light’ there must be some fans still out there. That year Roll Deep had the record for the most UK number ones, so there are people still out there…
Flo Dan: Certain artists would let that get to them and change what they are going to do in the studio next. At times we have made decisions over what has been said but we realised it doesn’t work because they are still saying it…
A lot of people are saying that Roll Deep should have changed the band name upon Tania’s official induction into the group, mainly because things are so far from where they started.
Tania: Hell no! that’s crazy…
J2K: Destiny’s Child don’t change their name when they get a new singer…
Breeze: Do you know how many people have been and gone? So everytime someone comes in we’re supposed to change our name? Roll Deep is bigger than all of us, so that’s what we’re gonna stick with.
J2K: When people say that we are a voice for the youth or whatever… people grow up, you can’t be a grown up trying to talk about what the young people are doing, like sitting on walls and stuff because we don’t sit on walls no more.
Flo Dan: The group can only represent who we are, we are not just ‘Green Light’, we are not just ‘Good Times’, we are not just ‘Heat Up’ we are not just ‘When I’m Ere.’ The fact is it’s music and we still try to vary it – you grow as a person and I think it shows in our music. So this new chapter is a result of maturity in a way?
Breeze: Exactly, of course
Flo Dan: It’s still mad though
Tania, does being the only girl in the group suck?
Tania: No it doesn’t…
Flo Dan: She doesn’t (laughs)
Tania: (laughs) (To Flo Dan) Oh my god! I can’t believe you said that! That’s a good one…that’s clever…but no not at all. It’s easier than being in a girl band, these guys know I’m not that high maintenance, I don’t need loads of time to get ready.
J2K: Na, she’s good
Tania: I’m cool, I just do what I do and sit in the back.
Tania, how many more guys are in the official line-up with you? We have J2K, Breeze, Brazen and Flo Dan here with us today plus…
Tania: Scratchy, Manga, Karnage and Target
Envision all the official members of Roll Deep and let’s play Buff, Marry, Kill…
Tania: (laughs) Oh my gosh…sorry guys
Tania: Out of Roll Deep? Flo Dan
Tania: (Pause) J2K
Some people are convinced only footballers have groupies… so guys –
J2K: I was a footballer though…
Is it true then?
J2K: I never had any…(laughs)
I know Roll Deep have groupies, I want all the details.
J2K: Nothing, we just do our shows –
Tania: Oh please! These guys have loads of groupies! Girls will leave their boyfriends behind trying to get to them…all the time. There is a girl called Sam, she has got a tattoo of our song ‘Reach Out’ which was a free download on her arm. Girls bring Manga Malteasers because he loves them. J2K got a big cookie with ‘I Love You’ written on it….
Tania, do you get anything?
Flo Dan: We have guys asking “Where’s Tania, she’s buff where is she?”
As long as you’re not neglected…
Flo Dan: She gets her fair share…(laughs)
I know over the years you guys have supported the Love Music Hate Racism Campaign, there is a lot of recent online video of people on public transport ranting about how we should ‘go back to where we came from’ making the headlines – if you guys got on a tour bus or something and someone tried to do that with you all present how would you handle it?
J2K: You have to let them know because it’s an ignorant thing innit, you just educate…
Flo Dan: For me, I would do nothing because it’s not my job to educate them. I watched one of those clips and saw some one about to get up and do some more and then he sat back down….
J2K: He got up to get put back down though, he wanted to just look like he was gonna do something
Flo Dan: People like that, it would take too long to educate them and I haven’t got the time…
Breeze: But then these same people on the weekend go to the Indian or the Chinese shops or whatever for food…
Do you guys have any favorite records from 2011?
Brazen: I think Adele killed it this year…
Tania: Emeli Sande…I was like ‘oh my god, that woman can sing’ she has a wicked voice and I love where she is going with it.
Breeze: Little Mix… (all laugh)
What do you think about them?
J2K: I can’t be bothered with them, but I did like Misha B on The X Factor though, when she first came out I was like ‘Whoa, she is sick!’…
Breeze: That shows that it’s not just about singing ability, you gotta have the whole package otherwise its hard work.
What did you guys think about Tulisa’s general performance on X Factor this year?
Breeze: I dunno about that female boss with the arm thing, it was pissing me off. (all laugh)
J2K: I think she let her emotions get the better of her and I think she got a bit unprofessional at times especially handling the Misha B situation, I think that’s what lost it for her, that was tactical – you don’t put her business out like that on the show, she could have spoke to her one on one. Regardless of the apologising after the show, the damage has been done. But apart from that, they’re all judges you’re gonna love them or hate them so it’s whatever…
What can we look forward to from Roll Deep in 2012?
Brazen: The new album will be released in April sometime…
J2K: More singles…
Brazen: Making music, doing our usual thing – more videos.
Tania: We have also just been signed in Japan as well, Australia, New Zealand – it’s exciting!