UK MC Wiley has been non-stop lately, releasing his eighth studio album ‘Evolve or Be Extinct’ on his 33rd birthday earlier this year to much acclaim and mixtape ‘It’s All Fun And Games Till…Vol. 1’ after putting out two LP’s the year before.
The Grime pioneering East Londoner is landing with another slice of urban madness in ‘Heatwave’ and I got the chance to talk to the notorious hard worker about Hackney Weekend, Tinie Tempah and…the football…
So tell us a bit about your new summery track ‘Heatwave’…kind of ironic considering the weather we’re having…
Yeah, I purposely wanted the song for the holidays because I knew that we might not really get that weather here. I want the song to travel with people on their way to Spain or wherever. That was the main deal behind it. I spoke to the music plugger before we put the track out, and he gave me a time scale saying “do it here, do it here” and it timed out well because to make a summer record you have to release it before something builds up, so people will either buy it on holiday or when they’re in England – because no-one stays on holiday for ever…
One of the lines in the tune, “I wanna see a light skin gyal on the road” has generated a bit of a backlash – can you tell us a bit about that?
Oh yeah – Light skin gyal and ice cream van…it wasn’t even meant to rhyme but I made it rhyme anyway that was my main thing. At the same time, obviously when I was writing it – I’ve got a brain – I was like (raps) I wanna see the light skin gyal on the road and the dark skin gyal…and I did try that out but it wasn’t working so that’s when I just thought ‘Na, it ain’t meant to be that but I’m gonna get that backlash’ and I knew it. I was waiting for it, but I’ve bigged up tunes with just dark skin girls, it’s mad – I’m only an MC man.
When you get into stuff like the ‘Step 11 Freestyle’ do you feel freer? Do you feel like that is the uncompromised Wiley?
Yeah that’s definitely what we were meant to be doing, it’s a bit noisy but I listen to that stuff and after I’ve done it I don’t listen to it anymore and I switch it off. Not because I don’t like it but I just think – ‘Wow’ – as you get older a human cannot possibly be that angry all the time. But there is a time and a place where you just have to let off anger. It’s crazy, there is other music I make or listen to more that isn’t like that, but I know that’s the genre that I come from and I have to do it.
You must have been thrilled to see East London held up high at the Hackney Weekend gigs, where you there?
No, I wish I were. I watched bits of it and it looked really good.
Did you have any favourite performances?
I didn’t see all of them to really pick, but I was watching Jay-Z. I was watching a couple of the other ones but then I saw Beyoncé in the crowd –
Beyoncé in Hackney, can you imagine?
I was surprised not to see you on stage to be honest.
Aw mate, don’t worry – you know what it is? Even though I released the track just in time, maybe it wasn’t in time enough. It’s nothing long.
You just said you saw Jay-Z, what did you think of the performance from Rihanna, the other headliner?
I thought it was good. I think that ‘Where Have You Been’ video of hers is sick – her live performance of the actual song was…whatever, but she’s a sick singer anyway and that video is sick.
We’ve had numerous stories lately about public figures being attacked on Twitter. I know you recently told a lot of your haters on Twitter to back off, typing ‘if you don’t like me, then don’t come at me’ …
Well obviously I don’t want to argue at them because I am already an arguer. I’m argumentative – so I need to not do that because I just do it for a joke but it is not funny as you get to a higher level and people look at you and think ‘oh he’s swearing’ but they can’t see that I’m just one of them. So I have to try and hold it down a bit, its just banter but I understand the way it can look. I’ve been the attacker and I’ve attacked back but I just see it as a cussing match but to some people it ain’t, it’s not funny and that’s where you have to draw the line, especially if you’re a bit older because you ain’t in school or college anymore so you have to just settle. I do think there is a time and a place for everything but if you can leave it, then leave it…
Maybe cause you’re an MC people think its fair game?
It’s just mad, it doesn’t mean anything.
For example, you recently had to defend yourself on Twitter against someone who wrote that you’d begged Dizzee Rascal for a collaboration at some point. And you wrote back ‘without me, there would be no him’ – what is that relationship like right now? Are you frenemies?
It’s not a frenemies thing, it’s been so hot, cold, up and down plus not seeing each other for eight years – it’s long. I’m a cool person I can be wherever I am around anyone, some people can’t be around anyone, not because they’re scared but just because they haven’t seen that person for so long that it’s weird around them. What I want to do now is just move on and do what I am doing. There are so many times I would’ve worked with him or I have tried to or whatever and he just doesn’t care – and he ain’t gonna care now so there no point. We’ve all just got to move on and most have anyway. Some people have moved on and are with him, they talk to him some people don’t, some talk to me and – I just want to get on so everyone can do what they need to.
I think you have earned the title King of Grime, I heard that Dizzee used that term to define himself…
That’s what I hear. What do you think about that that?
He’s not the King of Grime he’s the king of doing eight years from a grime scene and putting money in his bank, he’s the king of that. So he’s the king of money but he’s not the king of Grime, the music and the movement of it – he hasn’t had part in it for ages and he should come back but that’s up to him. Obviously he made it with me, I didn’t just make it on my own. All jokes aside, we all want a number one but there comes a time where you do what you used to do. There is a good number one to be had and Tinie had one that changes the face of music, they are the ones that we need.
I hear that you’re a pretty big Tinie Tempah fan?
I’ve just learned about his path and what he has done and I actually saw him on the way up, he was on my album ‘Playtime Is Over’ on Big Dada. It’s not that I knew he was gonna blow up because I never, Tinie was on that album because that’s what happened and he was on the tune, but I’ve seen him go from nowhere to somewhere and for me as another black person it keeps my vibe alive. Some people are like he wasn’t even that good – and that’s been in my head, it’s been in everyone’s head but he is there now and you can’t mess with that. He’s done a lot of things, he did everything that Dizzee did in one year – it’s power and you can only respect that.
Is there music that you listen to that others would assume you don’t?
Yeah I listen to Labrinth, but I guess you would assume that I would. I listen to a lot of minimal dubby music and electro noises. I listen to a lot of Grime artists’ music from past to present…just scouring and listening into them. Not the obvious ones, artists like Skepta, Scorcher, JME from my sort of time era – Ghetts, Kano a lot of that stuff to remember myself, and what we were actually doing it for.
You recently said that you would never perform at the Wireless Festival again, what are the reasons behind that decision?
I feel like – not even in a bad way, but sometimes people just do things…I mean imagine, I’ve been doing music since the beginning of the year and I didn’t have a chart song, even when I released ‘Heatwave’ someone could’ve contacted me…but I actually stood there and thought ‘all these names being added to the line-up, clearly someone doesn’t like me there’ that’s what I thought. They will be like ‘no Wiley of course we like you’ or whatever and I’ll just be like…cool. When things like that happen I just think I’ve got my own brands, friends and people – there are 18,000 people who like Wiley, Skepta, JME and that’s why we have got to stop being lazy and start using our brains and it will come to us.
What are your thoughts on England’s exit at the Euro 2012 tournament?
Listen I didn’t watch the end of the game, but I heard that a few people missed penalties and that maybe it was there fault but listen…it’s tense brother. I don’t want to say anything because it’s upsetting…
I know Rooney didn’t show up, I know that…
It’s mad because they have just done a whole season, and that’s no excuse because everyone has but that Premier League is awkward and it’s very fast passed and that. They never really play as a team, they’re just playing as players…it’s weird.