South London rapper Koder talks to SB.TV at Apartment 58, central LDN about returning to the ring with his first official release in three years The Calm, safeguarding against negativity and finding his very own Beyoncé…
If you’re not currently making money printing T-Shirts with your coined slogan ‘Persistence Breaks Resistance’ emblazoned on the front, someone should be –
I envisioned an older person in your life, like a Granddad maybe telling you that line repeatedly when you were a kid and now you’ve taken it and ran with it. Where did that line come from? It’s like your ‘Y.O.L.O’…
Yeah it is, defo. I went to New Zealand in 2008 to do some music and because I have some family over there. I was very skeptical when it came to music because so many people do it in London and my uncle always used to say to me “Listen, persistence breaks resistance,” and I didn’t understand it at first but it just kept ringing in my head. Over the years as I’ve gotten older it’s become an important part of my career, whenever I want to give up, it’s like “persistence breaks resistance.” Now I look at it and I don’t care if everyone does music, or if there is so much competition because all I know is I’m staying persistent. If you want Koder you have to come to Koder, no one can do Koder better than Koder.
Can we expect a T-Shirt line then?
Maybe, before someone gets there before me…
Tell us a bit about your latest mixtape The Calm?
I worked on it for a year and it’s like eleven tracks about my life. The exciting times and the times when I’ve been a bit worried. All of my emotions put into one mixtape – and I wanted to do it to say thank you to the people that have been supporting me because my last mixtape release was in 2010. From 2010 until now I have been releasing freestyle and music videos but I haven’t actually put out a body of work and so I thought to myself ‘let me just focus on the mixtape.’ The eleven tracks, we built from scratch and I am happy with the finished product.
I’ve read interesting, yet conflicting responses to the reason behind your three-year break. What were you doing during your hiatus?
I kinda wanted to build relationships with people and I wanted to get the business side of things in check. I managed to build relationships with brands like Adidas and Beats By Dre, just by going to events and networking and stuff – so I wouldn’t really call it a break. I was still releasing stuff over at Rinse FM on the Sian Anderson Show over that period and there were some music videos but there wasn’t a focus on a product…I just felt like I was not ready to release a body of work – it wasn’t the right time.
But now I’ve got the video for Avenger out, I had the beat for about two years. It never takes me long to write but there are some beats that I don’t jump on straight away – I’ll just say ‘one day I’ll come back to this,’ and that’s what happened with Avenger. Thug Life is coming out very soon and that’s a track in memory of Tupac, I just felt a lot of people have slept lately on him, but that message is still there and it still needs to be delivered so that song is full of passion and we have a couple more videos coming from the mixtape.
If you weren’t Koder, what would be your all-time favourite Koder track and why?
I’d say The Storm’s Coming, it’s the last track on The Calm. The producer put that track together really quickly and I had the beat for over a year, I never put any vocals on it – but I knew that the record was going to be called The Storm’s Coming. When I recorded it, for some reason I just free-styled the verses and the hooks…I like the way everything just came together.
On the track I’m talking about girls. It’s a subject that I feel a lot of people are always waiting for me to talk about – my personal life – and when I did talk about it on the track…for me, it was stepping out of my comfort zone because I like to be very secretive. This time I just let it go loose and tell them “I’ve been with a different girl everyday this week…”
Wow, good times for Koder…
[Laughs] I just came out with it, people might be wondering ‘where was Koder during those three years? What was he doing?’ I let you know on that tune…I was enjoying life for a bit.
The Calm? Could you explain the title of the mixtape?
I’m a Gemini and Gemini’s are always associated with spilt personalities. In my videos I am very animated, I’m energetic, I’m in your face and excited but everyday when I am talking to people I am more reserved. I thought to myself ‘everyone thinks I’m calm, but there is a storm inside me as well’ – the calm before the storm – and that’s what it was.
As you touched upon, you’re in a competitive genre of music so when you get more negative feedback, particularly online – and I know you’ve been the subject of some interesting Twitter attention regarding some mixtape artwork – what thoughts go through your mind?
I don’t really see negativity, I mean I see it but I feel like I am blind to it. I feel like if you embrace it then you let it affect you, you let it show in your everyday life. I just look at it like positive criticism. Even other issues I’ve had, certain ones over Twitter or where there are debates and stuff I’ve never seen someone say ‘Koder is rubbish.’ It’s always ‘he’s done this’, or ‘he’s done that’…but it’s never ‘he’s not good.’ I’ve tried to make myself undeniable and just from seeing negativity I still feel like I’m working towards making myself undeniable.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Right now I’m listening to Jay Z’s Magna Carter…Holy Grail, Macklemore’s album The Heist, a bit of James Blake’s Overgrown and always Amy Winehouse – I listen to Amy Winehouse everyday… and Etta Bond.
I wasn’t going to ask this question but I suspect a decent answer – tell us about the last dream you had, that you remember?
[Pauses to think] The last dream I had that I remember was about a good friend of mine getting married, but he was getting married to his ex who he has been trying to get back with. He always says to me that when I dream stuff it comes true so he was like “please dream of me getting with back her,” and I said, “I can’t plan what I am going to dream!” Then about four months later I had the dream that he married her and that I proposed at his wedding to another girl but I don’t know who it was – it was just this face of light so I don’t know who that is…my dreams are crazy. I don’t dream much but when I do it’s always something vivid.
I read an interview with you where you were talking about pushing the underground scene and it made me think of acts that have moved from the underground to the overground – like Dizzee Rascal for example, I read a piece which suggested he crossed a line collaborating with an aging Robbie Williams…what do you think about making this transition?
I feel some people feel like they’ve been there and done it. There are some people who look at Grime and think that’s been done, I wanna take on a new challenge. I don’t know Dizzee personally but someone like him could say ‘I’ve done Grime, I’ve done Garage – I wanna conquer as many fields as I can’ he might actually be trying to take over everything and I think we should respect that. I think people hold on to this gripe of someone going commercial or mainstream but you never know what someone’s goal is. It might have been Dizzee’s intention to go where he’s gone…but you’ve got to push life to the limits. I understand the Dizzee thing though because we are used to him, the Boy In Da Corner going crazy on verses…I think people are more frustrated – not angry with him – I think they feel something has been taken from them.
With me, I am trying to push the underground because it’s where my voice is. It’s where I can connect with my fans the most. So I’m trying to just stick at it and make what I’m doing popular because if it’s popular then people have to mess with it.
As a total Jay Z loyalist, you know that Run DMC co-founder Daryl McDaniels recently took some shots at his music, adding that his fans are “brainwashed” to like his material. So Koder…are you brainwashed?
Jay for me is the greatest. Just the story of a hustler coming up…I can relate so much because on The Calm I’m not telling the same story, but I am telling the story of being on the block and having to deal with what you have to deal with in your community and persevering and actually coming out of that and then being what they call a leader of your community. I feel like Jay was telling a similar story so I just connect with him on all levels, and then he’s got Beyoncé as well! Every element he just has on lock. I just look at his life like a guideline…or a blueprint [smiles] Defo.
Maybe one day you’ll find your Beyoncé…?
I might have one already you never know [Dirty Laugh]