Tuesday, 19 October 2004

The great debate: Semxtex

Semtex, A&R for Def Jam UK, 1Xtra specialist and general and man about town. As well as signing Taz, Semtex has worked closely with Dizzee Rascal on both the Piece Keepers CD/DVD series and as his DJ. We got his views on the future of underground dance…

Q; You’ve been tapping into this whole grime thing, do you see it as hip hop?
A: Yes, I think a lot of people have got it twisted over here. Whether you call it grime, Eski, garage, UK hip hop – if you’re rapping over a beat it’s hip hop…we’ve gotta be like fuck it, it’s hip hop. We need to build our own industry fuck waiting for Americans to do it for us.

Q: Do you feel like we’ve turned a corner? The energy and buzz out there right now is amazing
A: I think with artists like Dizzee, Wiley, Kano, Doogz, even So Solid…I mean So Solid were the catalyst, they made people feel proud of British music and they’ve influenced a lot of kids. There’s about 50,000 garage crews out there now coming through.

Q: What do you think about producers?
A: Producers over here, if they had the right management would be selling beats for shit loads over in the US. Target’s heavy, Youngsta too he has a sound that if he was in Atlanta or wherever people would kill for his beats. DaVinche’s got some hot tunes coming through, Dizzee, Taz…

Q: Do you think we still look abroad too much? A UK MC get’s signed and straight away the label wants to take them out of the streets and abroad
A: Every artists I’ve signed I’ve told them you’re not going with any US artists. You have to develop your own talent, not depend on the likes of Salaam Remi. It also fucks the industry over here when people do that, whether it works or not, It’s important that we do it.

Q: So we’re learning?
A: I think the garage scene has really made kids realise that they can take their own careers into their own hands. Look what came from this scene – Ms Dynamite, Craig David, So Solid, Daniel Bedingfield, Wiley, The Streets, Dizzee – that’s eight major artists. We’ve never had a growth period that big in UK music. Ever.

Q: Do major labels know what to do now then?
A: They’ve got a lot of money but they often don’t have the time, paitence or understanding. We need more kids getting into A&R and management, setting up labels. We don’t really have an infrastructure at the moment. Everyone want’s to be an artist, P Diddy has a lot to answer for. Everyone wants to be the star and not behind the scenes. If more people did that we’d have a bigger industry.

Q: You bought Fatman Scoop to Sidewinder, how did he react to the music and event?
A: He was like ‘Yo, you guys are killing it’. I think he wants to do some stuff with Wiley but he’s still to get back to me about the beats. Wiley is the longest man in history ha ha. And he let me down on his album, he should have been spitting over Eskimo. I was waiting for all of those beats and none! Ice Rink we got thirty seconds and there was no Roll Deep but at least their albums coming soon.

Q: So you think these sounds are going to go global and I’ll have to change the name of my column (or get made redundant)?
A: I’m telling you Timbaland came over, I took him shopping, had Dynamite MC hanging out with him, playing the beats. The good thing is you’ve got Wiley’s sound that is similar to what Lil John is doing, they could be seperated at birth, we’re running on parallels. I think Dizzee’s going to conquer the States next year, the new album is more refined, he’s got more depth to his lyrics…I just think he’s a number one hip hop artist. I think Doogz will go clear to but he needs to define his own path.

Q: Who else should we be watching out for?
A: I don’t know I haven’t signed them yet. There’s a lot of good kids but I take into account who their manager is, what vision they have for themselves, where they see themselves in 5 years time. I need long term and hunger. Anyone can make a track but making an album is a skill.

A version of this article appeared in Blues and Soul Magazine 04

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