Saturday, 3 December 2005

Doing It Real Big

DSCF0389, originally uploaded by chantelle.

Give me Klashnekoff to talk to over Pharrell any day. Read all about that one soon but for now I'm in focus mode.

Mixtapes are dropping like flies, but the DJ Skully presents Klashnekoff 'Focus Mode' looks set to be one of the few that actually stands the test of time... Twenty-something year old east Londoner Klashnekoff became the epitome of British hip hop when he released his debut album, 'The Sagas', in 2004. The media machine may be guilty of hyping one artist after another but with Klashnekoff there was no big marketing campaign or major label push, with sales exceeding the 20,000 mark, it was the people that had spoken. "I put energy into every track I do" Klash explains inbetween swapping digits with Biggz. "Listen to the Saga's, every tune is good in it's own right..."

If anything it's been hard for Klashnekoff to escape the bangers like 'Murda'. Touring the club circuit with his Terror Firma family aside, he's been mostly holed up in a Nottingham studio with Joe Buddha, creating his sophomore album, Lion Heart, due to land in 2006, an album which Klashnekoff cites as having "an angrier edge" to it. Then there's the mixtape currently heating up the streets. A 25 track excursion through his words past and present, from the re-working of classics like 'Black Rose' (over Bobby Valentino's 'Slow Down' beat) and 'Son Of Niya', to new freestyles like title track 'Focus Mode' and his popular 'Jamrock Takeover', the package is well, complete. "I've got something to say, when you interview me I'm not like 'yeah blud', it flows... No matter how big I get I'll never go like that. I'd have lost my core. Life is too short."

In his own words, it's his "sensitive, man of depth, articulate, intelligent to a point, conscious and switchy" approach to lyricism and life in general that have earned him the deserved respect. Although his stage name is often frowned upon, there's a valid argument to his gun moniker. "Malcolm X carried a Kalashnikov, it was a gun created to protect and I'd think 'what if a Klashnikov could tell a story?" And he's not wrong. He remains one of the few artists who garner love from rap fans across the board, grime to backpacker, young and old. His extremely real and personal take on issues including race, sex, music and politics never fail to impress. "If you listen to my music you can hear that, It's got aggi bits in it but it's in context. I'm not going to say it just for the sake of it, or to shock. Enough of these guys don't care about the bigger picture of being an artist, all they care about is road fame, it's a ghetto fabulous ting, then they'll go hate on someone like Dizzee, Lethal B or Kano. But these people inspire me, I told Lethal that the other day, on a real level. Whether you like the music or not you gotta respect the ethic."

Where the future is concerned, besides looking at acting options, Klashnekoff is equally frank. "I don't know. I see the scene imploding on itself cause of the shanking and murking going on, and certain man who want to come into this game and eat, as they say... We make music from the heart, to me hip hop or 'black' music is struggle of a people, story of the people that's been embraced by other cultures who can identify by it. The basis of it, the ethics, the code it's been lost... people aren't watching the Americans, people are watching their clothes, their game, their earnings but not how they got there. It's been lost and the future don't look bright to me. I don't look at the scene and think of myself, I just think I gotta do what I gotta do."

And you can guarantee whatever that might be, it's going to be damn good...

A version of this article appears in The Voice newspaper. Words: Chantelle Fiddy.

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