The year is 2003 and the pioneers of a new British, urban genre named grime are at play. With songs such as Take U Out, Jammer and Nasty Crew quickly became one of the most prominent artists in the underground movement.
Ten years later and no longer a member of Nasty Crew, the Boy Better Know (BBK) producer, DJ and rapper has made a name for himself as a grime legend. Known for his outlandish and “joker” persona, a conversation with the musician was always going to be interesting.
In a dimly lit and aesthetically pleasing room at Bounce London, the surprisingly relaxed Jammer (he prepares for our interview with a game of table tennis), later goes on to describe himself as “an artist, unique, individual, stands out, charismatic, young, black entrepreneur.”
Using his previous fame as a DJ, Jammer leapt into the world of music production and rapping:
I always wanted to know how like, what was in the record. Like, you know when you put the needle in and it plays?
It’s like, when I was growing up I always wanted to know how you got into the TV. I thought they went in through the back… My whole curiosity of both of those worlds put together, is kind of why I wanted to do music.
The mechanics of making a record, the mechanics of making a video… it baffled me so much that I was intrigued to know how to do it.
I directed the Murkle Man video… I direct most of my videos.
In terms of those artists who have no control, Jammer made his opinion clear, saying:
If you don’t have creative control and then you don’t like something, and you do it because you’ve just basically you’ve got to do it, there’s no time to go back and it’s the project, you’re just going to hate yourself for it in the end. You’re gonna have loads of products out there you was forced to do.
This serious side to the rapper was an unusual display that the public don’t get to see often. The usually outspoken character who loves to have a laugh showed that he’s not one-dimensional. This side of him is said to be reflected on his new album Living The Dream. When asked what the title meant to him, he said:
When people say “living the dream” they think I mean cars, jewellery, girls and all this, that and the other, champagne and clubs. That’s what they think I’m going to be talking about on the record, but that is not what the album is about.
The album is about me living the dream of being just a young kid coming from an area that wasn’t, didn’t have as much opportunities as some other areas did, and progressing on to do things I would’ve dreamed of doing. Going to festivals, performing to 80,000 people, opening shows with Dizzee Rascal, silly stadiums.
Flying to Glasgow to meet up with Puff Daddy to have private after-parties and pool parties with them, and just doing these things that’s real. Looking after Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony when they come over… and the list goes on of people I’ve been counteracting [sic] with. Being the guy when Waka Flocka Flame come to England they called me over to hook up with him, when Lil’ Jon come to England they thought it was a really good thing for me and him to hook up, you know what I mean?
I’m just waiting for that call when Wayne comes!
These are things that a lot of people would dream of doing but I’m just doing naturally and actually still living a normal life! That’s my whole thing and obviously having all these experiences and being around of these things, being around all these people, it just shown me the potential of what it is for like the people around me, not only me, people around me and what they can do and where they can get to.
He went on to say that being taken seriously as a lyricist was important to him, describing the new album as “lyrical based” but still bringing in his fun side and to not take himself too seriously:
Even in this album like I said it’s got a lot of, I want people to take me serious as a lyricist but I still don’t. It’s still not me trying to make people think that I’m unapproachable and I’m too serious and I can’t catch joke.
I’m just expressing myself in a different way that’s not so comical… the in-depth person that thinks deeply and actually has a mind and knows what he’s doing, is educated and educated in music, and is educated in what’s going on and what I want and where I’m trying to get to and what I’m trying to achieve.
This may also come as a shock to some fans who are accustomed to the Decline rapper’s comic personality. It was just a over year ago when we witnessed the release of the controversial video detailing 10 of the UK’s most “Butters” women, presented by Jammer. When asked about that list, he unashamedly responded:
I done that for a reason… because basically yeah, they done a video called the sexiest, hot male in the rapper, whatever yeah. Everybody thinks I done a video back to them because I wasn’t in the video, I wasn’t the top sexy whatever, whatever they thought.
I just thought it was ridiculous that a group of women could be so shallow minded to get round the table, drink wine and pick the sexiest rapper. I just think that’s ridiculous.
Like, so my whole thing was, the girls that were doing it and the things that they were saying on the thing and the way there was going about it’s just like basically, you just wanted to pick these guys so you could either have sex with them or do a tune with them… When I done the butters list and people was in it, they was upset but the public thought you were butters, not me!
Can’t argue with that! During this candid discussion, when asked if there was any friendly rivalry within BBK, he said:
Yeah there must be.
Meeting Skepta through clashing each other on Hood Heroes, Jammer asked Skepta to come down from Tottenham to meet him after someone dissed his brother on one of Jammer’s songs:
He come all the way from Tottenham on his own. I didn’t know what type of vibe it was init, so I was with a couple of my mates just in case he come with a couple of his mates, and he came on his own!
And I respected that very much… he said look, we don’t want it to get out of hand. We just want to make music and you know, get a buzz and we just yeah, we never parted to be honest.
We’ve been friends ever since that day. Same with Wiley. We’ve had beef rivalry.
It’s all about competitive competition any way as a musician… that’s why the Lord Of The Mics, battling thing is so good because some people who are just average, when they come on there, they push really hard because they know they got that on the line! And it’s the competitiveness that makes them push.
No. Like, this is the thing… being in the charts is basically now, anybody can be in the charts. I’ve seen whack tunes in charts. Back in the day when the charts [sic], I used to be like oh my God being in the charts is a big thing because you had to be good to be there or whatever, d’you know what I mean.
Now, not saying everybody in the charts is whack. I’m just saying that it’s not that special anymore to be in the charts… and the chart is just basically like saying, okay, this and that people bought my music so I kinda know what my fan base is or I respect these people for supporting me as another way of putting it.
But for me, that’s not what I want. I want people to love my music, respect me. I want people to buy my music as well. I just want enough money so I don’t have to worry about any thing. If I made as money as Jay-Z without charting [sic], I wouldn’t care! So it’s not necessarily the charts for me.
The always stylish grime legend did not disappoint as he sported a floral blazer, snapback, shades, white top and salmon coloured shorts. When asked about personal style he said:
I dress like my mentality. This is how I think. I just want to be outrageous!
I don’t want to be the same as everyone else. I want to be a bit different… I just try to do what works for me and yeah, with the new stuff as well I’m trying to really be like, that fashion icon at the same time with this stuff as well… I’m really into fashion, I really love fashion… my whole thing is living the dream, I just want to have really good image with it, really really really good imagery, really good music, quality music, mixed down music that sounds good on your ear, imagery that looks good to your eye and just you know, just for people to embrace that.
It’s a stage of my life were basically, I come from an area were there’s a lot of people that don’t want to see people do well. Mind Body and Soul is a story, just basically you think these people are rooting you on but really they’re waiting on your downfall.
That’s what I’ve experienced in a lot of my career.
Now, of all the people I’ve grown up with I only speak to two people out of my own area. That’s crazy!
I’ve gained really good friends through music but none of them live in my area, d’you know what I mean. So that song is just me trying to educate some of the youngers that are growing up.
It’s got really positive words to let them know that you got to put yourself first and don’t trust any one. Make sure you’re doing what you’re doing for you. Put your all into it and don’t let anyone know what you’re doing or your plan because these people are very, very shrewd.
Jammer also indulged on his musical inspirations he had as a young kid growing up in London. This included Biggie Smalls, Diddy and Bob Marley. The most significant being Smiley Culture, “I wanted to be like Smiley Culture like, so much! And I didn’t even know why. I just like his tune, *sings* Police Officer, no give me producer, Police Officer no give me producer.
I used to love it, and I used to have the record and I used to look at the imagery and used to think it was great! He just made me want to get into music.” As we await the release of Living The Dream on 1 July, it seems as though it will be an exciting couple of weeks for music worldwide as we have already seen the release of Kanye West’s Yeezus and J.Cole’s Born Sinner. Out of curiosity I asked Jammer about his opinion of Yeezus and he responded with… “He needs to stop moaning! He’s moaning. He’s crying! I just want to hear Jay-Z’s album. Makes me happy. He’s got the best girl, win!”
Kanye did top the UK album charts so I suppose the British public like a good moan. Along with an album, Jammer exclusively revealed that he will also be releasing a Living The Dream short movie featuring some well-known actors! The grime legend continues to dominate.