Melanin 9 is one of the few names in UK Hip-Hop that instantly commands respect; and has deservedly earned the title as an, “emcee’s emcee.” He is a serene thinker with a playful smile. Yet, he commands the stage with such dynamism and his fire-engine-red boiler suit (may I add) will have you captivated. We conversed about his debut album, ‘Magna Carta’ (released on December 3) the UK Hip-hop scene and why no one should ever call him “conscious.”
So ‘Magna Carta’ is your debut LP, was this conscious attempt on your part to make an album?
Yeah. I wanted the right songs, to make sure everything was to how I wanted it to be. I take my time with what I do, that is why it took so long; it was complete trial and error.
It great that you took your time to perfect your craft; it appears no one does that anymore! How did you ensure a sense of quality control for this album?
[Breathes] I didn’t compromise my music. I don’t follow what is going on out there. I do what is from my heart [and] what I am raised from. I come with my own style learning from all those greats who cared about how good they sounded on the mic.
It sounds like you come from a disciplined place, have you reflected on your journey into music?
I had this mixtape that I lost and I would kill for right now! I made it when I was 14. I’ve got 3-4 rhyme books from 1998 I always go back and look over it to see how I developed and the stages that I’ve gone through. Its great, it shows that I’ve always tried to do my best.
In hip-hop tradition, there are ‘elders’ who nurture new talent, who has supported you in the hip-hop scene?
I made my first release in 2007 and who got me on to that was Skriblah [DanGogh] from Terra Firma, without him I probably would not have put out anything. He was like a mentor to me he really guided me and saw things in me. One day he took me to the studio, that is when I met an engineer and producer called Chemo, from there I started recording. It came out of nowhere, I did a mixtape in month and people still see it as some of my best work.
It’s only been 5 years. Yet your work brings so much attention to it, to the point that you’re so highly revered.
It feels longer. I’ve been writing constantly since I started, it good to know that I’ve come in such a quick time and made so much noise.
So your music is often described as “conscious,” what is your take on that?
For people to even use that word shows they are “unconscious” it is as simple as that! I’m just an emcee and so of course I’m conscious, I’m alive! I just say what I see!
I feel like there is a hip-hop police going around with their checklist! If you are not political your are perceived as being “un-hip-hop!”
It’s like that in UK. [Hip-hop] had a circle, but it never managed to break borders. We did not like the fact that it came from America and they wanted their own style. What they don’t realise is, hip-hop is universal. A lot of Grime emcees have gone to hip-hop, so more people are looking at it. So now they are you don’t talk about what Lowkey talks about, you are not hip-hop! This is to no disrespect to Lowkey he’s paved his way, but it’s with all these new comers…they don’t understand the mechanics of being universal with different styles.
You’ve converted me into accepting that artists can recreate that 90’s boom-bap sound without it sounding pretentious. Is there reason why musically you draw from that era?
[Laughs] For me that was when hip-hop was at it most beautifulest. I don’t purposefully do old school, it just comes from inside me. I do what I love and that is what I love. I don’t knock modern day hip-hop because there is a lot of good music coming out now and I am supporting it. It is quite strange, the further back you go in time the better the music was.
My favourite track of the album is ‘Colour Blind’ it seems like a risk as its spoken word piece, which a lot of UK rappers actually don’t do.
I wanted to do something different and not give the normal track after track. I wanted to show that I could go somewhere else if I wanted to. The Roots and Ursula Rucker inspired me and I was like I am going to try this.
So what is your favourite track on the album?
It changes all the time. I don’t really listen to my stuff, I always find things and irritate myself and I don’t want to go through that. I think my favourite right now is ‘Cosmos’ but it always changes.
Your lead single, ‘Organised Democracy’ hook line is “does freedom have shot gun” where did that line come from?
That line comes from a documentary about the Black Panthers and one of the leaders was shouting it at a demonstration. It just stuck with me. This song is about the Police harassing the youth, especially black youths. I wanted to do that for them and get them to question the system.
So metaphysically, we are in a completely different realm, what is the other Melanin 9 doing right now?
[Pauses] I just can’t see myself doing anything but hip-hop. I would probably be a Philosopher, I like to think and have my own ideas about things. Right now, I’m focusing on my music and I want to be able to live of it.
‘Magna Carta’ is released on December 03 2012 by Red Snow Records, check the below links for information:
Words: Janine Francois