We have an artist that was part of the iconic musical group So Solid Crew, and set a precedent by coming from council estates in South London to blazing a trail to success all the way to the UK national singles chart. Also as a solo artist, he gave you hits like ‘Get Up And Move’, ‘Excuse Me Miss’ and ‘Hot Gyal’, and as an actor he appeared in films alongside A-list actors like Steven Seagal, Gabriel Byrne and Michael Madsen. He carved out a career in reality TV by being in shows like The Game and Celebrity Big Brother. Yes London, it’s MC Harvey.
I have to call you an entertainer really because you’ve diversified from music. We know you from music originally but you’re acting with Steven Seagal, Gabriel Byrne, Michael Madsen - they’re no play actors, if your name can call alongside them, you’re doing something right!
How do you think I feel when I look back at it? Even when you’re saying it to me, I ain’t really appreciated it properly. I’ve still got a great strong relationship with Steven Seagal, even to the point where he calls my house! He’s a legend, you know what I mean! I did not know that he was best friends with Marcia Griffiths. Did you know that? He put me on the phone to Marcia Griffiths.
He’s into reggae music?
Reggae music? Steven Seagal can speak yard better than a yardman! So I remember sitting in a room with him in Bulgaria in 2004, and we’re talking about reggae music, and he says, “I’m gonna make a call”. Next you know he puts me on the phone to Marcia Griffiths, and since that he went up in my estimations. Steven Seagal is a roots man, trust me.
I know you have this brand spanking new single ‘Blessings’ featuring Stormzy, obviously you got Ashley Walters on there with you. That’s what I like, even if the So Solid isn’t happening, man’s still linked, you still see people hanging out together, doing tunes together. It’s like the family is still there, living in the name So Solid.
That’s right. Like I said to you, it’s been an emotional journey. I always say 15 years mainstream, including the underground years you’re looking at 20 years. It’s been such an amazing journey and how can I forget my brothers? Only they can relate to the struggles that we been through, only So Solid members will know what we’ve truly been through. When I’m with them I just feel at home. Me and Romeo have been killing shows all round the world for the last 7 years together, me and Asher will always make records together, me and Mega are always doing business together, sorting out endorsements and looking after the artists. It’s very important.
Let me just rewind the clock a little bit because some people, younger people, may not necessarily understand the impact of So Solid at that time. Man comes from the streets, South London, a council estate; it was unprecedented for people to come from that. At that time, the chart was flooded with manufactured music, pop music, none of this music man bringing from the street was in the charts. When you look back at the inspiration, do you see yourself as an icon in that sense?
It’s only in the last year that people have been using the word “legend”, “icon”, but when I look back on it and I take myself out of being Harvey and look at the whole organisation, it’s legendary, it’s a legacy. For me the fact that one minute I’m sitting on a council estate playing semi-professional football, a year later I’ve got Kylie Minogue and Nelly Furtado coming up to me saying they like my music. And them I’m sitting on the BRIT Awards and I’m seeing Robbie Williams sitting there saying, “Harvey, I love you lot”. This is mad, knowing that you come from SW11, Battersea. You know I said it to the boys last year at the concert, we’re gonna die as legends and icons, that is not something to be disrespected or taken lightly. Especially what we went through because we never had it easy like a manufactured group. When we was number 1 in the charts, man was still going back to the council estates in Battersea. There was also dramas happening, there was so much negativity around it too because people didn’t want to see us be successful. You had incidents when Asher went to jail for the gun, I got stabbed, it was madness around them times. So everyone was going through their own individual struggles but it was like, this brand and whatever it’s doing is changing society. The young youths didn’t have a voice, they didn’t have someone talking on the struggle for them. So now that I look at it, I don’t feel sorry for myself for anything that I went through, I’m glad I went through that. Cause you know what, if it made your youth’s life easier now, that’s my job done. So someone has to be the crash test dummy innit. But I always say, I respect all the young artists, I have great relationships with them, I always advise them, but I always say to you, there will only be one So Solid. No one will ever do what we done. Never. If you’re asking me how we done it, I couldn’t even tell you! But I knew that the force and the impact of us as a collective was too much for the government, they couldn’t handle it, because they knew that we influenced the kids more and that’s dangerous to them. One time I went and done a speech at the House of Commons with an MP called David Lammy, for Tottenham, and David was the only guy that understood my journey. I actually said to some of the people, “have you even been to the ghetto? Do you understand what they are going through?” So me, Mega we said “fuck this, we’re gonna give the kids something to look up to, we’re gonna be their voice, we’re gonna take it to a level and you will not be able to stop us.” That’s why you can sit there, years later, ‘21 Seconds’ is a timeless song. People have to realise to make a record like that it’s not easy, and it was made naturally. Because if you said to me that was gonna be the biggest selling urban single ever…
…you wouldn’t believe it! How many units did that shift?
250,000 in the first two weeks, and all in all it’s done a million. And then collectively, the whole group with what we’ve sold is 3 million.
‘Excuse Me Miss’ featuring Romeo and Ashley Walters, that’s a song that made a few waves as well. Tell me the creative history behind that track.
That was mad. I got the instrumental sent to me, I couldn’t find the flow to it. I said to Ashley, “I need help with this record” and Ashley was like, “take it back, lets go back to So Solid days”, so he actually wrote the chorus first, and he just bought the So Solid melodies back into it. So funny, so me and Ash are talking about girls, that they only want you cause you got money, but Romeo being Romeo, he come in, he recorded his verse last, and he went, “you know what Harvey yeah, I don’t really like to upset my female fan base. I’m gonna do the third verse, where I’m kinda apologising to the girls for you two’s behaviour.” [laughs] Typical Romeo, typical! Once you get back in the room with the boys, the sound comes back naturally, you can’t force it, it just sounds epic. You know everyone’s voice – that’s Harvey’s voice, that’s Ash, that’s Romeo, we’ve all got different styles. Family ting.
Is there an album in the pipeline? What’s coming? Where does ‘Blessings’ fit into the timeline of what you’re producing?
I’ve never planned an album. I’ve got an EP, I’ve got six to eight tunes ready. I make music cause I feel it, so I’m gonna always release singles, always release big tunes. I released a tune with Sneakbo, and Gyptian, I make as how I feel it. I’ll probably put a 6-8 track EP on iTunes, so everyone can get the tracks and listen to it all as one, but it’s a different era, these youths don’t listen to tunes from 1-26 like we did. These youths now listen to 40 tunes in one night, but they’re not listening to an album. So for me the attention span has got less, so that’s how I deliver the kids’ music now. These kids want it fast, now, quick. So I’m gonna give it to them fast, now, quick. I may be old but I’m in their heads.
‘Blessings’, obviously you got your brother Ashley Walters, you got Stormzy on there, what’s the creative vision behind that track? Getting Stormzy on the production, getting the flow right and all that?
Came together naturally again. I always send my music to Ashley. Ashley was like, “this record’s fire, it’s not going out without my voice on it”, so he recorded his verse in two days. I was actually sorting out an endorsement deal for Stormzy, and at the end of the session he said, “have you got any new bits Harvey”, and I said, “yeah listen to this”, and he said, “nah fam, I need to be on this!” We had the meeting on Friday, recorded it by Sunday, week later video. That quick. Stormzy’s my little brother man.
So when it comes to the video are you heavily involved?
If it’s my project, I direct it. So every video that you seen in the last year, Sneakbo, Cashtastic, I directed every single video. Jade Green my partner, me and her do everything. We do the locations, the videos, I write the treatment, email it to her, she breaks the treatment down, sends it to the director, we shoot it. It’s that simple. Before Christmas we shot the Stormzy video and the Bushkin video a week apart.
The Bushkin tune, was that ‘Chronicalise’?
‘Chronicalise’, that was just a ragga ting! Because that beat is actually a Vybz Kartel beat. So that was more of a freestyle. You see me, I just put out tunes when I want.
When I see that video there, that’s like a mad ting!
Exactly! I actually got them all drunk, naturally. Because as soon as the drink come they’re gonna lose their inhibitions, cause I wanted the video to look natural. They nearly got kicked out of the hotel! But we knew that was gonna be the most hectic shoot, but we wanted it to be like that, we was just prepared.
It’s been a pleasure. A landmark moment for me cause when I saw what man’s did - MOBO Awards, BRIT Awards, building something from nothing, part of that is changing the perspective on people coming from that background, and So Solid play an instrumental part.
To hear that from an older man like yourself, massive respect soldier, it means a lot. I appreciate that.
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