Sirach Charles, also known as Angel, is the son of the legendary Tendai Charles, who played as a session musician with Bob Marley. This launched him into the music industry. It’s a trajectory he’s followed with determination and has led him to the breakout success of the last five years. Guestlist caught up with the British rapper about the struggle, the hustle and his recent successes.
For some of our readers who don’t actually know how you got started in the music game, could you just tell us a little bit about how music was introduced to you as a child?
OK. Growing up around my dad, he listened to a lot of reggae artists from Jamaica and stuff and had a lot of music in the house. He had his groups, he had had bands and he’d go to all the festivals.
What era was that?
We’re talking early 90s.
So your pops was hitting up festivals in the early 90s?
Imagine on my dad’s 60th birthday, not too long ago, Glastonbury sent him a live performance of him in 1991.
Oh my god.
That was crazy, ‘cos I’d done it not too long ago - and now look at your old man doing it in 1991.
So this was already written for you.
It was. It was like he done it and now I’m doing it and you know, it just gets handed down.
You’ve got a proud pops at the moment, no doubt.
He’s proud and humble. My dad is just everything.
Wicked, that’s the biggest thing, family. So we can see that you’ve been busy grinding in the studio of late, with all this new exciting material that’s being released. Could you tell us a little bit about your creative process when you put together a new track or new visuals. What do you do that gets you into that zone?
I don’t like feeling under pressure, like you’ve got a certain amount of hours or a certain amount of days or weeks to just finish this. I just like to be in a space where I’m literally having fun and then everything’s just falling into place organically, and like you could start off with something as little as melody. Getting the sync for it, getting the flow for it and then kind of just picturing the beat in your head, from the kick to the snare to the 808s and just laying it like that, creating it in your head. Knowing what it’s gonna sound like, and then just actually laying it down.
Just getting it and vibesing it out there. Nice.
Naturally. And I like to have a couple different vibes and shit. I like to have a couple of friends around, I like to have a couple of ladies about, especially if you’re making love songs. You like to feel different vibes. I wanna see how someone looks when I play a song.
To see someone’s instant reaction. So, with your latest release, ‘Hop On’, how did you end up working with the immensely talented Stefflon Don? We’ve heard about her, we see that she’s coming up right now. Can you tell us a little bit about what attracted you to work with her as an artist?
I met Stef through my manager probably about a year ago now and she was just cool, she was like one of the mandem, she was so down to earth and more than that, she could actually sing, she’s like an ill spitter. I just took a liking to that. When I came up with the ‘Hop On’ thing originally, I thought we need some different juice on this. She’s got a certain vibe about her, the way she flows, a foxy style. I thought this is a kind of 90s record, I just wanna try her out on it. I hit her up and I was like ‘yo, come to the studio’. She came down and we just got into the zone.
We all know that Swiss Beats is a notable fan of your work and that you’ve actually now recently worked with him. How did that link up come about?
That link up came about in 2013. I was doing some work with Louis Hamilton. We were flying to New York on a jet and I spoke to Swiss the whole flight. It’s me him and Louis, and Hamilton’s gone to sleep so we carried on talking to each other. And from that, we just took a liking to a each other. When he came to London, he’d hit me and when I went to New York, I’d hit him. It wasn’t even about music, it was just about, like a friendship. And when he actually did say, ‘what kind of music do you play, what you doing?’ and I played him the music and he was like ‘let me deal with this project. Let me executive produce it, who do you want me to speak to? Let me just do that.’
Excellent. So you got someone big behind you, that’s massive. So nowadays do you think that America accepts and understands urban culture in the UK a little bit more than before?
Yeah it’s getting there. It’s getting a lot better in the last couple of years. Where we’re at now it’s about that 90s thing, even for people who don’t even know about the 90s. You've got 16 and 17 year olds who weren’t there and they’re doing this 90s thing and it’s cool but you need the authentic thing.
I suppose it just shows how influential the whole vibe of that era was.
Listen, there’s nothing like that era. If you could get that back, like musically, and even just the value of the music, of people appreciating it, it would be crazy. Don’t forget 90s was like all requests, you’d have to ring up. You’d have to wait for your record, you couldn't just go on Youtube and wear it out. You appreciate it more. You’d have to wait for the 3 digit number and wait for the track. The anticipation was crazy. It was just a more genuine buzz, the vibe was more exciting. Making music is too easy now. You’ve got rappers that didn’t like music that sing now. It’s just crazy, so you know.
You were recently on stage performing your new track with Rich Homie Quan at Wireless Festival. It was a big ting, so how did that come about?
So the Rich thing came about through my A&R in LA through Motown Records. He knows everyone, more than just being an A&R guy, he’s an amazing songwriter, he's written loads of songs. But he just gets me and he gets the whole vibe and he thought you know what, we’re gonna do this. He was like this is gonna be a big record, let’s get him on there. Rich heard it, he liked it, he hit up the vocals straight away.
So obviously this deal that you’ve signed with Motown in the US, would you say that is helping you now get into America by using the correct people and the correct avenues to get yourself out there?
Yeah, to a certain extent, cos don’t forget loads of people go to America now but the music still has to do the talking cos I don’t want it to be like big labels behind it making it work. The music has to speak for itself. The label’s just the cherry on top, they’re able to connect certain dots that you can’t. I am in a better place now but I just feel like the label’s half of it. You know what I’m saying. It’s a blessing, I appreciate it, I grew up listening to Motown. Even every day I wake up like ‘wow, Motown’. It’s not like it’s worn off or nothing, just the music has to speak for itself.
You’re putting the work in right now. So just changing up the vibe a bit, there’s obviously a wealth of talent which is coming out of the UK and I suppose this has been very encouraging for the new generation of kids that wanna get into music, but we all know that it’s quite hard to get into music. What advice would you give these youths out there?
It’s easy really. Once you get over a certain age, it’s about common sense. Obviously you have to make sacrifices if that’s something you really want to do. Knowing that’s what you want to do and actually having the vision for it. Don’t quit and have faith. London is tough. In terms of getting where you want to be in life, you just have to have faith. It’s not going to be a smooth run so if you’re not able to man up and shrug off them kind of things, you might not be fit for it. The sacrifice you have to make for the music is everything.
What was the point where you realised you had to make that sacrifice and buck up your ideas and go for it?
I’ve been doing this for sixteen years now but that time really came In 2009. I really came up, just got out of jail and it was a rocky road and it was so crazy a couple years before that. And I thought you know what, I’ve gone in there, got out and clearly got out for a reason and I really need just to decide what road I’m going down. Cos it is easy to get drawn out. Don’t forget you’ve got friends that are not doing the same line of work as you, but they’re my friends, you know? So even though it’s two different worlds, it came up that I just had to choose to leave the friend thing for a little bit. I left London for a little bit and went over to Denmark, Sweden and those sort of places for six months. Cleared up my head, refined my sound and just knowing what I wanted to do and before you knew it, I got back and about two weeks later, Universal gave me a publishing deal and about six weeks after that I got my record deal.