We know a rapper who has been repping hard for the UK. MysDiggi fka Mystro has been a force for hip hop in this country for a long time. Fresh off a nationwide tour with Pete Tong and with new mjsic to get you singing along to, we got a chance to touch base with the dude who is defintely on another level.
What were your first thoughts this morning?
My first thoughts this morning were I better start packing. I’m about to do this tour with Pete Tong and Heritage Orchestra. It’s an eight-day tour, we’re doing all these arenas like Manchester Arena, Belfast, Dublin, Birmingham, London o2 and I haven’t started packing yet because I just came back from Exeter.
I see that you were headlining & DJing!?
Yeah, I was performing. There was a DJ with me, DJ Roast Beats and I did a little set there.
How was the event?
Yeah it was good. It was a nice little shindig. The venue was called Angel Bar. The thing I love about performing out of town is that because people don’t get it that often, they really appreciate it, so you can have a lot of fun. London is spoilt, you have to really work hard to impress a London crowd, there’s just so many nights on. It’s too competitive.
How did you hook up you with Pete Tong for this?
I’ve worked with one of the backing singers with the orchestra and they were looking for a new rapper. The track I do with them is Galvanize, by the Chemical Brothers and Q-Tip. What I did was I wrote my own verses and then we kept the chorus because everyone knows the chorus really well. She just put me forward saying ‘look if you need a new rapper, this guy is the one.’ That track is quite an awkward track with the count. Towards the end it’s not like the usual one, two, three, four. It’s like one, two, one, two, three. All the little phrases that I had to say, I had to work on that, it wasn’t easy, it wasn’t like a normal tune to do.
How long have you been in the music game?
17 years now. As a professional, I’d say probably 14 years since I gave up the day job.
Tell people about the work you’ve had to put in...
For me it all stems from the open mic sessions, hitting every venue, every hip-hop night that had an open mic, I’d jump on there, spit a verse, because for me it was like that’s the only way I could work out whether I’m good or not. Your brethrens are always gonna be like ‘yeah you’re good man’ but if I do it in front of all these people that have never seen me before, they’ve never heard of me, if they’re giving me the reaction that I’m looking for then I know that I’m doing alright.
Some people these days don’t know about that kind of hard work...
No, it’s different now you know. You can get instant gratification with social media. But for me it was doing open mics then meeting the right producers, then linking up with a couple different labels, like Low Life and Music Head and these underground labels that were willing to put out my music. Then off the back of that I started touring around the UK and a few Europe based events, then I ended up going out to Australia, now I’ve been to Australia like thirteen times and New Zealand seven times.
That’s unbelievable for a UK rapper
Yeah for underground. I haven’t been signed, ain’t got no manager and I’ve done work with like Blackberry, Sainsbury’s, Mozilla and Subway. All of these big companies, out of nowhere. Now touring with this guy who’s got a friggin phrase!
Yea the Sainsbury’s TV advert was BIG! You had a chance to show your skills!
Yea that was a good test, for me I was like, music I make I don’t try and go necessarily go popular but if it does it does, So you get given this beat and you got to try and make an advert and make a rap that people can try and sing along with, you have to try and impress everybody from the grannies to the babies, so for me it was a test to see if it could really be done! Low and behold it worked out, we won awards for that shit.
If people who don’t know you wanted to go back and see your early stuff, what tune would they have to go and hear?
My earlier stuff was under the name Mystro and I’d say, if anything check ‘Around My Way’. I’d say that because it was a tune that did pretty well for me. I was surprised because I just wrote it obviously thinking about how crazy things were in my area. People always do these hood songs about their area that made it sound like you wouldn’t want to be around here, I just wanted to flip it. I wanted to talk about the same dodgy shit but make you actually want to come.
Tell me about the name change. You were known for a long time as Mystro, we were also calling you Mysdiggi. What made you want to do the flip?
The more I was online and using all these platforms, Twitter, Facebook and what not, I started to get messages about stuff that I had nothing to do with. People would be like ‘yo I really love that beat you made’ and then I started to find out that there was like different Mystros spelt the same way. There’s a grime MC called Mystro something, an afrobeats producer I was getting calls (In an African accent) “I love that beat you did” hehe and there’s another producer in America called Mystro Piano Man. So, for me it was either to carry on with this and keep getting mixed up or I could drop the Mystro and go with Mysdiggi, which I wanted to do from 2012. I wanted to do it a lot earlier but the album I released was called Mystrogen. Between then and now I’ve been putting out stuff that’s either Mystro aka Mysdiggi or FKA (formally known as).
An event this year was absolutely massive, what was that?
I’ve been working with this band from Bordeaux called Smokey Joe and the Kid and they released an album and got me to be the frontman for their band. They’re on the come-up in France, they’re blowing up and so over the course of two and a half years we probably did about 130 festivals around France, Europe and this year we flew to Australia to perform for 5 days. I jumped on an ep with them called Take Control and that’s under Mysdiggi hehe
Tell us about How Many MCs...
I always talk about this because that was my first ever trip abroad as a rapper. A guy named Oshi had a bright idea to try and introduce UK hip-hop to the rest of the world via the Winter Music conference. That was 2001 but that was my first ever trip and it just opened my eyes to the possibilities. In the UK this whole thing is looked at as sort of underground, you might just be doing little venues but then to go over there and people were impressed with what we were doing. They actually enjoyed hearing us and meeting people out there was just like ‘yo there’s a whole world out there, if you do this right’ so it was just an eye opener.
I got my first ever tattoo out there... For free!
You are the go to artist for a lot of gigs.. What is it about you that makes you the man that people call?
I rap... but the thing for me is about entertaining people. I don’t do it to try and prove that I’m the baddest this or the hardest that. You might get some hardcore tracks from me, but you might also get some comedy tracks or you might get some thought provoking stuff or social commentary. The main thing is when it comes to doing the live thing that’s where I really thrive. What I enjoy the most is performing for people, so it doesn’t matter who you are. If I see you and you don’t look like you’re enjoying yourself, I’m gonna make sure you do by the end of it. I like to make a craft of it. I was born to do this.
You used to be in a crew, Natural Born Spitters?
Yeah, we’re still there. Jargon has moved on to teaching Bachata, he’s a dance teacher but he’s still got the skills though. I’m gonna have to drag him out of the dance rehearsal to get back on stage with me.
What about your yearly rap up?
I did five of them. When I started doing them I really enjoyed it because I could just say what I wanted about the scene but as the years went on it got a bit more political, like I was getting told ‘you probably shouldn’t mention this or you probably shouldn’t mention that’. It started to turn into this weird thing where the attention I was trying to get from it, it made it so I wasn’t really enjoying it as much. It’s a lot to research it, then write it then recite it then record it then recite it for video performance, get the video edited and then you throw it out and someone is like ‘yo you didn’t mention this’ or ‘you didn’t mention that’. There were a few different reasons that put me off but I’m glad I did it because of the back off that I feel like I got quite a lot of work because people could see that I could write and rap about anything and I probably wouldn’t have got the Sainsbury’s or Subway adverts without that. Once people can see that you’re on a certain level and have clarity as well, that’s really important.
Tell us about the new EP!
It’s a mixtape. I call it a mixtape because there’s no coherent theme. The series is called Tip of da Mysberg. This is number three, I’ve already done a volume one and two but they were so long ago I felt like if I am going to put this out it needs to be all original, fresh material that no one’s heard yet. It’s an 18-track project and I’ve only got like three features on there, Miss Baby Sol, Geebag and Ash the Author. I decided that I want to try and do these at least every other year. It’s a good chance for me to showcase working with new producers and new artists as well as having something I’m putting out constantly that people can indulge in.
Where can they get the mixtape?
The mixtape is available for pre-order in Itunes, Google Play as well as Bandcamp if you want to come direct to the source and then it gets released on November 30th.
Any producers that you’re looking forward to working with?
Yeah, I’m looking forward to working with Pitch 92. He’s a new guy that’s released stuff with High Focus and he’s got an album with Verb T and he’s a really sick producer. I’ve already featured on one of his tracks that’s coming out soon, I’m looking forward to working with him. I would really like to work with Battlecat from the West Coast, I’m really loving his kind of G funk beats.
Have you done anything with High Focus?
I featured on Leaf Dogs album. It was a big posse cut thing, a lot of people from that era like Taskforce... even Phi Life Cypher.. The other one I featured on is Ramson Badbonez on his single February. That did really well, it got over a million views as well. Big up Badbones!
Are there any hip-hop labels you haven’t been on?
Yeah there’s few. Since I’ve been doing this there’s been a bunch of labels that have come out like Blah records, King Underground and King of the Beats. I think I’m gonna have a chat with a couple labels about putting out some albums that are in the works.
Are there any ideas that have changed your life?
The thing that got me to really want to try and make this work was an illness that I had when I was in my teens. I had to have a tracheostomy because I had a big lump in my neck that was making my voice squeaky and it was to the point where breathing was a problem. The doctors didn’t really know what it was. The doctors at hospital said it wasn’t cancer, but it got to the point where I had to go hospital again and they said they had to operate straight away when they put the camera down my nose to see my throat, realised that my throat was closing. Next thing I woke with a tracheostomy, breathing through my throat and my voice was gone. I had no voice for about a week and a half. I had to cover an open wound so I could talk. And I’ve always wanted to do rapping since I was like 11 or 12 so when that happened, I had two weeks just sitting there thinking about what I’m doing with my life and I just thought I’m gonna go for this music thing. In the end they found out it was tuberculosis and they didn’t know how it happened. So here we are now.
When you didn’t have your voice that’s when you learned to really appreciate it?
I think that’s when I learnt how important it was for who I was going to become. A lot of people came in the game rapping talking about how hard everything is, I just came in with the I am happy to be alive attitude! Still have it!
Ayahuasca It opens up your chakras and way of thinking.
We can’t skip by the ayahuasca. I hear it got you on another spiritual level.
Yeah definitely. It opens up your chakras and way of thinking. Whatever you’re going in it for you really have to focus on it. One of the most important things that I tell people is that if you’re gonna do it you have to go through the diet properly. There’s a whole diet that you have to do before the ceremony and the reason is you have to bring your vibration levels down to where when you have the session, it communicates with you better. I had to do two weeks of dieting beforehand, no salt, no sugar, no oil, no processed food, no sex, no recreational drugs.
Did you find what you were looking for?
Yeah and more. I went in there with the mindset to find my true voice and that came but so did a bunch of other stuff. It’s like your a clay model, it smashes that clay model down like plasticine and builds it back up.
Now I understand so much more about who I am, where I’ve come from, my family and my friends. There will be moments when you think you might die, it just feels like you’re about to reach a certain point. But I’ve done it three times. The first two rimes I had the ego thing... which was like.. I don’t know if I can take this. The third time I did not even purge. It was like if you want to do this recreationally, this is what it would be like. We had one 6 days into the jungle. You know the collective unconscious. That is what you are connecting with. It’s all energy and feeling. I was pulled out of my life, put in myself at 16 pulled out put into myself at 26. No psychiatrist would be able to draw all this information out of you in 12 hours.
I was cryin like a bitch! I got back and was talking to my mum, she was like wow how did you know that? I would advise it to a lot of people. You have to go in with your heart open. Don’t be afraid, you can let Mama Ayahuasca know to take it easy on you. I came back and hit the ground running! Came back and wrote a rap for Mozilla Firefox. Wrote the lyrics on the plane and performed it in 5 days. That was the power of the Ayuasca.
I just wanna keep challenging myself now.
What are you most looking forward to now?
Getting a consistent body of work out there. I’ve got a studio that I work from so it’s a lot easier to get stuff done and be more consistent with the releases.
Is there something big that you still want to accomplish?
I’d like to set up some proper tours. For me to do that there’s got to be a consistent amount of work that people recognise. I’d like to do a UK tour, European tour and even the US.
In the UK the scene is a lot stronger. I am looking forward to doing more. Now is one of the best times for artists like myself. Maybe the music is influencing these kids that are trying to shank each other.
I can really hold my head high and say maybe you media outlets should be putting out a balance of music. All entertainment has some level of influence on society. Drug use, misogyny and violence does has an influence and we can’t deny it. Now it feels like that is all there is. You used to get some Mobb Deep with some De La Soul.. Now it’s mainly all hardcore. If that’s all your gonna show these kids, that is all they are going to know.
What advice would you give these new guys
Try and be original, try and be you, try and not be like what you are supposed to sound like. No one else in the world can be you, if you come out like you, you will be original. Come with your own vibe and your own take on things.
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