Interview: Skinnyman

Interview: Jared Wilson
Thursday 25 November 2004
reading time: min, words

"I think Cappo is wicked, Tempa is skill and Scorzayzee is just too much! That guy is on fire"

Skinnyman is one of the best known rappers in the UK scene. He first came to promince as a founder member of the UK's Mud Family crew (Music Under Development For all My Individual Living Youths) with Mongo and Taskforce's Chester P.

They built their names as formidable wordsmiths, with an average night seeing them walk halfway across London to perform for free at a rap battle and usually wipe the floor with the competition.

In 2001 Skinnyman was picked up and signed by Talkin' Loud records. The fact that he signed the deal on September 11 2001, however, proved something of an omen. During the recording of the album, he was sentenced to nine months in prison.  When he came out he started playing again immediately on the aptly titled 'Straight Outta Jail Tour'. It wasn't long before he found himself back inside, however.

While he was inside this time, his record label was closed down by it's parent company before his debut was ever released. Now signed up to UK hiphop label LowLife and finally released as Council Estate Of Mind, Skinnyman has resolved to stay out of trouble and build a positive life for himself through hiphop.

How has your day been so far?
The day has been great. Morning has broken...and the day has been blazing by. I haven't slept for the last 48 hours, so the night has turned into the day.

Were you playing out last night then?
No. I was just in the studio making beats...

Did you have a good night at UK Takeover last weekend..?
Yeah. I had a brilliant night there. They've always had a good thing going on in Nottingham, for the last ten years or so, since the beginning of OutDaVille I imagine.  I think Cappo is wicked, Tempa is skill and Scorzayzee is just too much! That guy is on fire. I heard he's gone away and I think that he's probably evaporated into a spiritual form. I also heard that he had a little knock on his door from the Government for that Great Britain tune that he released. That's Nottingham in the house...

Have you seen Tempa on Chancers with Fatman Scoop on Channel Four?
Yeah I have. I think I'm going to set up my own TV show called Sure Thing. Or Take No Chances. I feel that they set out at the beginning to lose rather than to win. It was Channel Four that ran the show, Fatman Scoop was commissioned and it raised a great profile for him in the A&R department, but it doesn't seem to have done much else.

Tell us about your new album Council Estate of Mind?
Council Estate of Mind to me was an immediate first hand reflection of what I saw going on around me. It's about what goes on in the lower and poorer parts of our  impoverished urban council estates.

You live in London right?
I do, but I reside homeless in the Islington area. I've lived like that for the last fourteen years.

I heard you've been on tour with Welsh rap unit Goldie Lookin' Chain.
They were brilliant. I was supporting them and they were funny guys... we had some good laughs.

What do you think to the current state of British hip hop? Do you think it's peaked yet?
In my opinion the height or peak of British hip hop would have been around the time of Derek B in the late eighties. He had the highest chart success of any British artist ever with a rap tune called Get Down. I think that's the high point for the genre so far...

You spent some time in prison didn't you?
Yes I did.

What did you get sent down for?
Personal possession of cannabis with the intent to supply.

Were you writing when you were inside?
I was, but I was concentrating on quality control rather than just freeflow material. I wasn't always very motivated to write when I was in there though. On my most recent incarceration I served nine months out of eighteen. I spent my last month inside writing Council Estate of Mind, which was done last December. During that time I was compiling the material for that album, which was ready in January.

It seems to me that the vibe on that album is that you're saying that you don't really want to be seen as an example to other people and that you're more interested in doing your own thing...
I think that's an absolute spot on analysation there my friend!

What have you got coming up?
I'm focusing on gathering more material for the second album and just enjoying living for the moment. I think that's all we can do! Or at least all I can do...

You did a track with Notts crew The Elementz recently...
That's right. I did some freestyling over one of their bad hip hop beats. Those boys are going places. It was fun to do...

Is there anyone else you'd particularly like to work with?
I want to work with anyone who wants to work with me.

So who else are you working with at the moment?
At the moment I am working intensively with all the cannabis distributors in my local area.

What are you doing for Christmas?
Distributing cannabis. I'm not actually a Christian, so I don't really celebrate Christmas. Do you celebrate Ede? Will you be celebrating Diwali?

Not really I guess. So Skinnyman doesn't celebrate Christmas at all?
I don't celebrate any Pagan holidays.

What about if people buy you Christmas presents?
People can buy me a present today, tomorrow, Christmas day or the day after. Today I was blessed with the gift of life, which is the best gift I could ever be given. With that gift I can go on to receive all the other gifts that I have around me, such as the sunshine and the fresh air.

You're in Nottingham at the end of this month again for Detonate...
Apparently so...

Well, we like having you here...
Lovely. Where are we playing at next time?

I think it's Detonate at Stealth. What can we expect from your set?
I think I might freak them out and bring a ragga set and some house and garage. Make it a little bit different...

Sounds cool! Is there anything else you want to say to your Nottingham crew...
Two million chidren around the world are dying from not getting the resources of clean water, while the government fund the development for nuclear defence, while a third of that budget would pay for food, water, hospitals, educational facilities, clothing and housing for all the impoverished children around the world. Let's get rid of the third world debt and anyone who does want to help the children who are dying and suffering around the world please log on to Bring about change on Oh... and love to all!

Skinnyman plays at Detonate on Friday 25 November

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