At Wordplay, we pride ourselves in supporting artists with genuine talent to have a platform for their music, sharing their passion with the Wordplay world. We love discovering artists who are doing this a little bit differently, and Hyphen is a great example of that. Having only started rhyming a few years ago, the London based MC has quickly built a sterling reputation within his local scene and beyond. With performances for some of best live promoters around, including being invited to New York to perform for Sofar, this guy is doing things properly.
So, what better way to introduce an artist than an exclusive freestyle! Check out his video first (and be aware that this is one of MANY styles that Hyphen is capable of!) and then we’ll find out more about one of the best dressed MC’s this side of the pond. Hyphen, take it away!…
So! As you can see, the dope combination of lyrics, flow, beats and visuals is setting Hyphen apart from the crowd. We sat down with Hyphen to find out more about the lyricist who seems to be rapidly growing within the London live scene and beyond.
Hey there Hyphen, so let’s start with an easy one, where are you based?
Currently London – I’ve moved around when I was younger, around the UK/a bit in India and the US but never felt as home as I do in London.
Please describe your sound from your perspective…
Honest, Technical, Unexpected.
Honest – Especially with my upcoming EP, I dug deep to say things that I was scared to say and that come from the heart. I still listen to some of the tracks and am terrified of what people will think when they hear them. But music is about connecting with people, and like any kind of human interaction, it’s difficult to truly connect with people if you don’t make yourself vulnerable.
On the technical side of things, I think details make creative pieces special. If you walk into an art gallery and see a dope piece of art, you can see that the artist spent so much time on the micro details like the way the clothing drapes over the subject’s shoulder or the glint in his or her eye. That to me is super impressive and what I want my music to be like. Every cadence, every instrumentation choice should be there for a reason. This is an area I’m always trying to develop in.
Well…look at me.
How did you get into rhyming?
I was depressed as shit working a job where I got into work at 5.30am and left at 9.30pm. It was in an investment bank and my whole life until that point involved everyone telling me this was what my life was amounting to. Surprise, surprise I hated it, queue existential crisis.
I was hung over on my way home and had a little note book which I wrote all my to-dos in. Uninhibited, I flipped it around and started writing what was on my mind. It rhymed.
I’m not religious, but it felt like how people describe a calling from God. I knew I had to chase this with everything I had inside me.
Who influences you?
So many people but if I had to pick 3 it would be Kendrick Lamar, Anderson Paak, Stromae.
Kendrick Lamar is in my view the greatest rapper of all time. He can bar out, he can perform better than almost anyone, he’s musically experimental, he has sophisticated opinions about complex topics.
Anderson Paak, similarly to K dot is a ridiculously good performer and massively technical. I love that his music makes everyone want to dance! It’s also deceptively technical. For example his latest track ‘till it’s over’ is absurd – things that complicated and experimental should not sound that easy on the ears / easy to dance to. Somehow he makes it work.
Stromae is Belgian rapper/singer whose music was wildly popular in mainland Europe but he seems to have vanished. I love the contradictions in his music. ‘Alors on Danse’ was a song about feeling existentially unfulfilled and life being shit. It was however a massive club banger at the time. I feel that reflects what’s at the heart of my music – very little in my life or background would suggest I’d end up as a musician. Yet here I am.
What is your proudest musical moment to date?
My sell out show at Zigfrid Von Underbelly for my first EP launch. This is a cool 300ish person venue. I played there a few months prior in a show case set, and people liked it but no one went crazy.
A few months later 300ish people were there to see me and were showing more support than I could’ve ever imagined. I didn’t have any management or a team so I did everything, from liaising with the venue, selling tickets, inviting support acts and then performing! A year ago I would never dreamed that night was possible so it was crazy that it happened.
Playing at Ronnie Scott’s was the other one. This is a world-renowned Jazz venue and almost a household name. I saw some great performances there when I was 18. I did not expect I would ever perform there myself.
I wrote a spoken word poem about depression for a mental health charity. A couple of guys who I didn’t know that well at all opened-up to me and said it was because of the poem. They said they found it easier to talk to me because they knew I’d been through it. Even if it was only a few people, having a positive influence on people like that was a difficult to process but proud moment for me.
You’ve been supported by Sofar Sounds, including performing in New York, how did that come about?
My first show with them was in London and it was a lot of fun. They’re New York rep happened to be there, we got talking and 6 months later I was over there for a show! It’s a great set-up that really helps artists to be experimental and know they’ll be performing to a really engaged audience. They’re alumni also include Ed Sheeran, Bastille and Ghetts. That shows they are doing something right and that they are open to loads of genres which I love.
Your style seemes to range from Boombap beats to Jazz inspired live band pieces, is this intentional to have such a range of styles?
I’ve got more styles coming out in the EP as well and in the freestyles I’m releasing and it’s definitely intentional! When I was growing up and even now I’m around people with a very varied music taste. My dad used to play Eric Clapton, the Eagles, Santana etc. to me when I was younger. My neighbour and best mate was Ghanaian/WSHH obsessed at one point and put me on to hip hop I would’ve never heard. At university people in my dorm (and me) thought Avicii’s ‘Levels’ was the crowning achievement of human existence. I also did a few battles for the now-dead battle rap league Don’t Flop – people there were obsessed with technical hip hop like Ocean Wisdom and Nas.
I think I picked up bits and pieces from everyone. I loved that different beat styles and different rap styles could prompt such different emotional reactions. That made me want to learn as many different techniques as I can.
On top of that – any artist that survives over time needs to be able to switch up their style. Look at early Kanye old vs Kanye now. Whether-or-not you like it – he’s stayed current. As much I love Talib Kweli and Common, you can’t say the same about them.
What have you got planned for 2018?
Mainly this new EP which I cannot wait for because it so much better than my old stuff. I want to push this hard because I believe it’s got something to it.
Have you got any live shows coming up?
Yes indeed! Playing at Amplify in Bristol in April – which is of course run by you guys at Wordplay! Then I’ve got a Sofar sounds in Manchester.
Playing less shows right now because I’m focussed on making some cool music.
Is there any advice you’ve got for budding musicians?
There are three quotes which I love and I think anyone, not just budding musicians, should try build them as mantras into their life:
“Make your old material look trash”
“Talent is overrated”
“Get so good they can’t ignore you”
Ok! So that’s Hyphen in a nutshell. We’re excited to see the next steps for Hyphen. He’s an honest, intelligent, creative and driven MC with a knack for creating catchy yet introverted lyrics that are relatable, fused with great beats. Keep an eye out for more Wordplay X Hyphen activity!