In Depth: Snips (Part 1)

One of the most prolific DJs around, Snips has returned with some fresh material the shape of his London Livin EP. Building upon the momentum of his brilliant Barbershop album which was released earlier in the year, it showcases Snips’ exploration of his musical heritage and habitat. Released today via his own Barbershop Records imprint, it packs a lot into its four tacks and is as blissful as it is banging. To celebrate it’s release, we caught up with Snips to get the lowdown.

Naturally when you’ve been in the game for as long a time as he has, there’s a lot of ground to cover! So to allow you to soak it all in, we’re going to give you this in two instalments. Part one focuses on his latest offerings, their creation and influences. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled next week for the second chapter as we get talk Poisonous Poets, Livin’ Proof and the infamous Deal Real days. Class is in session!

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London Livin is finally out for people to enjoy! How did the recording of the EP go?

It was a little bit random actually, I didn’t necessarily plan to do an EP. The first track I made was The Product - the spoken word thing with William Stowe. That inspired me to put a few more records together and make it an EP rather than doing a single. With my Barbershop album, I really liked the way I was able to go through different tempos with some ‘housier’ stuff and some hip hop stuff. When I did the single with Will, I wanted to do some more traditional hip hop and soulful stuff to balance out the uptempo stuff and it naturally turned into an EP’s worth of music.

Was it recorded at the same time as Barbershop?

It was after. Actually some of the beats , one or two of them were actually made before Barbershop came out, they just never made it to full songs.

Is the EP a celebration of all the sounds that have come out of London and that London has embraced as a city?

Ironically, it’s kind of the opposite. I wanted to make a project that sounded like London without actually sounding like anything that’s being made in the capital at the moment. The reason being is that is that I feel London is really quite poorly represented in, for want of a much better term, urban music. I feel like we’re given the idea that’s there’s only one or two sounds out there. If you look historically back through what London’s offered the world, we’ve been really eclectic. There’s a strong history of soul music and I feel that hasn’t been represented. I wanted to make something that sounded like London as a whole but was far away from what’s currently being churned out.

As well as William Stowe, London Livin features Emmavie and Awate. Were looking for that diversity when you started the EP?

Again, not so much. There was a natural kind of thing going on. I’ve been a big fan of Emmavie for a while now. I think she’s one of the best soul/R&B artists in London at the moment and I’ve really wanted to work with her for quite some time. Awate is somebody that I’ve actually known since he was really young. When I used to run the open mic nights at Deal Real, he was coming through there as a fourteen/fifteen year old kid. We always talked about working together but there was never the right time for it. We ended up connecting a few months ago and his was the last record I added. I’d done the record with Will Stowe, the instrumental track and I was midway through the Emmavie track. I wanted a really traditional Hip Hop record on there. I literally sent him the best and we had it recorded in a couple of days.

You’ve released the EP through your own Barbershop Records. Was it a logical step for you to have your own label, especially with the traditional music industry no longer the way it was?

I kind of feel like now, we’re in a time where mid-level independents don’t seem to exist. You’ve either got the big corporate machine behind you; be it signed to a label and having Apple or Spotify in your corner or you really can do it yourself. When I put my album out on Houseology at the beginning of the year, I watched what Funk Butcher was doing over there. Without sounding like I’m knocking him (which I’m not as he’s taught me a lot), I kind of realised this is something I could essentially do myself. No matter how supportive anyone is of my music, no one’s going to push it or believe in it as much as I would.

Have you got any other releases or artists planned for the label?

I‘ve actually got a remix project but that’s going to be kept a little under the radar. It’s not 100% legit so I can’t put it on iTunes or Spotify but there’s going to be a vinyl release and a Bandcamp release. It’s mainly Neo Soul, early 90s R&B stuff; Brandy, Jill Scott, D’Angelo - that kind of stuff. That’s also dropping today too. Initially, this is a funnel to put my own stuff out but I’m definitely open to putting other artists out as well. I’ve been talking with William Stowe about doing more music together as well so maybe something from him. There’s a couple of other things in the pipeline, I can’t really say much about at the minute but I’ve been speaking to one or two other artists.

Going back to Barbershop, how was the experience of making your own album?

The funny thing is, I never really wanted it to be an album. Traditionally I’ve always been a Hip Hop producer. I started to make some more up tempo stuff because that’s another influence of mine. I wanted some feedback from people who were slightly more in that world so I sent them to a handful of people in New York who are friends of mine, including Funk Butcher. I was genuinely just sounding out whether I was on the right track and Funk hit me back immediately, saying they were amazing and wanted to put them out. We spoke a few times and I liked the idea of blending the House stuff with some more traditional Hip Hop cuts. By the time it came to thinking about putting it out, we had eight tracks down and thought we may as well put it out as an album. Even though they’re quite different in tempo and style, there’s still a coherence within the sound.

How do you feel it’s be received?

Really well. It’s still early days to see whether it’s financially done well or if we’ve smashed it on streaming but that was never the intention. For me, it’s really about getting the attention of the right DJs who could champion the music and I think I’ve definitely managed to do that. I’ve had support from guys like Benji B and Henry Wu over here and then in the States, people like Carisma, J Rocc, House Shoes, Eli Escobar etc. It’s the right kind of people so for me, that was what I wanted to do with those two projects. The more I continue to feed those tastemakers with the specific sound they support, the more I feel things will roll on from there.

London Livin and Barbershop both have a massive soulful influence. Was soul a big musical influence since you’ve been making music?

100%! That would probably be the overall umbrella my taste is. I’m a huge Hip Hop fan. I’m a big House music fan. Reggae. Rock music form the 70s. That being said, everything I’m into goes back to soul. My taste in Hip Hop is Soul orientated, my taste in House is Soul orientated so I would say soul music is definitely at the root of everything that I’m doing.

Would you ever do a straight up Boom Bap Rap album in the future?

The next project I’m doing, whilst it’s not an official album or anything; it’s basically going to be a beat tape where I put a lot of Hip Hop produced stuff that I’ve been sitting on for a while, I just want to get it out there and put it out as a limited cassette and that’s going to be all straight boom bap hip hop stuff.

With a vast career packed with many highlights, what are some of your favourite things to happen since you started DJing?

I actually think it’s been really rewarding, even though the projects are still in their very early stages and I don’t know how they’re going to do. Just being in a position where I’ve started a label and it’s gone from it being an idea to actually putting it into practice; it’s definitely something I’m proud of.

Was that something you’ve thought about since you first started?

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’d never move away from Hip Hop, it’s still my first love but just feeling confident to incorporate other influences and other styles of music in what I’m doing and just having the conviction to do it and make it happen has been a real highlight for me. Other than that, I’d say the biggest fanboy moment I’ve had would be producing a record for Sav Killz in the late noughties. Sav’s manager at the time sent me a link of DJ Premier playing it on his radio show at the time.

That’s awesome!

When I was in New York a couple of months later, I was introduced to Premier by Sav’s manager and he introduced me as the guy who produced the Sav’s song. Premier was like “I loved that record, send me some beats”. He was working on a NYGz project and gave me his email. I did send him some beats and although nothing ever came of it, just to have someone like DJ Premier say they’re a fan of your work and ask you to send beats was pretty mindblowing!

Interview by Gavin Brown. Make sure you check out part 2 next week.

Mike PattemoreComment