In Depth: Big Toast
London lyricist Big Toast makes cynical, lairy hip-hop music to eloquently reflect the declining state of British society. A regular in the Croydon boozers and live hip-hop circuits, 2012 was the year Toast founded Revorg Records, cementing him as one of London’s most expressive underground rappers. Since the founding of Revorg, Toast has seen his profile rise over a succession of acclaimed solo and collaborative projects. In December last year, Toast regained the nation’s attention with the release of his latest solo album, Prolefeed. On the evening of this interview, Toast had just finished work and was mucking about, searching for a pint. Toast had a busy evening ahead, as he was set to appear on Pyro Radio in the next hour. Afterwards, he planned to reach Gee Bag at his EP launch in Brixton. Over the course of our conversation on his wander to the pub, Toast spoke in depth about his past, from recording raps on a tape-deck to founding Revorg. In amongst it, Toast discusses each project up to his most recent release, Prolefeed and reveals what is in store for 2019.
Toast was young when he found a passion for music, being a keen listener of garage before deciding to practise hip-hop. “It was mostly because I can't sing or play any instruments,” Toast explains, reminiscing how him and his brother Jack Diggs started recording their raps. “I just wanted to do something.a bit more. Initially it was me and Jack Diggs, we used to record through headphones in our room on our tape-deck. Then he went to college and met Strange Neighbour and a couple others. We started knocking a few bits together, then that sort of formed into TPS.”
“Initially US because I didn't know a lot about UK,” Toast recalls, answering which inspired him more; UK or US hip-hop? “I suppose it was really only when the internet came along. I didn't have a computer until like, 2004 so yeah. Once I got online and that, I started digging a little bit deeper and found a bit more UK. Before that it was, not quite mainstream but a bit more of the standard US - Nas, Wu Tang and all that.
Since emerging as a label in 2012, the name Revorg Records steadily became ingrained into UK hip-hop culture through a series of releases from the label. The creation of Revorg was between Toast and Strange Neighbour, as a means of putting out their earliest projects. “Initially it was me and Strange,” Toast explains, revealing why he started Revorg. “He had a project with Pheonix Da IceFire, Cinematic which still hasn't come out embarrassingly. But it actually will. He was speaking to other labels at the time about putting that out, no-one really gave the pair of them something they really wanted. In the end we decided we'd start something, initially just for that project but then more projects. Our friend Difa just died a short while before that, his name was Grover and we just spun it backwards. So Revorg was the name.”
The first project pressed by Revorg Records was The Big QP in 2012, an album by TPS Fam - a collaboration between Big Toast, Strange Neighbour and Jack Diggs. “I suppose that was just a bit of everything really,” said Toast, summarising the themes of The Big QP for people unaware. “It wasn't a focused album - certainly wasn't a concept album. It was just a reflection of tracks really. I can't remember a lot of it to be honest, it's going back a little while. It was just a bit of fun making it, putting it together and that. I think we decided to take it a bit more seriously after that, so that's when we put out Hot Water Music which was a lot more focused and not necessarily a concept, but it flows a bit more.”
The next release from TPS Fam, Hot Water Music dropped in 2014. Compact with illicit themes and lairy lyricism, the project propelled TPS to nationwide acclaim. “I think our personalities, jokes and that are a little bit different to the other lot,” Toast mused, answering if TPS Fam specifically tried to be different from other UK artists. “But there were people we were influenced by certainly. Before me and that, I think The IRS - we sort of looked up to a lot. Used to see them back at Jam Bar back in '07 or something like that. They were quite influential, seeing people like that and Manage. Even Gee Bag actually, he had some shit on Channel U back in the day.”
“We kind of been trying to do our own thing a little bit,” Toast explains, when asked if TPS are still collaborating. “But there is still some stuff. Me and Jack put out a little thing this year or last year, me and Strange are working on something. I don't know about a TPS project, but I think we will be working on some stuff again. We have a single we're going to put out without a video. There is so much stuff on the go, it's hard to remember what we're doing.”
In 2015, Toast released his long anticipated solo debut, The Wedding Fund LP. “I think The Wedding Fund was slightly unfocused,” Toast suggests, revealing lessons learnt from releasing the project. “Because it had so many different people and producers. Since then I've only really gone with single producer projects, I think it has a nicer sound overall. I suppose in terms of the tracks which did well and the ones that didn't, I'd have maybe amped up more of the obnoxious shit. But I still try and write shit that's a little bit more introspective I suppose, and just try sneak it in with a bit of stealth here and there.”
Following the success of TPS Fam, Revorg formed a new collaboration called Gatecrasherz. Their only release to date is called Uninvited, released in 2017 featuring Big Toast, Downstroke, Jack Diggs, Gee Bag and Oliver Sudden. “I suppose after Hot Water Music,” Toast recalls, providing insight into how Gatecrasherz formed. “We went quiet after that. It wasn't really a conscious thing, to start another crew. It was just that me, Jack, Oli, Gee, Downstroke were in the studio quite a bit and it just kind of happened like that. We made up some tunes and thought alright, we need to give this a name. So, yeah. We became Gatecrasherz. That sort of just developed organically I suppose. We've been talking a lot about another Gatecrasherz project, we will definitely do it. We've got a decent bit of feedback off that one. The emcees all have different styles completely, it brings something different together and it really goes off on the live thing. Not started anything yet though.”
“After Gatecrasherz,” Toast began, speaking on the next project he released after Uninvited. “Me and Jack Diggs did Call It On, which was just another thing of pure obnoxiousness. It's just fuck off-ness, that's what it is. That was good fun, because initially me and Jack were booked for a show in Munich. We realised we didn't have any tracks together to play, so we had about a month where we knocked this album together. It was really sort of, I don't know, energy ain't it. We made it an EP, banged it all together in about a month. We just worked. I really like that project actually. I think because, I suppose I turn a little bit conceptual sometimes. That I suppose was just obnoxious and had hard beats - had energy and a bit of character. Even though it is just fuck off-ness, it's got a little bit of intelligence buried away - again, by stealth. ”
On December 17th, 2018, Toast released his internationally acclaimed collaboration project with producer 184, Prolefeed. “I think originally we'd probably just been at festivals,” Toast recalls, remembering how he became acquainted with 184. “Or just out and about getting fucked up here and there. He produced one of the tracks for TPS, off Hot Water Music. I think it was the final track, 4AM? Fuck, I can't remember. So we've just been in touch since then. He gave me a track for The Wedding Fund, that was called Play. He sent me a couple beats, we initially just made one track and weren't sure what to do with it. It sort of became an album. I suppose it around that time with Brexit, Trump and that. So it wasn't even something deliberate, it sort of just followed this idea I had of post-truth and became this album. It was all recorded at our studio in Camberwell. We got kicked out about a year ago, but we were all down there in this dingy, dirty, damp studio down there. A real grotty little gaff where we'd get smashed and do mad little late night recording sessions. It's what studios are for, ain't it?”
“I get on with him,” Toast laughs, giving insight into his chemistry with 184. “That is one thing. I think everyone I've worked with has always got to be able to go studio and have a laugh. It was the same on the Ill Move Sporadic one as well, You Are Not Special. We just get on well, had the same sort of ideas and opinions. So when you're bounce these ideas off each other, it comes together quite naturally.”
“The first one,” Toast began, shouting out people who handled the filming processes for singles lifted from Prolefeed. “Afraid Of Americans was shot by 184 and Halo Jones who also did the artwork, I edited it. The video was shot outside the American embassy, I was expecting a few stories out of that but they kind of left us to it, which was a bit of a surprise. I was expecting to see guns and stuff, they fucking love their guns don't they. The second one was Leaky Bag, Jack shot it. He's really come along with his video stuff, he bought a whole load of gear and that. He's smashing it, has a nice cinematic sort of feel. We went out to do the shoot, just ended up in the pub all night. Done it in about half an hour at the very end, so he done well out of not a lot of footage, I've got to say. Also me, 184 & Strange shot one for Future Cunts which was a laugh to make. All of them are on our YouTube channel. Revorg Records.”
In amongst 12 tracks, the sole feature is a solid verse from Jack Diggs on the self-titled single, Prolefeed. “I suppose because it's a bit of a concept,” Toast explains, answering why he decided to stop there with features. “I was initially thinking that I want to get people on there. But I couldn't really think who would fit the overall vibe of the album. I don't want to just call people out, it's got to work naturally I find. If we're down in a studio or whatever, then I might say to someone, 'I've got this track that I think might suit you.' But it just never really happened, I didn't want to try force it, so. It wasn't necessarily a conscious decision, but we did cut a track which had a couple of features. Just because it didn't really work - not that the track wasn't good, it just didn't quite fit the vibe so much. We wanted it to be very concise, it just didn't fit.”
“There were a couple others as well actually,” Toast answered, when asked is any tracks were cut from Prolefeed before release. “I think we ended up cutting about 4 or 5 tracks. We put one out, because we did Fuck Off Tarquin: Part 2, we put that out with the Afraid Of Americans single - we put that out on the b-side of that. There's a few other tracks as well which just didn't make it, but maybe one day.”
“It was a bit of a dodgy time to release something actually,” Toast believes, reflecting on the release of Prolefeed. “It was obviously around Christmas, so it's taken a little while to catch on. I think it's only really this year that it's kind of reached people. It was quiet for a couple weeks, now suddenly people are latching on. So it's good, it's reassuring that it's not gone completely under the radar.”
Interview drawing to a close, our final question for the founder of Revorg was if he could reveal any forthcoming exclusives. “Me and Strange have got a project we've been working on together,” Toast replied, revealing what is in store for 2019. “That's been going for a year or so. It sort of started off just knocking out a couple tracks every week, and then it slowed down and yeah, the usual shit. I think that will probably be coming out around summer. Then Revorg has got a new thing from Oliver Sudden, he's putting out a 10 year anniversary project, with tracks from every project he's put out. I think we're going to put out something with Manage, and we got the Gee Bag and Downstroke thing which was out in January.”
Big Toast, thank you for your time. Any final shout outs?
“Yeah shout to football football club and everyone else who I can't really be bothered to list now.”
Words by Evo @ethanevo