In Depth: Baileys Brown

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Bristol based rapper/producer Baileys Brown has been instrumental to building the profile of  South-West hip-hop over the past decade. Achieving early acclaim since emerging with his first collective called Demorus, Baileys attained a nationwide status after producing the majority of his long-term friend Datkid’s now-infamous solo projects, DKay and Grammar and Home By 8. Through their friendship, Baileys became acquainted with Datkid’s homegrown rap collective, Split Prophets which enhanced his world-wide renown. Since establishing a far-reaching reputation for his boom-bap production talents, Baileys went on to release a string of independent projects, featuring dozens of UK hip-hop artists. However as time passed, Baileys became tired of working solely on boom-bap sounds, so challenged himself by creating an experimental hip-hop collective called D£DW8 - fusing modern elements of rave music overlapped by traditional rap styles. This proved a worthwhile venture, as D£DW8 became respected for breaking UK rap boundaries, as well as aid Baileys in terms of progressing with his production techniques. Still unsigned, Baileys is in a lane of his own. He is set to blow up in 2019 following the release of D£DW8’s latest EP, AR£ W£ GOD$ Y£T? and is ready to release his highly-anticipated solo album called ‘Still Fresh’. For these reasons we got in touch with Baileys, to speak in depth on his beginning to now.

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As a teenager, Baileys main focus was music which led him to become a self-taught producer. After finishing high school, in 2002 Baileys began studying at a college in Bridgend. Whilst there, Baileys became a regular on his local garage and rave scene. Living with his aunt in Cardiff at the time, back then Baileys preferred partying more than practising music. But eventually his friends convinced him to try rapping over garage music and things snowballed from there. “Them kind of times,” Baileys reminisced, “Say between sort of 16-19, I wasn't really rapping or making beats. I was more into garage and raving. I'd spit to garage and shit back in the day, but when I went college some kid convinced me to start trying to rap. I was in a little rap collective with them - but I was shit. You know, when anyone starts rapping it's dead. No structure, no presence, no voice, no nothing about anything. So that's when I first started rapping, but I first started making beats in 2002 after a kid gave me a copy of Reason v2.5.”

“Karnage, Stretch and Kruz.” replied Baileys, shouting out the people who motivated him to take his passion for hip-hop seriously. “Especially Karnage who is still one of my bredrens. Know what I'm saying, I'm 36 this year so I haven't seen them man too tough for like, nearly 20 years. If it wasn't for Karnage, you'd have never of heard me rapping, you'd have never have even heard no beats off of me. If I'm going to credit my musical career or passion to anyone, I'd say to him. At the end of the day, I've always loved music and what not, but up until then I'd never made any.

“I never really got good enough to feature on anything back then,” said Baileys, looking back to the first projects he got involved with. “Obviously there's some stuff I did with Chris Lucas. There's other shit that I did which was just straight raggo, like a mixtape album with a dude called Noodlez. Them man inspired me to get involved but I wasn't good back then. When shit was really actually starting to sound nice and developed, Demorus it was called, me and this guy called Noodlez. Bits of that is probably on YouTube and that as well. Really, if you're from Bristol and of a certain age category then you'd know about it. It's called 'Gotham Chronicles' by Demorus.”

“I met a few people back in uni,” said Baileys, recalling how his first music collective, Demorus came together. “There was a guy called Stealth MC who was working with Bristol man, a producer called Richie Royale, who was attached to Sit Tight Records. Through that I met K’ners who at the time was doing bits. It was through Richie's studio that Demorus was born. It wasn't even me and Noodlez that started it, it was this dude called Macadan. I went with Stealth to the studio, gone into the control room where Richie is. Me, Stealth, his bredren and a guy called Sparkz. Someone in the booth - but you can't see them, you can just hear them spraying like an animal - I'd never heard anything so ill in my life, because of the way he was swinging it and the way that it feels... I'm kind of expecting like a 6'5 black dude to come out the fucking booth. No! It was some average built white yout with like, with some dead garms... You just wouldn't have expected it from him bruv. That was how I met him, we just got to chatting and what not. He turned up in 2006 like, "Yo, I want to do this thing called Demorus and I want you in it.' I was like, 'You know what? I'm not doing much hip-hop stuff, I want to do more. I got hip-hop beats for days, let's go.' So then me and him started rocking, he put a couple of other people like Noodlez in place. Then I met my bredren Confusion, I brought him in after meeting at some open mic thing. People who are the way we are and operate the way we do, in those situations we don't like each other. We'd never met each other, we're both big characters, we're both good at what we're doing. We were both reciprocating that kind of energy, we just respected each other straight from then. Like, cool. Let's link up and make some music. Me and him been friends ever since, 10 years strong now.”

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“Basically, a load of shit changed,” Baileys mused, touching on reasons he decided to drop out of university. “But I wouldn't say for the worse. I dropped out of uni, ended up in a different cycle of life. End of the day, uni was never for me. The only reason I went to do art at college was because I knew I was creative and I knew I wanted to do something. So I went college, smashed it but without really trying because it was something that I was into. Out of my friendship group from school, I was only one that went uni. See what I'm saying? That's not what they were looking to do. The people in my school who went uni were not in my friendship group. I just didn't feel that comfortable like I really gave a shit. So I said you know what, this isn't for me. Let me just change direction see what I'm doing. For me, I haven't really looked back from then.”

“Confusion is the one that met Datkid back when Datkid was like 17,” continued Baileys, remembering the times him and Datkid first became acquainted. “Me, him and Datkid have been rocking for years. I'm about 10 years older than Datkid, but when I heard him spitting over grime when he was 17, I thought he was hard. I knew that without a shadow of a doubt, and I knew Datkid could fuck boom-bap up differently. We were doing some demo's - all of us, then Confusion went travelling in Thailand for ages. Then it was just me and Datkid, we made Dkay N Gramma. We just put that shit together in my flat, I had this top floor flat on Church Street, just between St. George and Easton. An attic flat, the walls sort of went in so you couldn't stand up in certain places. We called it the ‘Sky Box’, I'm not even sure if we shouted it out on any tracks, 'Live from the Sky Box' or anything like that. But pretty much everything we've put out to date has been recorded at one of my flats. You've got to remember, even before that me and Datkid have been friends now for over 10 years. It's not even a case of we just rap, there's been times where he's had to stay on my sofa and all the rest of it. See what I'm saying? A lot of chemistry comes from that, but obviously I think within the chemistry it's elemental. The base elements of who we are just produces that fucking compound that bumps. [Laughs] I'm just laughing at how fucking poetic I can be on the fly. I'm kind of sick man.”

A versatile emcee, Datkid has a lyrical style that could have easily been compatible with grime. To think if Baileys hadn’t influenced Datkid to begin recording rap over boom-bap, we may have never heard Datkid kill hip-hop differently. “This is what I'm saying man,” smiled Baileys, revealing that him and Datkid have another project in the pipeline. “Me and Datkid got another project that's pretty much done. It's in the final tier. I don't know if you're aware of anything else I do, but we do this shit called D£DW8. In the dubstep world, we're out there pushing boundaries because we're doing something a bit different to what the rest are doing. Generally, our sound is an infusion of real hip-hop, because we're still sampling in the same way with whatever we're doing. But it's an infusion of hip-hop, grime, trap, garage... Literally any kind of sound you can think of we've melted into this thing. Basically, me and Datkid have got another EP - I say EP but it counts as an album now in this streaming era, there's only seven tracks - that's an infusion of a few boom-bap tracks and a few other tracks. The reality is, the kids or the fans, they want everything. They're real happy to have some boom-bap, but in this climate it feels like people are a lot happier to digest an album that isn't all boom-bap. For me, the best albums that have dropped this year have been a blend of sounds. As an artist, I feel it's important to be able to do that.”

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“In fact, let me wind up a bit.” said Baileys, about to provide deeper insights into his perceptions of UK hip-hop music. “I did an album with Chris Lucas which never ended up seeing the light of day, just about a year or two before we dropped Home By 8. I had a feature from Klashnekoff - Chris was doing the video for him, so I met Klashnekoff at Chris's yard. Chris played him my tunes, and he was like, 'Yo, I want to jump on this.' I was like, 'Fuck yes, one hundred percent!' I'm someone that grew up listening to Lowlife era hip-hop, how do you think that made me feel? I'll be honest with you, he's the only UK hip-hop artist that can say - in my opinion - that he has a classic album. 'The Sagas Of...' for me is up there with 'Illmatic', with 'A Moment Of Truth'. Two years later, to be in the room with Verb T, another guy from the fucking Lowlife era. When things started first popping off, I was blown away, humbled and gassed at the same time. It was a mazza, I'm not gonna lie. I love making boom-bap, but it was branching out and learning to make other shit that's kind of made my boom-bap now sound - to me - so much better and much more interesting. Even just simple things like mixing, pre-mix and all the rest of it. I wouldn't have even bothered learning all that shit if I hadn't come out my comfort zone. Look at Dirty Dike's album Acrylic Snail, it's got a very wide variety of sound. It shows you where the climate is. We have to look at High Focus as the pinnacle of what UK hip-hop is doing right now, if we're all going to be honest with ourselves. As far as numbers, coverage and all the rest of it. If one of their show-ponies is broadening their sound, it shows you the climate of where underground UK rap is at. It's a beautiful time to be alive as a musician right now, I feel. It's a very wide, open playing ground. If everything is done correctly, done right and what not, you can make moves. We all know, there's not really any money for us here. It's all out their abroad, like we've got big followings in Bristol and London, etc... But when I look at all the numbers on my publishing shit or Spotify, I'm looking to these other countries to see where it's starting to build a bigger following and that. I want to try sort out tours there next year, see what I'm saying?”


With Baileys upcoming ‘Still Fresh’ LP set for release on Potent Funk Records, he has made strong movements to attaining more exposure. Potent Funk are a London based experimental hip-hop label, well suited for Baileys intentions to take hip-hop in different directions. “How it ended up happening,” said Baileys, giving the reasons why he decided to put ‘Still Fresh’ out with Potent Funk. “I paid Sumgii to mix it, then I think he might have asked me who's putting it out. I said I didn't know at the time, there was some sort of technical politics going on within Split Prophets at the time. This is nothing to do with me, but obviously Green Brick Records was being made, certain people were like 'What is this, rah rah'... So I wasn't even asking over there about my thing, because there was too much going on there at the time. So when Sumgii asked who's putting out, I said no-one. He was like 'Boom, we'll put it out.' I went to his yard, linked him, had a chat and then went from there.”

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“You know what, it's kind of crazy,” replied Baileys, answering how long ‘Still Fresh’ had been in the makings for. “This project realistically speaking is a mash-up of probably two or three projects. I'll tell you why, there's two tunes on there that were meant to be for Datkid's Teeth Ledger project, but they never got finished. So I just filled in the blanks and put them... Basically, I didn't chuck tracks together. I still selected ones that I felt flowed together. But generally, it's probably like... Work spreading over two years, but I wouldn't say there's anything on there from 2018.”

The concept behind ‘Still Fresh’ is in the name, but goes deeper than some might expect. There are multiple tracks which were destined for other releases, however for different reasons were never featured. Singles such as Horses Mouth featuring Datkid & Jinxsta, for example. “The single Horses Mouth was supposed to be for Teeth Ledger,” said Baileys, explaining why he felt now is this time to release ‘Still Fresh’. “Ever since we made it, I've thought the track was fucking hard, know what I mean? It never got finished, so I hollered Jinxta and sent him that, because I knew he'd get the concepts and deliver appropriately.  It's called ‘Still Fresh’ not because I'm saying, 'Oh I'm still fresh yo' but I'm saying it’s ‘Still fresh’ as in it's not gone off yet, it's not done. They're still fresh so I can still put them out. The reason it's taken so long is for a couple of reasons, because they were supposed to be used for other projects that didn't get used. Also because I've been busy doing D£DW8 shit, so I haven't thought to do any Baileys Brown shit. I think this album had to happen just to kind of reintroduce people to Baileys Brown. Like I'm saying, I've got shit loads of music here now that is very recent, that's going to be coming out this year and the next. Both Baileys Brown and D£DW8.”

“There's a track called 'Swim' on there,” replied Baileys, when asked about more singles from ‘Still Fresh’ that could have been featured on other projects. “There's loads of them. A track with Juganaut - this is the other thing. I was making a solo album as a rapper, so X amount of tunes that are on there are from that because I ran out of inspiration as a rapper to write a solo album at the time. There was like, five or so tracks from that, that were just too hard not to use. Because they were all made around the same time, they all have a similar sound.”

The ‘Still Fresh’ album features many collaborations, including a few who Baileys hadn’t previously met before. Dabbla for one,” said Baileys, “It is one hundred percent the first time I ever worked with him, same for Juganaut. With Juganaut, do you remember that '64 bar challenge' going around? This was years and years ago, but it was before anyone really knew about him. Just when Capo first started taking him out and about, I seen his freestyle and was like, 'Yo that was fucking sick'. Inboxed him straight away bruv, saying 'Yo I got this beat, I want you on it. You are fucking ill, please do this thing'. He was like, 'Of course bruv, send it through'. I sent it through, he laced it. He's probably been sat there waiting for me to drop this for years. The track with me and him on it has been say there for a while, and it's fucking fire. For me, he's one of the dopest that's come out for ages. With Dabbla, obviously with this album that's there, we got towards the end and we were all chatting in a group or whatever. Saying like, 'Yo you know what's mad?' - 'What?' - 'Well, I'm a producer, you're a rapper and it's your label and you're not on the album' He was like 'Yeah let's fix that.'”

There's quite a few,” mused Baileys, when asked for a standout track from ‘Still Fresh’. “I really, really like the Lee Scott and Dabbla one, that's dope. And a tune called ‘Bouwtchu’ with Bogues of Young Echo. There is a tune called 'Die High' with me and Flying Monk from Split Prophets which is dope. There's also a tune called 'Lost In Space' by Jordan Nathaniel which is fucking dope. To be honest, there's a tune with Black Josh on it as well which is a bit different to what people might have heard him on. So people might find that dope, it's fucking hard.”

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In amongst 15 tracks on the ‘Still Fresh’ album, there are zero posse cuts.Nah man,” said Baileys, explaining why. “For me I'd only do a posse cut if I'm going to have like, two or three beats on it. I don't want to hear the same beat for five minutes continuously. Hear me out on this yeah, because I know people like posse cuts. But I think there's certain things we should try leave in the past, like cyphers as well. I feel like what should happen is every clique, record label or whatever just releases a fucking video cypher once a year with your fucking gang. You know like how Odd Future used to do it and whoever? That's all I want to see. I don't want to see a cypher every week, I don't want to go to a cypher every fucking week, none of that. I want the artists to be making music then they can cypher once a year, put it on YouTube for everyone and that's that. Fucking posse cuts and cyphers, just chill.” [Laughs]

The first single lifted from ‘Still Fresh’ given a visual was Horses Mouth. Sometimes film-making processes can be serious, however Baileys had a memorable time with this video, gaining a new nickname from the experience. “We went down to Devon somewhere by Cheddar Gorge,” reminisced Baileys, relieving the filming process for Horses Mouth.To some reservoir there. We went there to film, when we got there it was light and all clear - a beautiful day and all the rest of it. Before I left - this is gonna sound dread - I washed my hair with this leave-in conditioner, because obviously this was the summer yeah and I'd been working outside. So my hair had been getting frazzled, so before I left I put this conditioner in my hair that had this mad, fruity fucking shit. Anyway, we're having a dope day shooting. We're still shooting just as it turns to dusk right, then out of nowhere... This swarm of fucking natty, sly fucks - I'm talking in the billions - come out of nowhere and converged on the reservoir, right? But because of this shit in my hair, they all started flocking to me, spinning around the top of my head and shit. I started to run from them, then Datty and Jinxsta decided from that day, I was the new 'Fly God'. [Laughs] It was fucked, but that was the story from that day. Horses Mouth was filmed by Aaron Productions.”

Aside from ‘Still Fresh’, Baileys Brown has even more projects in the pipeline. Basically I'm going to be dropping a new D£DW8 project in the next few weeks and months,” said Baileys, excitedly. “It's a five track EP and we're doing a limited run of tees and CDs just as a little thing... But this year we've also got an LP in El-P coming, that should be available through Young Echo Records, that'll be vinyl and all sorts. We'll be putting that up properly. Also another project with me and Datkid which is already done, boxed and ready to go. We haven't got a name for it yet, but still. I'm featured on a few bits and pieces hear and there, I'm featured on some stuff for Wish, some stuff for Datkid. Basically I'm producing a collaboration EP with Datkid and Stinkin Slumrok as well which will be fucking hard. As for other plans, at the minute I'm just trying to finish my solo LP so that's done. But after that, I feel that I want to do an R&B LP for someone, but I need to find a good artist. When I say good, they can't just be good at singing or rapping. They've got to be good at being a human being as well, because some people just disappear. I can't be putting energy into a project for someone to just ghost for six months.”

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“I think Datkid might blow up in 2019,” replied Baileys, listing the artists he believes will become more known this year. “I'll tell you who I think deserves an honourable mention, I think Sleazy F deserves an honourable mention. He's definitely been doing bits. Anyone on High Focus - well, not anyone, but you hear what I'm saying... X amount, Dike, Fliptrix, Baxter blah blah blah... But up-and-coming people? I like Verbz and the other bredder on that track, which came out from those Yogocop boys. It's fucking hard, them man are hard. Can't think of anybody else... Oh, I like what's his name as well, from the NorthaZe. Oh shit, I forgot! I've got some features coming out with Defenders Of Style as well. In fact, there's a little project, SP and Defenders Of Style in the making. I'm not sure how far off it's done, but I've done my verses anyway and slammed a beat in there, so.

Baileys Brown, thank you for your time. Any final shout outs?

“Shout out to everyone at Potent Funk, Split Prophets, Daly Operation, Blah, High Focus, Young Echo.”

Words by Evo @ethanevo
Photography by Jessica Daly @daly_operation

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