Why did you want to get involved with the East Village Artist in Residence project?
I’m from Bow, East London, just around the corner from everything going on at the Olympics last year, and helped out with the torch relay song. With the Olympic legacy, if I can be an influence by getting involved in any way then that’s dope.
You’re from Bow which is just around the corner from East Village - what’s it been like seeing the incredible transformation in the area?
Growing up in Bow I could never imagine or picture anything like the developments going on today. It feels like a whole different place. It shows how we are in the age when a lot of stuff you could only imagine a few years ago comes true. It feels really good.
You grew up in the East End – what is it you love about the area and what makes it so unique?
For me personally it’s the friends and family I have here but when I was younger I guess watching telly like Eastenders! I guess the whole cockney, east feel, it feels good now east London feels like somewhere where people meet and there’s different places where people socialise. East London is good; it’s where it’s at! There is something very special about the east London thing.
The word ‘legacy’ has been bandied around a lot since the Olympics, but it seems to us that the legacy is really beginning to unfold now. What do you think has been the main legacy of the Olympics?
I feel like the legacy is still unfolding. The actual games and the athletes were so inspirational but it is what is being done after at places like East Village around the area that makes it feel like the legacy will grow and go on and on.
Some old-time east-enders were nervous about the regeneration of east London – why do you think this is?
Change is one of the hardest things to be able to adapt yourself to and people are like “No, we like this, don’t change this, this is what east London is.” I feel like overall it is for the best and giving opportunities to people.
You have worked with kids a lot – what is it you enjoy about the work?
Working with younger people, I really enjoy it because I feel like sometimes when I was younger I didn’t have the opportunity to meet or speak to people or get advice from people who you might respect or look up to in a way for what they do. I feel like I can say “I’m from where you’re from” for the younger people and I can show that it can be done! I like the connection and the bonding, it feels like they like respond in writing, it’s natural, like that feeling in the air, it can’t be replaced, I really enjoy doing that.
If you could give yourself a piece of advice as a kid looking back, what would you say?
I focused on too many different things growing up, I would say to focus on one thing that you love, go with your heart and stick to it. Without the heart there is no you.
What do you think about Chobham Academy, now you’ve seen it yourself?
I was thinking why didn’t I have schools like this when I was younger? Everything is high tech and I like it and it is a good vibe, a good energy, especially the kids and the young ones I was working with today and writing music and lyrics with, its good energy man. They all seem real focused and there wasn’t anyone who was just there for the sake of it. They’ve got plans and they’ve got aims and ambitions and hopefully everyone will fulfil that.
Did you have any preconceptions about East Village? What do you think of it now that you’re here?
I didn’t know there was so much going on in here. I really like the look man; I really like what has been done here.
Tell us about the song you are writing with the kids from Chobham
The anthem I am writing for the students in Chobham I wanted to bring it up with them and see what the school means to them. They told me about what different colours mean to them, about healthy competition and working together. They gave me ideas about the melody and rhyming patterns. So I gave them a few ideas and will be back to see how they get on.
How important is it for kids to get involved in the arts?
I think it is really important for students to get involved with the world of arts. I believe everyone is artistic in one way or another. If you are in the right surroundings where there are loads of people as creative as you are or maybe even more or less it is good to put energy together. I think it is really important; it is only going to help them grow.
What is the East Village Artists in Residence programme?
The East Village Artist in Residence programme is an important part of the cultural legacy where artists come in to help that grow. I was honoured to be asked to be the first Artist in Residence and also that the anthem created with students at Chobham Academy will speak directly to the kids and be a true legacy.
You wrote the official Olympic song and performed at the Games; what was that like? How did you get involved?
I did the Olympic torch song with Dionne Broomfield. It was an amazing feeling, as I could never picture myself performing anything to do with the Olympics so it was a very proud moment for me.
How do you think the project will affect the community?
I think it is very positive because it brings more opportunities.
What would you like to see more of happening in east London?
It would be nice for the people who have been living here for a while to benefit from the developments and improvements, I know this will happen but I know it will take time.
What’s the last play, film or show you saw in London?
Jay-Z at the o2
Where is your favourite place to eat in London?
It is a hard one. Mr Jerks in central, Hakkasan in Mayfair. I also like Nandos
If you were Mayor of London for the day, what would you do?
I would do what Boris does; I like what he is about. He is a cool dude. I think I would make public transport free for a day
What London building would you most like to live in?
I’ve never even thought about this, growing up in east London. I would live in Buckingham Palace, why not?
Where is your favourite place to shop in London?
Where is the best place for a London walk?
Walk along the Thames
Where is the best place in London to go for a romantic date?
I’d take the lady somewhere that is special for her, something personal.
What have been your favourite artists and performances of 2013?
Jay Z, I like him, each time he brings something new
Which artists do you predict will be big in 2014?
Two guys called Dirt and Tonin – they’re ahead of their time
What are your main sources of inspiration for your music?
My life, what I am gong through. The best music comes from inside you. Anything can come from inside you. I do get inspired from other things, when I see things and travel the world, but most comes from personal experiences
What current living music artist is your biggest inspiration?
Michael Jackson because when I was younger I wanted to dance and sing like him and I remember thinking “this guy is a special special guy”. But obviously I rap so I am inspired by rap music. I like Biggie Smallz and Jay Z. I also like loads of different styles of music and English rap.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a musician?
I would be a footballer.
Who would you like to see recording the next World Cup anthem?
I should do the World Cup anthem to cross over my two passions. It is a cool cool cool shout. Maybe I’ll give it a go. If I couldn’t do it maybe Example, he’s got that bounce to him and he likes his football as well. He would be a good candidate. Or maybe we could record the song together.
If you could collaborate/work with any music artist living or dead, who would it be?
Dead – Michael Jackson. Living – I like Adele, I still listen to her music and it still feels fresh.
You’ve worked with both Pixie Lott and Dionne Bromfield in the past; who’s next on your list of women to work with?
There are so many people I would like to work and you never know what is coming next. In an ideal world I would love to perform with Beyoncé. Apart from her looks she is a wicked singer
What’s your favourite item of clothing?
I was in Dubai recently and brought a jacket from Roberto Cavalli and I liked it so much to a point where I didn’t want to wear it and I had to just display it. I have worn it now though. But my favourites change every week!
What are your favourite labels?
Star in the Hood
Who would you say are your style icons?
I respect a lot of people’s style. In fashion I like Kanye West because he is brave and doesn’t mind trying things but overall not really, there are no icons for me
You have a hugely successful fashion brand in ‘Star In The Hood’; what are your plans for the label in the future?
There are some new things coming, which are exciting. I can’t give it away. I am going to put out some snap backs real soon, in time for Christmas.
Entertainment & Leisure
How would you spend a day off?
I just like to chill and play computer games, I’ve got table tennis at home and I like playing that with friends. Maybe go and have a drink or two and come back home chill with mates.
What would people be surprised to find out about you?
People always say how nice I am in person and I’m like ‘do I look like some scary person?’ People are surprised because I’m really really down to earth and I’m really naturally like that.
What makes you happy?
Good friends and family
When did you last cry?
Only tears of joy. Can’t remember the last time I properly cried
What has been your most embarrassing moment ever?
Once, I was on stage and I forgot everything, I forgot what was on the track and I was just standing there with a mic in my hand with everyone looking at me. Luckily there was a girl in the crowd singing it and then I remembered it. After that I made sure my tour manager got the girl at the front to come back stage, as she didn’t know how much she saved me. It was like a moment in time when you just lose concentration
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I don’t know if this is even a guilty pleasure now because she’s cool but I like Miley Cyrus. I like her because she is now the most talked about star, her music is selling like crazy and I liked her last song Wrecking Ball.
What do you think of the controversy surrounding Miley Cyrus?
I think she is doing something right because at the VMAs she performed alongside Kanye West, Gaga and Drake but yet she is the most talked about performance of the night.