Thursday, 27 February 2014

OBFZL Exclusive! An interview with Fallacy

 It's been a while since I did an interview. Recently I reached out to one of my favourite MCs, Fallacy who kindly provided, as he put it  "the most in depth interview I've given since I fucked off" (he left a major deal with Virgin 10 years ago and took some time out from the industry). Since debuting on Blak Twang's b-side cut 'Homegrown' back in 1996, the man also known as Danny Vicious has worked with a variety of big names in UK music, from Roots Manuva and Roni Size to MJ Cole and Zed Bias. With a unique and versatile flow that sets him apart from the majority of UK rappers of his generation, he sounds as comfortable on a UK Garage track as he does spitting on a straight up Hip Hop beat. 
Here, he speaks on his time in music from starting out in 90s London to his pioneering 2003 album 'Blackmarket Boy' and what he's up to these days...

What was your "Day One" as far as Hip Hop goes? Was there one particular track or event that made you start writing?
I saw Beat Street when I was a child in the early Eighties, about 6 years old or maybe a bit younger. The first time I saw anyone rap I was mesmerised and I took every opportunity to live for words that rhyme from that moment on.

Which rappers were you checking for back then?
 At that time it was people like Doug E Fresh, Slick Rick, Kool Moe Dee, then just before the golden 90s era: Eric B & Rakim, X Clan, BDP, Positive K, then further along Keith Murray, Masta Ace, Onyx, Wu Tang, Redman, Biggie, Smif n Wessun and Mobb Deep. At the same time there were loads of UK artists that I was rating like Ty, BlakTwang, London Posse of course. And then people that don't get enough shine for the UK golden era too like Caveman, MC D, Delirious, PLZ, so many to mention. I'm blessed to have come across and worked with a lot of these guys over the years. The late Eighties and Nineties wasn't just about hip hop, there was Ragga, Jungle and House music happening too so people like Ragga Twins, General Levy, and Merlin were also key.

What was the Hip Hop scene like in London in the late 90s? Were you a regular at nights like Kung Fu, Mudlumz and Westwood's events? 
  The 90s was wild, it was a hotbed for talent and there were hundreds of artists who were fresh, had a direction, wanted to be finitely British and make a mark. I was only young too, a lot of people don't realise that I'm around 10 years younger than most of the other MCs that were on the scene in London at the time, so at 14/15 years old it was a magic time for me. 
  The night above all nights was Flava Of Da Month. DJ 279 held up UK hip hop higher than anyone else. He struggled with it way before anyone was interested in UK artists. This UK centric way of being for Hip Hop in this country didn't always exist. In them days Westwood wouldn't play any UK artists, yet 279 would back everyone and also Max LX and Dave VJ who were on Kiss would back artists but didn't have the regular events. Kung Fu and them nights came quite a bit after. The real nights were Flava Of Da Month, Cream Of The Crop which was the first real battle night (hang tight Kosher and The Bloodhoundz), FKO Raw, Rap City with Mark Ross, and then Kung Fu, Scratch and them nights came after. They were almost a different scene with the focus on DJs and a certain type of lyrical content for the backpackers to feel safe away from the rudeboys. By the time Mudlumz was happening it was late into that era but real important cos it brought rappers from the street back into the mix along with anything Itch FM was doing.

I seem to remember hearing something about you battling Mad Skillz at Flava Of Da Month...
Flava Of Da Month in 1995/96, Skillz had a show at Subterania which later became Neighbourhood in Ladbroke Grove. He had a part of his show where he invited rappers up to play a rhyming game against each other and then the last man standing against him. At that time I wasn't gonna step up but Shortee Blitz and his boy Drew pushed me up and I took out the dudes on stage and then it was me and Skillz, we went back to back for a real long time and eventually he called it a draw and carried on with his show. At that time he was the best freestyler in the world alongside Supernatural and it meant a lot to people that I shared some of that juice and thats what really put me on in London and gave me a rep so young.

Given how large the Jungle scene was around that time did you think about trying to get more involved in that? I'm assuming you were aware of people like Stevie Hyper D and MC GQ around that time?
Them times Jungle was fun to listen to on the radio and go to an event here and there but I never really got involved. It didn't have much structure lyrically even though the rhyming patterns and vibes were so sick but I didn't get onto the Jungle scene like that at all.

Although Hip Hop's my first love I'd almost always have more fun at a Jungle or  House night. Do you think that whole purist/backpacker type crowd that UK Hip Hop nights have attracted since the early 00s had a bit of a detrimental impact on the scene? 
So detrimental. It was very divisive as well and for a time that scene was strictly for a white male audience. It almost killed everything that hip hop stands for which is the inclusion and development of the poor, the under served, the divers and marginalised peoples that were at its genesis. Its kind of come back around but it still stagnated a lot. I think the introduction of this "4 pillars" thing made it happen. Hip Hop can't and shouldn't be defined by just 4 points, 5 if you count beatboxing? Its too broad, too liquid and too magical to be given boundaries. The Four Pillars is a myth that made people look backwards into history rather than forwards into the evolution of the culture. Why do B-Boys dance to breaks that no one was spinning at the time? Why not Electro or House which is where the real vibes were happening. It not only stagnated but went backwards.

 So after building a rep with some memorable appearances on mixtapes and guest features, you dropped 'The Groundbreaker'. That was a really unique record at the time. British rappers didn't make songs like that back then. Was it a concerted effort to do something different or just something that came naturally?
  A mix of both, I was heavily into the Garage scene at that time. Both as an MC and as a bouncer at clubs like Garage City and that scene had so much to offer. It was fun, people made an effort to come out and they enjoyed themselves. At that time hip hop in the UK was killing itself with depressing rhymes and beats and a really negative attitude towards success which was just stupid and counter productive. I wanted to share the positivity, vibes, energy and financial success I was having on the Garage scene. Fusion made the beat months before we recorded it and it was on tour with MJ Cole, Roots Manuva and MK in Australia that I started to write it when I was inspired by a life changing journey to the other side of the world.

I swear Timbaland jacked it when he did 'Roll Out' for Ludacris! It's a record that could only have come out of London though. It was originally due to drop on Rawkus right?
  Yep originally signed to Rawkus in the US. The dudes that owned the label flew out to meet us and we actually signed the deal and got the advance. Oddly enough the remittance advice from my payment from Rawkus came from News International ? I'm sure your readership who have Hip Hop Illuminati beliefs will have a field day with that one! 
Timbaland spent time here in the late nineties so I hear and was inspired by the UK's drum patterns, a myth and legend that one. I don't think anyone from over there did take off Groundbreaker though For certain though it inspired a dose of optimism amongst UK rappers and MCs and for sure it raised the average tempo of a rap song in the UK from around 90bpm to around 120bpm - Groundbreaker was around 138bpm. Rawkus got bought by MCA and the project was forgotten about and the contract voided so we kept the masters and the money. Groundbreaker was released on Wordplay which was subsidiary to Virgin.

So that led to the deal with Virgin and the Blackmarket Boy album which was a couple of years ahead of its time in the way it you used Bashment, Garage and D&B as well as Hip Hop. At the time I got the feeling that the label and the media didn't really know how to approach it, but looking back it was the precursor to artists like Dizzee and Kano getting deals and awards. It's almost a blueprint for how "urban" music would be in the 5-10 years that followed. Did you see that coming?
  I always knew it would make an impact, I just didn't know how big. When I meet some of the biggest MC artists from across all genres who are now global stars like Tinie Tempah, Wiley and some others and they all know who I am and say they grew up on or have been inspired by my music. Some have run at me and hugged me to then tell me how they used to stand in the mirror rapping along and it fills me with pride. I suppose at that exact time there was around a 2 year period where I was the only one from a hip hop background doing it that big and my counterparts were American stars like 50 Cent and Ludacris.

You'd already made a name for yourself in UK Garage circles through your work with MJ Cole. When Garage gave way to Grime, that seemed almost tailor made for your style and you appeared on a few tracks here and there. Was there ever any plans for a second solo LP around that time?
There was a second album in 2006 that never got released due to bad business, I got called by some American labels too but the terms weren't right for me. I never wanted to be a Grime MC. Grime is something organic that you cant fake or try to recreate. The origins of it are so fucked that you just had to be there, and I wasn't, I was already famous doing dumb stuff that famous people do to be on a pirate somewhere spraying bars all night. I will never try to ride the coat tails of Grime, its a scene that the younger ones than me created and its theirs. Some of them show love and cite me in their biogs etc, and some dont acknowledge my existence but that's cool also. For them I'm not the blueprint to their style but the blueprint of what's possible commercially.

Last year you put out an older unreleased track 'Confessions Of A Thatcher Baby' on your Soundcloud. Do you have much more unreleased material and do you have any plans to make it available?
 I have a back catalogue of 75 Hip Hop songs but I have no plans on releasing any of them commercially.
You dropped the 'Graceful In Death' EP in 2010 without too much hype or promotion. At the time I got the impression that was intended to be your final release. Was it something that you put out just to test the waters and see how people responded?
  It was some music that I really liked that was from the unreleased album I made in 2006. The intention was to lay that piece of work to rest and move on doing what I do which is make music I like without any desire to make lots of cash or be famous. I rarely make Hip Hop music anymore, at least in the format that people want me to. I want to stay committed to making music that inspires creativity, one upmanship and sounds like what is coming next and sadly I cant achieve that by making hip hop. I love Hip Hop and I'm still a fan of the music and like a lot of newer artists but I have been making my own work since 1994. At twenty years in I have to evolve and I feel like I have done that over the years.

 Then you linked with Rodney P and Zed Bias for the Sleepin Giantz LP - proper label, videos, promo, the works. How did that project come about and how had the game changed since Blackmarket Boy? 
  Sleepin Giantz happened in an organic way. I've known Rodney since I was 16 years old and I've known Zed Bias since we shared a table at the Dancestar awards about 14 years ago. With Zed moving to the north too we naturally found ourselves making some work with no plans and with Rodney visiting Zed to make work before we knew it we had around 8 tracks with me and Rodney on and Zed suggested the project. I had no desire to get back into recording or selling music at that level but when a project like this comes along I would be a fool to say no. As far as the game goes, I don't play it. I don't tour much or do press. 
I don't even make radio edits of my own work now. I simply cannot be bothered with the games of the business.

There's a second Sleepin Giantz album coming out right?
  One day... soon? maybe? We are all busy guys. It took nearly 2 years to complete the first so don't expect it soon.

I feel like there should be a sequel to 'And The Ting Went...' Some retribution business!
  I'll bear that in mind. That song started as one of Rodney's solo works and I added the bouncer and the girl.

From your Twitter and Soundcloud you seem to be involved in a lot of projects and have your finger in a few different pies. What do you have going on for 2014? 
  I handle events and develop work and funding strategies at Invader music - www.
I manage a spoken word project for Cartwheel Arts and I DJ from time to time and host a rave called Murkage. My musical works, projects and events are always fun, forward facing and on my own terms so its good to be this far along and still be involved in new work. 
As far as Fallacy goes:

Single with Star One 'Gangster Girls' available now for free on Star One's Soundcloud

Single with GS One and Tyler Daly 'I Was Just Thinking' available soon at Juno

EP via Invader Records in Summer 2014: Fallacy - Orion Complex EP

Any chance of another Fallacy solo album? 
  No, just EPs and other bespoke work.

If you had to play someone that had never your music 3 tracks that rep you the best, what would they be?
  The MC pt. 1 from the Sleepin Giantz album
I Was Just Thinking from GS One's Lucid Dreamer EP
Old and Grey from Blackmarket Boy

Big thanks to Fallacy for taking time out to answer my questions. I wasn't actually expecting such a quick response (He had them back to me inside of 24 hours. Average turnaround time for my previous interviews has been about 3 months) and I had planned to drop a 'Best Of' mix to accompany the interview. I've got a few technical issues at the moment so couldn't quite get that together in time but hopefully I'll be able to get that sorted in the near future.

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