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Roll Deep - The IndieLondon interview

Roll Deep

Interview by Chris Rock

ON A cold wet Tuesday in March, IndieLondon met Roll Deep at their studio in East London, where we were greeted by the very happy and very welcoming Target, the spokesperson of the day, who is also a radio DJ on BBC 1Xtra.

Over the course of our conversation, Target treated us to a canned history of Roll Deep, how living in London influences their music and what can be expected from their latest album, Return Of The Money Sound – a very good piece of UK rap music.

Q. Give us a brief canned history of Roll Deep.
Target: Roll Deep is essentially a group of mates – most of us growing up in Bow, East London. We were all into music from an early age and we started playing around with making records– we acquired a pair of turntables and at one of our friends house’s we started making mixtapes. That then led to broadcasting on pirate radio, where we got ourselves a spot on a local station called Rinse FM. It all sprung from there!

Then, myself, Wiley and Flodan put together the Pay As You Go Cartel back in early 2000. We were very big in the UK garage scene along with So Solid and Heartless Crew – we had quite a bit of success at that time. As we progressed, Wiley set up Roll Deep with Scratchy, Breeze, Danny Weed… Dizzee Rascal was also part of the crew. We continued to perform at UK Hip Hop/grime events all over the country as, at this time, grime was just becoming very popular.

We then made our first album In At The Deep End, which was signed to Virgin/Relentless Records, and we sold around 100,000 albums. These were interesting times and we toured with some of the US’s biggest rap acts like G Unit and Snoop Dogg. We then followed that album with our sophomore album/mixtape Rules And Regulations. Now, we are on our third album, Return Of The Big Money Sound which is out now!

Q. Give us a brief description of each member.
Target: Well, there’s Target (me) – producer DJ and brains of the organisation [laughs]; Flodan (rapper), MC’s very charismatic says what he feels; Manga (MC), who has a very fast, skippy and clever rap flow; J2K (MC), who is also very clever and witty with words; Danny Weed (Producer), my production partner who makes the beats, and, of course, Wiley, MC, producer and one of the UK’s top producers/rappers. He’s the head honcho and a great ideas man.

Then there’s Skeptor (MC), a rapper who is part of Boy Better Know and who brings a different dimension to the music; Breeze (MC), a rapper who is a great lyricist; Scratchy, an outrageous character; Carnage, who does all of our live shows; Rico (MC), the Bounty Killa of the crew who also does drum and bass and Brazien (MC), the meaner version of Breeze!

Q. How Does living In London influence your music?
Target: Growing up in London, and especially in Bow, which is where most of us grew up, has influenced our music. I don’t know what it is about this area, but it just seems to have always had this vibe through the music, and I think you can even just tell from the last nine months – Wiley, Dizzie and Tinchy Stryder have all had top three national hit records – and they’re all from the same quarter mile radius.

Since the UK hip hop scene really started, it’ always been a big buzz in this area. There’s a lot of talent, a lot of artists, a lot of DJs, producers – I think everyone just thrives off of it. And I’m not discounting the rest of London, as there’s talent all over London, but where we’ve been in the thick of things – especially as far as where grime’s concerned, this is where it all started. It’s not the nicest of areas but we still love it and it brings to us a lot of influence to our music.

Q. Speaking of influences, what are the musical influences behind your music?
Target: A bit of everything! Between us, we listen to every type of music – from pop to R&B, hip hop, dancehall, rock, jungle, garage, house, classical… and that really does influence our music.

Q. What sets you apart from other artists in the UK rap scene?
Target: I think just the fact that we’ve been a collective for so long, and through the ups and downs and twists and turns, we’re still here! We’ve not got the same fear that a lot of artists have got, where they’re conscious about the music they’re making and worrying about what people are going to think. If we feel like making a house track today, we’ll make one. If we feel like making a reggae track tomorrow, we’ll do that – that’s how we’ve always worked.

Q. Tell us about the new album…
Target: The album’s called Return of the Big Money Sound – that says a lot in the title itself. Flodan came up with the name. We had been away for about a year to 18 months, and we felt like it was definitely a return. Back in the day, we always felt like we had a big sound – we even nicknamed our studio ‘Big Money Sound’! And ever since then, we have kept to the belief that we make the Big Money sound. This album is marking our return and the fact that we’re here making big music.

Q. Movin’ In Circles is one of the stand-out tracks on the album – where did the inspiration for that track come from?
Target: It came about because Tippa’a Irie’s (Tippa being a huge reggae artist) studio is next door to ours. We’d always go into his studio, and he’d always come into ours. His partners, G-vibes and Danny Weed, sat down one day and made the Movin’ in Circles beat. Then the rest of the guys came in and wrote to it. At the end of it, we thought we’ve come up with a really outstanding track – with a real ska/reggae feel, but still with the Roll Deep sound to it. It just happened organically.

Q. What cuts does Target recommend from the album?
Target: To get a broad perspective of Roll Deep, I would choose Movin’ in Circles, I’d also say check out Night Life – which is one of my stand-out tracks.. It’s more grime/hiphop, and explains a night in Roll Deep’s life. I’d also pick Give Up – that’s a banger! It’s produced by Wiley and gives you the authentic Roll Deep sound. But I’d recommend the whole album!

Q. Tell us about the Movin’ in Circles video…
Target: The video features some very well known actors, as well as Goldie. We had to pull a lot of favours to get the people in the video – so check it out! The video’s on our Myspace page – and on You Tube

Q. What does the future hold for Roll Deep?
Target: The future holds a lot for Roll Deep. We still haven’t peaked yet; we’re still getting better as time goes by. We’re working on new stuff at the moment. We’ve got the album out now, everyone’s doing solo projects. I can see all those solo projects doing really well.

There’s a couple of female vocalists coming through the label Roll Deep Recordings. J2K is releasing a multi-media SD card with video and music that can just be slotted into your phone, which is fantastic. We’re just trying to stay ahead of the game.

Q. How can we find out more about Roll Deep?
Target: Check out our Myspace page and Facebook group (Roll Deep Official) – it’s got all of our live dates. And Check Target’s show on 1xtra every Saturday from 10pm.