SMS (SOUTH MAN SYNDICATE)
Interview by Rick Thorne. Photo by Brian Bartholomew
From Murder Dog Vol 9 #2 (2002)
What does your music sound like?
Spoon: We used to be a rap group but what we done we just changed the
script and started rappin' on garage.
Milly Wayne: That's all we do is rap on garage and we're the first crew to do that properly.
Smallz: Other crews have tried but the way I see it is they got some lame rap, like standard things that anyone could think of if they take a minute out.
So you're more into rap/hip-hop type stuff?
Smallz: Yeah definitely, that's what we're representin'. So eventually we're gonna bring it back to that. Eventually we might have to just lose the garage and then jump straight back on the rap.
How do you work a tune that's hot on the streets to get it to the next level?
Spoon: On a street level it's just like drug dealing basically innit. You buy the product, you flip it and then you put it out on the market. And you just gotta hustle basically, it's the same game but on a bigger level.
SMS is representin' South London?
Milly Wayne: Southwest, Streatham, but really it's the whole of south.
Is there a distinctive South London sound to your stuff?
Spoon: Yeah, it’s like a rap beat but speeded up basically.
Smallz: And it's got the South London lingo the way we're talkin'. Something that real people can relate to.
Milly Wayne: Proper rap verses, not no short gimmicky shit. We're not just South London, it's distinctively SMS. No one else ain't got it. Everything that we're sayin' it's experiences that we lived.
How is that sound different from say East London?
Milly Wayne: East London, their's is more jungle, speeded up tempo.
Smallz: Their's is more hyped-up. Our's is more calm and feelin' like expressin' our views and stuff. Sit down and listen to this and understand it. They're more on a hypeness ting, to make the ravers jump.
Describe where SMS is coming from.
Smallz: The environment's kinda sticky. Everyone's got different ways of livin' their life in South London innit. You got the niggas that's makin' the money or not makin' the money but tryna play the role like they are makin' money, like rollin' around showin' off and all that.
Milly Wayne: Basically it's just like America but on a smaller scale. You got people sellin' drugs, you got people doin' everything, killin', murderin', rapin', flossin', carjackin', everything happens here. But it just happens differently and that's what we're tryna explain, how it's done in the southwest.
Spoon: If you walked on the street and said do you know us, they would know us.
Smallz: There's a lot of people that's blind to life that the youngsters are livin' in London. So it's like there's separate lifestyles but for the youngsters, it's a different ting on road. Y'see what I'm sayin', it's a separate life.
What's the next move for SMS on the music front?
Spoon: To be our own label, independent label.
Smallz: Basically to put our message across by makin' tunes every week and pushin' them out one after the other.
What network do you have to get your music out to people?
Smallz: You got pirate radio stations, there's nuff radio stations.
It's like tapes goin' around, CDs goin' around, pirate stations, raves,
house parties, dy'know what I'm sayin'? They have to be playin' our records.
Milly Wayne: Some people hesitate to play us but people that are real will just play us anyway. We don't need to go to a label to get £25,000 (roughly $35,000) man, to get a car. We can get that off the streets man, off road.
Spoon: Once the track's been mastered we take it to the pressing plant to get it on vinyl.
Smallz: Then we get a little deejay mailout done and we'll do like a bigger press, like about 500 or something and from that it will get mailed out to the local shops and stuff.
Do you get support from the radio stations?
Smallz: Supreme FM, Flashback FM, Elite FM, quite a few.
Are you using a distributor?
Spoon: We're doin' it all ourselves really.
Smallz: Sammy at Millennium's doin' a little bit of distributin' for us still.
Do you emcee over tracks at gigs?
Smallz: Nah, that's not really how we come.
Milly Wayne: We're more really about just making tracks, just makin' records.
Smallz: Last time the rave had to get lock off the way we was goin' on on the stage. Sometimes it gets a bit out of hand still 'coz true, some of the crews from the streets and that, everyone wants to jump up on the stage and go mad.
Milly Wayne: Pay As U Go must've been at Brixton Mass, and then like the local youths from around the area sabotaged their set.
Smallz: Too much madness.
Spoon: Anyone what's been through a hard time will feel SMS basically. If you're fake you won't feel us.
Milly Wayne: We're the outsiders, we don't really wanna be in no close-knit thing, tied down signed to a label, everyone knows what we're doin'.
Spoon: There’s emcees yeah, but SMS they're artists, that's the difference. Emcees will jump up and ride anyone's track but artists will write lyrics, have some meaning. These other garage groups ain't got no meanin', they just chat shit all day long man.
Smallz: It's true where garage came from, a lot of the people that was listenin' to garage in the beginning that's what they were into innit? But now it's changing like a lot of the rap heads are startin' to listen to garage, it'll be more people like SMS.
Milly Wayne: We're attracting like a rap crowd as well, people who like rap beats and like American rap.
Do you listen to rap music?
Milly Wayne: Yeah, all the time. Bwoy, Scarface, Mobb Deep, Big L, he's passed away but he was heavy, Jay-Z's alright. Kool G Rap. I'm really into more deep rap, I don't really like them commercial rappers. I'm really like Kool G Rap, 2Pac, Scarface, them man there.
Can you relate to what they're talking about?
Milly Wayne: Yeah, some things. Some things like there's that Ghostface,
the hard times, talkin' about fixin' the TV with the coat hanger, we've
done all that shit. We've most probably done worse than that like wipe
your bottom with newspaper and shit like that, that's how real it is,
that's where a man's comin' from! Man's comin' from the struggle. Goin'
round to borrow milk off your neighbour.
Smallz: Electricity runs out, you're stayin' with no electricity through the whole night. It's not charge up the key.
What are you talking about on your tracks?
Smallz: The streets, growin' up, good times, hard times, sticky on road,
things we're goin' through, drugs, everything, reality.
Milly Wayne: That's the only way we can get it off our chests.
You've got a song out on the underground dissing So Solid Crew. Why are you dissing So Solid after everything they've done for the garage scene?
Smallz: We're not watchin' that really. They got signed, it's good for makin' money innit. Anyone can really get signed but we're tryna go about it in a more independent way.
Would you say you're trying to make a name off their's?
Spoon: Yeah we are! Basically we are, we want the title innit. If you're
new and you want to be heavyweight you have to propose to them and say
'yeah I wanna fight you.'
Smallz: Fuck it, that's how it is innit, that's bein' real. You're not gonna go against no backstreet guy, you're gonna go against the people who think, and who the public think are the best.