Interview by Rick Thorne. Photo by Brian Bartholomew
From Murder Dog Vol 9 #2 (2002)
How did you get down with Wolftown Recordings?
10Shott: Basically just sittin' in the flats where Size8 grew up, sittin' on the stairs pissin' off the fuckin' tennants. We used to just smoke a likkle draw, a likkle weed, rap and freestyle and beatbox. Tricksta and Late used to live on the tenth floor, we never knew them 'coz they'd just moved in. One day we were just rappin' on the stairs and them mans just walked past and they heard it basically and said 'yeah, that's sounds good'. So we go up to Tricksta's house, he says 'yeah, come up to our house', burn a tree, get the mic out and start rappin' and showin' what we got. Basically we were on jungle, jungle music which is like fuckin' the English sort of hard Dirty South, y'get me. Just like pure gangsta shit, when ya chattin' on jungle. So that's what we were sorta on, I was always on hip-hop, we always loved hip-hop but we just showed them our style as well and they said 'yeah, yeah just mix it into a hip-hop sorta thing and you'll get yourself out of it basically' which is where we've come from. 'Coz I'm listenin' to hip-hop, if I was first ever to go on the mic after hip-hop I'd probably rap what I've heard, which is like Nas and whoever y'get me? But we get to put ourself into hip-hop, it's a different sort of hip-hop because obviously a different country comes with different music.
So you learnt your craft doin' jungle emceeing?
10Shott: Yeah we was emceein' to it, every club we used to go to just get on the mic and just start emceein' to jungle basically.
Size8: We was emceeing to jungle first but I never really bought jungle records. I always bought hip-hop records.
10Shott: Yeah all the time, I've never bought jungle, it was just sort of that was the vibe, that was the trend. It was always on the radio stations and you get people that was on jungle dissin' people.
Was that just freestyling?
10Shott: Yeah, yeah it was no written. No one ever wrote lyrics in jungle.
How long is this going back?
10Shott: 1994. Must've been like 14, 13. That's when we were gettin' into jungle nice n' tight n' ting.
Are you both from the same area in Wolverhampton?
Size8: He used to live around the corner from where me and Tricksta lived in the flats. Tricksta was on the tenth floor and basically we used to just hang out there and do freestyle tapes and then it transpired into a mix-tape thing what he sold in town, in the local record shop and then it turned into doin' some links and music and recording.
Were Late and Tricksta already making music?
10Shott: They were already in the middle of doing the Villains album when we met them so they got us just in time to feature on a track. Size8 featured on a track and I featured on a track and that was the first thing we ever spat on.
Size8: That was recording with IMD that was mostly in Birmingham so that was kinda like the first studio we used. Then we hooked up with Pez.
What were you doing before you got into music?
10Shott: Basically life was less cool. We tried college but basically all college was was just phone ringin' in class and it's like someone wants some weed. Y'know what I mean, ya in college and ya phone's ringin' and we're just like can I go to the toilet just to go meet him in the corridor, come back. It didn't last, we didn't stick with college so then after that just made a little hustle, made some money that way for a couple of years.
Were you making enough to live off?
10Shott: Yeah that and signin' on was basically how I was livin'. It was comfortable but then obviously we meet up with Tricksta and man's given us a likkle vision and something to go towards.
Are you both from West Indian families?
Size8: My family's West Indian, my grandparents come from Jamaica. They come over here and they had children already which wasn't my mother, it was like my mum's older brothers and they come over. But they built up a little house and a little job 'til they were stable then they sent for their kids, brought over their children that they had in Jamaica. When they come here they just made a life for themselves and then my mum was born later on in England so my mum's English really. My parents are English but they come from Jamaican heritage.
10Shott: Me being mixed race it's like goin' to school you get different ways of kids comin' up to you. I've had white best friends, I've had an Indian best friend, I've had a black best friend. Now I roll with mainly black people.
Size8: There's a lot of Jamaicans come over here in like the '50s and '60s.
10Shott: The black people over England are all Jamaican English. So it's like livin' in my area, it's all black people. Our school was at least 80 percent black.
Is there a big black population in Wolverhampton?
10Shott: In our area, Whitmore-Renes is probably the biggest. There's two main areas of mixed culture in Wolverhampton, there's one called Whitmore-Renes and Heath Town. Heath Town's full of black people, Whitmore-Renes full of black people but none of them get on. Basically there's a drug rival war goin' right now with these two. It's a small town, everyone knows what you did last summer basically. It's only just become a city, it's that small. City centre's small too, it's still an up and coming town.
What rappers were you checking for when you started rhyming?
10Shott: I like Redman, he was one of the first rappers. Then Wu-Tang Clan, I loved Cypress Hill at one point as well back in those days. And then Snoop Dogg bust on the scene.
Size8: Biggie Smalls was a big influence. He's just that talented lyrically. You're just tryna portray it in your own sort of way. Rappers that are now mainstream whereas back then, they were just comin' up. They were influences but they're American and they're chattin' what they go through and basically what you do is portray it in your own way and where you come from and talk about what's real to you, what's happened in your life. Just keep it real basically, that's what we learnt off them people.
I hear a lot of ragga influence in your rhymes too.
10Shott: Yeah, yeah. When I come on the mic the sorta style I try and pick up is laidback. I am laidback and when I chat on the streets that's the way I like to rap, y'get me, when I talk with my bredrins. I like to rap exactly the same way as I talk so when you hear me rappin', a bit of ragga is brought in there because sometimes you have to feel that 'coz I will drop a bit of ragga on the streets y'know what I'm sayin'?
Size8: I try and keep it clear so you can understand every word. Try and keep the flows tight, try and make up your own flows.
What topics are you covering on your album Bagged Out?
10Shott: On 'Burglars', I read one day in the newspapers this guy's gettin' sent down for protecting his home from a burglar he killed and he's getting done for like manslaughter and he's gettin' thrown in jail and I thought, 'Yo, if anyone comes in my house he's gettin' it!' So he comes up with the idea to come in and be the burglar. I got a keyboard now so I'd already made the rhythm and I thought that'd go with it cool. I prefer to make a rhythm first, get with the rhythm and work with the rhythm. I've only made a couple of tracks where Tricksta's had my acapella and built a beat round it. I think I work better workin' with the beat 'coz when Tricksta's made the beat I think 'oh shit I'd like to have said that over that part of rhythm.'
10Shott: 'Told You', that's our single. That was about how kids are goin' on. For the kids in our school it was like 'fuck education 'coz when I leave here I've got a man givin' me a phone and a job, y'get what I'm sayin'? So it was straight fuckin' dealin' rocks or whatever he's gonna juggle and I know so many kids now, that's what they believe in. Fuck this, why do I need education, I wanna lick shots and live fatter than you when you're gonna be studying for five years, y'get me?
Size8: That's the mentality of kids on the street.
What do you think about that?
10Shott: It goes back to the track 'School Daze'. Our school, you go to our school, my teacher, this is how she dealt with us. There was half the class which was black, always laughin' and she didn't try and discipline us, she'd turn her face to the white lot and say 'I'm not going to teach you lot' and she'd teach the others. So us lot would just do nothing. That was how our school was, to tell you the truth our school was shit. They've got bars and cameras on everything now, straight after we left. But when we were there it was fuckin' so loose. I used to write lyrics in class and she used to say 'look, if you're not gonna learn in my class write ya little poems' 'coz she knew what I used to do, just write all the time.
What does your album title Bagged Out mean?
Size8: Bagged Out is goin' back to what we used to do.
10Shott: If I say to him 'yo wah gwarn, ya got the weed bagged out?' Basically when you're weed is bagged out you're ready to sell that. You can be like 'wait there I'm baggin' it out', it's like the whole system y'get me?
Size8: When the whole product is all bagged out and ready to go.
10Shott: You can never have a big stash and say 'yeah yeah, I'll just rip you a piece off' y'get me. You have to wait at least three hours.
Do you get some good weed up here?
10Shott: Yeah yeah, there's some good shit that comes through man. Skunk is the main, that's what I like and then there's high grade. The prices over here are different to America. The prices over here is like £35 (roughly $50) for an eighth of an ounce, fuckin' high grade. That's like the top shit though, puts skunk to shame basically. Then you got ya skunk which ranges from £20-£25 (roughly $30-$35) for an eighth. £25 you're lookin' at a good fuckin' eighth of fuckin' good skunk really.
The production on your album is noticeably different from the Villains’ album.
10Shott: We changed producers. Tricksta was doin' it with IMD and then he switched over to work with Pez. And then Tricksta's like feel these beats and we're like well, give us this sorta feel and we had little ideas basically and put our own flavors in.
Size8: It's a lot of different flavors on that album, we was just tryna like cover all sorts of different tracks 'coz it's the first album. We tried to make it as collective as possible but it's got a lot of different flavors on there. This next Vicious Circle album should really show what we're doin'.
People really like the first one though.
Size8: People like the first one, we all like the first one, we've got no regrets but we're finding ourselves a bit more as well.
When will the next one be dropping?
Size8: We got a couple of people droppin’ albums first, High Timez is droppin’ an album and Conman’s droppin’ an EP, so it’ll be sometime next year.
Do you get support from the radio out here?
10Shott: Westwood's played our shit a couple of times. Basically he runs the hip-hop in England. The only international hip-hop that you get to hear in England is Westwood and if he's not on it no one's gonna hear what's comin' to England basically.
Size8: Two, three million listeners, that's basically the main source of hip-hop on the radio.
10Shott: And I'd say 95 percent of it's all American. People have also come up to us and said 'I've seen your video, it's been played on MTV'. I haven't even seen it played yet because they haven't put it on rotation but it's been played a good few times and on 'Yo! MTV Raps' as well.
Size8: Wonder Twinz were givin' us some love on some New York mix-shows and DJ Noize in New York as well.
Where are you planning to take this shit?
10Shott: I wanna see us so we can get tight on this shit and wake up in the morning when you got that idea and not forget it by the time you've see your producer basically. I wanna have my own shit in my own house, build my own shit. What I'm workin' on now is gettin' a little bit of money together and startin' my own little studio. And then just basically tryin' my hardest in this music thing, whatever I can get out of this music industry 'coz that's what I love.
Size8: My goals are to make sure that we put out quality hip-hop. Just keep the product quality, that's my only aim. To make sure that Vicious Circle, Wolftown, whatever I'm on, make sure that when that goes out you feel that it's strong enough to sell. Otherwise there's no point really.