Interviewers: JB & Ollie.
All images courtesy of Wot Do You Call It.
Read part two here.
29th January 2016
It’s Friday night and we’ve just launched the website. I’m lit, drunk as fuck, and am under the impression that the interview with Wot Do You Call It has been postponed. (Luckily, unbeknownst to me) I’d done my research earlier in the day, and decide to take a break from mixing to have a fag… I walk downstairs, and see [George] Quann. I’m confused to see him, but, if we’re being honest, I’m confused I’m still upright. I manage to string together a few words that almost sound like a sentence, and find out that Marco’s on his way, and the interview is indeed today. Taz forgot to tell me we were still doing it tonight…
JB: Have you guys always been into grime, or is it something that you moved into?
Marco: I was an MC still, I’ve got tunes.
JB: I know! Seeing as you brought it up, I was gonna ask you to spit your favourite 16…
Marco: Are you Nardwuar??? *laughs* Oii. Noone’s ever called me out on that before.
Quann: That surprises me.
Marco: That’s hella impressive.
JB: An 8 bar? Come on…
Marco: I’m not gonna spit it though. Nah, what did I say… what was one of my lyrics? I dunno! My name was Droopy.
Marco: Cause my eyes are fucked! My eyes have been fucked forever. I’ve always had bags under my eyes. What were my lyrics? I can’t remember honestly!
JB: How long ago was it?
Marco: 2005. Between 2003 and 2005.
Quann: You must’ve been like… 11.
Marco: I went Urban Tingz. I don’t even know how old I was. There’s a video of me on YouTube, though, spitting.
Quann: Yeah you showed me that, carnival or whatever it is.
Ollie: How old were you in 2003?
Marco: I was born in 91.
Ollie: So you were 12?
Marco: Yeah. I was spitting from probably 12 to 15? This was when Chipmunk and them lot were on Urban Tingz too, and it was in Walthamstow as well so it was sick.
Ollie: What is Urban Tingz?
Marco: [A] radio station. They done a stream and then they done video as well, in the room. But that was like one of the most legendary stations. But there’s no footage, no cameras. No one knows yeah… similar to Axe in a way, but where the youngers were. I was 12, I ain’t even clock.
Ollie: Stations like Rinse and Deja have created this legendary status. Can you tell people who might not have been listening to pirate radio when it was happening, i.e. me, how important was Urban Tingz? And how important was Axe? What did they stand for and what were the differences?
Marco: As a MC, Axe was like, I would say it’s more like… not premier league, but there were high level MCs there. Axe was like in Tottenham, so it was a station where if you go there then it’s like okay, you’ve been around for a bit, you’ve got a bit more of a name for yourself or whatever. Obviously everyone just goes there, just to go there. You know it’s gonna get streamed. Who clashed there [Quan]?
Quann: That guy got slapped…
Marco: Scorcher clashed Scorcher. Who was it? There was another Scorcher once… was it Black The Ripper? Someone there, they both clashed to hold the name.
Marco: It was that sort of station, that’s what I’m tryna say. It was either Scorcher or Black The Ripper – when he was Samson, when he was on grime and that. There was a clash, two people. They were like ‘fuck this guy,’ but they weren’t saying the name. Axe was known for that, known for the older guys. But places like Urban Tingz were more like… 2003 to about 2006? Around that [time]. This is me guestimating. UT was legendary because anyone could go there, you just pay your subs. It’s a business really, everyone’s [paying] five pound to use someone’s spare room. I didn’t pay subs. If you were shit you payed subs.
Quann: But you said you were shit?
Marco: I’m saying now. Back then UT was a legendary place if you wanted to try and build a name. That’s why I said Chipmunk was there, Griminal was there. Bare guys. Everyone went there. RudeKid had a show there that was sick. RudeKid actually spat there, he used to spit. I remember seeing him spit there. That was sick, but that was early, when the Internet was just coming through. Everyone obviously had Internet, but that was the time when people were putting stuff on the Internet to express themselves.
JB: So why’d you decide to stop MCing?
Marco: I wasn’t good enough man. *laughs* To be honest, I didn’t give up on grime, but I almost thought like… “this ain’t gonna get me nowhere.” Then when I saw Chipmunk poppin’, I was like “Ahh… maybe it could’ve.” But then I also thought, at the same time, he did it in some pop way, and I never wanted to do that. Back then, obviously you thought that if you wanted be a big MC, then you had to do a pop song. I didn’t want to. Fuck that. I like being on road and feeling…
Marco: Nah, not authentic. Just a road man. Like a bad boy – y’know me. That’s what grime was, for me. It was always aggressive. So you wanted to be a bad boy. Obviously everyone had a bar, someone could pull you up on road and say “Oi…” They weren’t dissing you, it wasn’t like that, but you almost feel like at any time you always had to have a bar. Everybody spat no matter who. You lot would all be spitting if you was in ends.
Quann: So people would just be barring at the bus stop?
Marco: Not really like that. That’s like “Do you want a fight? No? Let’s clash!” It was more like… imagine someone spitting on the bus, a group you don’t know. You could almost go to the back of the bus with them and start spitting. You don’t know them but you listen to the same music…
JB: So you were spitting, but Quann: you came from a label background, right? You released tracks with Wiley, Blizzard…
Quann: I set up a little label when I was 18, kind of just being a fan of grime music. And then winged my way to a shoot of Wiley’s, and said that I wanted to help him out in some way or another. He gave me his number, which I was surprised about…
Quann: So I rang him, told him that I had this thing called A-List. Then started doing the online stuff for A-List. At the time, when I was doing that, I met another Wiley fan [Louis Serrano]. We started talking, and I know it sounds mad, but the music in common… not just necessarily Wiley but grime generally. He was doing the artwork for Roll Deep, when they were big – around the time of Good Times – he was doing the art for that. And we were like let’s do a grime label. So, we pushed it out and nobody wanted to be on board. Through communicating with Wiley, Wiley was like “I’ll do your first single.” [He] did another one, and then the ball started rolling from there. It was weird, ’cause I was living up north.
Quann: Skengness. [You] should’ve heard the radio up there man… So yeah, the ball was rolling and the music was getting played online and like, I was a user of forums back then. Grime Forum.
Marco: We were both grime forum dons. We don’t know each other’s names, but we were both dons through it.
Quann: That’s the thing, you [were] aware of what’s going on in the scene through the forum. When you’re putting this music out and it’s getting a good reception, you feel like you’re doing something worthwhile.
JB: Are you part of any Facebook groups now? They’re sort of like the 2016 equivalent.
Quann: I feel like my head’s in a different place now. I couldn’t engage with that sort of shit.
Marco: But it was fun. At the time, it was sick. Grime Forum and Rewind were sick. MCs would go on – before Twitter obviously – to reply. Logan would have his own thread, through his show or whatever. Everyone would go on there, P Money was on there… everyone. You could be talking about someone’s tune, and then they’ll just come in and say “what don’t you like?!” It was sick. Everyone had their alias. That was the sickest time I think.
Ollie: What were your aliases?
Marco: We’ve never put them out. I don’t know Quann’s and he don’t know mine! It’s embarrassing man. I probably dissed him.
Quann: He probably did! Nah, but, you said, when we met, you knew of me through the forum before you met me.
JB: So given that you’ve both been involved in the music industry before hand. What eventually drove you to want to start documenting what was going on?
Quann: So I was working with an artist through the label called Rival. Rival is Marco’s friend. He ended up getting a deal through Universal at the time. It was a single deal. We’d go to meetings and Marco would come too, and I’d be like “y’alright.” I always saw that he had cameras, and in these sessions that Rival was doing, he wasn’t afraid to get his camera out and just start photographing everything. Then I said to him how I had this interest in old grime photos. I used to have a little collection that I had on my school computer, just there, and when you leave school your computer system gets deleted. So I was like “Ah, I’d love to do something like that.”
My girlfriend got me a polaroid camera, and Marco had been doing so much stuff before, he knew how to shoot digital and film, and he said, “I’ll help you learn.” It’s a meeting of the minds in a way. He knows people I don’t know, I know people he doesn’t. Do you know what I mean? It’s a network that we’ve built together through these photos. Our mission is to get like you guys. To get the new generation of people who are going at it. It’s good to get the old dons as well, but we wanna be the people who get those first photos. Those legendary first photos of people.
Read part two here.