Interviewers: JB & Ollie.
All images courtesy of Wot Do You Call It.
Read part one here.
JB: Who’s made the biggest impression on you guys?
Quann: I think Wiley. It’s probably a cliche answer, but the way that he carries himself. Even on his Not For The Radio Interview the other day… he knows who he is. But he’s never out there, he never imposes himself on other people to make them feel like they should show him respect.
Marco: What do you mean by presence?
JB: There’s certain people, especially in the world of celebrity... I met Andre 3000. When I spoke to him I could barely even respond. He carried himself in a way that put me off balance.
Quann: I think Novelist is like that. So many times I’ve been to Flex FM, which is a little studio/ radio thing in South Wimbledon. Nov kinda came up there, did some practicing with Grandmixxer and stuff. When he was active in The Square, he would always come out of these radio sets and be like, “Us dons are gonna take over. We’re gonna be the next guys.” He would always be empowering the people around him. Everyone, they do now and they did before he was such a big character, looked up to him. He’s got this confidence. He knows what he’s got to bring to the table. D’you know what I mean?
Marco: I think Nov as well. The day I first met him was the day I shot him for his press pics. I remember he literally came on a skateboard, in an all black tracksuit. He’d literally just come from his house. Now, looking back, it looks correct. But at the time it was a rush. It was almost like the way he is now, is exactly how he’s been. He’s someone who’s always been about the whole track suit thing, he’s on his skateboard. Everything felt so natural. I’m not saying they were the best pictures in the world, but those pictures are good for me. They feel authentic. I didn’t have to give him much guidance. He knew already where he wanted to stand, where he wanted to be. He took me on some roads, I got one picture of him where he got stabbed. He took me on the same road, and then we took some pictures there. Slyly we just ended up there by chance. Everything was by chance. Riko as well.
Quann: Yeah, Riko. One time, Marco and I went to shoot Riko and Slimzee.
Marco: We were late…
Quann: I remember getting to Bow Road Station. Riko and Slimzee were there, and I thought fucking hell, what am I gonna do now. I was using this camera for the first time, didn’t even know if it worked. We were walking around Bow. Riko’s eating a ham sandwich. I remember him getting really pissed off and agitated saying “I need food. How long are these fucking pictures gonna take?” We were walking around Bow for ages… and then Marco came. Two hours late, he turns up.
Marco: He didn’t give a fuck about us, which was sick. I love people shutting us down, or sort of, not thinking we’re no one. It’s sick. We’re not no one, really. But it’s good for people to sort of tell you to hurry up. I like that.
JB: Looking at your stuff, I see a similarity with Ricky Powell. Dunno if you know him? He did most of the iconic Run DMC photos. I get a really similar vibe from you guys, especially your pics of crews just outside the shop, or whatever. Which photographers do you fuck with?
Marco: The god is Simon Wheatley.
Marco: Make sure you write that down. Capital letter. He’s the god. We know him, like. He’s blueprint.
Quann: He’s a mate as well. He actually helps a lot. I find that sometimes it’s not always the easiest to connect with younger people. They don’t really have any regard for other people, they just care about what’s going on around them sometimes. So for him, as an outsider, to come in and get the depth of photographs that he got… and he cares so much. He’s built relationships with these people.
Marco: I went Bow with him, once, to shoot when he first started shooting again. It’s mad. He’s walking around and it was like “Oh Simon, what?!” Some big black guy with dreads comes up to him. Known him for years. Everyone knew him. That’s when you know that he’s actually been here. Some people, they come in, and that’s my thing as well, I only realised this the other day… I genuinely think that I’m currently the only – if I’m wrong then shut me down, feel free – person who’s grown up inside of grime, that’s documenting it. Ever. I genuinely think I’m the only one. And that’s a mad thing to say. I’m not talking about videos and stuff like that, freestyles and stuff like that – 100% not me. But that high quality that I’m trying to get, I think I’m the only black guy as well.
Quann: Depends who you say… what about someone like Ashley?
Marco: But I’m talking about what we do. What them lot do is like show photography, true, but I don’t think… I genuinely think I am. There’s probably some other guys who done stuff back in the day, maybe they didn’t get a name or it was the wrong time. Maybe Simon was about, so it was harder. But I think that’s special as well. I feel nice in a sense that, when I meet MCs and that, I feel like when Quann is saying “It’s a bit hard.” For me, it’s almost the opposite.
Quann: It’s the challenge though. It’s not necessarily the photography that I enjoy per sae, it’s the challenge of connecting with this person and getting the best out of them in any given situation. Whether I’m in their area, or if I randomly bump into them in the street. It’s about connecting.
JB: That must mean a lot to you guys. How do you feel when the person behind the camera isn’t involved in the scene?
Quann: Cause we’re set up on Tumblr, sometimes we get messages like “So glad that there’s a website that understands grime.” Or “so glad you’re shedding light on these people, who wouldn’t usually get that.” And it is nice. It’s something to be proud of for sure.
Marco: When you mention about that – going to a show and taking a thousand pictures sort of photographers, or strictly show photographers – I think it’s bollocks. I’m going to less shows and I’m going to more radio. I’m spending time with more MCs and going to their area. That’s the good thing as well. Something that no one’s really noticed is that all of the photos of everyone has been in their area. All of the portraits are in their area. It’s not like we’ve seen them in Shoreditch and said “Oh yeah let’s take a picture.” No. We’ve gone to their areas, taken pictures, spent days with them. Even from the start, there’s never been a portrait that we’ve put out that wasn’t from their area. That’s what I think makes it a touch more special. Sometimes people might look at it and think “Ah yeah, it’s just a photo.” But nah, he’s probably two minutes from his house.
Quann: It’s organised. We spend time travelling to see these people. If you’re a sick photographer, you showed me this [Marco], your work will travel. It’s not about putting your name about all the time. Sometimes all it takes is for one website to see your work and say “we have to have you photograph our event.”
Marco: When Quann shot Vision, no one really knew about Vision. And now everyone knows Vision. That’s the level we want to be. We want to spend time first, let them meet us and talk to us. When we first met them at Radar, I didn’t really know who they were.
Quann: They came first ennit?
Marco: They were like “You’re Marco! Rah!” They’re happy I’m here and I’m happy they’re here.
Marco: We spent some time with Maniac recently, which was sick. The first shots of him since he’s been out, which is amazing. Even like that, I was so excited to be in Maniac’s house.
Quann: It was mad.
Marco: Bro, I was so happy just to be in his house. I want people to experience it. He’s got all these old football medals. His room is literally mad, it’s like a time chamber. He’s got football medals from before he went away.
Quann: He said “I don’t wanna be next to these, don’t get me next to these!”
Marco: I had to tell him, I was like “Bro, I have to get these. It means a lot, it means more to me than it does to you.”
Quann: It’s so mad, ’cause that day, we went and met Maniac. Then we randomly bumped into one of his friends, Blaze, who was also at our set. They were walking around, we planned to go back to Maniac’s house. Cadell comes out of his house, who lives close to Maniac…
Marco: Tell ’em. Maniac goes “Cadell’s always…” – they can hear each other’s music. So he goes that he’s [Cadell’s] probably been writing since day to his beats. Mindblowing.
Quann: As we’re leaving, he’s like “Oh yeah, we should’ve got God’s Gift.” He’d just come out as well. God status, he’d just come out of prison. We weren’t gonna be sticking a camera in his face.
Marco: Places like Bow are so sick for that. Everyone’s so close to one another. It’s sick.
Quann: You can see we’re excited by it.
Marco: Trust me, Maniac. He showed us beats. He’s been making beats every day.
Quann: He’s been very quiet, noone’s really been hearing stuff. But he’s ready.
Ollie: From someone who’s been involved in the scene since the beginning, would you say that now is the most exciting time for grime since it started?
Marco: No. *laughs* My era was the best.
Ollie: Since then! Obviously nothing’s gonna top 03. Out of nowhere, suddenly this group of people had access to Fruity Loops and could make beats. The start of the scene is always special. But in terms of the DJs, the MCs, the stations…
Marco: Now’s the best then. I think it’s more that as well, in a sense it’s like people believe that they can do good by sticking to grime for the first time ever. That’s never happened before. Before everyone thought you’ve gotta make some shit song to make money. But now, people literally believe that if I stay doing what I’m doing, then I can make good money, live well and make a change. That’s the only exciting thing. I always look at things from an MC’s perspective anyway – if I was still spitting, how would I think about it? If I was, I’d be thinking that I could tell someone suck their mum on a tune and it could be played everywhere in the world. That’s sick. That’s the sickest thing for me.
Quann: The only thing that makes me sad about it, it’s amazing what the music’s doing, but the cultural aspects of it doesn’t exist as it probably did. As Marco was saying, you’d be on the bus and you’d hear people spitting. Now it’s kids rapping. Kids listen to road rap in the playground and they don’t listen to grime and I think it should stem from there. If they’re listening to grime, they’re gonna MC themselves, do you know what I mean? Then we’re gonna have new MCs and producers and stuff to photograph as they come up over time.
Marco: I do think that there’s a blur between everything. If you spit then you spit. For young people like, I don’t even think they take the conscious effort to think “I’m gonna be a rapper,” or “I’m gonna be an MC.” They just spit, and some people end up in different places. Black the Ripper was one of the best grime MCs, and now he’s just strictly a rapper. There’s no choice, you just end up doing whatever you end up doing.
Quann: Big Zuu was saying…
JB: I’ve seen him, he goes in and spins tracks and then MCs over his own mix… he’s mental.
Quann: He was saying how he was playing tunes and there was kids who were MCing and they were good. They were going in over his tunes and were decent.
Marco: Saying that though, with everything going so well, sometimes it’s easier… it’s almost too easy in a sense.
Quann: How do you mean?
Marco: Back in the day, if you go on radio it was a proper rough-house thing. You’re nervous being in the room. Obviously now things are safer…
Quann: Shoutout to Radar security.
JB: I’ve seen it at Radar, people will have beef and they come through, spit their bars and then leave. It’s left on air.
Quann: That’s how it should be.
Marco: Nah. You say that, but then… back in the day, it was more like. If you’re an MC, you’ve gotta earn that stripe. If you wanna spit bars, mans gonna come to your station and put it on you. You’ve gotta do that whole bravado thing.
Ollie: What would your advice be for people who wanna build up the bravery to come spit on radio?
Marco: Do it… because you’re safe! Know you’re safe now.
JB: Do you think that’s better or worse though, Marco?
Marco: It’s better, because everyone’s safe. Safety’s first. At the same time, there used to be less people to do it. It’s like the difference between SoundCloud and before SoundCloud. Before SoundCloud, not everyone could just upload their songs. You really had to do something special to stand out. That’s why I stopped spitting. I didn’t wanna do something special. Someone like Chip or Griminal did something special. That’s the difference I think. Before it was almost harder to be an MC, but now there’s more MCs but equally there’s more shit ones. There’s more in the barrell ennit…
JB: To end, I wanted to ask: If you could play a grime track, at either your wedding or your funeral, which would you pick and which track would it be?
Quann: I’d probably say, on Wiley’s first album he had this one track called Doorway. It’s a really reflective song, it was like track six on the album. I’d say that I’d have that for my funeral.
Marco: My one? I’ve got both though. They’re both Wiley tunes. Wiley She’s a Rider…
Quann + Marco: “She’s a rider, loves me dearly.”
Marco: Yeah, that for my wedding track. And for the funeral, Wiley’s got a beat called Logic Pro and he’s got a tune called Born On My Own. Some dark tune. Wiley must’ve been upset that day. I used to cry to that when I was young – swear down. I hope that people would cry to that at my funeral.