Hyperdub Archive: Eski Beat: An interview with Wiley – Part 2 (November 2003)
Martin: So what’s the deal with your first XL single “What Do You Call It?”
Wiley: “What Do You Call It” basically is about that there was a point in this scene where the big people in garage started to push the sort of stuff that I do out. They said: “don’t play that sound …” It’ was all word of mouth. I thought ‘I don’t mind doing what I do, I like what I do, I’m not going to stop so I thought I’d take it somewhere else and see who comes with me. And a little following has come with me. “House n garage” is “house n garage” and this wasn’t that. My sound was in with that, and then pushed out. I’m out on my ear. But I’m NOT gonna be out on my ear because I will make it work.
Everyone in the world has their own view on everything. It’s all contradiction, something to make people talk. I know as soon as that track goes out there garage people will think: “he thinks he’s big. If it wasn’t for garage he wouldn’t be…” That’s the whole point. As soon as he does that I’ve won already. The first person who says anything, I’ve succeeded, because people talking about me, is what I want. If you speak about me – good or bad – my name is in your mouth.
All the east MCs seem to have really understand the importance of street-hype…
You need hype, without it, it’s dull. When I first started doing all this I had the plan. You get sidetracked but I did know about publicity stunts. If I clashed that one – win or lose – it doesn’t matter. I knew what to do and I was always going to do that. But the garage people they didn’t accept it, they didn’t like it. I suppose if you’re in a scene and these kids come along and start doing what they want I’d be pissed. I’m not old and I don’t know what position they’re in.
But when people pushed me out, that made me not happy. I sit down and think “flipping hell” because garage? I like garage. You will see, soon, because I’m going back into all them old garage records. Like Puff Daddy went back, I’m going to take every single one, the hits, and I’m going to redo them my own way. Then they’ll see really I did love garage but because they tried to pigeon hole me.
Martin: What is the influence of dirty south rap on your sound?
Wiley: The reason why I relate to it now, properly, is because they’re just doing what I’m doing, but they’re just from dirty South and I’m from east London. Mannie Fresh just goes to the studio, makes his little beat. You rap on the beat, talk about everyday life and that is our connection. If you go east it’s r&b, west there’s a certain sound, the Moog-y Dr Dre thing. But dirty South doesn’t sound like that, it’s just grimey music. Some people don’t like it and can’t get their ear around it. But I’ve got my ear around it and went ‘oh OK, this is how people feel about me.’ How I feel about them dirty South people, when I couldn’t get my ear around it I realised there’s a whole load of people who listened to me and think ‘I cant get my ear around it.’ Eventually if they keep listening and listening they will. But dirty sound is just grimey, dirty music.
Martin: I’m surprised you’ve only made one r&b cut for your album …
Wiley: There are more like that but you can’t put them all on the album. People expect me to what I do, and that style is a bit different. The other tunes similar to “That What I Need” will be on the Roll Deep album. “You Were Always” will be on Tinchy’s album.
Martin: You mentioned to us about your dad’s love of raggae. How much of an influence was it as a kid?
Wiley: He used to take me to the soundsystems, the dances. Reggae, dub, ragga. He still makes music, now he makes world music. He’s big. Anything I can do, he can do at the highest scale, because he’s my dad.
Martin: When did you start making music?
Wiley: I have been playing instruments since I could see out of my eyes. I think back and I can see myself really young, banging on cardboard boxes with drum sticks. I had a drum kit. my dad had used to take me to his band’s sessions, jamming with each other. It’s in my body.
Martin: How much was jungle an influence?
Wiley: Jungle was big. I started listening to jungle I school, when I was a second year, 1992-93. It was hardcore really but it elevated to that. Slimzee bought me into that. I loved the breakbeats with the reggae, soul or rare groove samples. Me, Slimzee, Gods Gift loads of us went to the same school. I moved around a couple of schools but Bow Boys was where I met them and we started doing the DJ/MCing thing. I was DJing at first.
Martin: And when did you lose interest in jungle?
Wiley: I did jungle for years. I was doing jungle while garage was going on, to tell the truth. Slimzee had converted to garage but me and Geeneus still did jungle. That was until 1999-2000. I love jungle though. From 1992-2000, just before it got too noisy, I love that era. It’s not that I don’t like breaks in garage but it’s not my scene. But it is a scene, but not my scene. I love MCing over my beats because I made it to that lyric.
Martin: You were back guesting on Slimzee’s show recently weren’t you?
Wiley: Yeah I got kicked off of Rinse but the let me go on again the other day. Slimzee is a good DJ and sometimes he does play tunes I don’t like but I’m an MC, I carry on and read out the phone line. He is doing that Forward>> style. Really he likes my scene but the truth is he’s over there, doing that. But really I know he’d like to be here [Eski beat/grime]. I booked him for Eskimo Dance but he didn’t really come. That’s what he really likes, in his heart, what we do. He doesn’t like to be the same tunes as anyone. He gets really pissed off when other people have his tunes. In this scene everyone makes it a thing to have the tunes and he can’t really take it. But only him having the tunes doesn’t really help my record sales or the movement. He plays all that other stuff because no one else is, and other people will follow him. He’s sort of his own trend setter.
Martin: Who would you like to collaborate with?
Wiley: I’d like to collaborate with Nelly Furtado. I like Nikka Costa. I like Beyoncé. Christina Millian. I think I could up her level. MCs I don’t really care about rappers. I am my own. I don’t want to do a tune with Jay-Z though he is an influence. I know if I did a tune with Jay-Z it also wouldn’t make me the best rapper in the world. I’m just trying to push myself. A good singer can lift up anything. Like “Eskimo” a good singer could lift that up, and I’m searching for them.
Martin: So who will be on the full mix of Eskimo?
Wiley: Me. It will be a surprise as to what that’s about. I can’t really say all about it. When I made “Eskimo” I made it far apart from the time I realised I could be an artist. I made it Christmas ’99 or 2000. It was Christmas. No money. Unhappy. Lyrically I’ve thought back to that time. I’d had a few tunes out there but they weren’t really kicking it up. “Eskimo” was though. Christmas passed and I was like “shit, what am I gonna do? I’d come to no money again. What is going to save me now?” “Eskimo” saved me. The lyrics are about that time.
A lot of being an MC on road is about proving how strong you are. A lot of being “an artist” is about admitting you’re weak. Aren’t you concerned about exposing the more introspective tracks on your album?
That stuff is where you become an artist. When I first met Dizzee he was an artist already. I looked into him and saw the artists and saw I wasn’t yet. Dizzee made me convert from an MC to an artist. People say ‘you brought him in, you made him…’ but that’s what he did for me.
Being exposed is when someone’s known you for 20 years and then they start saying things … . But I just want to live my life through the telly, so living my life through the telly is exposure, naturally. My every move. I don’t want [the press] to be outside my door taking pictures but that’s what happens. It’s natural. But I will move forward but not so it’s paparazzi. But the exposure will come so I have taken it into consideration before I’ve had one war. A war is a cussing match, so he will say whatever he’s heard about me. It’s not the truth – really you make it up or exaggerate. So people say anything and saying anything really doesn’t mean anything.
Martin: In your recent war, do you think Sharky Major went too far?
Wiley: Yeah. The reason why he went too far is because he mentioned the girl who I was with. I didn’t mention his girl. I would have just dissed him. I’m not even with that girl now, but he went to far with that.
Martin: What about the line about “fucking babies?”
Wiley: That‘s anything. Obviously I’m a boy, I know I don’t fuck babies. So I don’t care about that, it doesn’t mean anything to me. The truth would mean something and he doesn’t know me. The “truth” would be like “you wet your bed when you were 9.” That would touch me more than “you fuck babies” – that’s anything.
Sharky’s just trying the R Kelly thing. I’m just human, that’s what I know. I don’t make it a habit of picking up young girls. But the age limits these days it doesn’t mean nothing. I’m 24, going out with a girl who’s 17 that doesn’t mean anything. Where her head’s at and where my head is at is what matters. A girl could look old but she’s still dumb and young in her head. But Sharky, he just copied what Doogz said so it’s boring to me. It doesn’t mean anything to me, he didn’t say anything new.
Martin: Do girls treat you differently now you’re “Wiley?”
Wiley: Boys do what boys do, and girls do what girls do. Obviously there’s money grabbers but I’m not thick so they can’t do anything to me really.
Martin: So are you really superstitious?
Wiley: I am to a point because that’s what fed into my brain. Growing up you watch witches on TV and all different things. I’ve heard silly things walking over three drains, walking over scaffolding. Some people don’t have to believe them. There are people that do, it’s just because it gets in their minds.
But I can tell you: superstition exists. It does. There are different little powers in this world. Karma: is real. I believe in karma because wrongs do come round, one day. If karma is classed as superstition then I believe in superstition, 100%. If you go out there and you’re shitting on people, one day you will get shat on. It’s real. I’ve lived that.
Martin: How often do you fear for your life?
Wiley: Every day. When you wake up, you don’t know what’s going to happen that day. I can wake up, my phone could ring and someone could tell me their problem and it could send my whole day off over there… what gets put on board your day decides what will happen that day, unless you block it all out, which is quite hard. You’ll be a lonely person, going along.
Martin: Do you feel like you’re being continually being harassed?
Wiley: All the time. My phone rings all day, 24 hours a day. The phone can stop you from focusing what you’re thinking on. Look I’ve had 6 missed called now. The right person can ring me and I miss it, the wrong person can ring me and I answer it. If no one had mobiles the world would be an easier place.
Martin: There’s a tune on your album called “Going Mad?” How come?
Wiley: I felt like I was going mad before. There were times when everything was going wrong and people turn against you, you just sit down and think to yourself ‘why is this happening? Am I mad or something?’
I made that track because I did feel like I was going mad. One minute I’m just me, Richard Kylea from my area. Next minute I’m WILEY! Playing everywhere up and down the country, playing up and down the country. When I go to sleep I can even see the motorway in my head. Everyone going mad in a rave … to walking around my area normally where people aren’t going to care or boost you up… to going back to the place where everyone’s going mad. Now that is “mad.” That sends you mad: in one place you’re like god. In the other you’re normal.
Martin: So how do you deal with it?
Wiley: You don’t deal with it. People forget that you deal with life while you’re living it. People try and set their lives up and plan it. But you can’t, because you’re living it while you’re planning it. Life is happening to you while you’re trying to make life happen for you.
Martin: The intro to “Going Mad” has you talking in a Cockney voice: are we supposed to be laughing?
Wiley: You are. Obviously I come from a West Indian background, growing up my white friends talk like that, so I adapted it from them. “Alriiiight mate” I’m using a bit of their own stylee. It amuses me.
Martin: And what about the posh “hello my names’ Wiley” lyric?
Wiley: Yeah I do that because when you meet someone they say that. It all goes into my brain.
Martin: How many singles have you released and sold?
Wiley: On Wiley Kat recordings I’ve had 24 releases. But I’ve done loads of stuff for other people. All together, with remixes and everything I’ve sold 100,000 records. I think. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am.
My own tunes, I sell out of my own car boot. I’ve sold well over 50,000 out of my car boot. Easily. “Eskimo” did 10,000. Some other did 5-, 6- and 7,000.
Martin: Is that the same sentiment as “I Will Not Lose?”
Wiley: Yeah. Obviously you win and you lose but I make it a habit that I don’t want to lose. I want to win, I’m a winner.
Martin: So where does the “cold” concept come from?
Wiley: There was a point in my life where I used to live with my Nan but she kicked me out. I was about 19. I was going on with all sorts of rubbish. Growing up basically, doing not the right thing. Police were knocking on the door, all that sort of shit. She kicked me out and I had nowhere to stay. I didn’t want to live with my mum. You know when you sit down and you think ‘I don’t like my dad for that reason. And I don’t like my mum for that reason.’ My Nan kicked me out, so obviously she didn’t love me, for that reason. All sorts of feeling sorry for your self reasons. I felt like there was no one else in the world.
So I had this girl, she let me stay in her flat. But it was a shit hole. All her stuff was everywhere, with no carpet. I stayed there three months, but the first night I stayed there was cold I had to turn the heater on it was like a bare room. Can you imagine that? Empty. The toilet is all shitty and horrible. But I was in there. The first night I’m thinking ‘where am I going to sleep?’ I couldn’t sleep. So I lay two towels on the floor and went to sleep.
The next day I thought ‘look how I’m having to live? No!’ So I got weed, started selling it, built myself up, started writing lyrics. But that happening to me made me think ‘no’ that I don’t want to be a loser. I don’t want to be down and out, on the street. I want to make something of me. That’s when I turned cold. That’s’ when I had the idea for all the cold names for the tunes. I really did sit down and think ‘it’s time now, to get cold.’
It’s winter as well, and my Nan kicked me out! My own Nan, who loves me to death. She didn’t kick me out because she didn’t love me, she kicked me out cos I was doing wrong. It’s karma, obviously. I felt on my own, I couldn’t turn to my mum. That point is when I got all that energy into me. I will be like that forever I think. I still feel angry towards people today. I will still not forget that she kicked me out, I love her to death without her me, my dad would not be alive but I won’t forget. Tomorrow I could be rung up and hear ‘Nanny’s not well’. I could think ‘my Nan’s not well,’ and it will hurt me. But I wont go see her, cos that’s not in my person. But I really should be going to see her but it’s still inside me. I never thought she’d kick me out, so when she did it was ‘oh my god.’ And no, my parents aren’t together either, they split when I was little.
I feel like my life has been confusion forever. But I’m here, today, to change it round. Life is confusion. All the things that send people down the hill, they’re the things I want to be protected from. I don’t want to go down the hill. Life is confusion but obviously the less the better.
Martin: So what will your first video be about?
Wiley: It’s about the industry, the scene that we do. Our thing. It’s got all the characters from that. We’ll go to the pressing plant, to the shops, to cutting place and cut dubplates, we go radio … so we can look back in ten years and go ‘oh yeah that was you, ha ha you had a beard.’
Martin: Explain to people outside of the scene, about the rise of the MC in London…
Wiley: All parts of London not just east London there’s fusion coming out of each of them places. And I go to all of them places and do my thing. I could go to south London and pick you ten MCs NO So Solids who are like me. They’ve probably gone through the same struggle, through the same bullshit and want the same money in life. They probably have problems at home, in their family. But they get it all, put it in a fireball and use it as energy. And so I could pick ten people from south, ten from west … it is happening. Dizzee is around the world, probably not even trying to promote this, but he is. Once everyone sees the DVDs about what we are, they will know we are one of him except there’s loads more of us.
Martin: So is Dizzee opening doors?
Wiley: Dizzee definitely opened the door, especially for a real MC. I’m real. Anything you say: I’m real. Anything that’s bad out there: guns, selling drugs, all that. I’ve seen in, I’ve done it but I’m not about to go back to it, because it’s not the way. But it is there. It’s in my face. I can’t really get away from it. You see it on the news. You can’t stop the bad things that are happening but you can use it as energy, hit them back, let people know about it.
Everything Dizzee’s saying he’s not fake, he’s real. He has things to say. He can make you listen, make you wake up, make you fall asleep. He is pushing, he is opening the doors, whether he likes it or not.
Martin: So is “Ground Zero” coming on your album?
Wiley: There are two tracks on the LP that are related but “Ground Zero” is the main one, and will be on Roll Deep’s album. I made the tune on September 11th because I felt like my towers crashed down. A situation with someone caused me pain and since that day I’ve not been happy, but maybe I will when I get my advance. That song is very deep.
My album will be out early next year, called “Treading On Thin Ice.” Tinchy and Roll Deep albums will also be out in the new year.
Words: Martin Clark
Location: Hyperdub HQ, London
Wiley's just been announced for Butterz in Room One on Friday 8th August. Tickets/info.