“He’s doing alright so far, still...” offers Saint, one third of emergent young grime crew, YGG. “He’s done the right thing picking the table with the candle and that. Proper intimate”, replies PK, smiling in agreement. The pair who are also joined for this interview by fellow MC AJ Tracey, are watching a couple go through the opening exchanges of a first date in a pub just outside Camden Town tube station. While I fumble with zips and clumsily pull my laptop out of my bag and start flicking through tabs, prepping my questions, the trio’s observational humour comes thick and fast, settling the mood.
For anyone unfamiliar with YGG, (which is short for You Get Grime) - and more generally, unaware of the emergence of a raft of new grime MCs throughout last year - they are a crew formed of three members; Saint, PK and Lyrical Strally, the latter of whom unfortunately couldn’t make it to the interview. They met at school as teenagers and started to emcee after Saint had written a few bars, which naturally he had swapped with PK, who himself had written some of his own. “I remember writing a bar at home one day and I came into school, spoke to PK about it and he said, ‘yeah I’ve got a bar too’”, Saint explains with a quiet, reflective demeanour. “We decided to try and spray at a studio space we had down in Kilburn and that was it. There was a few of us then, a little collective at the time, and we just thought, ‘yeah! Bang!’ We needed a name and YGG just stuck for us.”
Having been recording as a collective since 2010, Saint and PK, who are now both 21, haven’t endured the easiest come-up by any account. Although as a trio, they share a natural, relatable energy and obvious friendship - the type that could only have been forged in the school playground - they, like many young grime artists, found it difficult to be heard. “Back in the day, we didn’t know how to get on the radio”, explains PK, leaning over the table as if to really get his message across. “We thought it was about trying to record that one single that’d break us, but you pick things up on the way. Now that radio is accessible, younger MCs are going all the time and I think we’ve reminded some of the older dons how important it can be.”
Indeed, internet radio in particular was one of the big success stories of 2015 - especially with regards to grime music - and YGG are undoubtedly products of that breakthrough. Through the help of stations like Radar Radio, who have become an unofficial hub for the music and the culture of London - very much replicating the role Rinse played in the late ‘90s and early’ 00s, young MCs have discovered a space to perform but more importantly, practice. “People just started to hear us on different stations a lot last year and identified us as MCs they liked”, reckons Saint. Do they think that was a major part of their success last year? I ask. “Yeah, definitely. It really was just the radio aspect.”
The beauty of the radio is that people are always listening in their own time. Before long, YGG were guesting on more radio shows than they could keep up with and making names for themselves at grime’s legendary stage show event (and tested proving ground), Eskimo Dance - a performing space that PK has become revered for dominating with his explosive, crackerjack flow. This hype quickly translated in a demand for new material and debut single, ‘Okay’, was released at the back end of 2015, coinciding with a series of guest features on Logan Sama’s inaugural FABRICLIVE CD. “That whole process was just a natural thing”, says PK. “We wrote the track without intending it to be a single, but realised it banged when it all came together. It was exactly the same with Logan’s thing too. He asked us and we just went with it. We were happy to be involved.”
It’s then we have a little break while I finish up my latest batch of notes, with Saint and PK sat either side of AJ Tracey, who YGG will be joining on Faze Miyake’s Rinse FM show later that night. “Just out of interest, what does grime mean to you both?” I ask. “What does it mean to be a grime artist in 2016?” Without hesitation, PK leans forward, again… “It’s actually about how you live. Everything around you is secretly grime; the lifestyle, how we talk, how we dress, what we do. Grime is everywhere. Even though there were people doing this before us, we feel like the kings of it right now. It’s a mad feeling.”
Young kings or not, I thought the prospect of making their debut at fabric might be a daunting one, but as with every question I’ve thrown their way so far, Saint and PK seem totally unfazed. “I don’t know how I’m gonna take it all in yet”, explains PK, “but I have a feeling it’s gonna be crazy, especially with all the mandem there. Last year we felt like we made it somewhere, so I think playing at fabric is just going to cement that for us.”
Going forward, they both harbour ambitions to play the ‘biggest’ events - a discussion between themselves brings up Red Bull Culture Clash, where online debate about whether an all-star grime crew could come together has been rife - although as Saint points out, “I still want to take it naturally like we did last year and see where we go.”
Then as I start to type out my final batch of notes as I look up, Saint, PK and AJ are already getting up to leave. Where you off to next? I ask. “We’re on Rinse in a bit with Faze, innit”, they collectively reply, “so we’ve gotta get moving”. And whilst YGG might well be new to all the opportunities that are coming their way, they certainly seem braced and ready to take on each and every one of them.