You wouldn’t be wrong if you said that Grime is a London ting. The thing with something as powerful as Grime culture is that it cannot be contained. Over the years it has taken the nation by storm and cities across the country have been forging their own version of the scene since its inception.
In South Yorkshire, Coco was in the city of Sheffield making a name for himself and then he linked up with fellow Sheffield native BBC DJ and producer Toddla T. Leading to new music that’s been received from the clubs to the radio, they’ve also recently filmed a documentary about their journey to Jamaica where Coco shot his video with Jamaican artist, Protoje.
I had a chance to speak to Coco about shooting the video for his new single ‘Ova Here’, his hometown and views on Grime in the UK.
Last year, I went to Jamaica with my uncles and it was enlightening. How did you feel going to Jamaica and seeing your family?
Do you know it is mad because even though its classed as home, it didn’t feel like home at the same time. I felt like a foreigner because I was born in England. But that’s my roots. I’m not going to lie, I felt nervous. I didn’t know how they were going to act with me turning on their door step saying I’m family. They may take it as I’m being rude and invading their privacy but you know what, they were very welcoming and happy to see me.
I felt that to. When I went, they were intrigued about me and what I had to say. They don’t see many people from the UK that they have a chance to speak to
Yeah, it’s refreshing isn’t it. Kinda like when US artists come over and we look at them differently.
Did you have the hometown support in Sheffield from the beginning or did it only come about when you released songs like Big Bou Yah?
I’ve always had a fan base in Sheffield and held a buzz in my home town. More so in the beginning. When things started to cool down and the whole scene in Sheffield wasn’t what it used to be, it was hard because people grow up and the fans that I had when I was younger went off to other music. Them times, it was a bit long for man. I’ve always made music but I didn’t know where I was going. Then I came to London and met Toddla T. It was mad. It took a turn for the better and everything’s started to change.
Toddla T is nang. He‘s always been championing the scene with his radio show, hosting freestyles and making remixes. How instrumental was he in your trip to Jamaica.
100%. He was out there with 1Xtra and made the suggestion that we should shoot the video out there. Originally, we were going to do shots in the UK and shots in JA but we settled on the whole video being shot in JA. When it all came to pass I was pleasantly shocked.
I always like when artists go the extra mile and travel for videos especially when the featured artist comes from somewhere else. How was shooting the video in Protoje’s world?
It’s good to step out of your element. Just being in that environment with Protoje and being welcomed by the people was great. They don’t know who I am. Protoje knows a bit about me as we did the track together but other people that embraced me was a great feeling. Toddla is known out there and they see me working with him and they respect it. Being in that setting is different, but a good different.
I often find myself going to on a Twitter rant, pleading with artists about documenting their musical journey. Speaking as a photographer, having media alongside the music is something that will bring more people to the music.
Jamaica was the first time I did something like this because it was a big deal for me and my team. Snapchat and Instagram is good for fan interaction. As artists, sometime we can just focus on the music. But the supporters actually care about us,. They want to know wha gwarn. Making videos likes this is a great tool to bring something else to the fans and is also great to look back on as an artist. Calling my grandad while I was in Jamaica was a personal thing. I’ve had people reach out to me about based on that scene. What we wanted to show in that documentary was for people to see me outside of the music. Even though we were there because of the music, the film showed another side of me being me. It also means something to my mum and my family. I’m making history. Going back to Jamaica, where my family is from. I love that music is what brought me there. The team did an amazing job.
I like the link between the different artists. Like the remix of Big N Serious with AJ Tracey and Nadia Rose. People may see it as just a remix. But it’s not, it’s a national remix. A Sheffield artist linking up with London artists.
That remix was great to make. Making the video was fun. Nadia was great on the track and AJ is a guaranteed murkers.
If you had to make a remix with another Jamaican artist and an MC from the Grime world, who would it be?
I would love to work with Popcaan and from the UK, it would be Mist from Birmingham. His EP is hard. It would be great to link up and make some god music. I think the song I could make with those artists would be something different. There’s something in the water in Birmingham. Artists like Mist and Dapz and bringing something good to the game.
I’ve always tried to keep my ears open for new artist but it seems I only hear about MCs when they get to a certain level. You’re the only guy I know from Sheffield.
When I first started music, it was a lot more active than what it is now, from my perspective anyway. But with MCs like Kannan, KDot, LDizz and others from Sheffield have been making music from the city and are on their way to making themselves known nationally. At the beginning of last year, I was focusing on improving my skills. I needed to elevate myself and get to a certain level.
You can’t help people if you can’t help yourself. One day you will be at a level where you’d have an influence and your recommendation could start something for an artist from your ends.
Now, I can see that people are actively wanting to hear music from Sheffield more. Hopefully my music has brought some attention the city. That’s always a good thing. London is the mecca of Grime. The birthplace. That will never change. But now, Grime is being recognised more nationally.
With Grime being a buzzword now, how do you feel about the spotlight that the industry now has on artist. Do you feel that it helps their progression or is detrimental?
I don’t think it’s detrimental because there is a potential for great things. With Skepta winning the Mercury awards, it shows we have control. With corporations looking at us now, they have to respect the fact that certain people have built this from the ground up. The fact they want to work with us now means that we need to keep some control because that’s how we got the attention in the first place.
I came by your music initially on BBC 1Xtra. Grime is a culture that was forged in the underground but with its increasing presence in the mainstream, would you still feel at home in a dark radio set.
I always got bars. I’m always ready. Working with Toddla and him being a representative of the BBC, I’ve learned to adjust to mainstream radio with regards to profanity. But if Risky popped up with his camera and asked me to spray, I’ve got bars fam. I’ve got bars. That’s how I started. We always need to keep things authentic and remember what Grime actually is. Personally, you can never get to big to shell a radio set in Grime. Wiley and Skepta still do radio sets. When you’ve got the biggest rapper in the world, Drake, calling for Rooney (Risky Roadz) to take a picture with him, it shows that another artists from across the pond genuinely cares about the sound and the foundation of Grime. It’s important.
You have singles on the radio that are getting spins regularly. Albums in Grime may not always be a focus for some artists. Especially when the music that they are making is doing well for them. The incentive for albums are not always apparent.
Personally speaking. making an album is not a priority right now. I mean, it will happen. I’m making enough music to fill an album but you can’t just put random songs together. For me, when you release an album, it’s hard for all the songs to get attention. Unless you’re a big artist. I will eventually get to a point where I’m big enough to drop an album and it will bang. Right now though, I just want to continue making good music.
The music business has shifted and artists like Coco are now able to make singles in pursuit of a successful musical career. Just look at veterans like D Double E. It’s great that he realises that he still has a way to go and being honest with yourself in the music business, not having an inflated ego, will definitely help you to be more strategic in the next moves. Coco is on his way to becoming a reputable Grime artist. Cleverly crafting songs that get picked up by radio but at the same time, ever ready to spray bars on a instrumental.