While everything MoStack does appears to be done with such ease and character, the reality is that for a young artist, being thrown into the “limelight” isn’t an easy thing and can come with its own challenges. Over the past few years, MoStack has been popping up all over the UK scene from his own bangers “No Buddy” and “Fuck This Generation” to teaming up with the likes of Tinie Tempah on “We Don’t Play No Games”, J Spades on “Nobody” and Sneakbo on “Right Now”. But while he has a number of tracks online and a debut mixtape under his belt, how much do we really know about MoStack? The London rapper rarely conducts interviews and his usual attire of hoodies, hats and sunglasses can feel like a barrier at times.
As he puts it, he is antisocial and “coming from the roads” meant that he was constantly on edge when not knowing peoples’ motives for approaching him. However, over time and with positive experiences, his doubts have been relieved and he is becoming better at it. For me, this revelation puts his initial reluctance to speak to me into perspective, and after spending the morning getting his photos taken, we eventually post up and get to talking with the man himself.
At 22 years old, MoStack has been on the rise since he dropped his breakthrough track ‘No Buddy’ via Link Up TV in 2014. He was immediately noticed thanks to his infectious flow and delivery, blended with sing-along ad-libs and melodies. By early 2015, he was popping up with unforgettable freestyles on SBTV, Fire In The Booth and GRM Daily and building his reputation as one of the most unique artists the UK urban scene had to offer. Coming from Hornsey, North London, I ask how much his local area and environment impacts his musical style and it’s no surprise that it has not only influenced him, but is his main source of inspiration; “My area is the reason why I make music, it’s my main influence. From things that happened and things that went down to the lifestyle I live – it’s Hornsey”.
His debut mixtape ‘Gangster With Banter’ dropped earlier this year and lasting 21 tracks, was a large project of music for a first effort. ‘GWB’ served as a perfect introduction to MoStack as he displayed his unique character,“Serious with a funny side”. While talking about his relationships and street life, he does it all with his playful twist and when listening, it feels that every track is worthy of its place on the tape. Tracks like ‘F*ck Your Man’ focus on MoStack’s attempt to approach a woman he likes, only to find out that she is in a relationship. The track is more light-hearted than the title first suggests as MoStack amusingly covers all the possible reasons as to why she does not want him.
I wasn’t really about the money thing. I just wanted to get people to listen and people from the hood where I’m from don’t pay for music.
Then there are also more heartfelt tracks such as ‘Getting Shot Was A Blessing’, which focuses on the story of an incident that made MoStack’s life change forever. The smooth acoustics complement the heartfelt lyrics that allow the listeners to understand that sometimes bad situations can become blessings in disguise. Even when releasing the project, Mo kept his audience at the front of his mind; “I wasn’t really about the money thing. I just wanted to get people to listen and people from the hood where I’m from don’t pay for music. So giving it away for free meant they could listen and get the music out there.”
Part of MoStack’s appeal is his relatability and genuine portrayal of character through his music, he believes that he has something different to offer listeners, “I’m just a weirdo! I think I’m different to these other guys” and he does so with confidence. Coming from a tough environment has moulded his approach to music, his banter ranges into difficult topics such as police brutality and gang violence. But as he puts his words over afro beat infused instrumentals, he brings a party vibe to his music. This is a hard line to balance but MoStack does so with ease, balancing hard to approach subjects with genuine feel good music. On ‘No Buddy’, he talks about how his success in music has led to haters and ‘frenemies’ but turns it into a “party anthem” in Mo’s own words. His latest track ‘Liar Liar’ even touches on Mo’s personal struggles and his contemplation of suicide; “With ‘Liar Liar’, I say ‘I only spit the truth man I can’t lie, last night, I thought of making it my last night. Blow my head off, but fuck that, I’m alive and feel better’. So I’m rapping about some real shit but people don’t notice the pain behind it. I just want people to take it in.”
You only live once – forget the gang and shooting shit – it’s long.”
Talking on such subjects is no easy feat but I believe Mo does so in order to help others. Over the past two years, he has evolved as an artist, understanding that music has a larger reach than him and his immediate circle. When he first started, he admitted that he would rap about crazy things that happened in his area whereas he now handles it differently, looking to keep the roads and music separately. This was a bold move and reflects Mo’s desire to encourage others to not to follow his path; “I don’t wanna motivate people to do stupid things. You only live once – forget the gang and shooting shit – it’s long.”
Last year marked a momentous time in MoStack’s journey when he was left out of the 2015 MOBO Award nominations. Initially shocked and upset, which he expressed in a string of tweets, the disappointment gave MoStack time to reflect on his acheivements and what he needed to do next; “At the time, I was bare upset that I didn’t get the nomination but then I realised why I didn’t get one. Even though I wanted one, I didn’t deserve one”. His understanding of the situation led to Mo utilising his emotions and releasing ‘Letter To The Mobos’, where he opened up to his fans – “I didn’t even get a nominee. But I don’t blame the MOBOs, it’s because of me!”. The track also saw Mo talking about where he had come from to meetings with Universal as well showing his humility in realising what else he needed to do to succeed.
Music is my life, my dream, my way out the endz. It’s my everything and has been from the very beginning
This year saw the result of his hard work pay off when he was announced as a nominee for Best Newcomer at the 2016 MOBO Awards alongside the likes of Avelino, Nadia Rose and AJ Tracey. During our conversation, it’s clear that MoStack is his biggest critic and the day before the nominations were announced, Mo took to Twitter and said “You lot know damn well I ain’t getting nominated for a MOBO this year lol”. This is partly due to his track ‘Liar Liar’ recently being released and not knowing if the buzz would have been picked up by MOBO’s radar in time. But get nominated he did, and after 12 months, the recognition is certainly well deserved. After admitting that the experience left him both shocked and happy, the overwhelming emotion was pride as he announced his nomination to his mother and sister in a video shared via social media. “Getting the nomination was the proudest moment for me so far. To see my mum and sister so happy, it’s emotional.”
After bookending a fantastic 12 months with the release of his mixtape, over 11 million combined YouTube views and his aforementioned MOBO nomination, what is next for MoStack? Well over the past few months, he has dropped a number of videos via his Instagram with snippets of new tracks, new releases and even a remix of ‘Liar Liar’ featuring regular collaborator J Hus. Earlier on in our conversation, Mo had mentioned a “new project” so I looked to get clarification on what we could expect. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a name or a release date yet and while he doesn’t think there will be any features (‘GWB’ boasted 8 features), he teased the possibility of a “special feature”. While this could be anyone, MoStack counts the likes of Stormzy and Tinie Tempah as his fans so the mystery thickens on what this could be. As time goes on, new details are sure to emerge and a follow up to ‘Gangster With Banter’ will surely be well received by fans and critics alike. Mo has a close relationship with his fans and his reluctance to drop information, whether voluntary or not, elevates the projects’ prestige and only builds anticipation. This idea of mystique is what makes Mo unique, picking and choosing his interviews carefully and keeping his public image fairly under wraps.
What about the long term goals? “In 10 years time, I want to be in a mansion with a big booty girl. I’ll be living life, mum will be living life and my family will be living life”. For me, this answer encapsulates Mo’s personality perfectly. He has the ambition and desire to succeed but looks at things from a humorous standpoint – injecting his own character into his choices. He also sees his journey as one with his families and as he said at the beginning, music is his way out. One thing for sure is that there is a lot more to come from MoStack and in his own words;
“This is just the beginning!”
Voting is still open for the 2016 Mobo Awards, pick your favourite here for Best Newcomer.