Interviewing J Spades is an interesting experience. His unique blend of laidback bravado – often punctuated with phrases like “power moves” and “independent hustle” – could easily be dismissed as the usual posturing and braggadocio that has become synonymous with hip hop. But dig a little deeper and you realise that the east London MC is actually offering up an honest appraisal of his music career so far.
Nine million views on Youtube, and a mixtape series clocking up over 200,000 downloads is testament if any is needed that J Spades has made a seismic impression on the UK rap scene.
Speaking to GIITTV mid-studio session, he explains why it was only right his debut single honoured one of the UK’s most influential black music exports.
“Slick Rick was the first British guy to take things global and have everyone understand what we are doing in the UK. He took the game so far that he’s even influenced the great ones like Jay Z and Nas. So it was basically paying homage – bigging up the first UK don to take it global,” he says before adding: “Hopefully I’m the second to take it there with a lot of credibility behind me.”
I prefer not to see his last statement as a cheeky sideswipe at other UK rappers who have found a home in international charts, but rather a nod to his own back catalogue that has made him a fan favourite.
The More Money More Pagans series is currently two mixtapes deep; with the highly anticipated third installment due to drop early this year titled: GRT “Get Rich Together”.
His success, I am told, is due to him building an “authentic buzz from the pavement up” with music he describes as being: “futuristic hip hop with a heavy reggae influence.”
Carving out a niche for himself has seen Spades share stages with the likes of Naughty Boy, French Montana and 2 Chainz and collaborate with Atlanta rapper Wacka Flocka.
Hooking up with Wacka is another example of the “powerful things” Spades and his camp are able to achieve, and is a direct consequence of him having a sound that doesn’t limit him to UK shores.
“I have a global sound. People in the Caribbean are going to take to it; even a man that listens to afro beats or reggaeton is going to pick up on it. So it’s natural that a guy like Waka from a Caribbean background living in Atlanta will pick up on it and fully understand what we are doing when he hears it,” Spades explains.
“A lot of people try and do this [kind of music] but they get it wrong,” he says clearly taking pride in being “a risk taker that lets everyone see this is safe to do after I’ve already done it.”
His creative approach could be owing to the fact music is thoroughly in his DNA. When asked about his father – legendary reggae artist Josey Wales – he jokes: “I think I’m better than him, but that’s the big homie.”
“It was only right that I picked up the baton and started my own legacy,” Spades says, acknowledging he is running a very different gauntlet to the one his father would have all those years ago.
While one-take sessions meant artists of yesteryear were “recording in the studio until they were sweating,” the modern rapper’s struggle lies with monetising fan support. Despite J Spades only just venturing into the world of iTunes, he is confident fans will put their money where their mouths are.
“I didn’t come into the game demanding anything from the fans but a listening ear, and each time I’ve dropped [MMMP] the feedback has been it’s something they would have paid for happily,” says Spades.
With that in mind, Spades says the scene should brace itself for the biggest independent release of the year. While he is staying tightlipped on guest features on MMMP/GRT, lead single Slick Rick sees him collaborate with Tinie Tempah and Professor Green and the track is already generating quite a buzz.
“Big up all my fans,” Spades says as we bring the interview to a close and adds: “without them there is nothing and I promise you nothing but longevity and I will keep elevating the genre.”
Slick Rick is out 23 March 2015 on AATW/Universal