#EXCLUSIVE Ears Talks New Music And Grime History And More!

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“Ear ’em, scare ’em, wear ’em, tear em, I’ve got the flows that are too grimey.” If you don’t know these bars, they are that of Ears – an MC rooted in Grime’s inception who had a highly memorable trademark with a real presence over tracks. His moves to date speaks for itself. A freestyle on Wiley MBE’s Eskiboy Tunnel Vision Vol 4, back when Wiley was putting in core work to achieve his current title of Godfather of Grime. Additionals include an enlistment to Neckle Camp – a Grime crew started by Jammer that led to a mixtape with incredible features alongside Roll Deep, and Slew Dem. That’s not all though, as besides this, Ears is part of the MC’s featured on Lord Of The Mics – the Grime clash series and previous cornerstone for catching highly favoured MC’s. Later, the East London MC jumped on a track that became very special in the scope of urban UK music – [Adidas] Hoodie Mizz Beats Remix by Lady Sovereign ft. Skepta, JME, Jammer & Baby Blue.

These success’ aren’t easily attained – even during the rise of a genre. Ears’ flow is one of the best in Grime, but upon meeting me, he mentions something I know to be true. “There are a lot of people that don’t know who I am.” Digging not only into his personal archive of music, but Grime archives, it becomes clear that these are tightly intertwined. As one of the performers in the upcoming Easter Special Grime Originals event, Ears undoubtedly belongs to this category, whether current listeners of the genre aware or not. Sometimes Grime MC’s say things that become part of the culture. When Ghetts (formerly Ghetto), asserted “do your research”, the context may have been different, but its relevance is at pure peak when we discuss Grime as it continues to shift. Specifically, with Ears, this is apt. He sits with me to discuss what he’s been up to, starting with personal highlights.

Ears: A few. Working with Wiley was definitely a highlight. JME, Jammer, Skepta – these are people that are well respected and established, but also good artists. Also, meeting new people and producers all over the world.  Meeting Diplo and A-Trak, getting to pick their brains. Performing and touring in the States was pretty cool, and Australia in 2009. This was more EDM and Dance music with The Count & Sinden. Mz Bratt and Lady NY were there too.

Touching on how you got into the game, you’re from Hackney. Was it residing here that established your link with Jammer?

Ears: For sure. Getting about at every youth club and house party, grabbing the mic every time I went there. I went to a friend’s house party and heard N.A.S.T.Y Crew were gonna be there and got super gassed. Jammer was on the decks. Sharky Major and Kano turned up, started spitting and rocked the whole party. They’re hard acts to follow, but I grabbed it and made an impression to the point where Jammer asked who is this kid, I need to work with him.

How old were you during  this time?

Ears: 15-16yrs old

So Neckle Camp eventually formed. Tell me how that came about.

Ears: It just happened naturally. Jammer was getting more into spitting – he was a DJ originally. Hanging around myself, JME, Skepta, we were writing bars, he started writing too. After a while, he wanted to formulate a crew. It consisted of me, Jammer, Knuckles. Later on Gully Rainjah, and C Gritz was involved too [as well as Blacks.] Angry was the official producer. It was all organic and fun.

What were the pros and cons of being part of a collective, versus a solo artist?

Ears: One pro was because there were other members to fill in spaces on tracks, there was less writing to do. But there were a lot of personalities. At the same time, friendly competition made sure you were on par with your pen game.

You had the Lord Of The Mics clash against Tinchy Stryder. Now you can see how Grime has changed up to the present day, what do you think of the scene? It’s a staple of Grime’s beginnings, but is it necessary?

Ears: I think it is necessary. Now with social media, people are a lot more sensitive. Artists don’t really wanna get into it; they feel it might affect their craft. There’s only 2 outcomes – win, or lose. There are infamous ones like Wiley vs Kano where people don’t know who really won but it was just sick, but that’s very rare. There’d be an uproar now more than ever, but it was a staple in the beginning. It was what we built it upon. If you were on a set, you didn’t even wanna take the mic after a certain MC because they might say something and it may look like it was directed towards you. Then you’d have to say something after. So on radio, you had to be on point. There could have been a clash, unannounced. Most of the time it was friendly. It hasn’t really translated to today’s Grime.

So if an MC sent for you *now*, would you respond?

Ears: The artist in me would love to, but it depends on who it is. Even in terms of a natural, everyday altercation, I don’t care. So it’s all to do with my personality. If it’s something uncalled for and needs addressing, I definitely would, but I don’t think there’s many people that would want to.

Got you. So regarding Neckle Camp, what’s your relationship with them now?

Ears: Me and Jammer still speak. We were in the studio not too long ago – he’s on a track from one of my latest projects that’ll be out soon. I see C Gritz from time to time – I’ve been in the studio with him too. That’s about it.

What about with the artists on the Straight Necklin mixtape?

Ears: I still keep in touch with a few people that were involved. D Double E – he’ll be working with me on my latest project. I see Skepta in passing. I don’t see Tinchy much but the last time I did was at Fabric. He was a surprise guest with Ruff Sqwad – it was exciting to see them altogether. Wiley’s meant to be featuring on one of my tracks. When I wrote it, I thought he’d complement it so well. He’s always been a mentor; you can always reach out to him and he’ll give you words of wisdom or encouragement. Jammer taught me a lot about the game. I hold him in high regard for what he’s done for me and my career.

That’s understandable. Is there anyone popping currently that you’d like on a feature?

Ears: I usually go off of a track I’m working on – if it sounds like it needs *that* person. I don’t like to do many collaborations as I’m on an ascent and to get there, I don’t want a handout. I don’t know if I’m underrated, but not enough people know my ability so I’d like to display that before grabbing others. I like AJ Tracey. I think he’s very grimey. His cadences, his style –  he’s very 140bpm Grime. Stormzy is super dope. Ms Banks – dope. Nadia Rose is pretty cool too, and AlunaGeorge.

All very talented. Moving on a bit, you have a record label (Rollin G Entertainment) with Flamin (producer/MC), who was in Scare Dem Crew. 

Ears: Yeah, the acronym is RG. It stands for Reaching Goals/Rhythm & Grime/Relentless Grind. In the next 10-15yrs, we want to be the staple home for anyone that’s creative. Whether that’s a graphic designer, or even a YouTube personality. If you have a goal and you feel it’s unattainable, we’re here to show you that it is.

More of a creative hub than a record label?

Ears: Exactly. At the moment it’s a record label – we’re pushing for it to become a creative hub. We have film editors and photographers working with us (Saga Berlin.) Some of them are in Sweden [Max Perkele, grime artist who has a track with Ears and Jammer on When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong]. It’s not just about the music.

Grime *is* branching out these days. I’ve even seen Japanese Grime.

Ears: For sure. People are taking it in and loving it just as much as we do. It’s at the state where Hip Hop was at before it got to ridiculous heights. If you go to a Grime event in Copenhagen, they will come in the same attire and look like Grime kids from London. They feel it.

When did you realise perception of Grime had shifted?

Ears: When you have conversations, and people name drop artists to say they know of them, that’s when you think hold on a second, this wasn’t cool. You never would have turned up to Palace Pavilion, Sidewinder etc. You realise then it’s being accepted in the mainstream. All this does is push us forward, ensuring the masses know it.

Regarding your content, bars like “it’s all bless innit, as long you don’t get fresh innit” – when did you first drop this and what was the reaction?

Ears: I don’t remember when I first dropped them to be honest, but it was a good reaction. Bars like that, I don’t like them. Those are sugarcoated, but people think it’s sick and I appreciate it.

Do you have a personal favourite track?

Ears: I haven’t made it yet.

Good answer, I like the way you reversed that.

Ears: -Laughs- It’s true.

So going into your bodies of work: Straight Necklin, Neckle Camp (2006) ; Breath Of Fresh Ears (2007) ; Million Ears (2008) ; Back To The Future Vol 1 (2017). I noticed all of these are substantial in size, so you clearly have no problem creating.

Ears: No, but these days, people’s attention spans are lower. The new projects will have less content so it can be digested better.

Which project do you feel had the most impact?

Ears: Breath Of Fresh Ears. Looking back, I think it was quite dope. People tell me Million Ears is better

You have a feature with Chip[munk] on there – Where U At?

Ears: Yeah, Chip is another person that’s inspiring for sure.

Re. Back To The Future Vol 1, I can hear EDM on there. A bit of R&B, some Dance. Quite an experimental mixtape. What’s the story behind this project?

Ears: People put you in a box when you’re an artist. Artists shouldn’t be put in a box – they make *art*. I just wanted to show I do different music, and I like to do it. There was a time I was making EDM when nobody knew what it was. I’d go to the studio and people would laugh. Cool, safe – I know people will catch on later. You may not like it now, but you’ll listen back and appreciate it. There will be a Back To The Future Vol 2. It’s more current. The mixes are being finalised so hopefully by April it’ll drop. Then there’s Vol 3, which will be super grimey. An evolution of creating the Rollin G sound.

Your upcoming track, 10/Ten will be on Back To The Future Vol 2?

Ears: Yeah. It’s Grime-old school Garage blended

Nice. Who are you feeling in terms of producers?

Ears: I’d love to work with TroyBoi. Rapid (Ruff Sqwad) is a great producer and another favourite. I like what The HeavyTrackerz are doing.

You’ve worked with the HeavyTrackerz before I see.

Ears: I have [on Million Ears.] We’ve been talking about making something happen this year

I reckon you’d sound good over a Labrinth production, or Teeza.

Ears: Labrinth is good, Teeza’s also cool. Me and Teeza have performed together at a few shows. That probably will happen at some stage. DaVinChe as well – a dope producer. Mizz Beats is amazing – we’re going to work.

You worked with Teddy Music on the Get Like This Remix ft. Mercston and Capo Lee.

Ears: That was for his project. Teddy’s got a sick sound. It takes many years to get to that. Another person that’s inspiring. I don’t think people understand how long it takes to find your own sound as a producer

He’s definitely rated. So the Grime Originals event on 29 March 2018 is coming up. How are you feeling?

Ears: I’m excited. I listened to Sharky Major and N.A.S.T.Y Crew on radio growing up. He’s someone I hold highly. What he’s doing is not only being received well, but there’s a market for it. You may not notice it as we’re in London, but when you go outside of it, it’s like they need it more than we do. It’s gonna be lit.

For sure. Based on what you’ve said so far, you’ve definitely been working, but did you go away?

Ears: Kind of. I got into a position where I did Grime day in, day out, for years but I thought, I like music – why can I not just make music? I was introduced to different producers and DJ’s by traveling through Grime, coming across names like Diplo. I thought I like this – I wanna try and do this. At that time, there were no rappers in Grime touching those kind of beats. I was playing around. That led me to touring for a year and a half, then for 6 months. I was experimenting with my craft and what it was I had to say as an artist in light of who I was becoming as a young man. I sort of shied away from doing what people expected me to do because I was having too much fun learning. In people’s eyes here, I was away, but others were able to indulge in my creations.

A lot of artists have suffered the view of so-called selling out, they’ve left etc, but I regard it as growth and depth.

Ears: Yeah, every artist that gets to a certain level/is known for something gets put into a box by their core audience. They want you to be a one trick pony because they’re comfortable with that, but what about me?

So what’s our agenda now? You’ve mentioned Rollin G Entertainment.

Ears: Just to push that and be respected as an artist. I want to push the culture even further. There’s so much that’s left untouched. You’ll never see an artist out of Grime do the things that I’m going to do. Grime will be accepted in a whole new way. I’m gonna continue to pour love into my message and hope that the right ears are touched by it

I see what you did there.

Ears: -Laughs- It was unintentional, but you know, I hope the right people gravitate towards me. For kids that came up in the same way that I did, I want to show that there’s much more than being able to pic up a mic. I’m preaching a message that connects us all. That’s why Rollin G is set up this way.

Ears’ Rollin G movement definitely sounds well-rounded – just like the artist himself, and he has his path set in how he intends to approach not just Grime, but his stamp on UK music. To be a timeless artist, it is imperative to have fresh ideas and remain forward thinking. The young MC we knew to take the spotlight and spin MC’s with a light-hearted touch has matured, still giving us hot flows, and now feeding back to the culture. Awaiting the release of his music video, Ten/10, as well as a 10 track project to come, the work ethic has clearly always been there. The talent, unaltered. Even Grime’s greatest giant shook things up a bit, so why sleep on Ears? Word to Jammer – “he’s still better than most of them.”