President T: ‘I’m One Of The Best In The Country That’s How I See It’

President T
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‘I’m, one of the best in the country that’s the way I see it.’

Way back in 2003, armed with one of the most distinct flows in Grime, President T immediately stood out on DVD freestyles with (now defunct) Meridian Crew. Sets on pirate radio stations (Axe FM and Rinse) followed, culminating in 2007’s ‘Back Inna Ma Face: Vol.1’

But jail stints stalled progress and Prez found himself playing catch up.

‘When I came out of jail, I realised ‘you’re not as active as you think’. Coming out of jail made me realise people will forget you in a heartbeat.’

As with many artists on the precipice of fame but with none of the financial incentive; life itself tends make fully pursuing music a challenge, where the perception can sometimes be different.

‘Greatest To Ever Touch Down’ and ’T On The Wing’ delivered hard () Grime, almost serving as a pushback to the mainstream’s perceived acceptance of the genre. But Prez never changed his sound. His flow is one of the most distinct in Grime. And while many others commercialised their sound years ago to appeal to a wider audience; artists like JME and in particular members of Meridian refused to and almost doubled down on the sound. But being one of the few bastions of the sound, still comes with a ‘what have you done for me lately?’ mentality; a mentality of which Prez is well aware:

‘When I first came out of jail despite the buzz around me I didn’t have that hunger to record, I was dealing with personal issues. I had people coming up to me every single day saying: ‘Prez, you still doing music?’

‘Stranger Returns’ answers that question. Serving as the final part in a trilogy of projects, cementing his return. 10 years in the making, ‘Stranger Returns’ is the perfect project to take a buzzing Prez to a wider audience.

‘I’ve been working on this project for 11 years. I’ve had lyrics for 10 years lyrics, I was writing for 10 years and man are still catching up to that level. I can either say it’s positive for me or it’s sad.’

This time round the themes are heavier than your standard Grime project. Prez reveals more of himself than ever. Taking the goodwill his persona affords him and using it to reach out with relatable content:

‘On this project I went into depth with a few topics everyone can relate to. I’m tryna talk about things that affect young people and how they can get past it.

Years ago before I went jail, then after I went to jail I was making the same mistakes in life and not learning from them. There was one stage in my life when I thought nothing is ever gonna change but then I did see a light at the end of the tunnel. That’s what I want all of the young people to know; that the things that they’re going through right now, no matter how dark it seems there’s always light.’

And it’s that honesty that fuels the project as well as his fanbase. For years T has balanced his surreal punchlines and hilarious online persona to engage his fanbase. But always leaving them wanting more and an open Prez is what the fans have been craving.

The game has changed since Prez rapped ‘…so broke, can’t even afford a can of Coke’ but Prez is aware and appreciative of the position he’s in. Fame won’t change him, he’ll remain as approachable as he always:

‘I chose this life for myself. A lot of people would die to be in my position, so why would I then reject fans for pictures? Even if I’m in a bad mood I’m more than happy to take pictures. It’s not their fault I’m. Having a bad day.

He’s also completely self aware and doubles down on the positives that have earned him a fanbase. He responds to as many messages as he can and knows one of the biggest reasons he receives the support he does:

‘I think that the fanbase have stayed with me because they know I’m real. I’m not tryna fake it for the camera. I don’t change my personality because I’m very well known I still, face the same problems in life I was facing 10 years ago. They can tell I’m a real down to earth person and I’ve got a lot of character. Everyone knows a guy like prez. there’s a lot of new artists where you can’t get an insight into their personality cos it’s all showbiz 24/7’

Despite Grime’s currently being the mainstream’s darling, Prez is wary of the people and intentions that kind of hype draws:

‘There’s a lot of separation taking place in grime now. A lot of individual stage shows, it’s not like it was before where it was a set or like old school Eskimo Dances. So now there’s room to exploit it. So as much money as they pump into it, they can also strip its credibility. Maybe it’s because they see these grime man aren’t sticking together and they’re just trying to bleed it for money

I just think everyone wants to be a star. I’m trying to bring it back. Credit to jammer, he’s saying the right thing people will probably get onto him but the shoe fits. He’s not saying anything that isn’t true.’

We’ve been here before though and Grime came back stronger than ever. Post watered down pop chart highs some of the most acclaimed music from the scene would terrify the average Daily Mail reader. So he notes it’s not all doom and gloom; as long as the scene comes first:

‘It’s a positive thing that someone can make a grime track and that can hit the charts, but it’s only positive if you’re gonna bring the whole of grime through at the end of it. Half of these artists are trying to climb up the ladder and when they’re not reaching there then everyones like ‘grimes dead’’

Prez also notes that the mainstream resurgence has strengthened the underground as well:

All credit to Sharky Major for Grime Originals, they’ve basically changed the whole game. They’ve brought back the live element. I’ve done shows where there’s a couple thousand capacity and it doesn’t feel half as electric as when I do Grime Originals. The fans that are there are proper British music fans. A lot of these stageshows in the past the people there were just going for a single artist and not the scene itself.’

Bringing us back to the project at hand. ‘Stranger Returns’ is an ode to the scene itself. If you’ve been there from the start or at least some years listening to Grime, you can hear sounds, flows and the authentic Brtishness in the music. But this is far from a throwback. The album honours its roots so as to push the sound forward with simply intense and at the same time relatable music. Prez T delivers the project both his fans and Grime fans have been waiting for. There is a feeling that permeates the project. ‘Joyous’ isn’t exactly a word you’d associate with most Grime projects/artists/stories; but with the 10 year wait, the project seemingly never coming out, the position Grime is in right now, it, as well as many other things is a joyous listen.

‘There’s no one In the grime scene who will be able to match the enhanced level of mccing, performing or making grime on this album. Pure, no holds barred grime.’