Mostack – Starboy

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North London is somewhat of a breeding ground for legendary MC’s; Wretch 32, Chip, Avelino and of course Skepta and JME.

I’ve done 4 videos in the same spot. I’ll always do something that has a reminder of the hood.’

And that’s where we find the 22 year old Mostack.  On the set of his video ‘Ussy Ussy’.

Mostack had been putting out music and building a following for a while but it was when he dropped ‘No buddy’ in late 2014 that things began to change. The video is the perfect introduction; raw, road lyrics; love for mum, less so for dad;  comedic punchlines, over an always dancey instrumental. Then, in less than two years he accumulated a hardcore fanbase, starpower and well over 34 million views. But getting Mo caught up in his accomplishments is a struggle; he is simply down to earth and loves his block.

‘This is my block, this is where I’m from, this where I love.’ When I think video I think do it in the ends this is me. I try be myself in videos and show this is me.’

Cameraman Kaylum Dennis shouts ‘Take 15!’ ‘Take 50!’ Mo shouts back, smiling. He’s prepared to get it right even if it takes all night.  The battle of the high standards rages on; but just mere yards away a block party is kicking off. Parked cars play competitively trunk rattling music; dwindling bottles sit on car rootftops and a friend walks around handing out slices of pizza. No one bats an eyelid as an Audi speeds down the block. Music videos? Viral rappers? Nothing new on Campsbourne estate.

North London’s reputation is a conflicted. On one hand you have the heavily documented tales of the gritty life in Tottenham. On the other, you have former One Directioners and Arsenal players in £10 million mansions in Hampstead. And right in the middle a mere 14 minute drive away, is Hornsey. Certainly more of a middle class area but the benefits of the area don’t reach the estate. It’s the perfect example of how disparate the rich/poor divide can be.

‘…the shit I’m going through right now, I haven’t made it but I’m bigger than what I was.  And I’m still in this stupid shit. It still goes on. People still come around and start trouble. I’m tryna show the world it’s not a game everyone needs to stop this shit.’

Standing in the stark contrast to both Skepta’s rapid fire punchline’s and Wretch’s wordplay heavy reality raps is Mo. On a good day a Mostack song can give you everything from struggle, to gang violence, to suicide. But the darker the lyrics the lighter the instrumental.  Growing up on a strong diet of bashment and 50 Cent gave Mo an ear for melody and catchy songwriting. And this is the first hint of something bigger than just ‘vibes’.

‘I try to rap about sad shit but put it in a party way. So a lot of people can relate to it. Sometimes people listen to songs that they relate to when they’re sad. But it gets them in a sad feeling. I do it in a way you can party to it. It makes you feel good.  A lot people miss what I say, cos of the way I say it, but its some real shit’

On one of his biggest hits ‘Liar Liar’; the song is part braggadocios bars about girls; but the rest of the track is about revenge, paranoid and in one bar:

‘I can only spit the truth man I can’t lie/

Last night I thought of making it my last night/’

 

 

He freestyles his verses, so nothing is written down. And this gives a stream of consciousness feel of his songs; where he quickly jumps from one topic to another. But in truth, anything you hear on a Mostack track is deliberate.

‘First time I found out kids are listening to my music, I instantly switched it up. I used to rap very crud. Before ‘No Buddy’ I used to rap gang shit, violate niggas make diss tracks for other gangs that we got problems with. Then I made ‘No Buddy’ and I was in Finchley. Walked in the bowling place kids are screaming. They’re like 10 years old! ‘I’m like: what you doing listening to my music? I knew I had to switch it up.’

Upcoming rapper Jiggz is also in the new video. He’s soft spoken but precise with his words:

‘Mo’s one of the first people I saw rapping on YouTube. I just happened to be from the same area as well. I saw what be was doing from way back in the day it’s inspirational man.’

 

Mo’s ties to his area, not wanting to lose touch with it and the people who are from it have meaning. Everyone is invested in every shot of the video. They don’t want to ride Mo’s coattails they just want to believe in a way out.

‘I always wanted to do well for the ends and do the family proud. It’s beautiful to see Mo blow up. Because it says ‘rah it actually works’

Despite his humility and lack of willing to get caught up in his own hype; Mo does realise the importance of his position. It starts with being grateful to his fans. When it comes

‘When I’ve had a bad day it shows and I wanna say something. But at the same time I don’t. No matter how angry I am people ask me for a picture and I’ll take it. People are showing love I can’t just say no to them. I see other rappers be like ‘move’ but I can’t do that, my fans are important.’

And these are the same fans that gave him over 30 million views in less than 2 years.  This is unprecedented for the scene. And with this level of attention comes scrutiny. Mo’s recent ‘Block Popping’ video was taken down by YouTube under police advisement as some of the lyrics contained reference to an ongoing case. Something that Mo understands may have to change going forward.

‘…but at the same time I can’t help it, I just rap about my life.’

‘See ‘Block Popping‘? A lot of people rap about the gang shit but I don’t wanna do it in a too raw way. I had to do it in a dancey way. Someone said it sounds like I’m happy about the roads.’

 

 

MoStack: The ‘Happy Road Guy’.

The endless takes continue and Mo has to drop the MoStack persona once more as a neighbour interrupts the shot to (leave the block.) Mo quickly stops everything, is courteous and jovial with the older neighbours. Always making sure to be polite to older members of the community. Following rumblings of mild tension over ‘the noise’; Mo moves like a community caretaker. Strengthening relationships and trying to keep everyone happy. ‘This is where I love’ seems to be more genuine coming from him.

Getting Shot Was A Blessing’ is a key part of Mo’s origin story. This informed his current mindstate of friends; be it in the industry or out:

‘I’m not really an industry nigga like that. I’m very anti social. I can’t bring myself to trust someone in the industry. This game’s fucked! You can’t trust no one. There’s a lot of funny shit, I don’t get into that. I just collab with my friends, 1 or 2 artists.’

Which can only mean frequent collaborators J Hus and Myst of course:

‘If we don’t have a relationship like that, I’ll collab with you once and that’s it. That’s why me and Myst collab all the time…’

 

But the experience gave him tunnel vision as far as music was concerned. And also provided a more positive outlook and his end game.

It’s 12:04, the close friends are on the high road and the shoot has finally wrapped. A second wind comes from the decision to all head to a restaurant a few yards down the road. The hostess senses she’ll have to push two tables together before seeing the 10 deep group pour in.  Stood outside he reveals the final part of his plan:

‘I’m trying to get all this gang shit out of everyone’s system. It’ll be a hard journey but we will get somewhere.’

MoStack certainly isn’t the first person to call for the violence to stop. It comes out almost as a rant. He famously doesn’t put pen to paper when he raps, but he does write letters to his friends in prison. Couple that with being shot and simply knowing there’s more to life than the roads; when he says he wants the violence to stop, it sounds more sincere than anyone before him.
The ‘Happy Road Man’ with a masterplan to brainwash the youth into positivity. It’s hard to believe this is the same rapper who famously told his enemies ‘suck your dad, like your mum done!’ But that’s the point. Mo’s admits to being on the roads, but not in them. And that’s how his message will connect. Because he won’t be talking down to kids, condemning them, he understands because he’s one of them.

But no one can some that up better than close friend Chiddy:

‘He’s an inspiration to the kids. He has a wide ranging fanbase. He makes sure that what the kids follow is positive. He’s young as well and a lot of people know him. It’s a good feeling seeing a person I know move and influence people.

Link Up: What do you want people to take from your music?

MoStack‘You don’t need the roads. You need to be yourself.’