Radio BurgerFuel

Interview: Wiley

Posted by Lee Densem

An honour and a privilege, to welcome the godfather of Grime

I’m a BurgerFuel fan, I never could have guessed that I would have ever been in here. I didn’t know they had a radio. It’s amazing, I love these burgers.

How has it been so far

Oh, amazing, I’ve been to Australia, I’ve been to South Africa. In fact, this job has taken me everywhere on the planet, places that I wouldn’t have gone. So, it’s amazing for me to come and see, it’s like there’s America…. I understand more now. When I was in school, I was doing geography and history and I never had a clue. Now, I could pass a history and geography exam with my eyes closed, just from travelling. 

It’s the best way to experience it right?

It is, that’s the good thing. That’s why I appreciate New Zealand, I usually appreciate the one that’s not so commercial, more than the one that’s commercial. And because I hadn’t been here before I didn’t’ understand. For me, if I felt like I could live in Australia, New Zealand would be better, because Australia is too busy. Eventually I’d be like, oh, like I left London.

…Bar featuring Scratchy and D Double E. I like this song; this song came together because I’m from that generation. Grime originals OK. Obviously, there’s new kids, we have Stormzy, AJ Tracey, we have loads of new people. But, what everybody does is in the music industry is they build them selves into something, then whoever’s hot, you work with them. It’s how you stay hot. I don’t do that, because what I’ve realised is that means you’re staying hot because of them, not cause of you. So, I stay well away from that. The thing with me is that I would of usually - my manger would have said – oh we need to get blah blah, we need to get Santan Dave &J Hus. But we don’t need to get them because I’m not from their day or time. I can work with them, but there are people who are immediately from my time, automatically and when I look around they’re there. But if my manager was with me, he’d have me go for someone else, not Scratchy or D Double E. So, I’m awake, that was the good thing about this, getting them on it, I’m gonna get on this tune and be Wiley, but I’m gonna get two people from my day who I care about, as opposed to who this generation who are meant to care about. And I’m really happy about that, because usually I would’ve got swindled into getting Stormzy or Lady Leshurr cause they’re popular. But I don’t want to work with you because you’re popular, I wanna work with you because you’re good. Because your sales are good and you’re popping, that means I’m breading and using what you’ve got. I don’t wanna do that. So that’s why I’m glad about this track. Video drops soon too!

 Radio BurgerFuel, in NZ and Australia, first headlining tour down here – The Godfather Tour. Let’s have a chat about that album. Godfather 1 been out for about a year. You’d said that you’d never made an classic album before.

Well I felt like I never because in England the fans tell you what’s up. And from my time, the first classic album in our scene was Boy IN The corner, Dizzee Rascal. And probably the next classic one was Kano Home Sweet Home. So, there isn’t many classics in Grime, in terms of a full project, right. But what I’ve learned is if I put my 17 years against their work I’m killin’ them. Because I’ve gone from there to the end of the earth’s core, back, died, lived, I’ve done everything that a human could possibly try to do to stay afloat in that 17 years. So, whilst I felt like I don’t have a classic, I feel like I’ve got a beast – 17 years of music that means more to me than what that means to them. Even though Boy IN Da Corner and Home Sweet Home is a staple, they’re not still sitting there listening to that, they’re moving on with their lives. So I feel like that was their journey. I feel like my journey is totally different. Sometimes I listen to freestyles of myself and think “I killed that shit”. I feel like that classic album wasn’t for me to have. I feel like the classic 17 years of crazy going to the studio every year and killing yourself just to stay afloat, that means more to me I think.

And listening through Godfather 1, it sounds like there’s some traces of garage and junk, there’s even violence, but, is that you just giving a nod to where it all started from?

Yes, I had to because you can’t lie after you’ve lived 17 years and someone was watching you. So on that album was me trying be as honest and be Wiley as possible from the beginning, so not the guy who done Rolex, not the guy who had done Heatwave, not the guy who went number one and got paid, not that guy, because that wasn’t me, that was me trying to stay afloat in a climate of when the music wasn’t grime, like you know, (Lee: looking after your family) yeah that was basically it, but I feel like had I not done that stuff I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to do this stuff. So Godfather 1 for me was me going back to the drawing board and looking at my scene and saying you know what you’ve given me this Godfather title, I didn’t want it cause it seems like grandad title but I’ve got the age and the time in my life where I actually have to accept it like I’m not gonna fight it anymore, because every man wants to be the king, forever, nobody wants to be the godfather or the sired guy or the one who helps everyone get on, no one wants to be like that, everyone wants to be the guy, the Stormzy or the Skepta, but with age you learn and I’ve got a family, I’ve got three kids so I understand and I’m like oh yeah shit, he ain’t got no kids, so he is the young man, or not young but he’s the new guy, I’ve lived and I’m experienced, I know a lot of shit, I don’t tell everyone but I know a lot of shit so therefore it’s my duty to actually accept that Godfather title and teach, you know what I mean but it’s like I had a battle with it I didn’t want to be the godfather or grandad or grime but then the time came where my age and my life and what I’ve experienced and how much I’ve lived automatically makes me that.

Now I have been reading your book over summer and I must say it’s got to be one of the more realer auto- biographies that are out there.

Haha it’s weird, they we’re talking me, because, I like sports and so all my favourite sports guys I’ve read their books and like whatever book I read of who I like, Bob Marley etc obviously they are writing a book so they explain it in a star English way which is cool but with my book I just wanted it to be on point and honest and not talk myself up because sometimes people in those books would big up their chest and make themselves look too good, I don’t want to look good I want to look how you’re meant to look so if you had a bad time that time, you had a bad time that time, I don’t want to paint it over and then you can’t see it so I felt like I had to be honest in order for people to accept it, I had to as much as myself as possible, you just have to be honest. When I was younger I fell over and I cut my knee and I was crying and that’s it, it’s not so bad, people accept the honesty.

Was their stuff in that book that was a surprise to people?

Yeah well the thing is I could have gone even deeper, but the thing is, in this world, if youre human and you accept yourself as a human being then you would understand the life of all humans, rich, poor, middle, nothing, youll look at everything and you’ll understand it with an open mind. So that’s the way I am, I understand humans, I understand evil humans, I understand nice humans, so accepting this stuff at this age it helps me to understand this type of stuff more

One of the things you said in that book was that I guess, there’s no more battling in grime

Yeah, it’s not like it used to be, it is but it’s in a different form, it’s in a music video form, but if I’m dissing someone I don’t need to do a music video, I’m gonna get on the mic and diss you. It’s changed, if I had made a diss record the last thing I’m trying to do is visualise and make it into a visual, I’m taking the piss and like, that’s not me, I’m going to talk directly to the MC so that’s the evolution of it, the evolution now is that if two people at waring they might do music videos about it, from a million  miles away from each other, it’s weird, I’m older, I could do it but it’s not my style, I need to be in your face you’re in my face otherwise from afar we can say anything to each other, we can lie, once the internet hears it then they ain’t got a clue whether your lying or not, they just take it and run so I feel like face to face battling is much better but I understand it’s not me doing the music video battling it’s the next generation so I accept what they are doing. But without battling and on the stage and bla bla bla, like real ones not just one where you aint done no work for ten years and you turn up and start sending, no, because you don’t deserve to send, you know what I mean? Like real ones that are authentic, you’ve done, I’ve done something or you don’t like me I don’t like you and were going for a real reason not fake not lie, you know what I mean so that’s sort of where I’m coming from so that’s why it’s so weird for me today to do what they’re doing because I’m not them. I’m more like okay were waring, you’re standing there and I’m standing here so I accept it’s a new generations thing.

One of the things I think you wrote was “shit helps with my creative process, niceness doesn’t”, is that do you think is true of all musicians and creatives, it’s like that’s where the best stuff comes from?

I don’t think so because I know a lot of people who, like, Disclosure, their music don’t come from a place of pain does it? I love em to death, to the high heavens, they’re one of my favourites, they’re music is to bring joy to people and love and its happy, its different. (Lee: so they couldn’t make a grime record?) They could but they are happy, not that they haven’t been through anything but I am very most 100% sure that when they are in the studio it’s not because they pissed off, when they go to the studio it’s not just because they’ve had a massive argument with their mum and then some home truths have come out and now you feel like shit and now you realise oh shit, family is powerful, there’s some deep shit going on in families and families are not perfect, if you’re the bread winner or you’re the person from your family that’s got to feed them, its different circumstances as to why people make music I believe, so that’s why unless some shits going on its hard for me to make music, right now my manager has been texting me oh we need to do this, we need to hand this in and I’m like leave me alone  we don’t need to do shit, when it happens its gonna happen but I’m not going to move before my body does it, my body won’t do it, and it won’t come out. It’s bad that I would have to argue with my mum or, not mum, me and my mum are cool at the moment but like something bad happen in life like getting stabbed so much to make me think oh man I’ve gotta do it, it’s silly, but if it didn’t happen I wouldn’t be so driven. So, I feel like I can’t make music unless it’s coming from somewhere, if I make a happy song you feel that there wasn’t no pain in it. That’s just me. Its lie grime it’s like the beginning of grime is the same as punk rock, (Lee: an angry explosion of emotion) yeah, it’s the same thing, because obviously we all think we’ve done something new that nobody’s done but if you stop and be honest with yourself you will realise okay nothing is really new under this sun. They’ve done it one way in the style that they wanted to do it and we’ve done it another way in the style that we wanted to do it, but if you put them all up they all become quite similar. And some people made music because it was revolution time, you know like Bob Marley. I think everyone makes music for a different reason but when it comes to being able to make it, if you make pain music and then you make 17 years and now you’re a multi-millionaire you can’t make that music again, it’s like Dizzee Rascal he can’t make boy in the corner ever again because that’s when you had nothing, and now you’re a millionaire multi and you’ve had a great career, I feel like his time is up like you’ve had a career, you’ve done it, you’ve done whatever you wanted to do, you’ve won the race, go and sit down, is what I feel like. But him himself, if you say that to him, he’ll go mad. Even when it’s time for a man to stop, he doesn’t want to, and when it’s not time for a man to stop and he gets paid he might. 

Is this kind of why you were like okay no more albums after Godfather 1 and now Godfather 2 is on the way…?

Yeah, yeah, yeah well Godfather 1 did quite well, it’s like my best album I’ve done like sales wise, top 10 in the UK so because that happened I suppose it’s like oh okay you could do two, you could do three. But the reason I wanted it to be my last one is because I done it thinking I’m gonna do this album and I’m gonna tour it for 2-3 years and then that’s it I’ll be 40. Because at 40 you can’t be acting like a kid, at 40 you can’t be 19 and 20, because if you’re going to do music it has to be coming from where you’re at then [at that point in time] otherwise your lying. So, when I said I was only going to do Godfather 1 is because I was limiting myself, because England is that kind of place, it’s a limiting place, and then I look at Jay and Eminem and they’re almost 50. So basically yes, I reckon at 40 years old on my 40th birthday something will click inside my brain and say you know what, turn left, turn right and go and see what’s around there, because you’ve been knocking this door since 1999 and you’ve never left and even when I have 1 million, half a million, I’m still in the council estate so I never left, I was dumb, I wasn’t dumb, but I never had a brain, no one ever showed me how to go and buy a house or to save, no one really gave me ethics I had to f#%king learn, learn, learn, learn how to pay rent first before you buy you know I had to teach myself but by the time I got to 31 – 32 I was okay, but then that thing when you sit there and think well okay now what next, well I don’t know next all I know Is how to do music so it’s just battling with yourself. 

So, Godfather 2 I’ve heard various things, is it coming out in feb or march or do you know when it’s coming out?

I think It needs to come out on February the 23rd but I made the frame of the album since January 1st and making the album and putting the hook down and then deciding on who should be on that track, I have the three or four singles that are going to be there and I need to add some features but it’s easier said than done, I can’t rush it or it will come out wrong. And on my first Godfather I have the scene on their so I’m sitting there and I’m like well I can’t do that again can I, because then everyone will be like well I just done that so I’m in a few different minds weather to just do as much work on it myself that I can and just forget the features but then I’ll have people like “oh well there’s no one on their” because people from this day wanna see people who they like, it’s all about features these days so I’m in limbo there at the moment but I will complete it and it will get done but I just need time because, in England you aint got time, everyone’s in a rush, everyone’s in a rat race, everybody is winding each other up, everyone is showing off to each other, it’s just about okay who’s got Rolex? Who’s got a Patek Philippe? Who’s got the new car? How much did you pay for it, who’s got valentino’s? and that’s what I had to step away from because even though I like nice things that will make you broke but they don’t know it yet! But they will realise, so I just had to like learn that and now when I do music I’m not in a rush, but living in London I will be the same as them, I will be rushing around everywhere, now I don’t make music that way, I make music knowing that if I rush it, it sounds wrong and I can’t change it it’s just out there and so I want to make an album where there’s no mistakes, where every mix is perfect and it all sounds right. Like when you listening to the Drake song you can hear him more than the beat, even though the beat is there, you can hear him, there’s not one drake song you’ve listened to that you can’t hear him as clear as day and that’s because when his mix stands are getting done, they are for him but in England you send your mix to someone and their just going to mix it to their ear is all trying to stay below the red and stay level with the thing, what they forget is, this is a song and the vocal is meant to sit on top, I’ve been battling with that for f&%king 25 years. So it’s all of that that lead me to thinking “Wiley, you could mix this yourself, you’re just being lazy”, what your doing is you don’t want to mix it in case it goes wrong so when you’ve done the project, your managers will influence you to do this, “oh lets send it to him to mix” then you send it to him and you don’t like the mix but I can mix it myself, I could do an mix my album and it will sound better than any album but that’s my confidence in knowing what I want to hear but they took it away from me when they signed me, “you don’t have to do this, you don’t have to do that, well do it all, oh what kind of video do you want, just write your ideas down and we’ll do it” but all the videos look wrong…if I shoot the video that was in my head because I made the song it would have been the right video all along so I’ve almost given up so of my creative control that is where I’m happy now because everything is back with me, when I release a record, I get paid, there’s not ten people getting paid, when I do something – it’s my idea, I share ideas with people but it’s not so much okay Wiley you’ve done it now we’ll, because if you do make a video that’s not the right video to the song it won’t go anywhere. So yeah, I’m happy today more than, I feel like I wish I knew all of this when I was like 21-22, I kind of did because I knew I was doing it in the beginning, what am I saying I was selling records. Then they come and sign you, when you get signed it takes away your DIY and that’s why I’m happy I’ve got my DIY back.

Wiley, it’s been an absolute pleasure, we can’t wait to hear more of the new music that you’re putting out

Definitely, I met some New Zealand artists yesterday, I’m also going do some work with them. When I come to a country or a place and they embrace grime, I work with them, unconditionally. Because I know that if I work with them and they help me out, when I come back to New Zealand, there will be more songs that the people know…and grime is a culture, it’s not one language or accent, so if I go somewhere and they’re doing grime stuff in their own accent and language then I like that even more because it shows that you heard the beat, you knew what they was doing, then you done yourself. SO definitely going to be working with some more New Zealand artists.