From touting illustrations to some of the grime scenes’ biggest names to producing and writing his own music, nineteen97 is a definite ‘ones to watch’ creative. Starting as a graphic designer for Skepta, Jaykae and M1llionz, nineteen97 was always well connected with the industry.
We caught up to discuss his upcoming sequel EP ‘CHROME II’ from which the early release single ‘ALIVE’, featuring Murkage Dave, is ready for you to spin.
How did your connections in the industry from being a graphic designer help you when releasing music?
nineteen97: My early connections helped me understand the industry’s processes and the logistics of a campaign. Also, how to manoeuvre and excite people with what you’re putting out across your brand as an artist. Another important one is how to execute things, being a graphic designer, videographer or creative on a team really does play a big part in success.
How do you view the scene in Birmingham, maybe in comparison to the London scene?
nineteen97: A few people are doing exciting things on the ground in Birmingham – such as Ninioh who is a close friend and collaborator. Overall, as a musical hub, it doesn’t compare to London which presents opportunities of all kinds at any given moment.
Coventry born, but now based in Birmingham, nineteen97 always had a mixed musical influence. Whilst his Dad held down BBC Coventry’s airwaves, his Mum was introducing him to the early 2000s rave scene, from which certain sounds do infiltrate into his own. The turn of the pandemic a few years back gave nineteen97 the push to produce and release his own music- the rest, as they say, is history.
How did your parents influence your sound, which artists stood out the most from your youth?
nineteen97: The Jamaican lingo I’ve grown up around has a big impact on the way I rap and pronounce certain things. As well as my Dad’s love for soul and blues really had me analysing song structure, hence why I tend to add bridges and outros. Artists that stood out, Vybz Kartel, John Coltrane, Sizzla and Lily Allen.
How does CHROME II differ from the first entry, have you changed as an artist?
nineteen97: More vocal delivery from me which wasn’t the original plan for the CHROME sequel. More hands-on with the production and really genuinely having more of a direction sonically.
His latest single ‘ALIVE’, featuring Murkage Dave, pools a sumptuous blend of R&B, garage and grime with some lighter vocals, all in the name of keeping himself at the very least interested. It builds on from his first drop of 2023 ‘WEATHERMAN’, featuring Ledbyher, and his 2021 debut EP ‘CHROME’ which also saw him fuse genres and artists to create a unique sound.
Which artists have you enjoyed working with the most, and are there any you’d like to work with in the future?
nineteen97: I am a fan of everyone I’ve worked with but my favourite one to experience so far is Murkage Dave. I’ve been to his shows, copped merch and I’m genuinely a huge fan. He voluntarily came to Birmingham to make the video happen too, which I thought was quite rare. I love that level of respect.
The scenes in the UK are starting to blur, and I’m all for it. Figureheads are now branching out to new audiences by providing verses to artists they see promise in. This not only increases their exposure but also shows a placement of support or belief in that artist essential if we are to see new names take their place on listeners’ metaphorical podiums.
Features such as Murkage Dave’s, and for me at least, Clbrks, just reinforces the faith which others in the scene have for nineteen. Other collaborators are Capo Lee, who provides that convergence of grime and rap, reek0, more associated with the ‘alternative rap’ scene, and el-ohim who takes the reins on the production for the project’s title track, as well as appearing on the mic.
The production is predominantly held down by close friend Offkey and allows nineteen to continue this evolution of his sound; having a consistent producer can really enhance and synchronise the direction of both the artist and the project.
How does working with a producer who you are friends with help in the development of your sound and the direction of the project as a whole?
nineteen97: Working with friends is very beneficial when it comes to crafting a sound or project. It’s nice to have such a high level of comfort and be in a safe place to take risks, push yourself and explore with creativity, without being judged. Me and Offkey actually first connected at the studio prior to me making music. The click we had was already cemented so everything felt natural when the time came for me to start making music.
What would you say to someone who is thinking of releasing music?
nineteen97: Just do it!
The pandemic has definitely birthed a few new artists that may not have had the time, means or desire to otherwise put out music- some of my favourite projects dropped in that weird period. On top of this, it provided people with real-time to reflect and prioritise; thus creating from what they had experienced, or not experienced at that time.
What’s the one thing you would say you can’t live without, and that ultimately keeps you alive?
nineteen97: Ermmmm. FIFA, haha.
Have to rate the honesty, must be a good player. A necessary release and distraction I think we can all rally behind…to some degree.
This is only nineteen’s second EP with the future looking a bright one when you consider how far he has come in such little time. Perhaps the FIFA community will be hearing the tracks on upcoming releases, but for now, at least the output stays consistent with ‘CHROME II’ the latest and shiniest from multi-talented creative, nineteen97.