Music interview – Charlie Sloth: ‘I tried to reflect how colourful and vibrant the rap and grime scene is today’

Charlie Sloth is branching out with his first artist album and tour.
Charlie Sloth is branching out with his first artist album and tour.
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In the past decade Charlie Sloth has risen from youthful DJ slots on pirate radio stations to becoming the voice of the BBC Radio 1 Rap Show, as well as broadcasting regularly on Radio 1Xtra.

This month the 30-year-old from north west London launches his debut album, The Plug, with a UK tour featuring some of the cream of the nation’s rap and grime talent. He spoke to the The Guide about the record and shows.

Your forthcoming tour coincides with the release of your debut artist album, The Plug. Has this record, which features a large cast of guests, been a bit of labour of love for you?

Yes, a lot of work went into making the programme, many hours, many sleepless nights in the studio working with these guys to fine tune what I felt was a very important body of work for the scene in the culture. But the question asked myself is ‘was it worth it?’ and the answer to that question is ‘yes’. Nothing comes easy, there are no shortcuts or cheat codes and everything in life is hard work, but the harder process is, the more the results.

You were once a rapper. Why have you decided to concentrate on the production and songwriting side these days?

I have not been a rapper for almost a decade. I started as a DJ and I was 13 and it’s come full circle to me being a DJ once again, and being a producer is something that I’ve not just started to do, I’ve been doing for the last 10 years. I’ve got cuts on some of your favourite rappers’ albums. I never really focused or concentrated my energy on the Charlie Sloth brand as a producer up until this year, but for me it’s just progression with everything. There’s got to be a next step, I’m the biggest DJ in Europe.

Musically, were you aiming to make The Plug a reflection of the vibrant rap and grime scene in the UK at the moment?

Yes, I tried my hardest to incorporate all the different elements that our scene is currently blessed with. I tried to make the album as diverse as possible so that everybody could take something away from it. If you listen to the album top to bottom you quickly realise that no two records are the same and this was one of the hardest processes in making an album. I mean I could’ve spent a week in the studio with my artist friends and made a very very hard rap/grime album. I want to try and test myself I want to try and push the artist too, and that’s why the sound of The Plug is how it is. So yes, I tried to reflect how colourful and vibrant the scene is today as best as I could.

Bugzy Malone is among the guests on the record and tour. Do you feel proud to have helped nurture his career via your label Grimey Limey?

Yes, very proud indeed. To see what Bugzy Malone has gone on to achieve is incredible. He reminds me of a young Jay-Z, not only is he a great artist but is also a very great businessman who knows what he wants, he has his own vision and he knows how to go about getting it. So am I proud? Yes. Do I think there is more to come? Yes.

As a DJ, you seem keen to encourage new artists from not just from London but across the UK. Are there any artists in Yorkshire who have caught your ear recently?

As you said I’m always trying to find artists from outside of the UK who I can help push and introduce to the scene to the culture but as of yet I’ve not really found any artists in Yorkshire who I feel give me that feeling that I get when I hear a new artist. The thing I think is the local slang terminology used in Yorkshire has got such a great tone to it that the idea of finding an artist from the local areas thoroughly excites me.

Having grown up listening to Tim Westwood’s shows on the BBC, what did it feel like when you took over his mantle on 1Xtra four years ago?

Well for me taking over the Saturday night Rap Show from Tim Westwood on 1Xtra and Radio 1 was a massive moment, a lifetime goal, that I achieved at a very early age and I still remember the day that I got told to me that I’ll be taking over the Rap Show, I’m not a very emotional person that day I shed a tear. Sometimes on the Saturday evening I still have to pinch myself to check whether this is all a dream.

Are you pleased to be at the heart of a radio station that’s become an important platform for new urban music?

I’m super honoured to be a part of the 1Xtra and Radio One network. 1Xtra in particular has been pivotal to the growth of the scene the culture and lifestyle that our music has become and you know the fact that there is a new artist coming through on a daily basis by the BBC Introducing platform again just gives me that motivation and drive to keep me going finding new artists. New music is something that I’m super passionate about and excites me on a daily basis to be a part of it for me I’m super honoured and privileged.

Your show is famous for its Fire in the Booth section. Do you see it as an interesting test of people’s skills as an MC? And which artists do you think really nailed it in there?

I think with the Fire in the Booth platform it’s really interesting to see all these new artists coming through because there’s nowhere to hide. When you’re in a recording studio you can keep trying over and over, when it’s Fire in the Booth there’s nowhere to hide, you’ve either got it or you haven’t and it becomes apparent to me and the audience if they’re struggling. In terms of artists that I think have really been successful from Fire in the Booth there are too many to choose from, it would be unfair to pick out one or two as all artists that I feel have delivered have all provoked a different emotion.

Charlie Sloth The Plug UK Album Tour is at O2 Academy Leeds on Thursday September 28 and O2 Academy Sheffield on Friday October 20. www.charliesloth.com

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