Rapper and Leeds United academy product Graft releases jazz-inspired new single 'Vows to the Art'

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A Leeds rapper is set to release a jazz-inspired new single made in conjunction with a local charity.

Graft, winner of BBC’s The Rap Game UK and MOBO Unsung, launches the second of Leeds music charity Come Play With Me Records and Sheffield-based music and media manufacturing specialist Breed Media’s collaborative releases with jazz-inspired hip hop single ‘Vows To The Art’, out today (May 16).

'Come Play with Breed, Vol 2' is the second instalment of the Various Artist compilation album series between Come Play With Me and Breed Media, which aims to highlight up-and-coming Northern talent. Graft's single 'Vows To The Art' will be released alongside fellow Leeds artist D5.

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Leeds rapper Graft who won the BBC's Rap Game UK.Leeds rapper Graft who won the BBC's Rap Game UK.
Leeds rapper Graft who won the BBC's Rap Game UK. | Jonathan Gawthorpe

The 24-year-old, real name Jovanni Sterling, is a MOBO-award winning artist who shot to fame on the BBC's Rap Game UK.

He was crowned the champion of the second series of the show, which sees rap duo Krept and Konan and 1Xtra’s DJ Target search for the UK’s next big MC.

Tipping his hat to hip-hop forefathers Little Brother and Nas, on his new track Graft narrates on his devotion to musical artistry while recognising his position as a role model for the next generation of Northern artists.

The song features an expertly chopped keys sample with warm strings and saxophone improvisations.

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Graft says his new song sees him “navigating the relationship (with art) through the highs and the lows”.

He said: “(It’s) a love that invigorates my passion to live but also drains me dry. My love for the art has brought me life, but subsequently it’s taking up too much of my life where I don’t feel like I’m living. In the face of burnout, how can I help myself find balance?”

Kraft played for Leeds United Academy before choosing to pursue music.Kraft played for Leeds United Academy before choosing to pursue music.
Kraft played for Leeds United Academy before choosing to pursue music. | Jonathan Gawthorpe

Born in Gledhow, Graft moved to Chapeltown as a child and later to Oakwood, playing for the Leeds United Academy as a youngster.

He left his footballing dreams behind to pursue a career as a musician, a decision that is now paying off.

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Come Play With Breed, Vol. 2 sees award-winning non-profit music development organisation Come Play With Me (CPWM) team up with Sheffield-based music and media manufacturing specialists Breed Media for the second time.

Embodying CPWM’s aims to produce “less barriers, more opportunities”, Vol. 2 spotlights the hip hop and soul scenes which have historically received less support from the northern music industry than their counterparts.

Graduates from Vol. 1 of the collaborative compilation include Hang Linton, who recently supported Leeds act Yard Act at the O2 Apollo Manchester, and Wonderland-endorsed Claudia Fenoglio.

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On the A-side of the compilation Graft is joined by close friend and fellow Leeds-based artist D5. Drawing influence from the likes of Drake, Skepta and Brent Faiyaz, D5’s sound flits between moody R&B and upbeat UK Rap that oozes a calm confidence.

Former contestant on The Voice UK Hannah Rowe opens the Soul-inspired B-Side with a dramatic fusion ballad for old souls. Finally, Mica Sefia closes the release with a powerful narration on her experiences as a black woman, sustaining Vol. 1’s spoken word interpolations.

Graham Worsfold, Head of Breed Media, said: “We’re really proud to work with Come Play With Me again. This compilation continues to showcase the fantastic musical talent around Leeds and it’s a pleasure to put these artists on vinyl for people to enjoy”

Come Play With Breed, Vol. 2 is available to pre-order now and will be released on 10” eco-mix vinyl and all major digital platforms on July 12th 2024.

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