We Talk about What East London means to an artist you need to be knowing about as of this minute and he is trying to be the best, thats it!
Story By Tenelle Ottley-Matthew
Photography & Creative Direction by Ashley Verse
Visual Directed by Nick Asiama
It’s a grey and chilly afternoon in Hackney. One of the borough’s brightest musical talents, SNE, looks right at home as he poses outside Hackney Town Hall.
As we try to get the right shot, he playfully makes a ‘Westside’ sign with his fingers and pulls a semi-serious face but before the shutter is pressed, he suddenly pauses. “You know them ones when you have to check if your hands are dry?” he says, and just like that, we’re all grinning and laughing along with him.
The wit that he displays in his music shines through in person, and he gives off a chilled and pleasant energy.
Often making references to Hackney in his music, many of SNE’s fans and peers think of him as someone who’s waving the flag for Hackney and putting his hometown on the map. On ‘Trillest’, he raps, ‘If you’re talking about Hackney just make sure my name triggers’.
With three great video premieres in 2015, numerous successful live shows and two well-received projects already under his belt, 2016 is looking pretty major for the Hackney native. It didn’t happen overnight, though. His music career began as a member of grime collective S.O.S a few years ago. He recalls “spitting in Mare Street, in the classrooms, in the playground” in his early days, and being drawn to the competitiveness of it all. “I watched Chipmunk on Westwood for the first time and that said to me ‘I want to do music.’”
SNE has been making a name for himself and gaining solid recognition within the UK music scene. As well as coming into his own as an artist, SNE co-founded a label called IDREAMBIGUK. He decided to team up with fellow artists Careless, Frenzy and Jamilah Barry (the former two met SNE through his old music group) out of a desire to build something, as talented musicians who believe in each other. As expected, he’s already collaborated with the other IDB artists on various tracks plus J-Flowz but he’d also like to work with people like Etta Bond, Ed Sheeran and Tory Lanez. “There’s loads [of people he’d like to work with] but then again I want to build my own, and they might want to collab with me.”
It’s hard not to ask, but is Tiana Major 9 is on that list as well? “Musically she’s very very good, so yeah, put her down as well,” he says with a modest smile. SNE’s latest release, a raw and heartfelt ode to emerging singer-songwriter Tiana Major, has gotten lots of love since the day it dropped on his SoundCloud, with Tiana herself praising the track. The accompanying video, which was unveiled a few days ago, is just as dope. It’s not very often you hear artists dedicating tracks to other artists purely out of respect and admiration. What drove SNE to write and record ‘Tiana Major’? “I think on stage she’s amazing. She’s on a similar grind, getting booked at the same shows as me and I’m thinking ‘She’s really killing it’ with the reggae stuff, the jazzy stuff…” The song was originally called ‘Melodies and Memories’, but SNE soon realised it made more sense to rename it ‘Tiana Major’. He explains, “I just feel like I’m reaching out to someone that’s doing the same thing as me, and I’m just saying I respect your grind.”
SNE’s versatility as an artist shouldn’t go unnoticed. Witty wordplay, impressive lyricism and sick flow along with an ability to deliver decent vocals is not something that many artists can do well, but he manages it quite effortlessly. However, his upcoming mixtape ‘Essence’ will be the first time we will really hear him singing. He assures us that there’ll be “a lot of singing and a lot of rap” but is trying to get the balance right between the two. Based on SNE’s previous offerings, it’s safe to say that we can expect quality bars and great hooks on ‘Essence’.
For SNE, it hasn’t been easy trying to change the game while giving the audience what they want at the same time. “I wanna do my thing but you also know the audience are gonna want something so you have to find the balance there. Like, no matter how hard you try to think you can’t care about what they think but you have to care.” A lot of artists in the scene often talk about being different, or bringing something new to the table, so it only makes sense to ask SNE how he plans to change the game. “I rap, I sing, so do a lot of other artists but I feel like what I’m singing about and the angle I’m coming from is a little bit different.”
He feels that a good example of a truly authentic artist is East London rapper J Hus.
SNE is now in a place where he feels he’s found a good formula to help him progress. “Now I’ve found a good engineer, a good producer, a good vocal coach so it’s like I’ve got everything I need around me now. I’d say the only thing I’m struggling with is meeting more of the right people. There are a lot of wrong people in the industry…I’ve learnt that over the last two years. I’m just trying to meet the right people to get me from A to B. That’s my aim for the next few years.”
When he’s not in the studio, SNE likes to kick back and enjoy good TV like Scandal, Mad Men and Homeland and hang with his IDREAMBIGUK family when he has time. Fashion is also a big interest of his, and on the day we meet, he’s sporting a grey sweater by streetwear brand 1Figures Apparel. “I would love to do a blog one day, when I’m at a point where I can say ‘these are the clothes that I love, this is where you can get it.’”
On a more serious note, he’s all about helping the younger generation and has been a youth worker for around two years. “It’s about youth offending, one-to-one mentoring, preventing gang violence, I do songwriting sessions with them… It’s a whole load wrapped into one really, just trying to get the youth to get their heads straight and understand if you have a passion, you can go and get it because there are opportunities out there.”
SNE is earnest and slightly reflective when discussing what kind of artist he hopes to be, and where he sets his sights professionally, saying, “I know I need to grow, I need to read more. Do things like that and gain more knowledge before I go and write songs. That’s what I feel I’m lacking in, knowledge.” He doesn’t show any eagerness to blow or make it big anytime soon; rather he seems to be taking his time, enjoying the journey. He, like many others, is certain that the day will inevitably come. He assures me with a smile,
“To be honest with you, I’m just trying to be the best. I’m gonna be the best.”
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