South London Hip Hop artist and songwriter Che Lingo is one of the hottest and most refreshing talents on the rise in the UK music scene. Back in March, he made his highly anticipated (and overdue) SBTV debut, blowing many away with his Warm Up Sessions video, and then his #StreetHeat Freestyle for Link Up TV a couple months later. His impressive lyricism and energetic flow are just some of the reasons why people can’t seem to get enough of him. Having just released his debut EP, we caught up with the artist for a chat. Have a read below.
How did you get started in music?
The motivation for it came from wanting to be heard. I had a lot of confidence issues as a kid, so I just wanted to do something that I knew I was good at that nobody else could take away from me. I was always creative, I was always good at English and always drawing from a very young age. Music just fell in line with that stuff. There’re a lot of little things about my childhood that would dictate that I would do music. When I did start recording my own music, even at my age [around 16], I was starting to get minor offers from people who wanted to manage me.
But going back to my parents it was like, “Do what you have to do in school and whatever you wanna do after that is entirely up to you and we will support you however you can”. But even seeing the grind of music, now that I’m older and we’re actually trying to turn it into a career – which is steadily happening, thank God – it’s still difficult, especially being independent. You have to really strategise and look at ways to make things happen for yourself as opposed to just wait for the label to push something through a machine. Getting into music was a no-brainer for me.
Who influences you musically?
Influences come from everywhere. Right now, there are a lot of people in the UK music scene that influence me, not necessarily influence me but inspire me. People like Wretch, Little Simz, Kojey Radical, Tinyman. These are people I’ve worked with and people I want to work with. I’m a very consistent guy, I keep up with the same people that I’ve been listening to and messing with musically. There’s too many to name.
Tell me what you think about the UK music scene at the moment, UK Hip Hop in particular?
I think the market for UK Hip Hop is still yet to surface. I think the market for UK Grime and rap is faceted through general rap. Grime is starting to take a heavy precedence in the UK, more so than it did when it first started I believe.
It’s started to find it’s way into more mainstream mediums and people have started to accept it in a much more serious, professional fashion. I think for me, UK Hip Hop and the things that coincide with what I do; rap, grime, Hip Hop, whatever you wanna call it, I think these things bounce off each other a lot and people are starting to call what I might consider rap, Grime and things like that. It’s kind of becoming a label for UK rappers as opposed to being a label for the sound in my opinion, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing because I just want to see my brothers do well. I don’t care what they decide to call us as long as it’s not anything negative. I just wanna see people do well.
I think that’s what a lot of people want for the scene at this point.
I think people are doing well and I don’t think we’re in the same position we were before. I feel like it’s coming along nicely and people are collaborating. I feel like there’s still this kind of, “Why doesn’t this person work with that person? Why doesn’t this person do this?” but its people that think they’re on pulse but they’re not. I look at a lot of stuff and I see who talks to who and who messes with who…I don’t deep it, but I just see it as I scroll through my TLs and whatever. So because of these things, it’s like you can kinda gauge where it is and people that think they’re on pulse ‘cause two people have made a tune, you don’t know whether that’s beg friend music or whether it’s actually a genuine relationship that those two dudes have as friends or that girl and that man have as friends, as artists.
Regardless of how you look at it, it’s thriving, it’s just that some people think they’re on pulse when they might not be as on pulse as they think they are.
Why do you refer to yourself as an ‘alternative’ rapper, as opposed to just rapper?
To be honest, that wasn’t my label. I didn’t start calling myself alternative, it was imposed. Like, ‘this guy’s kind of poetic but then he raps and then he can spit a grime flow really well and make a song on it’, you know what I mean? It was like ‘he’s not like other man, he’s not really doing the same thing other artists are doing so like he’s kind of alternative to the scene. He’s not doing anything the way anyone else is doing it so certain people started referring to me as an ‘alt’ or ‘alternative’ rapper and I didn’t mind, it was just whatever. I don’t really care what people wanna label me as, as long as it’s got rapper in it or its and songwriter next to it I don’t mind ‘cause those are the things I’m pursuing as an artist. Rap is just a form that I use to express myself as an artist, but I’m an artist first.
You’ve said that your previous project, ‘Black Flow [The E-Tape]’, was a bridge project as you didn’t feel ready to release an EP at the time. What was the process like for you making this EP and how was it different from putting together ‘Black Flow’?
The process for making this EP was a lot more structured. It was like, ‘OK I’m gonna get in the studio and do this now’ as opposed to ‘I’ve got some songs that I’ve written that I really wanna put out and I don’t wanna call it an EP or a mixtape’. The EP had more a plan to it in terms of what I wanted for it in my head. It was always going to be short and sweet more so than anything long and drawn out.
I’ll always put out free music and music that people can listen to in abundance. Even now people are saying they want more from me so it’s like, OK, the public are perceiving my music, seeing it a certain way and saying ‘This isn’t enough of what I want from you.’ It was a process at which I decided, OK I want to do an EP now. With how things are going and how people are perceiving me I think they’re ready to receive one.
The people that do support and keep up with my music are a very loyal and intelligent type of person so because of that they see me as something different than what they’re used to listening to. The amount of people who’ve told me that, I want to stick to that kind of lane of ‘OK I want to listen to Che now’, not turn up music or this or that music, I want to listen to Che now. I want to maintain that feeling of it being a Che genre. Does that make sense? I think the process of this EP was trying to perpetuate that and project that idea of it being a genre of my own where you can go and listen to just me.
I also wanted to create a project you can listen to from top to bottom and bottom to top. I’m proud of the project so I hope people are just as proud of what I have to say on it.
Who would you like to collaborate with in future?
I’d love to write a song with Little Simz, and I’d love to write a song with Shakka, Wretch 32, also Mick Jenkins. I’d like to write a song with Bonkaz as well. There’s a bunch of people. Kojey [Radical] and George the Poet again, they were on the Black Flow E-Tape but I’d love to write more music with them.
When you’re not in the studio making music or writing songs, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Watch anime. I also listen to some Dutch artists, so, like listen to music that’s not in English. Yeah, that and watch anime.
Tell me a bit about T.R.I.P. Where did that initially come from and what does it mean for you?
T.R.I.P. is an acronym for The Risk Is Proof and it’s just the idea that to pursue something solo by yourself or with a small team that doesn’t necessarily come from a major corporation or a conventional 9 to 5 job or anything like that, it takes a lot of risk because it does take a lot of investment. It doesn’t have to be me jumping off a building or me making a song with somebody I wouldn’t necessarily make a song with. It’s just the idea that I’m pursuing something that might not pay me at the start, it might not be able to yield the same results as a 9 to 5 but people would have to respect it in the sense of it being a job that I still wanna do, which is make music, provide it and sell it at some point. I just want to make sure that’s understood.
It doesn’t have to be a major or very apparent risk, a risk is just something that puts you in a vulnerable position. Being an artist in itself is a risk because you’re putting yourself out for the public in your current state and in better versions to come. It’s all in pursuit of better versions ‘cause you can only find better versions of yourself, well the best version of yourself I believe, within taking risks. Putting yourself in those vulnerable positions and creating opportunities for yourself that might take you out of your comfort zone and pose challenges that then yield new, deeper and more evaluated versions of who you are, even if it’s in a carefree facet.
I feel like taking a risk in trying to become a better version of yourself, or even as an artist is the best thing you can do. That’s how I feel. Do what you wanna do in life, make it what you want it to be, whether that’s academic or not.
That’s what it means. The Risk Is Proof in pursuit of better versions of yourself.
How would you like to inspire others? For example, for the young people who want to embark on a music career as an artist, how would you like to inspire them in particular?
In words of inspiration, start with your friends. Start with the people that are closest to you and if you don’t have anyone that’s close to you right now, then what you do is work on becoming better versions of yourself by pushing your stuff out there by yourself. People will see it and mess with it and come back and say “Yo this is dope”. They will ‘cause there are 6 to 7 to 8 billion people in the world or whatever the case may be and there’s nobody in this world that’s really alone, I believe. I feel like you just haven’t found anybody who messes with you yet. It’s just a matter of time, just put yourself out there. That’s a risk in itself, but it’s proof of your conviction for whatever you wanna become.
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