In any profession or endeavour, to find success, consistency in one’s craft will always be a vital factor. Musicians especially understand this concept today, where attention spans are shorter, and therefore the need to produce high quality content regularly is essential in staying relevant in an ultra-competitive marketplace. Ard Adz is a great example of an artist who exemplifies consistency. A veteran in the UK Rap scene, Adz has continued to make music whilst many of his peers have fallen by the wayside over the past few years. Co-signed by Drake back in 2012, his influence cannot be understated when analysing how UK Rap has flourished in recent times. The harsh reality that he paints in his music, the rawness of his lyrics and the emotion he is capable of evoking is the reason why he is simultaneously not known in the mainstream but possesses a loyal fan-base, always keen for more music. He rarely disappoints in this regard and has released projects and singles over the past three years at a furious pace. This quantity of material has not resulted in a compromise in quality, and his hard-hitting content delivered over instrumentals that are sonically diverse, does not lose any of its originality. The complexity of Adz is what makes him so appealing as an artist – he can speak on issues that affect the majority of people and in the same song, rap lyrics which allude to a lifestyle alien to those same people. Violence, religion and family can all intertwine on an Ard Adz track, and its his reflective nature that makes him so engaging to a listener. The last two years have seen Adz grow leaps and bounds as an artist, and with the release of his excellent album, ‘Adam’, he is seemingly at the height of his powers. I had the opportunity to chat to Adz about growing up in Brixton, development as an artist, views on the effect of music on people’s actions, and more. Check out the interview below:
TP: Were you born in UK or in Morocco?
Ard Adz: I was born in Paddington, in St Mary’s Hospital, but I lived in Morocco until the age of four, and then came back to UK, where I was living in Brixton. After I went prison, I got my own house, but my mum still lives in Brixton.
What was it like for you growing up in London?
From year eight is when I started hanging outside, and not coming home, getting arrested. Because my mum was always at work, I was just never at home, so I was always out with the mandem, on the block, doing stupid shit until around the age of sixteen. I then went prison, and I came out at eighteen – by that point I was much wiser. I spent time in prison just thinking about what I was going to do when I came out, and I haven’t been back since…
You must have gained perspective when you were inside… did you start rapping when you came out?
I was rapping from the age of fifteen, but it wasn’t really serious, it was more just rapping with the mandem in the house, but the tunes were getting played in the area. I had MySpace them times, and I remember getting around a thousand plays a day, which back then was good. I remember guys like Chipmunk at that time were getting around two thousand, so I thought to myself “this is alright”, you get me? So then man went jail, came out and started to take it more seriously. So with the social media side, I made a Facebook and all of that as I didn’t have none of that before. And yeah man, I just kept building, putting out mixtapes, that’s how I got into it properly.
I actually saw a 2012 SBTV with yourself, Sneakbo, Depzman, Ambush – I didn’t even realise Ambush had been spitting for that long!
Yeah, he’s been going in for time bro! He’s been doing his thing…
Did you envision back then that you’d all have the success that you’re having today?
I can’t speak for all of us, but we definitely all wanted to at the time. It was something that we were hoping for, but not something we knew was going to happen if that makes sense. It was something we were all working towards, especially Sneakbo, he’s been consistent for so many years. I think it was something we were definitely all hoping for but not expecting.
What do you think separates the likes of Sneakbo and yourself from other artists who were emceeing at that time, but haven’t prospered?
I’d say it’s just the consistency bro… there’s been a lot of talented rappers from 2011 and 2012 but you don’t really hear of them now, and if they are putting out music, it’s not doing so well. I think it’s just consistency, people get comfortable in not so good positions when they think they’re in a good position… and yeah it can happen to anyone. I think the most important thing in music is consistency, and never sleeping on your fans.
How do you feel that you’ve cultivated such a strong, core fan-base?
I think it’s down to my engagement with fans and how I try and reply back to as many people as possible. I think it’s just showing love to people who show love and respect to me. I think the consistency I mentioned also plays a part as well, because with my fans, there’s always something new. Whether they like the music or not, there’s always something new that is coming out.
I know you have a ton of content, so I’m skipping past quite a lot, but I want to start with your ‘Hard 2 Smile EP’ from 2017 ,which is a great project overall. Like many of your other tracks, on ‘What Have I Become’ you speak on your dilemma of the life you’ve lived, and how it contrasts with being Muslim. Do you feel music is a way for you to overcome that internal struggle?
Yeah, definitely man… without music, God knows what else I’d be doing right now. I definitely wouldn’t be in university or working a nine to five right now so… God knows what I’ll be doing. It definitely helps me and focus on what’s important.
In that track, and many others, you mention your son often – how much does he influence your drive in music?
My son is my number one reason I get up and try to work. He’s my number one motivation. He definitely plays the biggest part in my music, in my life, in whatever I do. Any time I do something, I always think, “what’s best for my son?” so yeah man, definitely a big part.
You ever play him any of your tracks?
I don’t yeah, but he finds them somehow (laughs), but yeah I don’t play the tracks for him.
After that EP, you dropped ‘Fanta’ and ‘Rumpumpum’… to me those were two of the biggest tracks of 2017, at least in the UK Rap sphere – do you feel they got the recognition they deserve?
To be honest, ‘Rumpumpum’ and ‘Fanta’, I don’t feel were two of my strongest tracks. The way I went about making them and for the amount of time I took on those songs, I’m happy with the outcome. I know they don’t have as many views as my other songs, or streams, but ‘Rumpumpum’ was written in about fifteen minutes at Nutty P’s studio, and both tracks were recorded under an hour on the same day. So if I took my time with them, I could have done much better, but considering the time I put in, I’m very happy with the outcome.
You then released the ‘No Pain No Flowers EP’ – what made you want to drop another short project?
I had so many tracks that I was sitting on. Around the time I put out the ‘Hard 2 Smile EP’, I already had a lot of songs… if I’ve recorded a song, and have been sitting on it for two to three months, I start thinking in myself, “ahh that tune is shit”, just because it’s old to me and I’ve heard it so much. But for my supporters it’s a brand new track. So I thought “let me just put out this EP, because I’m going to end up throwing away these songs”.
What’s your creative process?
I write to the each beat specifically, so I’ll need to hear the beat and then I’ll start writing from there.
Have there ever been any sticky situations where a producer plays you a beat, and you have to say to them “nah, that’s not the one bro”.
(Laughs) yeah, yeah a lot of times, but it’s not even in a rude way because producers will send me – like Maniac, is one of the sickest producers I know… actually he is the sickest producer I know, and when I first met him he used to send me Trap beats. Even though they were hard, that wasn’t my style, and I had to tell him. But yeah, it gets awkward sometimes, like when you’re running through ten beats and you got to keep saying no to each beat. But it’s definitely worth it choosing the right beat…
That’s how I felt about ‘Adam’, the production was solid all the way through, and again Maniac featured heavily on there… was it intentional to have that many of his beats on the album?
Yeah definitely, in fact me and Maniac, were talking before the album came out that we were going to put out a joint five track EP before the album came out but we just didn’t pursue it. Hopefully we’ll do that in the future, but yeah man, Maniac is one of my favourite producers right now, I did what I wanted in terms of having him produce four to five tracks on the album. There are other producers on there like Ragoart, Lone Wolf, SA – all of those producers have got the sound that I like as well, they’ve all got a similar sound, so big them up as well…
One beat that really stood out to me, was ‘Smoke For Free’, which had that ‘Horsemen Family’ sample, what was your reaction when you heard that beat?
Bruv, as soon as I heard the beat, I said to myself “this is getting purchased”. I found it on YouTube and I inboxed the producer straight away. I think it was produced by ‘Nape’… yeah, he’s sick. He’s an American producer but yeah I found him and just hit him up.
Are the t-shirts in the video available for purchase?
You know what yeah? This is a funny one, I was going to put them available for purchase until I tested one of them. I put one in the wash, and the print came off, so I said “no way am I selling these” (laughs). But yeah it wasn’t cheap, but I think the guys just bumped me bruv (laughed).
(Laughs) that’s peak man… going back to the beginning of the album, ‘In & Out’, why did you choose to have clips and pictures of you from back in the day in the video?
The album is called ‘Adam’, so I wanted people, and all the new supporters who didn’t know my past and history, to know more about me. That’s all it was, and it gives an extra effect to the visual. I played it without the clips, and I felt it was missing something, and as soon as I added that in, I liked it.
In the track you say, “no-one wanna do features, fans play my bit, then they turn the rest off” – is that the reason there aren’t more well-known artists on your album?
Yeah definitely… obviously no names mentioned, but I did hit up quite a few artists to jump on the album and the only artists that hit me up were the ones that had a lesser following. The bigger ones were on this Hollywood ting (laughs), so I moved on.
On ‘Man of the House’, it’s the second time you’ve used Denzel’s famous quote from ‘Fences’ – why did you include it again?
That movie is one of my favourite films, and what Denzel is saying in that quote is deep. And it went well with the song as it’s called ‘Man of the House’ and Denzel’s one of my favourite actors, so yeah it worked well.
In that song, you’ve got a lyric – “blud I love my life, why you wanna get mine?” – this to me shows a more vulnerable side to you… do you fear death?
I wouldn’t say I fear death, but in the state I’m in now, I wouldn’t like to die because I’m not in the right state of mind to die right now in terms of practising my religion. But yeah man, death is going to happen to everyone, it’s definitely not something I fear, I just don’t feel I’m ready for it right now.
‘Blast from the Past’ gives an insight of you being an MC far back in the day, what made you want to put that on the album?
Same thing with the pictures in ‘In & Out’, I just wanted all the new supporters to realize “this guy has actually been rapping for the past ten years”, not just the last year or last two years, because I felt like I got much bigger in 2016/2017. So I felt that I needed to show all the new supporters a bit more about me, just so that they could get a bit more history about me.
One of my favourite tracks by yourself is ‘See The Sun More’ – how come you chose not to put that on the album?
I was going to, but because I’d already released it as a single, I didn’t want the supporters and fans to think that I’m just putting tracks on the album just to make it filled out. I was focusing on putting on new content as I could.
As an artist, do you feel that you get the recognition you deserve?
You know what bro? I’m not a big headed person so I’m going to say yes, I’m not going to sit here and say “naa, I deserve to have ten mill!”… I’m just happy with whatever bro. Man’s working, and it’s in God’s hands…
We’ve seen recently the media focus on the effect of Drill music, and how it contributes to violence. What do you think about music, do you think it can impact violence?
Definitely not… as in, it might let people be aware of what’s going on, but I wouldn’t say it’s going to make people commit those crimes that these young people are rapping about. For example, when Skengdo and AM had their tour, eighty percent of the people turning up were young Caucasian males, and those white males are not running around stabbing each other. Does that make sense? Because if it was the music, they would be! You would have a lot of fans wearing bandanas, stabbing each other, you know what I mean? And a time where I come from, 2003 to 2007, shit was a lot worse! And YouTube wasn’t even a thing back then, and shit was a lot worse! The stats are there as well – firearm crime and knife crime in 2003 was ridiculously high. So it’s definitely nothing to do with the music man, I see it as a way out. I see it as helping if anything, a lot of these kids that are making money and becoming successful, are helping their friends do the same. And I think it’s helping their friends come off the road if anything.
I feel it’s more to do with social media, in the sense that, if I post a video sending for someone speaking of how I’ve done something to that person, the fact that it’s on social media and that more people can see it, you are going to feel a lot more embarrassed or humiliated, and more motivated to do something in response…
Social media definitely plays a big part in influence, but again, it’s down to the people, and where you are mentally. Social media for someone my age, can’t influence me to do wrong or good, whatever I want to do is because of what I’m going to do regardless. So if social media does influence people to go and rob people or go and retaliate, that’s their own personal demons they need to fight. It’s mainly young people, I don’t think it’s people who are twenty one plus/twenty two plus.
The UK Rap scene has been flourishing over the last few years, with many artists finding success – do you feel this is a bubble, or do you feel this will last?
This is definitely going to last, and it’s only going to get better. Link Up will only gain more subscribers, same for GRM Daily, same for SBTV, same for all artists. We’re already so many years behind the American scene, and I feel we’re just starting to catch up. So yeah it definitely feels like it’s the beginning of something proper in the UK.
Most Rap I listen to now is UK… it used to be American, but now-
Exactly, if five years ago, I had said to someone “in our scene, five years from now, artists are going to be getting a hundred million views on YouTube”, you’d probably try to slap me or something, so like I’m saying five years from now, artists will become multi-millionaires possibly billionaires, and right now it sounds stupid, people will probably say to me “ahh, shut up man”, but let’s just wait and see.
Inshallah man, I hope it happens… what are your next steps as an artist?
You know what? I’m going to work on some features for now, but I’ve already got projects that are ready to go. I’m just waiting when to put them out… I might take a break for a bit, but I’m not sure yet. What is hundred percent sure, is that I’ve got a features coming out… one with Cashh that is coming out tonight, got one with Paigey Cakey, Demarco, Nafe Smallz… not sure if I should be letting this all out (laughs), but yeah I’ve got a few features coming out man…
Adz, it’s been an absolute pleasure.
Cool, respect my bro.
You can listen to Ard Adz on Spotify here and Apple Music here.
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