The phrase ‘one trick pony’ comes to mind, when you think of a majority of today’s artists, they often place themselves in a role they cannot fulfil, working tirelessly with the intention of sharing a unique message, yet the result is often a mere carbon copy of the ‘messages’ of others – they all sound the same. Ironically, the ones who profess to be ‘one of a kind’ tend to make up 80% of the population, all together in a category marked ‘different’.
Cue a handful of musical ‘pioneers’ who convey their thoughts and feelings over multiple disciplines to make sure we truly understand their significant artistic messages about life, upliftment and their personal experiences. Ahead of this over-saturated crowd stands one man, a young man with a vision to do what has never been done before:
Create an original beat in less than 5 minutes? Check.
Write original lyrics for swiftly built beat? Check.
Rap freshly written lyrics over swiftly built beat? Check.
Wait! Closer examination is called for. The Pepper Grain Special Ops Team move in to try to find out how this can even be.
Our target is seen leaving his car on the back streets of East London. We wait patiently in a nearby bush unable to move for fear of being spotted. As he passes by busy chatting on his iPhone, pillow case in hand we pounce. Exhausted from the struggle of getting him in the back of the Mini he’s taken to dungeons deep beneath the bustling streets of London. On arrival all property is confiscated and our target is placed in an iron encased sound proof room with no signal or windows. The room is cold, dark and bare with nothing but an Apple Mac computer, keyboard and a mic. Reluctant to conform to our demands to demonstrate his abilities he defiantly tells us to watch his highly rated videos SB Warm Up Sessions and Russian Roulette. We are not satisfied, we want answers, and we want them now.
State your name, age and your mission.
“Pepstar, 21, my mission is to make music. I like story tracks, my mixtapes have always told a story and I wanted to do the same thing in a song. At first I had the idea of writing a song about a deceitful girl, and then I included the bit about her boyfriend in jail, before I knew it took on a life of its own and we had ‘Russian Roulette’. Nothing was planned, I called up Elmino, grabbed a couple friends and we sneaked into Selfridges and shot the video. We ended up filming the rest in House of Fraser.
I promote the way I live, I steer clear of violence in my music I’m not trying to preach to no one, but I don’t lead that lifestyle. I didn’t want to put all my eggs in one basket with Music as I think the best way to make it in the industry is to just get on with it. So after doing Music Technology in my A Levels I got a place at Hertfordshire University where I’m studying Business Economics, I’m now in my final year. I’ve always lived a certain way of life, I was in the Youth Parliament and we used to take part in and find activities for youths in the borough and give them a voice. I taught myself how to produce music when I was 13. I live in Hackney, and Oceans had a programme that I went to every day after school. I would stay there until it closed and after a while they let me use the studio to record my vocals. If you hear the early stuff it’s not good at all. Before that I was in a group called Too Terrible, there were four of us as members and around another four rappers who used to record with us so about eight of us in total. We used to do shows and came second in Battle of The Boroughs and got a silver medal. It was around this time that I got the name Peppy which later became Pepstar, because I wore a woolly hat and whenever I took it off my hair would mess up and look like pepper grains so the older guys at the youth club gave me that name.
I grew up a few flats down from where Sir Alan Sugar grew up which inspires me to know that someone who lived round here has done so well. I like rags to riches stories; it could be a shopkeeper talking about how he started his business or anyone for that matter. I’ve recently been reading about Che Guevara, he had a firm belief that he was willing to die for. The political message of ‘by any means necessary’ reminds me to always go for what you want and I put that passion into everything I do. I’ve worked hard at being a Rapper/Producer for years now and I feel I’ve still got a long way to go, but I believe that if you dedicate time and hard work to something the only thing stopping us is us – that exterminates anything negative. I’m inspired by my own creation of music I don’t know where I’d be without music. The game runs on status more than anything, the more views you have the more attention people pay you. I used to be the guy waiting outside the Radio One building at 4am to give Westwood my CD, or waiting til 2am to get Ras Kwame to listen to my music, but no one wants to know until they see numbers. Jenny Francis always supported me from day one, a small thing like Jenny Francis playing your tune on Choice FM is the encouragement you need when no one else wants to know. A lot of what I tried early on didn’t even amount to nothing, but through my management things became easier.
I’ve always had a strong work ethic, and I’ve got a close circle of friends who share the same ideas as me. I think my work ethic stems from my parents, my Mum is hardworking balancing a lot of jobs and her thing is never to be lazy and she never slept. She taught me to always make the best use of the time you have as it can be taken away at any moment, and my Dad is the same. I felt shy for my parents to hear my music but they’d hear it coming from my room all the time. When ‘Russian Roulette’ got to about 20,000 views one of my cousins showed my Mum the video, she was really proud she showed it to her workmates and everything. I think before Urban music got big in this country my parents just wanted me to choose a career that would make me a good living, but I think they can see the light now. I think my Mum feels like she’s being paid back for making me take piano lessons from the age of 6.
Growing up my Mum played a lot of Abba and Country music so that’s bound to have had an influence on me. Kanye West is a big influence, Michael Jackson, Tupac and like every rapper I eventually discovered Jay Z and haven’t stopped listening to him since. Closer to home, I like Wretch 32, Jessie J, Alexis Jordan, and Adele. UK music has grown so much I think the US are gonna start drawing inspiration from us. We’ve got so much talent here, but timing is so important. We can feel proud as UK Artists, we’re a force that can’t be stopped. I see UK music becoming the biggest most dominant force, the epicentre of Urban Music. We incorporate other genres of music into what we do really well; everyone’s pushing boundaries it’s happening so fast that now the US is paying attention. We’ve gotta keep it moving though, always progress never sit back. Always do something great and excel from that. New Artists need to understand that they need to master their craft first. Be the best you can be before you jump out there. Get maximum publicity and let people see the progress. I’ve got videos I posted on YouTube in 2006 (click here to watch), I didn’t even have a plan my sister got a new video camera and she just started filming me. It’s good though cos it allows people to go back and get to know me. Blogs are interested in current music they don’t care about what I did in 2006. Music is so easily accessible now everyone gets it on the same day and plays it til they’re sick of it so you’ve gotta keep yourself hot. It’s taken that direction, but I hope I leave an impression by the emotion my music conjures up in people. My music is to make people motivated, change the point of view of young people and help to drive them forward.”
Pepstar was released to blinding sunlight and the sound of rush hour traffic. Smiling broadly he raises his hands triumphantly in the air. As he disappears into the distance we hear him shout “I stay spraying paintings on the melody arrangement”. As ever Pepstar keeps it moving. Watch this space.