Late last year I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Wretch 32. Wretch 32, real name Jermaine Sinclair, has come a long way from being at the centre of the birth of UK grime to becoming a prominent name in a growing list of British rappers. His third album ‘Growing Over Life’ is released later this year. We discussed his progress, his plans and the direction his musical journey has taken him. Wretch came across as a sincere and honest man. Someone who has managed to keep himself in the face of growing fame, a feat many seem to struggle with.
Stephen Levene: Your second album ‘Black and White’ is very instrumentally different from your debut, ‘Wretchrospective’. How is your next album different? Why should people keep listening?’
Wretch 32: ‘If you want honesty – for good records you want to be part of a musical journey that’s only going to stop when I’m no longer here. If you’ve listened to my old albums and my mixtapes, everyone who has listened to them gets to know me. You get to know me as an individual right the way up. You feel the growth in me throughout my journey – my head at the time. I see them as collective albums, like a series. They definitely all came from me.’
The name of your upcoming album ‘Growing over Life’, and your singles ‘’ and ‘6 Words’ seem to signal a maturity in your content, more personal than ever before. Is this something to expect from your new album? Why do you think you’ve opened up?
This stems from me and is specific to my life. A good thing about it is that it is universal. Let us say I’m writing ‘6 words’, for arguments sake. I’m pretty sure there are millions of people who treasure something. The tracks are hugely relatable.
So why more open now?
I’m more comfortable now in my own skin, now I’ve grown. You know, when you’re unsure about how people perceive you – too skinny, too small – now I can’t give a rats arse. You have to love yourself first. That’s where I’m at now, so hopefully it spreads through the music. I want to give a good vibe. That’s what’s I want to bring to music now.
Your new single ‘6 Words’ is coming out in just under 2 weeks. Could you tell me the inspiration behind that?
The record was written in one of the most frustrating points of my life. The album was finished and we were stuck finding the next single… the next record. Everything was frustrating. I wasn’t enjoying music at that point. It was genuine. He always had the idea to do a singing record, so we tried that today. I always had the line in mind, ‘I can’t sing but I wrote you a song’. I thought what to do treasure the most – so I started thinking about my kids, music etc… That’s how the record came about.
The album features collaborations with artists Shakka and Jacob Banks. What was it about these artists what drew you to collaborate with them? Any colloborations you’d like to do in the future?
Jacob Banks – he is part of my arts hub called ‘Renown’ from Birmingham. I like his vibe so took him on and want to see him realise his potential. Shakka, well I’ve been a massive fan for my many years from watching him on underground. I hadn’t done a tune yet but I know I wanted too. I think he is incredibly talented and hope the masses become aware of him. In the future I’d like to write some stuff with Gary Barlow but now it’s more about learning. After I finish my album it’s more about learning.
Last year The Movement did a Fire in the Booth on Radio 1Xtra. The levels were high. Are we going to see any more from ‘The Movement’?
It’s mad. If I say too much it’ll be too much. We were in the studio not so long ago. Our musical bond, trust, love and competitiveness for each other will never die. If those things are alive the movement will always be moving.
You’ve come a long way since 2006 and your mixtapes such as ‘Learn from my Mixtape’ and ‘Teachers Training Day’ when grime was emerging and had an unstoppable energy. Do you ever miss those days?
I do miss those days. We didn’t give a sh*t. We said whatever, made whatever giving it too whoever – no expectations. What I miss the most is being free. If I released a tune on the net it could get 10 views and no one would give a damn. Now if I did the same everyone would be shocked. But not everything is a 1million view song, or top 10 single.
That was a pre-album mind-set -when there was no press there was no pressure. But now I’ve subtracted that pressure. I’m going to make what I’m going to make. All I can do is write the best I can, find the best instrumentals, collaborate with best producers and then it goes out. If it connects with the people it connects. If not it doesn’t. Real artists give you everything. That’s why you see certain artists taking drugs or going crazy. Being so open for millions is a threatening thing to see to your life. Something it does to you and takes from you, it’s powerful. They feel the press. There are some days I start at 12pm in the afternoon and finish in 4am. If you’re doing that 20 times a month you’re in prison, to some degree. You’re in a room working on something and when you give it out and people don’t like to and doesn’t’ get love, it’s dangerous. You can allow yourself to become stressed. I learnt I need to subtract that and be happy. Now I have no expectations. Everything else is a bonus.
This may not be your area but Devlin’s been quiet in the past months? Any news or hints to why? Is he working on anything big
Devlin is good. In studio and doing well! We come from a place where we did what we want. Now we can’t do that. So many people are in between giving the fans the music and you. Now everything has to be perfect. Before we were making things to be a little imperfect. Sometimes on purpose. We learnt from them.
I enjoyed my interview with Wretch 32. I assumed that it would be a static affair, with me asking him questions to which the replies I’d receive would be short, basic and pre-written. However, I was wrong to assume. He spoke to me like I was a friend, someone whom he’d known for a long time. A pleasant surprise considering the many tales of inflated egos. Wretch 32’s honesty made me think about his lyrics and how too often I’ve dismissed them as pre-packaged industry rubbish. Now I respect that many artists, includingWretch 32, still keep it real – no matter how successful they are.
By Stephen Levene