Coco, a rapper/MC from Sheffield has been turning heads since he burst onto the scene this summer with his Toddla T produced smash ‘Target Practise’, which was played by the likes of BBC 1Xtra‘s Sian Anderson and picked up by GRM Daily, RWD Magazine and Link Up TV. What many people might not know is Coco is hardly a newcomer, being in the game for around 10 years, perfecting his craft and building a loyal and steady fan base up north. Now, with his second single release ‘Big Boh Yah‘ doing the rounds, an official video out on SB.TV and Complex naming him as one of the “15 Grime MC’s Outside Of London That You Need To Know Today”, L Ø S T C U L T U R E sat down with the man himself to discuss his early roots in the grime scene, his opinions on the current landscape of grime and what he has planned for the future.
How did you first get into music and was it conscious decision?
The first time I thought that I wanted to be an MC or producer was when one of my friends approached me in secondary school, a group of them were making music at the time but I wasn’t that type of person to be an MC, that just wasn’t me. But I thought that I’d give it a try as everyone was doing it and I wanted to be involved. So I went to studio and being around people who were making music at the time and seeing how the process worked, with recording and writing, gave me a rough idea of how things worked. One day I wrote my own lyrics, well when I say my own, I would take Kano’s bars and remix them with my twist because I didn’t understand the concept of ‘bar biting’ [stealing someone else’s lyrics] back then. So it was a learning curve and seeing if I could do it and from there, I’ve never looked back.
You first gained attention, both locally and beyond with your tracks with friend and collaborator Remz. How do that link come about and were you surprised by the early success the two of you had?
Me and Remz have been friends from young, even though we lived on separate sides of Sheffield. One day, we were just chatting and Remz was like “Yo Coco, I got bars ya know!” and I was like, “Yeah, I’ve got bars too!” so that’s how the original link up came about. From there, he [Remz] got a USB mic and we’d have to put a sock over it for a pop shield and we just had fun as youngers, because there weren’t much else to do then that.
With regards to those early days and the music you made, both by yourself and with Remz, how did you go about sharing your music?
As youngers, being in the day and age that we were in at the time, there wasn’t really much many resources we could use. We had Bebo, Myspace etc. but with Sheffield being such a small city, it was really word of mouth. So people would send tracks via Bluetooth or would simply play a track to people, saying “how can I get this track” and wanting the track. I remember times when we announced that we would be dropping a track next week and everyone was ready, like the buzz was actually mad. Sometimes I think about them times and I think how much of an impact we had on the scene at the time and we were only young.
What is the grime scene like in Sheffield and is there a sense of support between local artists?
I think back in the day, we were all there to support each other. Not to say that there isn’t support now but I moved to London now so I really involved in it now but I see stuff online etc. You have people like Scumfam who are representing and doing stuff for the scene and there are a lot of youngers coming up as well. Everytime I look at my Facebook, there loads of different MCs popping up from Sheffield and I think that’s good because I want them to carry on the legacy that we had, that the olders had, and just keep it going.
Do you feel that you have a responsibility to support young artists in Sheffield in order to help with that development of local talent?
When I was younger, I didn’t have it on a plate, I had to graft and work for it in order to get my recognition from people who are older. My only advice [to young artists] would be to keep doing your thing, try not to copy people as such and find your own originality. If I see someone and I can see the work there putting in like I was, I might just shout someone and say “yo you’re sick” or give them a co-sign.
Grime in London was developed through the sounds and influences of garage while Grime up North took on elements of 2 step and bassline. Do you feel that the music produced in both North and South are different?
They different in a sense, in terms of where the music is coming from. In Sheffield, our grime music is raw and we have our way of translating what grime means to us. The obvious thing is our accents which shows when have tracks from local artists. Bassline is our thing and I weren’t really about jumping on bassline because I didn’t feel it as a genre. But grime in Sheffield has been around from the beginning and there have been many grime artists to come from Sheffield as well. In terms of how we breed the genre and artists, Sheffield is a small city and you can bump into anyone so being around certain people in that area made me want to do music more.
Earlier this year, you dropped one of the tracks of the summer with ‘Target Practice’ which has been viewed over 13,000 times. How did that song come about and how did you feel it was received by the public?
For people who know me, they know it’s not the first track I’ve ever dropped but for people who haven’t heard me before, they might think “who’s this newcomer?” For me, ‘Target Practice‘ was a great tune to drop in order to give me the exposure outside of London and having the production side from Toddla definitely helped. In terms of linking up with Toddla, I met him when I moved to London and we were put in touch through a mutual friend who told him that we needed to work. I think Toddla had been watching me from before but had never reached out until it was that pinnacle time and moved down to London and it was just chemistry, right time, right place.
In terms of your move down to London, was that a move in order to benefit your career?
It was on my mind for quite a while and my partner lives down here as well. There was only so much I could have done in Sheffield in terms of getting my name out there and creating that buzz, which I did do in the early stages anyway, when I was with Remz etc. As I’ve got older, I thought I’ve gotta do more and I have a lot to give and being in one place can’t always open that many doors for you so I thought let me see the world, move to London, which is the epicentre of UK music and see what I can do and it’s going well.
You have performed live a lot this year, including performing as part of Toddla T’s sound system at Notting Hill, Ibiza Rocks and you will be supporting Bugzy Malone [on November 10th]. Why do you think live shows are still so popular and do you have a favourite venue you’ve performed at?
I think live shows are important because it just gives the fans and artists more of a connection. So for example, if I went to show tomorrow and there’s a lot of people who have heard ‘Target Practice‘ and ‘Big Bou Yah‘, then they might want to speak to me on a level as a person and find out what I’m like. I think that it’s good to connect with your fans and I think live music is the best music anyway as it offers more of an engagement. I think XOYO, where we shot some of the ‘Target Practice‘ video was good simply because the crowd was sick and I got a good response from the fans.
On your Twitter, you said that you were compiling a list of the best grime tracks outside of London. With London no longer the obvious ‘home of grime’, why do you think people are looking elsewhere for the newest and exciting grime music?
I think people are looking now because there is only a matter of time before everyone gets the exposure they need. Even though grime started in London, it has spread so much and everyone wants a piece of the pie. Everyone will always look to London first but if you have a look around, there is a lot of talent outside of London and the demand for MCs outside of London is at its highest. Outside of London, Birmingham and Nottingham are killing it with grime. Birmingham have been doing it for a while now when it first came about but there are artists in Birmingham and Nottingham that are doing it right now!
Currently in grime, there are a number of beefs, disses and sends being sent back and forth. From some one who previously sent for the likes of Maxsta and Saskilla (as part of a LOTM 5 dub), what’s your opinion on clashing? And if you were offered the opportunity at the next Lord of the Mics, who would you clash?
Of course, even if you look at the whole Chip and Bugzy thing, it’s sparked a whole new life within the scene. I think its important because not only is it entertainment but it’s also a training ground for what we do. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with clashing, each to their own. Me personally, I have got the ability to that but that’s not my ticket to success and I don’t need to do that with the talent I’ve got. definitely it’s needed with grime being the UK version of hip hop and it keeps everything going.
With Lord of the Mics, I don’t think that there’s anybody I’d want to clash. When I rate someone, I don’t think that I’d want to go bar for bar with them in a clash but I’d rather collaborate. That’s just my way of thinking. If I think someone is good, I’d rather make something good of it then possibly a negativity, even though it’s not alway negative to clash, I’d rather show people that we can make good music as artists. If the right name was put to me and it was worth it, who knows.
In the last year, grime has become more widely recognised and the MOBOs have even added a grime category this year. Are you happy with the direction grime is going in and who do you think will win?
Yeah for sure! You have the leaders and pioneers like Skepta who are doing it right now and with what he’s done for the scene and what he’s still doing, it’s mad because a lot of people tend to fall off. He’s still got that credibility and people still rate him and I think that as long as we have people like him with his mindset, grime will be around forever and get to the level it needs to be on. That’s why he should win the MOBO for Best Grime because I believe he truly deserves it.
For your latest track ‘Big Bou Yah’, you filmed the video in Sheffield and had local talent like Toddla T and Clubs & Spades in the visual, who do you think is next to blow from Sheffield and why?
Kannan from Scumfam is repping right now and I’m sure people have seen his track ‘Grime‘ which he put out on SB.TV and got good coverage and recognition from. That whole crew there [Scumfam] have been doing it since I’ve been doing it so if they get to go where they want to go, I’m happy from them. I think that everyone needs to focus on themselves and be happy and support everyone.
What can we expect from Coco in 2016 and what do you planned?
Right now, we don’t have anything in place in terms of the mixtape or album. I think what we need to keep doing is dropping these singles, making noise and keep getting the exposure and recognition and maybe come January next year, we may have a different game plan. But for now, this is working and we have a few surprises for next year too!