Since bursting onto the scene at the age of 13 as part of K Koke’s USG group, Geko has built a fan base thanks to hard hitting lyrics and undeniable flow. Since leaving the group, Geko has gone on to form his own independent label, One Tape Records and taken his music in a new, refreshing direction with the release of his EP Baba. His tracks ‘Love Me’, ‘It’s Alright’ and ‘Ghetto Queen’ have all racked up over a million views on YouTube independently and he is part way through his first ever headline tour, including a sold out date at London’s O2 Academy. L Ø S T C U L T U R E sat down with the Manchester rapper to discuss his early years in the scene, his recent collaborations and what’s in store for 2016…
You were first signed to USG when you were 13 years old and we’re going on tour and making tracks from a young age. How did that link up with Koke first happen and what was that experience like at such a young age?
Everyone knows I was a massive Koke fan so I kept sending him my music and that and then I send him the track I made after my little brother died [‘Goodnight’]. He [Koke] had been through the same sort of thing where something happened to his brother but he survived so he could relate to it and was like “I could of lost my brother as well” so we wanted to work together and I was gassed.
At the time, I didn’t really take it in and think about what was happening with me, I just thought everything was normal. But now when I look back on it, I think I done a lot for my age, I mean I did a Fire In The Booth when I was 14 years old! I can’t imagine another 14 year old doing a Fire In The Booth now. When I was doing it, I classed myself as just another rapper but looking back, it’s crazy.
From being involved in the music scene so young, did it have an effect on being a normal “teenager” – relationships, dating and school life?
It was good and bad, it was good because I was “that kid” who was going London all the time and my name was getting around. But it was bad because there was an element of people wanting to come around me for the wrong reasons, and that still happens now to be honest.
Coming from Manchester, can you describe the local scene and who do you think is next to blow from the Manchester urban scene?
In Manchester, everyone seems to have too much ego and pride and while we might support each other, by tweeting each other’s stuff, it’s like everyone has got some secret hate for each other so in Manchester, the scene is kind of dead. Obviously Bugzy [Malone] came through with the “0161” and “Manny on the map” but people from Manchester think it’s a competition and there can only be one winner. In London, I see everyone working together, with South London being an example and clearing up at the MOBOs. I can’t really say anyone is “next to blow” but there’s people there I rate and like. I’m a fan of the older lot so people like Captin and a couple people like Jawz, Napz and Two4Kay coming through.
After working with USG for a number of years, you left the group and K Koke and at the time, K Koke went on Twitter and posted a few negative tweets about your relationship. What was the main reason you left USG and do you still keep in contact with any of the guys?
To be honest, me and Koke just had a misunderstanding and we both argued and said certain things and we both basically pushed myself out. When I did leave, he took to Twitter and was writing things but I didn’t say anything, even when bloggers are emailing me to get my side of the story, I said “Just put Koke’s side of story, you don’t need to hear mine.” Now, I still chat to them, not Koke but the rest of them I do.
From when you first started putting out music, you have gone from a grime flow to a more laid back, utilising hooks, melodies and ad-libs into your tracks. Was that something that happened naturally or was it a conscious decision to do so?
The music I listen to on a daily is, if it’s not rap, stuff like Afrobeat because I’m a freak for melodies bro, like Wizkid and certain people like that. I feel like my melodies are a bit different to everyone else’s so I feel like I relate to more foreign people in music. I was just sat down randomly and thought let me actually try and make a track like this. You know what’s mad, I’ve been singing on hooks on my tracks for years, since I was 13. But properly, in this waviness, it started with ‘Over and Under’ and that song actually has the line “Baby, let’s try something new” which went two things – trying something new with a girl but actually something new in terms of the song as well.
When I released it, via a snippet on Instagram, I was telling people, “don’t get at me, I’m just trying something new and trying what I love”. But when it dropped, people were feeling it and even people in Manchester that I used to have problems with were feeling the vibe and respecting it. I think one of the reasons it works so well so because it’s natural and not forced. If you saw the way I work in the studio, you’d probably laugh – I sit down in my room with my Mac and my little set up and put a beat on to freestyle to which usually sounds like mumbles. There are even some tracks I’ve released where you can hear bare mumbling and that’s just me building my own sound. That’s why I love people like Future, because it all comes so naturally.
You set up your own record label One Tape Records to distribute your music. What prompted you to make that decision and are you planning to sign any new artists?
You know what, after USG, I stopped music for a year. I would release a few freestyles here and there but I didn’t release anything for a couple months and my views were only hitting like 3,000 views and that so I was thinking I’ve lost it. But being back in Manchester and in the hood, I realised this just wasn’t for me so I knew I needed to get my head back in the game. Back then, before Shaz [manager] came in, it was just me so I was thinking of name and one means the one of me at the time and the reason why I used the word tape is because it could been audio, pictures, video and could be anything. So I went on and brought the domain name to commit myself to it and registered it. I haven’t signed anyone yet but I’ve got Alize and Lil Eazy around me who aren’t even my artists but just my friends who make music. I want to focus on my own music but after that, I definitely looking to bring people through.
You recently featured on the remix of WSTRN’s ‘In2’ alongside Chip and Wretch 32. How did you get on the remix and are you surprised by the success WSTRN have achieved with their debut track?
When the track first came, like back when it had its original video and that, I was tweeting it being like “these guys are sick” and they was showing love back. And then I did my own song where I kind of say the “In2” line and I sent them through a snippet. They got back to me asking if I wanted to be on the remix and I was like yeah cool. This is before they got signed and the track got re-released and now the track was blown up like crazy. I expected the track to do well though because it is a banger and is mad. That’s why I wanted to bring them through to my Islington show to perform and now we’ve built a good relationship.
You had a sold out show back in October at the O2 Academy which was covered by Link Up TV and looked like a huge success. What was that experience like and how did it feel when you first stepped out on stage?
People won’t be happy with me saying this but they didn’t believe in me and think I could sell out the small room which I did in 4 hours. So they moved me up to the main room/stage and I sold that out within a week. For me, I didn’t believe it until I was there and saw everyone there. I’ve done shows before but with this one, I knew everyone in that room had come to see me and after the thing finished, I just got bare emotional because it was so crazy.
Talking of live shows, you have recently announced a number of tour dates including Manchester, Cardiff and Birmingham. What can people expect from a Geko live show and what are you most looking forward to?
Bro, expect me to be absolutely crazy! My turn up is real every time I’m on stage, and you can expect all the mandem to come through on stage as well. Live shows are just as good for me as they are for my fans, I love it and they love it as well so it is a treat for both of us.
Over the past year, you’ve worked with the likes of Lady Leshurr [‘Vibe‘], MoStack [‘Stacey‘] and Paigey Cakey [‘Nana‘], how do you go about working on collaborations and who would you most Like to work with in the UK right now?
To be real, I don’t reach out to artists, apart from Lady Leshurr. I don’t think that I want to work with that person or not with that person, it just comes naturally. I work with people if I’m feeling their vibe and like their music. Don’t get it twisted, there are bigger people that have reached out to collaborate but I’m not always on it. I can’t think of anyone in the UK but I’d love to jump on a track with Sia, that voice is crazy!
What is next for Geko and what can we expect from you in 2016?