The latter half of the 00’s was a big moment in UK Music. Artists such as Chip (Chipmunk), Tinchy Stryder and N Dubz dominated the charts. Amongst the successful acts across the country, Ironik (formerly known as DJ Ironik), made huge feats in the industry. From securing three Top 10 hits, to collaborating with Elton John, the multifaceted lyricist carved a lane in the scene, infusing Hip hop, Grime and Garage. After a much felt hiatus, Ironik is back with his comeback album titled ‘Truth Be Told’, which features US legend; Snoop Dogg. On the eve of the rappers comeback concert LØST CULTURE sat down with Ironik to talk musical heights, the comeback album and more.
Lets jump right into things, what made you want to return to the scene after so long with the album ‘Truth Be Told’?
I always wanted to put out a second album. For me, what was crucial was the timing, it was always about that. My first album came out eight years ago now, so this set is a bit overdue *laughs*. It’s literally been about the feeling, I didn’t want to put this out if the timing felt off, you know *pause*. It was always about factors such as “Is anyone checking for it?” which bothered me, I love my music so I want it to have the most impact. Over the last couple of years I’ve been working with younger talent such as King, he drove me and gave me the energy to complete this album, It got me back in the zone where I needed to be.
How long did it take you to record the album? When was the moment you said “This is when I’m starting” to “It’s finished, I’m done”?
It was an organic process. After ‘Mercy‘ (late 2016), the remix came out about May this year, so from that time, about 6 months. After the first few songs I established a pattern, got a little groove going and then it all came together from there.
Was it a structured process?
To be fair, I’ve been DJ’ing also, so I didn’t really see a structured process for it until about a month ago. That’s when things tied together, for example the Snoop record and other features, I started to think “Right, that can be a single”, “That first here”, strategic decisions.
By the sounds of things, you were very much in control. Does that mean you executive produced the record?
Yeah man, I looked over the whole set of producers, apart from the Snoop feature which came from management, I was basically deciding what would sound good where, which artists’ I wanted to bring on board.
Speaking of Snoop *mutual laughs*, how did the ‘Tuff’ feature come about and any plans to perform it with him?
Well, that will be my first experience of smoking *laughs*. Nah that would be dope, amazing opportunity. You know, for me, a lot of the features in my career have been random. The features such as EltonJohn, a lot of them have been spontaneous man, and this was exactly the same thing. My manager was in LA, working with a lot of US artists’, and you know how in LA everyone works with everyone. The minute you’re in one studio, you could literally be working with GwenStefani from going out there with no intentions. Anyway, my manager was out there with RayJ and ChrisBrown was meant to do a session and he didn’t turn up, so Ray was like “Yo I have these Snoop vocals if you guys want them, I know you have an artist in the UK”. My manager called me and let me know, of course I said yes not knowing that it was actually Snoop. Two days later, he sent me the vocals two days later on WeTransfer and I couldn’t believe it, so surreal. I got my producer to edit the vocals and make a real production of it and the rest is history.
Well done on the coup, it’s such a solid look for the album
You know what, this isn’t even the strongest record on the album, that’s how good I feel about it, but it felt right to have this record be a part of the project. It’s Snoop man, who can say no to that?
Focusing on your career now, you’ve been around now for about a decade. How do you feel the R&B/Hip-hop scene has changed since your debut?
I think it has gotten a lot better man. There’s a lot of artists coming out, particularly Hip-hop artists, who aren’t afraid to make tracks for the ladies now, you know. Hearing the Chip album, Kojofunds, there’s vocals on the albums out now, more passion. I think it’s more acceptable to take risks now to appeal to wider audiences, people like Stormzy and JHus are doing well too. It’s good for me because when I was coming out I was the only one making likkle girl songs and now everyone is, you know them ones *mutual laughs*.
So, we have Snoop, Fekky, Paigey Cakey and more on the album. What made you go that route, the whole DJ album kind of feel?
I completely see what you’re saying. It stems down to, like I said before, people paying attention more. For this album, it’s been a while since my last chart hit, for the younger audiences, they’ll know who a PaigeyCakey or BigTobz is. It’s kind of like a reintroduction, trying to stay relevant but in the right way. Don’t get me wrong, I still brought every artist into my world, it was a genuine and authentic process.
Like you’ve said, you have worked with big artists for example Elton John and you have seen the charts more than once in your career, so do you think you have a lot more to prove or do you feel like you’ve done it all at this point?
I think I have a lot more to prove man, there’s a way to go. People have this perception of me and my music but I’ve studied this game, I’ve studied Garage, Grime, Pop, R&B; I know where my lane is and exactly what I want my brand to be. Right now, it’s just about adjusting it and for people to pay attention again.
Who are some of favourite artists in today’s scene?
Some of my favourites in the UK right now are Avelino, I love what he does man, he’s so underrated. AJTracey is sick for Grime right now, also YxngBane. You know what, they are all getting mad creative nowadays, proper creative; YxngBane literally knows how to make a hit. Stormzy has to get mentioned also, love what he’s doing, he’s a pioneer.
This time around what are some of the things you hope to achieve?
It’s not necessarily directly the chart thing, I’ve done that before in my career multiple times. It’s more about putting out good music and building my fan-base back up. You know, I also never really got to tour properly, I did a lot of supporting tours, but I’d love to have my own solo one. Last thing is definitely stepping up my video game man, really look to do that over the next few years.
Would you ever go to a major label?
I’ve already got quite a good team right now you know, maybe like a Partnership. I don’t know what else a label would give me, I already have distribution and the team necessary to do everything. I’m not anti-labels thought, I had very good relations with my last one, we ended on mutual terms, so yeah Partnership maybe down the line.
Have you had any mentors down the line, either since the beginning or throughout the journey thus far?
First of all, my Mum. She’s been a huge inspiration to me, nothing but motivation throughout, so I have to big up my Mum man. In the last couple of years I got into a relationship. That definitely changed my outlook and perception of things; my inspiration everything. She made me feel confident again. On the outside, I have conversations with people such as Chip, Tinie. My peers give me a lot of feedback and guidance along the way.
It’s good to know that the scene, the people you came up with still support after all this time
Yeah man, it’s always love and supporting each other.
Moving back to the album, what is the flavour of this project and what would you say are some of your genre influences?
A lot of what’s going on in the UK right now man. A mixture of R&B, Hip-hop, even a bit of Dancehall on the project too. It’s my typical sound but with a more updated and current feel to it like ‘Mercy‘. A bit more uptempo from the past, I feel like my first project was slow, this one has more of a dance-y vibe too it, you know.
You spoke about tours, would you say there’s a tour in the works?
That’s the aim. At first, we just want people to take notice, catch attention, turn heads and if it catches on definitely a tour. For the next couple of months, we’re focused on pushing the album and visuals and getting the project to a place where it’s being listened to and taken in.
Would you say later on down the line international plans?
That is another goal of mine, for sure. I’ve always wanted to do that because as a DJ I get to go all over the place, we just got back from Tenerife last night man, I’m a zombie right now *laughs*. I do have immediate plans for the end of the year to go to Japan. There’s a gap in the market over there and they love my music so I’ll be out in Japan and then hopefully a few other spots globally.
You know I’ve heard of a lot of acts from the UK going over, quite the niche over there for you guys
There is man, they are really receptive to our sound. There’s people dancing to Bashment you know *laughs*, you’d be surprised. They love everything different.
Lastly, are you going to continue being a DJ also or strictly Ironik from here on out?
Nah, there’s a place for both I think. At first, I didn’t embrace the DJ side, but now there’s the Calvin Harris’ and the Khaled’s, you can work both and be just fine.