President T has been a pioneer in the Grime universe for decades. Standing alongside the likes of Skepta and JME in Meridan Crew, the MC has navigated his career to new heights since. After a hiatus, mid 00’s, T returned to the scene in 2015 and reached number 7 on the iTunes with his second LP Greatest To Ever Touchdown. Now, President T is back with his latest album Stranger Returns, which has been in the works for ten years. On the cusp of his release, LØST CULTURE caught up with the Grime force to talk album inspirations, being an independent artist, global aspirations and industry fakeness.
Your last project T On A Wing received a lot of positive feedback, was that the response that you were expecting from fans and critics?
Yeah, to be honest, I was expecting that response. Obviously, you have to be confident in your body of work, even though with T On A Wing, it wasn’t dropped as a record for full impact like Stranger Returns is.
Speaking of Stranger Returns, the album has been reportedly in the works for about ten years now. How did your headspace change over that period of time, and what were some of the experiences that shaped the album?
It’s definitely been in the works for around that time. Over time, of course, we’ve had shifts with the physical elements of the project, but the work around the project has stayed the same over time. In terms of changes; instrumentals, song changes, sound and producer influences, elements such as that. What I will say is the Stranger Returns today is not that same Stranger Returns from ten years ago, this is a new and improved, rejuvenated version.
So you described changes in production and soundwaves over the last few years, can you describe some of those changes and your approach towards changing these components?
It was basically updating lyrics which I personally felt had lost context over the course of my career, changing it to suit the younger crowd more as we have a completely different scene right now from ten years ago. It was also about my style and my whole flow which had also been enhanced over time, my format has definitely improved.
Would you say that the rise of Trap or Afrobeats in the country have influenced the album in any way?
Yeah to an extent. A lot of people will find a bit of the Trap influence in places, but I boil it down to one hundred percent Grime. I always try to retain what I’m known for.
That’s great, switching gears a bit to your career as a whole; you’ve been around for decades now and are renowned for your underground presence, do you seek a more mainstream position? Or is your place within the scene as a renegade more suitable in your opinion?
*pauses* You know, it’s all down to the industry, if and when they are ready to take on what I as an artist have to offer. In my eyes, I’m more than happy with my position in the game, being independent. I just wanna take over the world with what I do, I’ve been one of the most successful independent acts, I’d probably even say top 10 within that independent pocket. With the industry, there are some artists on labels that haven’t reached the level that I have.
In terms of the industry today, British music seems to be having a revival. We have the likes of Lotto Boyzz bringing in some of Birmingham’s influences, and Octavian thriving especially this year, what are your thoughts on the state of British music right now?
British music is in an excellent state right now. There’s so much publicity for us all over the world, it’s great for up and coming artists right now to see, we all have more of a chance now in the Grime/Rap pocket. Also, the social media era has added a lot to that.
What would you say are some of the improvements that social media has done for the scene?
Its basically let up and coming artists win without needing to be signed anymore. They don’t need a record deal anymore, they can run things from their handsets. Also, they can also put out their own videos without sending it to some major corporations and have the chance for it to be viewed globally at the touch of a button.
Who would you say are some of your standouts from the new wave of artists?
On the top of my head, I’d say Jaykae and Not3s,
Jaykae because he represents the Midlands so well, I was born there and have always thought that he was proper talented, even from the That’s Not Me remix days. It’s amazing to watch him and his journey, you know selling out shows now – that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Not3s he’s from my borough in London. His rise has been, just so fast and it’s mainly down to passion for the craft and his consistency to his material.
On the topic of career highs, a lot of artists have been embarking on the chase to America and more broadly, seeking international success. Do you seek to ever do an international push with your career?
Definitely. I’m going to be in Canada within the next few months, I also have a few European Island festivals coming up in the summer also. I have plans to be out in New York very soon to make some music and work with a couple of artists.
Any specific artists in mind?
For now, it’s under the radar but soon there will be moves and announcements.
Sounds like interesting venutres are on the horizon. Going back to your career to date, you’ve shown such a dedication to your craft, what pushes you to continue?
It’s just the appreciation man, honestly. The fan support, the people that come up to me all the time to let me know that what I’m doing is good, that I’m a legend to them and solid. People in general just enjoying what I do gives me a very good reason to make it even further.
What do you plan to achieve while still in the game?
To win ‘Best Album’ or ‘Album of the year’, something on that level would be nice. I also want to keep my presence, build my label towards the end of the year and towards 2019. I hope that the world will see a lot of artists from there in the future.
Going back to your latest album, what was/is your promotional strategy this time around?
I have the merch available now via the President T website. Also, there will be more singles to follow after Birthday Cake and What You On – probably another two, to be honest, expect videos to come from them.
Lastly, IAMDDB recently discussed the industry being “fake”, specifically in regards to NewGen. As you’ve been in the game for a while, what are your thoughts on the industry and is there any validity to the statement in your opinion?
Well then, *pauses*. The industry, It’s a bit fake but you know what, everyone’s skirt will get lifted one day if you know what I mean. You can be as fake as you want, but there’s going to be one day where you’re gonna have to showcase whatever you’re lying about. I see it as I don’t see much of that fakeness just because I play oblivious to it myself.
Stream President T‘s latest album Stranger Returnshere
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