Get to know XYM, his tracks are lyrical stories to listen to! He’s a rapper from Yorkshire, find out what he’s up to at the minute, his thoughts on music, society and expression. His music is uplifting and his content is meaningful.
Q. Why did you start using rap music to express yourself?
Cos I couldn’t sing, but I loved writing song lyrics. I remember as a little kid making my own lyrics up to myself and singing away for hours. But my mum isn’t one of these mum’s who lies to their kids and they end up going on X Factor and embarrassing themselves cos for their whole lives their mum’s told em how good their voice is when in fact they’re tone deaf. My dad’s more like that, tries to put a positive spin on things, but my mum definitely plays bad cop. She’s a straight shooting northerner who tells it how it is and she told me from a young age that I couldn’t sing and she was right. But when I discovered rap I was like yes, I can still do music even though I can’t sing. And when my best mate played me Cypress Hill’s Illusions, I was like this is even better than I thought cos I can swear too. Then my mum gave me a Public Enemy cassette of hers ‘Fear of a Black Planet’ and I didn’t look back.
Q. What topics/issues do you touch on in your music?
Everything really but to narrow it down and say the life of the underdog. Whether that happens to manifest itself in pro-black lyrics or lyrics supporting the working classes, I’m definitely supporting the little man, and woman. I wanna make music for the people and I like to reflect how life is. That could be the life of an Alcoholic, like in my song with that title, or just the life of the everyman struggling in the monotony of a 9 to 5, or struggling to even find that monotonous job, or it could a little more global, like I did a track called Haiti after the earthquake there. I’ve been working on a track dealing with the fact that Drummer Rigby got a thousand times more press coverage than an Asian man who was murdered at the same time but as my hook goes ‘Drummer Rigby got all the front pages, but you never read bout Mohammed Saleem, I’ll tell you now he killed by racists, read all about it on page 13.’ So yeah I like holding a mirror up to society, but try not to be too preachy with it. Hip-hops about entertainment after all, but like Dead Prez say ‘It’s bigger than hip-hop’ so I like to challenge my listeners. XYM stands for Xpand Your Mind, so I guess that’s what I’m all about.
Q. You big up ‘Hip-Hop Shakespeare’ in your song ‘Romeo and Juliet’. How did this influence your song and other pieces you have?
Haha that was actually a mistake. But I didn’t realise it until the album had been sent off for mastering. When I say mistake, I put it in there on purpose, but I was going to take it out cos I thought it sounded too cheesy. Anyway yeah I mentioned Hip-hop Shakespeare cos Akala’s people reached out a while ago to get me involved in all that, but it never happened. I wrote a track called Black Bard which was heavily influenced by Shakespeare and was a kind of homage to Akala’s track called Shakespeare. And obviously Shakespeare influenced this Romeo and Juliet track a lot, where I set out to put bits of this story in a modern day setting cos now the Capulets and Montagues would be two rival gangs fighting over postcodes or what not. Also on my first album By Any Means I did a track called Pentameter where every line was 5 syllables, so that was definitely inspired by Shakespeare. As for how heavily Shakespeare has influenced my other work it’s hard to say. I think Shakespeare’s put on this pedestal where teachers and academics will overrate him and say every single piece of his work was amazing as was every line and each line has 100 different meanings. I think that’s bull, I think some of his plays were boring and sometimes he just wrote lines cos they rhymed or were funny. The reason I’m mentioning this is cos I think it puts a lot of people off Shakespeare cos teachers make him almost God like and by saying everything he ever did was genius it takes away from his actual real moments of genius, of which he had many. The fact his work is still done now (over done mind you) shows how great he was as his work’s stood the test of time. But one thing that’s lost I think is the language. Cos language has evolved Shakespeare stuff seems posh, but at the time it wasn’t at all. Princes went to see his plays but so did paupers. And that’s what I take from Shakespeare I like making stuff for the people and I like telling stories with multiple meanings, and Shakespeare was a master craftsman at that, even if each line didn’t mean 100 things they’d often mean two or three. And with his rhyming, rhythmic lines and all his metaphors as well, I think Shakespeare could’ve definitely been a rapper today. Big Willy Shakes, W Sheezy??!!
Q. With your music I really can see you have a lot to say. What are your beliefs that have made you want to speak out with musical expression?
My beliefs are that I want a more socialist society. I don’t know if it will ever change (it seems to be getting worse at the moment) but I want to make people aware of how society is. Cos in Britain we live with this culture of denial. People like to think that they are self made, that they have got to university or into a certain job off their own backs and people who aren’t as ‘successful’ as them have just not worked as hard as them. There’s a lot of old money and old boys networks in this country and it creates such a glass ceiling. But my thing besides just ‘complaining’ is that there’s more of ‘us’ and there are of them. So I’m trying to show people that there’s power in numbers, if you take your heads out of the sand we could do something about it. Even if it’s not a full scale revolution at least listen to my CD instead of the meaningless rubbish, that’s a start! At the same time I also want people to make positive choices and realize that you have got a choice even if they are limited, I still think it’s better to be in a ‘boring’ low paid job, than live the fast life for a bit then end up dead or in jail. So I’m trying reach out to people and relate to people who might otherwise come under negative influeces. Hopefully my music can inspire some people.
Q. What inspires you and were there some great influences?
Stories inspire me. I love telling stories . Influence wise there’s rappers and groups like Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Rakim, 2pac, Biggie, Nas, Lupe, Common, Mos Def, The Fugees, Dead Prez, Scarface, Skinny Man, Klashnekoff, Kano, Black Twang, J Cole, Big Pun even Jay Z. And I’ll try and take the bits I like from them, whether it be the message, the delivery, the flow, the humour, the wordplay, and mould it into my own style. Then there’s just your great artists like Bob Marley, Tracy Chapman, Michael Jackson, Otis Redding, Nina Simone. I grew up listening to soul and reggae so for me there are so many great artists who’ve influenced me the list is endless. But special shout out to three in Marvin Gaye for fighting against Motown to make What’s Going On and making the album he wanted to make, rather than the cheesy rubbish they wanted him to put out. Prince for just doing his own thing and for being good for so long and Sam Cooke, cos I think A Change Is Gonna Come is the best song ever made. And also I’ve been heavily influenced by political figures, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandella, Tony Benn, Marcus Garvey. I like orators, cos that’s what I do but to music. My dad actually got me a CD of Tony Benn’s speeches done to reggae music, surprisingly it works. I mean it’s not Grammy worthy but it’s good.
Q. Are you working on any projects/songs etc. at the moment?
Yeah loads of stuff. I’ve just got back from Paris where I shot a video with a producer called Tissene who produced my Black Boy Lane album which we put out on FAS Records. The song is called Hustlers and we plan on making a new album soon
In November I’m going to be shooting a video for a track of mine called Spaceship produced in Germany by Ignition Music. Sukhpal Sahota is directing.
I’ve just finished doing a track called Hey with some Hungarian boys called QP Combo and we want to shoot a vid in Hungary early next year
I’ve just finished a track called Bunga Bunga with AEL from Italy and we want to shoot a video in Italy next year for that
I’m working on a few tracks with a London producer called Debobeats. We wanna take it back to the old school and release a want to release a vinyl. One of the tracks is called Soldier Boy and is going to be the title track of a short film I’ve written and am starring in March, with the same title, set in Hebden Bridge, down the road from my parents house, about a soldier returning to Afghanistan.
I’m working with a Czech producer called Peaty Beats and we’ve got a song together which is being mastered in Germany right now. Also I’m looking to collabo with Tommy Solo from Manchester and A.C.E. from the US more. We’ve done a couple of tracks together already and I think our styles compliment each other well. And I’m putting the finishing touches to a kind of hip-hop reggae hybrid called Bob Marley, produced by a Swiss producer called Mbeats. I’m always busy, writing new stuff, I can’t help it. But really trying to focus on getting some more vids made and building up my European connections. I’ve been to a few hip-hop festivals on the continent and hip-hop is massive there.
Q. What advice would you give to young people who really want to inspire people with their rap, poetry and writing?
You’ve got to inspire yourself first. If you don’t like your music and believe in the message no one will. Don’t do stuff just to please other people, cos you think that’s what they wanna hear. They want to hear you, so follow your heart, that way at least one person will like your stuff. I’m the most listened to artist on my iPod by a mile and I’m proud of that fact!
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