Interview: Iron Braydz’s (@braydz) Waging War With Words

Q. Your EP Verbal SWARdz comes out on 14/04/14, how has it been received so far?
My best review so far has come from Black Sheep Magazine, also in Ger­many I have quite a big fan base. All the pos­it­ive responses have made me look for­ward to put­ting out more mater­i­al in the future.

Q. Any neg­at­ive responses, would you like to address them?
Some people have cri­ti­cised me for put­ting Ram­bo on the EP twice, but it’s obvi­ous that they are not listen­ing to the whole song. After the third verse there are two more MC’s. In fact that’s actu­ally the ori­gin­al ver­sion .As a pro­du­cer and a fan before I became an artist myself, I can under­stand after 3 minutes hear­ing a loop it can some­what be per­ceived as repet­it­ive. How­ever I really like Ram­bo, so any­one who is a fan make sure you listen to Ram­bo Relapse and check out the two added verses. Take your time, sit back and unwind. 

Q. What dir­ec­tion do you see for the future of Brit­ish Hip Hop?
I see Brit­ish Hip hop scene get­ting big­ger, tak­ing the world by storm. It can poten­tially, but the segreg­a­tion in the UK ain’t help­ing the hip hop scene. I hate to use the words fans because I think it is a very egot­ist­ic­al term, so I’ll say sup­port­ers because without sup­port­ers I wouldn’t be able to buy nice things or sup­port my two kids. I think we need a lot more sup­port from the sup­port­ers. Not neces­sar­ily fin­an­cial, but listen­er­ship; a lot more pro­mo­tion; talk­ing about their favour­ite hip hop artists on social media. The more con­fid­ence and the more con­struct­ive cri­ti­cism you give an artist will pro­voke some­thing with­in the artist and allow them to speak to a higher power and pro­ject some­thing to your taste and sup­port.

Q. Why do you think hip-hop is not as pop­ular as in the US? 
Firstly there are less people in the UK. The size of the UK is the size of a state in Amer­ica. The amount of people who do hip hop in this coun­try is prob­ably the size of a bor­ough in New York. So pop­u­la­tion size is a key factor. Secondly I believe segreg­a­tion is a key issue still to this day. Hip Hop still has its umbrel­la com­munit­ies

Q. What do you think could help ease this segreg­a­tion and ten­sion in Brit­ish hip hop?
Well, I’m involved in at least 3 crews- I’m involved in North West Con­fid­en­tial, Fufu Gang, Double Edge, Joe K STAR, K Nine. 2 crews in Amer­ica- Rap Alli­ance and All Ele­ments. The reas­on why I am is involved, not because I have an unlim­ited source of rhymes but rather to prove a point. All the crews I’m involved with have their own dis­tinct style and I appre­ci­ate all styles and forms of hip hop so by being in such dis­tinct crews I feel like I’m bridging the gap between all the dif­fer­ent sub-gen­res of hip hop. Fufu Gang is def­in­itely a lot more Black Power, All Ele­ment & Rap Alli­ance is straight hip draw­ing influ­ences from the Golden Era of rap to the new­er stuff of today. I feel hon­oured that all these great artists are will­ing to col­lab­or­ate and be asso­ci­ated with me.

Q. So unity?
Yes, I guess that’s what need more of in the UK, I don’t want to say unity because I think it’s a very corny word. It’s not a word that is exer­cised very well, so I would say coöper­a­tion, we need a lot more of it. We can just be like oh we only roll with them guys over there. For example I roll with Apex Zero, next week you will see me with Melan­in 9. Hip Hop is not about what side of the spec­trum your com­plex­ion is. It’s about cul­ture. I don’t think the UK has embraced that fully yet. This is why com­mer­cial Amer­ic­an hip hop artists such as Migos can come out with one track and make mil­lions. Equally so more con­scious rap­pers such Talib Kweli can drop his album and make mil­lions too. 

Q. Do you think the hip hop or the whole music industry is still racist?
Some aspects of the music industry even in hip hop is racist. I don’t care what any­one says. I’m happy when an artist like Devlin speaks about issues that we as the people regard­less of wheth­er you are black or white go through, he’s tak­ing it to a higher plat­form. How­ever I feel as if he speaks of cer­tain top­ic or says the same things I would say in a song or another black artist would say, Devlin or another white coun­ter­part gets all the shine, atten­tion, crit­ic­al acclaim for it because of who is- as a white man, unfor­tu­nately. How­ever it’s not his fault. It doesn’t take away from his tal­ent.
I remem­ber say­ing to my cous­in Dizzee (Ras­cal) after he put out Boy in the Corner- you are an anom­aly there is no one as dark as you are and as suc­cess­ful as you are. Dizzee and Wiley basic­ally cre­ated a new gen­re of music and suc­cess­fully trans­ferred Grime from the under­ground and exposed it to the masses. Then you get artists like Pro Green and Example doing what Dizzee and Wiley do and they receive a lot more crit­ic­al acclaim and shine. Yet they didn’t put out half as many mix­tapes and albums as artists like Dizzee and Wiley in order to get that shine or play out big shows and fest­ivals such as T4 on the Beach. Some people will argue my opin­ion, but I feel what I say and say what I feel.

Q. Hip-hop has always been per­ceived neg­at­ively by the main­stream media for glor­i­fy­ing mater­i­al­ism and pro­mot­ing illeg­al activ­it­ies. Do you think this is cor­rect?
When I look at a magazine I don’t want to just see con­scious rap­pers. I want to see rap­pers that talk about the streets- selling drugs. It sounds bad- but it’s all a part of life, some people’s life. It’s a story at the end of the day, albeit a sad one but that’s what hip hops all about, telling a story.
Argu­ably the best MC of our time- Rakim he was a right­eous teach­er but he was also a rich one. He was always embroidered in gold, you don’t have to be a con­scious and broke. Shabazz the Dis­ciple one time said that he ‘wears so much gold because it reflects the gold that’s inside me’. Some people argue that’s like wear­ing the shackles from slavery, good luck to you, but no! I just need to dir­ect you to Africa where we covered head to toe in gold.

Q. How import­ant do you think it is in the hip hop industry to have your own indi­vidu­al sense of style?
My cous­in (fel­low rap­per) Tymat­ic from when we were kids he always looked fly. He’s like a fash­ion con­nois­seur, he can out­do A$AP Rocky any day. His swag­gers always on been on point, so that’s influ­enced me greatly. It’s import­ant to me to look good. It’s cool to be a pro right­eous teach­er but it’s even bet­ter to be a rich right­eous teach­er. I’ve been around people who cri­ti­cise MC’s for wear­ing gold chains and teeth and watches. Why must you look like a tramp in order to be respec­ted? Why not look respect­able and like you care about your appear­ance? Someone more intel­lec­tu­al may come along and decon­struct my argu­ment. I do under­stand there is excess of mater­i­al­ism in hip hop. How­ever isn’t that what hip hops about- excess. That’s why it got the atten­tion it did. You need to be cap­tiv­at­ing and con­tro­ver­sial. There needs to be a drama, a rise and a fall.

Q. Would you like to ven­ture into the fash­ion industry?
Yeah I had my own cloth­ing line Iron Armour but unfor­tu­nately it got dis­con­tin­ued for vari­ous reas­ons- per­son­al spe­cific­ally. Yeah I would like to start it up again in the future. 

Q. Do you think hip-hop has become a busi­ness, do you think this is a neg­at­ive or pos­it­ive?
Hip hop has become a tool for artists to get a bet­ter life. Many hip hop artists before they made it were hust­ling on the streets. I know Busta Rhymes after he dropped ‘The Com­ing, his mother inves­ted major­ity of the pro­ceeds into prop­er­ty. Now look at Busta (Rhymes) he don’t even need to drop an album no more, a single will suf­fice every once in a while because he’s got so many profit mak­ing side ven­tures. Hip hop has fed a lot of mouths, it’s a mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar industry. It has lit­er­ally saved lives. I remem­ber Tretch from Naughty by Nature was on this doc­u­ment­ary and when asked what would you be doing if you weren’t doing hip hop. He said I would have you tied up in your home and I would be rum­ma­ging through your belong­ings and that’s the end of you. 

Q. As a res­ult of hip hop becom­ing a mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar industry, do you think this is ruin­ing the artistry of hip-hop? Do you think bud­ding artists are anti­cip­at­ing what will sell, rather than what they feel pas­sion­ate about?
Music is about your­self. It’s not like oh so and so would like this! May­be, if I say this she would start cry­ing. Thus she would listen more to music and buy more of my songs. No! It don’t work like that. For me it’s a voice from The Most High Power. I know I had to work hard to become a lyr­i­cist or a writer. I don’t think I’m any­one spe­cial in this music industry. I pray to God I remain humble through the rest of my career and write what I like to hear. If someone likes it it’s beau­ti­ful, It’s great to feel that you can relate to someone out there or cap­tiv­ate someone’s ima­gin­a­tion and just have them say this guy is tal­en­ted. I have people who are the age of fifty who have mes­saged me say­ing you are one tal­en­ted indi­vidu­al. It’s amaz­ing to have someone who is many gen­er­a­tions apart from you, yet they can still relate to you. It comes from just let­ting go, not think­ing about it, not being cal­cu­lat­ing of it.

Q. What is the mean­ing behind the EP’s name Verbal SWARdz?
Verbal Swardz. It’s war­fare. My tongue is my sharpest sword- so it’s verbal war­fare. It’s relent­less lyr­i­cism, I don’t hold back. I didn’t water down the EP so I could be played on BBC Radio 1 extra. I’m inten­tion­ally being aggress­ive on this EP. I’ve got this song Crow­bar Head Top­per, it’s me dir­ectly address­ing racism. At the end of the day if I catch you being out­right racist wheth­er black, white or Asi­an I will knock your block off. That’s how pas­sion­ately I feel about it. We’ve all taken the back­seat about it and are so cas­u­al about racism that it’s almost being nor­m­al­ised in soci­ety.
Steph­en Lawrence, may his soul rest peace. His killers and the police for­ce got away scot free. I feel they all deserved to be beaten up severely and I know a lot of people feel the same. So why are we too scared to say it? RIP Ricky Bish­op, I remem­ber going on a march for that brother. All the par­ents wanted to know why he died? How did he die in your cus­tody? How can you deny someone the cour­tesy of that? I feel the police officers involved deserve to get beaten up the same way he did! 2012 a young gen­tle­man was executed in broad day­light in front of onlook­ers, and the police still get away with it. The lady on the tram who was going off on blacks and Asi­ans demand­ing they get out of ‘her coun­try’. She deserved a slap, if I was there GBH. I feel we’re just allow­ing people to get away with this too much- this whole freedom of speech act is allow­ing people to preach hate

Q. Do you think that blacks and Asi­ans in the UK have become pass­ive about issues such as racism?
Yes, well not the Asi­an com­munity. They aint stand­ing for shit. You can go to Alp­er­ton or Southall and see that it belongs to the Asi­an com­munity. I have so much respect for that. They came, they worked hard and they stuck to their plan. They man­aged to retain their cul­ture and their teach­ings. Blacks on the oth­er hand, we helped build back the coun­try but we haven’t as whole man­aged to bene­fit from it entirely, and that’s shame on us. I do hope that the people who read this and are offen­ded by it come and approach me about it. I want to cre­ate a con­ver­sa­tion and have people talk­ing about ser­i­ous issues that affects us all, it’s lot bet­ter than just sit­ting in your shell meekly.
I was on the bus passing through Eal­ing the oth­er day when an Asi­an man was in deep con­ver­sa­tion on the phone speak­ing in either Gujar­ati or Hindi. Then this Jamaic­an man said ‘I’m fed up with these people com­ing over to my coun­try’. I turned to him and said you for­got Windrush already, just remem­ber what the white people were say­ing about you fifty, six­ty years ago. If you want to lash out at any­body, lash out at your oppress­ors; not the people who came to this coun­try to be oppressed as well.

Q. What did you aim to achieve through this EP? Rebel­lion?
I am rebel­li­ous by nature. I am try­ing to incite a rebel­lion. Again on my song Crow­bar Head Top­per, I don’t know of any oth­er UK MC’s who would have gone about that sub­ject mat­ter in that way. I wanted to open the door to some­thing, I don’t want all my hard work that I put into this EP to be for­got­ten.

Q. Could you see a repeat of the 2011 Lon­don Riots? 
I poten­tially do, because they are going to keep killing us. One day we will riot for the right reas­ons and one day we will fol­low it through to the right places, right places. The 2011 riots were mis­guided. I was so sur­prised that Haringey Coun­cil was still intact, the amount of hurt and neg­lect its caused it’s res­id­ents, yet there was not even a win­dow was smashed. We as a people are so mis­guided. There is spec­u­la­tion that under­cov­er police officers sparked the riots. I’m not sur­prised, when there is black people involved there is no such thing as a peace­ful protest.

To hol­la at Bray­dz:
Fol­low Bray­dz on twit­ter @braydz,
like his Face­book page https://www.facebook.com/HollaATBraydz

Have a read of our review of Iron Bray­dz ‘Verbal SWARdz’ by click­ing here!

  Maya Rattrey

Maya Rat­trey

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Maya Rattrey

Maya Rattrey

Edit­or / Author at No Bounds
Maya is an aspir­ing writer and revolu­tion­ary whose heart and soul can be found in the Glob­al South. Hav­ing become edit­or of I Am Hip-Hop Magazine at the age of 17, she is keen on using hip hop as a ped­ago­gic­al tool for the oppressed and help­ing fel­low young people into the media industry. Cur­rently a stu­dent, men­tal health work­er and arts facil­it­at­or- Maya brings both her aca­dem­ic and street know­ledge to pro­jects pro­duced by No Bounds.

About Maya Rattrey

Maya Rattrey
Maya is an aspiring writer and revolutionary whose heart and soul can be found in the Global South. Having become editor of I Am Hip-Hop Magazine at the age of 17, she is keen on using hip hop as a pedagogical tool for the oppressed and helping fellow young people into the media industry. Currently a student, mental health worker and arts facilitator- Maya brings both her academic and street knowledge to projects produced by No Bounds.

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