You’re no rookie to the industry. Having worked alongside some of the UK’s heavyweights in the business; what can you say that you learnt from them? (their experiences and knowledge?)
Yeah, I’ve worked with a lot of great people. I started out with Skinnyman taking me under his wing, so I definitely learned the most from him in the beginning. He taught me a lot about how to kill a stage show, and he used to show me Sting tapes from Jamaica and say, “watch how these man perform, forget rappers”. He also told me that when I’m writing always remember, “We are the fucking best”. Those are both things that I’ve always carried with me. Later I worked with artists like Dappy and Charlie Sloth, and I learned to let myself be free as a creative, and let myself out of the ‘UK hip-hop’ box. Those guys and others have been a huge inspiration by coming from where I come from and achieving so much, and also still staying humble and supporting me. It lets me know I can do anything I put my mind to as well.
You wear quite a few hats, you’re a rapper, a host, a journalist. Talk us through a typical week for Novar?
Yeah, that’s something I learned from people like Charlie Sloth as well. And someone else I worked and who’s a friend, Ed Skrein. He was a rapper and become a Hollywood star more recently. He told me, “You never know where your break is going to come from”. A typical week for me has little time for rest in it [Laughs]. Day to day I’m running a business called Underworld Konnect with Kingpin. It’s a business he started as a flyer distribution service, and now we run it together. We also hold events and operate as a record label that my album is coming out on. My week is guaranteed to include my radio show and preparing for it, which is always exciting. I kind of look at my journalism work as connected to that. So, I might be interviewing artists and writing articles. I’ve had some great ones already in my short career as a journalist. J Hus, Lil Yachty, Lil Peep, Not3s and loads more.
How important is it for you to pursue your skills in different avenues and what complications have you had to overcome by doing so?
It’s always been important for me to do things that are going to develop the culture. In the past I helped to keep Itch FM operating because it was so important to the scene at the time. With my media work I really want to get in a position where hip-hop and street culture is represented correctly in mainstream media. We see newspapers getting the slang wrong, and posting the wrong pictures of artists, and other offensive mistakes way too often. They need to have the right people writing about us. So instead of hiring people who are not connected, they need to hire people from the culture. The biggest obstacle I’ve had in that field so far was interviewing Lil Yachty. I was so excited about the interview and fascinated by him as a cultural figure, but when the time came he was really difficult to interview, and I wasn’t prepared for that. I think it’s harder for an American to know whether I’m on side or not. If I’m interviewing CHIP, he can probably tell I’m from the ends straight away, and will feel comfortable. But with Yachty, it’s not so easy for him to know, and the press come for him a lot. So he gave very short answers, but I think I made the piece work well with what I had, and it was a great learning curve for me.
Are there any other hidden gems that we can look forward to seeing from Novar in the future?
Aside from my own music I’ve been working on a lot of song writing. My latest album has a lot of singing and melodic vocals on it, and I realised I was really good at writing R&B records during the process. I’ve written a few new bits and started looking for new singers to come and vocal them. I’m planning to put a project together like this for another artist and release it though the label. Also, I’ve got a joint album with the legend MCD that I’ve been sitting on for a while. At some point I’m going to get that out too.
Your latest single was released on Father’s Day for a very significant reason. Talk to us about the process of creating and releasing ‘See You Everyday’.
So this song was recorded in the mix of the whole album, Damaged. I recorded the bulk of the whole project in 4–5 weeks while I was going through a break up and a quite emotional time. This specific song was written as a rap song to a different beat, and I was going to get a singer on the chorus. Then Danny Bones sent me the beat it ended up on and I just started singing the same lyrics over it in the melodic style you can hear on the record, and it just clicked. Emotionally it’s a record about not seeing my daughter every day, that I wrote at a time when I was adjusting to just that. It wasn’t about not seeing her at all, though later on I didn’t get to see her for a year, and it began to have new meaning.
“I Just want to be home and wake up with you, feed you, clothe you and take you to school” -These are the opening lyrics of your single, where you express not being able to do the small things for your daughter. Stepping aside from music for a moment; often times we hear of father’s not being able to see their children daily due to the breakdown of the parent’s relationship. What encouragement would you give to any parent that is unable to wake up to their child every morning, give them a hug, take them to school and share those other priceless moments with them?
Yeah, it’s exactly that. I was really missing the small things, day to day. I have quite a lot of thoughts on this issue of fathers not seeing their children. It is certainly a huge issue, but I’ve come to believe that many have it misconstrued. A lot of men feel very hard done by, by the system, and this often results in anger towards mothers and the illusion that women are advantaged above men in some way. I’ve become very interested in feminism in recent years, and come to the realisation that the court system that supposedly benefits women in these cases, is only doing so to keep women in the home in the long run and uphold a patriarchal society. So, in the end it’s to benefit men. It also mostly only effects the working class. I also know women who have been prevented from seeing their children by the courts, so I decided to remove the word ‘father’ from my press release and replace it with ‘parent’. I would encourage parents most importantly to take responsibility for their own actions in any break up or disagreements. Because the longer we spend blaming each other, the longer our children suffer. I spent a lot of time blaming, and I later realised that I had to accept my own wrongs, and forgive others for theirs even if they were not willing to do the same.
‘See You Everyday’ is the lead single from your soon to be realised album ‘Damaged’, what would you like listeners to get from this body of work?
I wrote this album in a very dark place, and it was extremely therapeutic for me. It’s strange but I also find listening to depressive music that is relatable quite soothing while going through difficult times. I think many people feel the same, because so many heartbreak songs and albums have been successful over the years. While I was depressed, I listened to Kanye West’s ‘808’s & Heartbreak’ album, and also Mr Hudson’s albums and Sade. It really helped me to know someone else has been through what I am feeling and has managed to put it into an artistic experience that I can absorb. So, I hope that listeners who are going through any similar feelings can listen to this body of work and get that kind of comfort from it.
Is there a meaning behind the title of your album?
The title is something that I think Big Ben used to say to me when we were talking about situations and people. Whether it be a relationship someone was going through, and there had been a break down, he might say, “they’re just damaged”. And we would say it about ourselves because of things we’ve experienced. It is an understanding of ourselves and others, that things in their lives have made them to way they are, and do the things they’ve done. Rather than point the finger and be angry, I want to show people empathy and understanding. The album centers around a relationship and break up. I think I could of really gone deep with this concept, but there’s also something special about it being focused on something so simple and relatable, with all of the themes of PTSD, depression, alcohol abuse and so much more planted in there for listeners to find.
Lastly, as an artist and a creative what do you want your legacy to be?
I recorded a song called ‘Legacy’ on my album with MCD. If I remembered my verse I could just quote that [Laughs]. But I guess I’d like to be remembered as someone who lead his own path and encouraged others to be free. We let people put us in boxes too often as artists, and this album will really show people that I won’t let that happen to me. I know its inspired people who have heard it already. Further than that I would like my legacy to be of someone who strived to be the best version of themselves and inspire others to do the same. I plan to call my follow up album ‘Better’, and I’ve already started recording it. None of us are perfect, but it will be about making efforts in our lives to do the best we can. I quit drinking three years ago, which is a big theme on Damaged. With Better and my general legacy, I’m excited to see what further life progression I can achieve and inspire.
Novar’s new album ‘Damaged’ drops on August 31st 2018. Find out more here.
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