INTERVIEW | IT’S BIGGER THAN BARKING… MEET RAMZ (@ramonerochester ‏)

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One even­ing in Janu­ary this year, Dizzee Ras­cal tweeted, “when I was grow­ing up I nev­er thought a song about a ting from Bark­ing would be com­pet­ing with Eminem for num­ber 1 spot on the UK charts”. About a year ago if you told Ramz him­self, the 20-year-old rap­per behind the mega suc­cess­ful Bark­ing, he might have found it hard to believe as well, espe­cially con­sid­er­ing he only star­ted upload­ing music online in Feb­ru­ary 2017 whil­st study­ing sports sci­ence at the Uni­ver­sity of Ports­mouth.

Ramz, born Ramone Rochester and hail­ing from Mitcham South Lon­don, is hav­ing a met­eor­ic rise, largely fuelled by the mam­moth suc­cess of Bark­ing. Peak­ing at num­ber two on the UK Singles Charts, Bark­ing’s hook, “I might link my ting from Bark­ing” might also be the best advert­ise­ment for the Lon­don Bor­ough of Bark­ing and Dagen­ham in recent memory, although the rap­per isn’t plan­ning to move to East Lon­don just yet.

What he is plan­ning to do, how­ever, is to chan­nel the suc­cess of his hit single and bring out more chart-top­ping music this year. He recently fea­tured on RAYE’s Decline remix and is set to per­form at this year’s Wire­less Fest­ival. Plus, he recently released Fam­ily Tree, which explores his friends, fam­ily and upbring­ing.

Just a few days ago, I had a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion with Ramz and we spoke about future music, his back­ground and Mitcham.

Con­grat­u­la­tions on the Fam­ily Tree track! It’s just topped 2.1M views on GRM Daily, which is fant­ast­ic. Can you tell us about it?

It’s a pretty spon­tan­eous track. It was done by Fraser T Smith and the likes of 169and Man­on on the engin­eer­ing. She even won some­thing this year, an award for best engin­eer [earli­er this year Man­on Grand­jean won MPG’s Record­ing Engin­eer of the Year Award].

But in terms of the track itself, it was very spon­tan­eous. It was how I was pretty much feel­ing on the day when we went to the stu­dio. That’s why we kind of came up with a fam­ily track. I feel that’s what I like to do a lot, if I was to go to the stu­dio every day, I’d mostly make a track on how I’m feel­ing at that present time.

And the mes­sage behind the track was to tell people that they can be your friends but they’re still your fam­ily. And me hav­ing the same com­pany around me for ten years straight.

You’ve put out a few songs on Sound­cloud, Spo­ti­fy and GRM Daily — includ­ing the massive Bark­ing. Do you have any new pro­jects on the hori­zon?

I’m work­ing on a few right now, I’m try­ing to get in con­tact with a few people as well and see if I can do cer­tain col­labs that I’ve always wanted to.

I’m still work­ing on a pro­ject as well and try­ing to get some­thing out there before the main show at Wire­less. So there’s a few things that I got in mind, but it’s just about wheth­er I can con­quer those things before everything. You know, I feel like when you got a dead­line, things don’t really go how you want it to go. When you just do it, then you know it comes out bet­ter.

Bark­ing is a fun track, but when you go to some of your earli­er tracks like Ima­gine, where you talk about real life, which by the way is prob­ably my favour­ite track—

Oh wow!

But do you think whatever pro­ject you put out, wheth­er it’s an EP or album, will be a mix of both of those sounds?

Yeah 100 per­cent —lit­er­ally a mix. Even with myself, I’ve always been able to rap. It’s always been a mix­ture between both. I wouldn’t say I have a track like Ima­gine on there. I feel that tracks like that I need to release them by them­selves like a single. You’ve even just given me the idea that I need to put one of them out before Wire­less!

 Appar­ently, you know Raye from your loc­al church! How did you guys link up for the Decline (Remix)?

 I lit­er­ally got a ran­dom text and it was more or less her ask­ing if I wanted to and I was like, “yeah sure”. Espe­cially with her being a friend from a young age, it’s always nice to help someone out and give them the foot they need to push them­selves in. So it was more or less me say­ing, “yeah, I’ll help you” and hope­fully she can return the favour! (laugh­ing)

Which artists inspired you when you were grow­ing up?

I would say the main one is 50 Cent. I wouldn’t say that I make music that’s like 50 Cent, but that’s the main per­son. He was the one who was doing melod­ies and rap­ping as well. That’s what mostly inspired me to do tracks like Ima­gine and Throw­backs because they both had chor­uses and then also rap­ping as well.

I feel that’s the major part in why I can do also do that as well. I was doing both at the same time — I wasn’t just just rap­ping, I was singing as well. No one could ever say “you’ve changed and now it’s work­ing and you’ve for­got­ten about what he used to do”.

What does a dream col­lab for Ramz look like? 

I would say cur­rently right now, Bruno Mars.

Who in the UK Rap scene would you like to work with the most?

In the UK I would say J Hus.

How excited are you for your upcom­ing Wire­less per­form­ance?

Very excited!

Can you tell us what to expect from the show?

To be hon­est, I feel very excited now, but I can tell as soon as I get to the day I’m going to be hold­ing onto my manager’s hands squeez­ing them tight say­ing, “yeah I’m not really try­ing to do this any­more” [laugh­ing].

But I’m very excited. I just want to make sure I have con­tent out there for people to have it. I’m really ready for it, I’m count­ing down the days. I’m basic­ally say­ing we’re a month away now, even though we’re not.[laugh­ing]

Let’s talk about lyr­ics for a moment, On Fam­ily Tree you say you,“went from noth­ing to some­thing and still ain’t changed. Still get­ting on bus and trains”. Bark­ing was a mega suc­cess, with 39 mil­lion views on You­tube and 77 mil­lion streams on Spo­ti­fy. Hasn’t the suc­cess of Bark­ing made it dif­fi­cult to live like a reg­u­lar per­son?

Yeah, you can actu­ally say that to be hon­est. It actu­ally has. But I’d say there’s also times when you have to get on the bus and trains. Even if I don’t have to, I’m still tak­ing that route. Even the oth­er day, when me, my man­ager and Dave all went to watch the Manchester United versus Arsen­al game, we all took the train up. That’s really what people would [not expect to] see some­times, people in the pub­lic eye tak­ing trains, but I feel that’s what you have to do some­times to stay con­nec­ted with your peoples out there.

Do you get recog­nised a lot?

Quite often. It’s dif­fi­cult some­times. I’d say after two o’clock and five o’clock are the most prime times when you have to be care­ful.

What about when you’re in Mitcham?

You could say Mitcham is like – I wouldn’t even like to say war­zone [laugh­ing] — a hot­box there. You’ve got to avoid that area there. [laugh­ing]

Last year you were in the Uni­ver­sity of Ports­mouth. If you weren’t doing music, what would you be doing?

Wow , that’s the best ques­tion I’ve ever been asked. I’d mostly be in a lec­ture right now as we speak or get­ting ready for an exam.

What about career wise?

Sports coach­ing. That was the main thing. I think that was the main thing I wanted to do when I was young.

Thank you for tak­ing the time to speak with me. Really lov­ing the tracks. Onwards and upwards from here!

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Mark Mukasa

Mark Mukasa

Mark is a South Lon­don based writer and avid fan of all things hip hop. He’s also an MMA and his­tory enthu­si­ast who tries to keep his love of animé under wraps.

About Mark Mukasa

Mark Mukasa
Mark is a South London based writer and avid fan of all things hip hop. He's also an MMA and history enthusiast who tries to keep his love of anime under wraps.