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—
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?
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!