I’d like to introduce you to someone special. Now you may have seen him hosting in the club, or on the big stage, at an intimate gig, or, at the back of the night bus… I’ve had the pleasure of attending two awesome album visual & listening parties at Whirled Cinema, and Cereal Killer Café in Brick Lane and a lil intimate gig experience at White City house.
He is, the hard working, humble & talented Fontzerelli aka BACKADANITEBUSBOY !
Lets start from the beginning….who are you, and where do you come from?”
Fontz- “I come from, well, as we know, our lineage is African descent, my folks are from the Caribbean- Jamaica, and Guyana, I grew up in South West London, and come from a really really rich upbringing & environment- not in monetary gain form, but in culture and diversity – sounds cliché, but it’s real. My elders & OGs are from sound system culture, being from Jamaica, which played heavily in our household.”
Sal “What/who are your Influences?”
Fontz “I’ve always said I’m a young man with a very very old soul- people and things waaaay before me & my time influence me. In terms of musical influences, its definitely music from the golden classic eras 60s 70s 80s
Mowtown, Stacks Recording, Atlantic, Philadelphia International, all these incredible artists; Ray Charles Aretha Franklin, Teddy Pendergrass, incredible, song writers and producers Gamble & Huff- those were profound influences to me, then push a bit further ; James Brown, Bobby Blue Bland, Otis Reading, Sam Cook.
Then further…. soul, rare groove, hip hop; De la Soul, Big Daddy Kane who’s my all time favourite MC
But one of my big big influences is the golden classic R’n’B group JODECI!
Jodeci and Big Daddy Kane are the reason why I do music today”
Sal “Tell us who you have worked with…?”
Fontz “You know, I’ve embarked on a very very enriched and interesting journey, in this thing called music/show business /creative arts or whatever you wanna call it! I’m humbled and blessed to say that I’ve worked with the legend himself, Mr Nas Escobar…I haven’t yet worked with my favourite Jay Z, but got close doing something special to me, which was hosting a DJ set with Young Guru, Jay z’s tour DJ.
I was quite instrumental to the beginnings of Jessie J’s career in terms of production. Also Ed Sheeran, being around him, which was really interesting…Stylo G’s early career; I worked on the production of his very first hit “My Yout” which was a number 1 song!
I’ve worked with So Solid Crew, with the monster chart success pop star Sigala, and alongside Skrillex, and I hosted a DJ set for Virgil Ablo.
I think you get why I say enriched experience, the list goes on, but I think we’ll leave it there!
Sal “How would you describe the 90s to those who missed out, and why would you say some of us are “stuck there?!”
Fontz “I would have to describe or explain the 90s using the coined phrase “The Golden Era”…..but it really really was! To explain; it was the era of a genre that once upon a time was written off and was meant to be a fad, but it grew and developed into a beautiful culture that birthed such incredible music from R’n’B artists, to soul singers to hip hop artists.
The 90s really really embodied CULTURE, the fashion was at an incredible high; from high top fades, to Jordans, to fluorescent colours, to the jewellery even, and the music was just so original and fresh, even though it was borrowed and sampled heavily from so many legends as I mentioned earlier.
For example James Brown, him being the most sampled man in hip hop.
Best way to describe is that it encompasses originality.
Why I like it, and am so in love with the 90s is that you had so many acts, groups, artists coming out, and no one was really copy catting or carbon copying the person next to them, and that’s probably why us folk are “stuck there” because it’s just a reminder of such a fantastic carefree time of great fashion, music, culture- just greatness!
I know I’m using really clichéd words here but, sometimes you just have to do what it says on the tin! Put simply: original, fresh, & we’re stuck there through sheer nostalgia.
Oh what a time!!”
Sal “Back in school, what were your interests, and what arena did you want to work in when you were ‘’all grown up?”… did you ever picture that it might be on stage somewhere like the 02 arena!?”
Fontz “So in school, my interests were allllways music based, as much as I was labelled advanced/brain box or whatever you want to call it, I did terrible because I didn’t focus, I didn’t apply myself because all I wanted to do was music. All I was fixated on I was CDS, reading credits, learning who the writers were, who the producers were, where it was recorded, who mastered it.
Even as a young kid I was reading that information off the back of vinyl sleeves.
As my interests were straight music, the arena I wanted to work in was the music industry, so it’s no shock now when I get humbling messages from people I grew up with saying they always knew I was gonna do this, remembering that in school I was always the one…it’s a reminder that I was always really about this.
I remember my auntie asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I me saying I wanted to be a rapper, I remember clear as day she replied with “don’t come with no foolishness, go get a proper career or job!” I remember saying to myself, I’m gonna show her, watch! and VOILA! Here I am!!”
Did I picture myself at the 02? I wanna be honest and say yeh, because when you’re growing up and watching Michael Jackson at Wembley Arena, or you’re watching Jodeci sell out the Apollo Theatre, or whoever it is, when your mind is watching and staying with these visuals, and if you want do that, and follow suit, you can’t help but picture yourself doing that same thing.
There have been some other incredible artists that I’d never dreamed of working with, like Jocelyn Brown. Maxi Priest, Don Campbell, Dennis Bovel
These artists my mum was playing off cassette tapes and vinyls, whose names I used to read off the credits, I didn’t really picture working with them.
I have most definitely always envisaged myself performing on a big stage in front of loads and loads of people, but it is still is a really humbling experience, and you look at it and think Wow, I’ve really done this, what the hell!! Then you come off stage at the 02 and people like Calvin Harris and Sean Paul come up to you and say “wow, that was an amazing set”, it’s like; can I just pinch myself here please!, so yeh!!”
Sal “Another string to your bow is Nu Age Иubian (NAИ), tell us about your clothing range, where the idea came from, and how is that doing?”
Fontz “So you want to know about my darling little child NAИ!? NAИ is a culture collective consisting of two people, myself and my creative partner Lucy Baker, and what NAИ represents is Music, fashion, photography and food- food being about nutrition.
It started off as something I kept saying to myself whilst on set to the video for my song Hipster Chick, it’s all about black empowerment and the movement, it just rang a bell to me.
So I took it to Lucy, we sat down and discussed ideas, where we’re really into clothes and fashion, and not really having a desire to keep running around wearing big logos promoting other brands that don’t really care about us, I thought I’d much rather make my own thing, just literally wear my own thing, so we did some doodles, she put pen to paper, and got the iPad, and did what she does well, and Boom we had a logo! it felt like it encapsulated the essence of this movement.
We literally wanted to make clothes ourselves, for ourselves, and that was it! but the moment we printed up a couple of t‑shirts, jumpers and jackets, we noticed that every time stepped out we were getting stops and stares, people asked what was it and where could they get it from….and remember, this wasn’t made for the people, it was just for us ourselves to wear!
So it was something that naturally and organically blossomed into a clothing range, and I think it was a fantastic thing, because a lot of people set out to provide a service or a product that they want the public to buy into, and that’s quite difficult, so when there’s a heavy demand and it wasn’t your intention, you think WOAH, we’ve got something here.
As we were kind of drawn into creating a clothing range, we haven’t been pushing it, but…in the New Year you’re going to see a lot more of NAИ!
Ultimately, it was birthed out of the inspiration of black excellence, black empowerment… it’s a new era, new dawn, it’s a new day, we’re taking that energy from the forefathers, and the people that were doing the great things; people like the Black Panthers, people who preached, the Malcolm Xs, the Martin Luther Kings, harbouring all that energy encapsulating into one creative essence that is NAИ….Music, Fashion, photography, food!”
Sal “From one trainer freak to another! How many pairs of trainers do you possess?! I love the classic and individual style, how about you?”
Fontz “Oh gosh, we’re going down that road!!! I really don’t know….my shoe fetish is beyond (excuse the expression) womanlike. I know guys like trainers, but women tend to have a tonnes of shoes….I recently had to do a boot sale to get rid of a lot, I’ve even got some box fresh that I haven’t worn!
I could not tell you how many pairs!… let’s just say I have a tonne load!!
My favourites, well you can’t go wrong with an Air Force 1, I really love a pair of Clarks- that’s the Yardie in me! A pair of Wallabees or Dessert – or as we call them back home “Bank Robber!” they’re just classic, if it wasn’t Yard man, then it was Ghostface Killah who was jut beating them crazy and even RZA.
What else…Reebok workouts….even though I have vast array in my collection, I like really really downplayed clean looking footwear, dress ’em up, dress ’em down, a clean, tidy shoe!
I might just actually have to take a walk into my bedroom and have a look and reminder!!.…oh! Puma Baskets, I enjoy Adidas Stan Smiths, and Superstars, again….minimal clean, tidy dope classics- can’t go wrong!!
I agree with you that we attach ourselves to these thing because yes, it’s what we didn’t/couldn’t have when we were younger. I remember as a child watching the guys playing basketball, dancing, rapping in the park out of my council flat window, and just admiring what was on their feet, being besotted…. couldn’t dream of reaching the fly footwear they had. When I came into my own, that’s where I went overboard! but yeh, a big part of holding on to these items, I think is that we couldn’t reach it before.”
Sal “so now we hold them tight!”
Sal “NAИ Vegan Trainers?! “
Fontz “Hail Yeh, coming soon!!
Sal “Back to the music, you’re on the brink of releasing Backadanitebusboy to the whole world! I have been a fortunate guest at your listening and visual parties which have all been great concepts. Dev X Huie was a visual cinematic experience, where you could buy the album on cassette and get a free Walkman! Your music on Dev X Huie, definitely comes with a 90s vibe, intentional?”
Fontz “I appreciate you taking time out to care about my ISH!
So, a lot of my ideas seem to come to me while I’m washing my dishes, or wiping my skirting boards, and before you know it, it comes to fruition!
Putting the visuals together with this particular sound I have that’s very reminiscent of the 90s — and the noughties, was most definitely intentional, it comes from the sheer fact that we are in a visual age, and videos etc are paramount in helping push a certain song over the edge & help people overstand even more.
But because I’m making music in a modern age which is sonically throwback.
I felt the best way for people to really get to grips with, and really get it, was by doing the visuals that will translate my vibe and my sound.
I honestly didn’t think people would get it because it’s nothing like what is going on Spotify, on YouTube, on radio.
But I was at peace with that because I was making music for MYself, cos I got to point where I said to myself; if you’re not happy with the music that’s being made and churned out, then go and make music you wanna her then.
Even if it just sat there with me on my smartphone, then so be it…then when I leaked it to the world & the feedback was overwhelming and very encouraging, (WHOO) that motivated me go make some videos. In the same vein. So when
I’m making videos that are very Yo! MTV Raps, the people, routines, fashion, locations & the visuals featured just pushes the message, the vibe and the agenda!
So yes, it was definitely definitely intentional.”
Sal “Big stage vs. intimate gigs?”
Fontz “actually both, as they’re so different, the big stage is like WOW all of these folks are here to listen, you guys are actually here for little old me, to support me, I’m gonna give you all my energy, ad the intimate gigs, I can touch, and smell and feel my people, d’you get me, I can be a bit more myself! They both do something for me.”
Sal “After getting to know your music over the past 18 months & being treated to Backadanitebusboy at your listening party at Cereal Killer Café, It feels to me like your music has moved into a different arena, whilst still having that old school feel, it touches on the more grimey, bassy sounds, whilst remaining deep lyrically, it could definitely reach an even wider audience, tell us bout your plans for it’s launch”
Fontz “you are most definitely right, I ventured out a bit further than the common pool that I tend to swim in musically, being old school etc.
I was ready to level up and peel more layers off for myself as an artist, and reveal it.
The concept for the album ‘Backadnitebusboy’, stems from my humble stamp of- no matter what I do or achieve in life, I always feel that I end up at the back of the night bus. A place where I gather my thoughts, think of my lyrics, reflect on life, and think about what I’ve just done.
I remember getting off stage at the 02 arena, in front of 30,000 people, and getting on the night bus back home, I feel comfort in that place, it reminds me of grounding, it’s that humble ground I want to remain on, and anything that becomes superficial, and out of humble world, I shun it.
Backadanitebusboy is a very profound, poignant statement of what represents me and who I am. That being said, it being a humble reflection of myself, I believe the songs are different branches and extensions of that humbleness.
I’m being so transparent on this album and speaking about things that people don’t know about, or some people may find uncomfortable, or even “uncool” to talk about; being broke- not knowing were your next penny’s coming from but you’re doing all these fantastic things and you’re pockets ain’t filled. Home life, I’m a father of 3, and it’s a struggle and it’s real!
I found great comfort & therapy in documenting and reflecting this in my music. When they say ‘music is therapy’, boy! That couldn’t ring more truer!
I’m a lot more honest in my music, especially on this album, so this was the perfect blank canvas where I can express myself, be honest an reflect myself in it.
The album will launch early in the new year, starting with the first song ‘Blowa’ along with a headline concert to be announced soon, yeh
Sal “Exciting stuff, thank you for your time, and for sharing what goes on at the back of the night bus!”
Backadanitebusboy out soon…… follow @fontzerelli @nuage.nubian
Outdoor photos: BrandED @palaceskateboards
Fontz’s single ‘Blowa’ debuts on Capital Xtra this Friday 10th January on Dj Mike Panteli’s show 4–6pm
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