Natty Wylah has become a household name in the world of underground UK hip hop, so the chance to sit down with him wasn’t an opportunity I was going to pass up. A caring and colourful personality, Natty’s good nature and intelligence shines through in his manner as much as his music. This infectious vitality has never been more evident than on his new mixtape ‘BRUCE’ – a sprawling, passionate and incredibly concise project that delves into themes that carry great personal weight with grace and acumen. I caught up with Natty to discuss the dynamic and visionary project, his inspirations and collaborations, and his plans for future endeavours.
BT: Yes bro! Feeling the new project ‘BRUCE’.
NW: Safe man, good to get it out into the world!
BT: Talk me through the inspirations for the mixtape, both musically and conceptually.
NW: ‘BRUCE’ comes from wanting to draw on an inspiration. There is not many yellow skin people in the Western world that are heralded as positive icons and Bruce – he’s a G no matter what for being non-conformist. Sonically, that’s a really hard question because there’s streams of stuff we listen to trickling down through, so it’s hard to pinpoint anything in particular.
BT: Rate that. Thinking back, the first track I heard you on was ‘Pencil Pushing’ with Manik MC and Rebel Kleff which was a banger! At the same time though, I feel like your writing has come on a lot since then. How have you worked on your craft and elevated it to the level it is now?
NW: At one stage I was really just listening to hip hop and trying to master that, listening to people like Big L, and freestyling a lot to hon that craft. Now, I’ve gotten to a stage where I’m trying to push the boat out more; I’m not listening to stuff to replicate it. I’m singing more and the stuff I’m looking to release in the future is a lot more experimental because I just think its more exciting to push new sounds.
BT: Where did the themes of the project stem from and why did you opt to highlight them in particular?
NW: A lot of the time, for me, the writing stems from the music. For instance with ‘Cinders’ I sat there with the producer Purple Cloud and didn’t have an expectation of what it was going to be. The sonic sparked the visuals and I started writing from that perspective of being in a forest somewhere. I guess that forest was an analogy for metropolitan life as well. I don’t tend to work with the end point in mind though, the themes are naturally all cohesive because they came out of my head, the way I analyse the way we live. So yeah, its a lot about the collaboration with the producer.
BT: So most of the time you were sat with the producer making the tracks rather than a back to forth process?
NW: Yeah exactly, all the people on the tape, bar like Dylan and Ghost who are up in Brum, are people I’m in conversation with a lot so yeah, there is a synergy there.
BT: Exploring themes like cultural identity, ambition and discrimination, the tape feels more personal than conceptual. Was this a conscious decision or was it just the way it ended up being?
NW: For me, writing lyrics is cathartic. Often it’s exploring themes of struggle, things that I’ve experienced. It’s my way of working out things that are hard to articulate, hence why the themes are so prevalent. That being said, when music is intimate and you can be moved by it, thats when I really enjoy it. I’ve started producing now as well which is going to be an extension of expressing myself.
BT: With it being such an intimate project, there is another level of authenticity that many rap projects lack. Why do you think some rappers lack honesty and struggle with authenticity?
NW: It can be scary; its being really vulnerable isn’t it. When I put out ‘4 Siblings’, that talks a lot about some quite deep issues and sometimes I feel it is too personal. I think it’s good to push yourself and put yourself in vulnerable positions. Throughout all elements of life it’s about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
BT: I felt the mixtapes soundscape and timbre was quite murky and ambiguous. What is the reason behind this?
NW: I think the people I work with, Srigala for example, have a music taste more on that murky, mystical side and that is something that resonates with me. The idea of drawing from another realm is as important to the producers as it is to me.
BT: How did the Bel Cobain feature come about?
NW: The Root 73 guys are people I’ve been connected to since I first started and they’ve just done an amazing job throughout that tape to create a network of people. I bumped into Bel ages ago at a Loudhouse cypher and I’ve known her for a long time and it just sort of happened naturally.
BT: Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
NW: Lex Amour is someone definitely on the cards, and I’d like to work with Eyedress, an LA based artist. Apart from that, everyone I’m working with at the moment is amazing.
BT: What advice would you give to an artist that is trying to reach a level of individuality and credibility like you have?
NW: Self doubt can be a real block and I think it’s easy to talk yourself out of things, but if you really think you have a calling to express yourself in whatever format, you have to just keep pushing and following that thread. If you are expressing yourself artistically, don’t be afraid to emulate shit to get your baring’s till you find your style and sound. Don’t give up, keep pushing!
BT: Wise words man, great message. Cheers for the chat, keep killing it!
NW: Love bro!
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