He has been rapping for north of a decade in the UK and rightly recognised as a veteran rapper and producer. Verb T‘s latest album I Remain came out this week on the High Focus Records powerhouse which we got a preview of before release (read our review here). The old and grumpy rapper as he refers to himself kindly gave us an interview in what must be a very busy week covering everything from his early influences to when we should expect the forthcoming Four Owls album. Read the whole thing below as well as his brand new video for Old and Grumpy featuring cameos from Mystro, Kashmere, Micall Parknsun and others.
ROB: You’ve been involved in the UK rap scene for a long time but what was the turning point when rapping became a career rather than a hobby?
Verb T: I always looked at rapping as what I did, even if I had other day jobs, it was always more than a hobby. When I was with Low Life [Records] I went between working day jobs full and part-time, then when I was with Silent Soundz I had a bit of money from those albums and did a tour so was able not to work 9-5 for a while. I lost my last job as assistant manager at a clothes shop a few years back and was like fuck this I hated it anyway, I registered self-employed and took the leap, now my job is – rapper. It’s still a tough one though I don’t have savings in the bank so if I can no longer provide for my family you might see me working at your local supermarket.
ROB: Who are you past and present musical influences in terms of rap or production?
Verb T: I guess I’ve talked a lot about emcee influences, slick rick etc. So in terms of production it started with the obvious DJ Premier, Rza, Dr Dre, Pete Rock but the personal favorites were people like A plus from Souls of Mischief and Nick Wiz (who did a lot of the Cella Dwellas stuff). Then the stuff Madlib and Doom did together, in fact I think Doom was hugely influential to me as a producer because he wasn’t technically as gifted as some but always made different sounding stuff kinda zoned out stuff which fit his lyrics perfectly, thats what I’m into. From the UK, Roots Manuva he just had his own thing going on, and obviously I’ve learned a lot from people I’ve worked with like Harry Love, Leaf Dog, Chemo and others.
ROB: It’s easy for rappers to get boxed into certain categories so how would you describe your music to someone who has never heard a Verb T track before?
Verb T: I’d probably be quite bad at describing it, I would probably say it was moody hip hop with some humor and a positive message at the end, but in a good way, but then thats makes it sound shit. I just try and talk about things that are relevant to me which hopefully others can identify with and something that has a bit of a shelf life, so no jumping on trends and a focus on songwriting over bars, production wise I just try and find the appropriate mood to match what I’m saying.
ROB: What inspires you to write and make music?
Verb T: Anything and everything, the way I translate that thing may become a whole other thing though.
ROB: You have released music on respected UK rap labels previously but this is your second project with High Focus, what is it like being part of a talented team of artists both in terms of the Four Owls and the rest of the label?
Verb T: The Four Owls definitely gave me a new lease of life, I had reached a point where I was still enjoying making music but in terms of releasing it and going through the whole long process time in time out I had enough. I did the Owls project with the guys then from the vibe we built together and the live shows it got me inspired again. It’s kinda daunting in a way being on a label with such strong personalities and lyricists but it only forces me to be better though and to play my part and do my thing not copy them
ROB: How is I Remain different from your previous album Morning Process,which was widely considered a solid album? Were you actively trying to make it different?
Verb T: I produced my own album because I wanted it to sound different but not specifically different from my last album, just different in general. I wanted it to be individual and represent me and the things about me as an artist that make me unique from everyone else. Obviously I have similarities to people and if you have followed my work there are common themes explored in I Remain but I think it stands out enough from the rest of my work too, but the most important thing was to try to make a really good quality album, hopefully it’ll be received as one.
ROB: What is your favourite song on the album and why?
Verb T: It changes all the time, I like the title track I Remain, I feel like I pulled something pretty cool off with the beat change. From a song writing point of view Control Madness and All That Exists are my favorites, they have a lot of meaning to me personally and captured what I was feeling at the time of writing them perfectly. I like Old And Grumpy the most some times, then at others think I’m a dick for writing it
ROB: You have a great talent pool at High Focus to collaborate with, are there any other artists further afield that you would love to make music with (any genre)?
Verb T: It’s tough because I am a fan of a lot of people who I wouldn’t necessarily work well with. I would like to work with Roots Manuva if that chance ever came up, me and Kashmere got to perform on stage with Robert Glasper and Chris Dave a few years back, I’d love to do something with them in the studio. I don’t really chase collabs too hard though
ROB: Is it hard work touring with High Focus, we saw you guys at Outlook Festival both on the main stage and on the boat party and you guys really put a lot of energy into you live performances?
Verb T: It’s extremely fun, we all love performing, fully fully love it. That said after the show finishes I usually collapse for a while, but the shows are one of the best parts about this job, in particular when we get to travel. We did a gig in the middle of Barcelona to a huge crowd recently, I was like shit I’m getting paid to stay at a nice hotel in a beautiful city and have an amazing time with my mates? No matter how stressful this job is (and believe me it really is at times) I cannot look at these shows like they are hard work, it’s too much fun. I guess shows are physically quite demanding though, if you’re an emcee who doesn’t come off stage drenched in sweat and adrenaline pumping then there’s a problem
ROB: You’ve probably been asked this 10 times already this week but when is the Four Owls album dropping?
Verb T: We’re working on it, hopefully it’ll be next year, but it needs to be right, we can’t just throw out any old shite. It will be done eventually though and it will be a stone cold classic, we will accept nothing less.
Huge thanks to both Verb T and the High Focus team for taking the time out for the interview. Verb T’s new album I Remain is out now on High Focus Records, support great independent music and buy it directly from the HF store from as little as £7.99.