JAMMZ IN LONDON, MAY 2016. PHOTOS: MATT HOLYOAK/KAYTE ELLIS AGENCY. STYLING: NIC JOTTKANDT. GROOMING: BEN JONES USING BUMBLE AND BUMBLE AND MAC COSMETICS. PHOTO ASSISTANT: LUKE WELLER. RETOUCHING: THE SHOEMAKER’S ELVES.
Though Jammz has been profiled in major British news outlets like The Guardian, there are people around him—his coworkers, for example—who remain unaware of his music career. “I’m just waiting to go to work one day and for somebody to realize,” he says over the phone. “Maybe the have and they just haven’t said.”
In the grime community, however, his recognizability is another matter. Since graduating from university, the East London-native has made a name for himself through pirate radio stations in London. There’s Radar Radio, on which he has a show with fellow MC Mic Ty called “I Am Grime,” Rinse FM, Westside Radio, and Flex FM. Earlier this year, Jammz went on tour with grime legend Kano around the U.K., released a new mixtape called Underdog Season, and launched his own “I Am Grime” label.
“The whole radio renaissance, I was a big part of that in the last year, two years,” he explains. “I used to go to pirate radio quite a lot. It started off as a once a month thing, and then it changed into a couple of times a month, once a week. It turned into kind of an obsession—going three, four times a week. That turned into going to radio in different cities,” he continues. “More and more people started to know me for that, because I was doing it so consistently and so well. I cemented my name.”
HOMETOWN: East London, England. East London is the home of grime. I’m proud to be where I’m from and to be doing something that was born here.
FAMILY HISTORY: My dad’s a session musician. He used to go on tour a lot. He’s a bass player, so he used to play with people like Jools Holland. Another band he used to do a lot with is Incognito. My mum used to play a lot of music around the house. My dad was more like soul, funk; my mum was reggae and old school garage, which is what really got me into the whole grime thing. Before it came about, I was heavy into garage and jungle. My mum used to play everything from rare groove to dancehall to stone love. You name it, it was played in my house.
MUSICAL BEGINNINGS: I wrote for years and years and years without pursuing a career out of it—from the age of 11. It kind of started as a joke. I was at my cousin’s house one time and I was freestyling and he was like, “You’re sick. You’re in my crew now.” I didn’t even know he had a crew at the time. Nothing really came of that, but through the years I kept writing. In school we had a studio, and people used to come in and bring their decks and stuff. It was only in 2010 that I released my first serious project, which was a mixtape. That did well [in my high school] that I was at, at the time. I went to uni and it died down for a couple of years because I was focusing on doing what I was doing. I went to university in Leicester. I studied graphic design. I started producing two years after I started writing, so I must’ve been 13, 14. I was learning from there. As time went on, I just became more skilled at it.
THE FIRST SONG THAT REALLY RESONATED: “Boys Love Girls,” Kano. Kano was probably one of the first, if not the first, MC that I listened to and thought, “Yeah, this is something that I want to do.”
FIRST PAID GIG: It was a booking for Noisey at Birthdays in Dalston. That was maybe a year and a half ago. It wasn’t too long ago and it wasn’t a lot. I was on the lineup with Desperado from OGz and he’s a legend, so to be on my first time with someone like that was sick.
WRITING A NEW SONG: As I’m a producer, more times for me it starts with the tune. Nine times out of 10 I’ll either build the tune or get a tune from somebody else and I’ll formulate everything based off that. The structure of that might inform the content of what I’m writing. It always starts with the instrumental. On my Mac, I’ve probably got well over 1,000 songs that I’ve produced, but when it comes to vocals, I’ve only vocalled maybe 20 songs. I’m happy to leave them as they are because I appreciate instrumentals. It depends on how I feel, what I’m going for at the time. Certain songs might appeal to me when I’m going through something, and when I’m done with that situation might not appeal again. It’s purely by chance.
WORKING WITH OTHER PRODUCERS: I’m primarily an MC; I’m just very particular about stuff. I like to have control over everything —that’s why I started producing. I’ve worked with loads of other producers. I think that’s where the experimentation goes on. It’s all well and good being able to produce beats, but if I don’t work with other people, I don’t get to see other points of view or methods of working. I think it’s good for expanding your skill set.
AWARDS TOUR: A few months ago, I went on tour with Kano around England, which was very sick. I’d been talking to his manager for a while. I’d been introduced to him in a club, Kano’s manager, and I think he just kept hearing about me from different people. He contacted me one day and put out the idea of me going on tour with Kano, and it manifested in me being a support act on the tour. It was a gradual thing, really. It was over the space of five to six months from when I heard about it and when it actually happened.
With an artist like Kano, he’s not only known in the grime world; he’s transcended that. His fan base is much more diverse. Supporting him, the majority of the crowd was there to see him and not the support acts. At the same time, it’s kind of fun because as the performer, it’s down to you to win the respect of the audience. It’s kind of like a death match: if you’re good, they’ll let you know; if you’re not good, they’ll let you know, same way. There were a lot of good shows on that tour. Some crowds are a bit more lively than others, but we never had a bad show.
DEBUT ALBUM: I’m taking it really slowly at the moment. I’m trying to build my fan base very organically. I’m not trying to rush anything for the sake of numbers. But at the moment, if we’re talking album, it is in the back of my mind. Maybe 2017, 2018. I’m just trying to solidify my identity and my sound. Once that’s done, I can start thinking about [an album]. I’ve definitely got things that could be developed into an album at the moment.
THE RETURN OF GRIME: I wouldn’t say there’s been a revival, because for me it never died, it was just inactive for a bit. But there’s definitely been—I hate using the word—but a resurgence, so to speak, over the past year and a half, two years. For me the big thing that brought everyone’s attention back to it was a combination of things: Stormzy was starting to get big; then you had the whole “German Whip” thing, which just blew up ridiculously; and then you had Kanye bringing everyone out on stage at the Brits.
DREAM COLLABORATORS: That’s an endless list, but if I had to say three: Wiley, James Blake, and Pharrell.
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