SCRUFIZZER 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.
Romani Lorenzo began making grime music at age 11. It was the early 2000s in West London and, like many teenagers in his area, he listened to reggae, bashment, and rap before discovering Dizzee Rascal and the grime scene. While he says making grime music was something that “everyone around his age was doing” at that time, not many of them can say they’re still working on music today. For nearly a decade, Lorenzo has steadily released mixtapes, singles, and EPs under the moniker Scrufizzer, resulting in his opening for Kendrick Lamar on tour in 2013, being featured on a Danny Brown‘s 2013 LP Old, and even contributing a verse of his own to a Dizzee track.
With an effervescent style known as fizzy flow, Scrufizzer’s speed is definite, as is his versatility. He deftly balances wordplay and flow across self-produced and collaborative tracks while remaining a challenging freestyler and producing for other artists. As he explains, grime isn’t just a solo game; there may at times be discord within the community, but collaboration is valued. Many of the grime artists working today started out together on SB.TV, a web channel that began by releasing freestyle rap and grime videos.
“I feel like with SB.TV, we all kind of grew up with each other,” Scrufizzer tells us. “I think it’s good to collaborate with other people because two heads are always stronger than one… It’s nice to see how another person looks at something. Another person might be influenced by something else, which could bring something better to a project that you could do together,” he continues. “The more collaboration there is, the more unity there is within the scene. If there’s no collaboration then maybe every emcee would hate each other.”
This week, Scrufizzer released his latest single, “Vibe on This,” which was produced by Stimpy, a frequent collaborator who also hails from West London. Come fall, he will release both an EP and a mixtape.
NAME: Romani Lorenzo
BORN & BASED: West London, England
WHAT’S IN A NAME: When I was younger a lot of people used to call me “scruface” and when I got a bit older, roughly about 14, 15, I had this thought that, “You know what, if I want to be a rapper I want to make sure that I’ve got a name that no one else has.” So I can’t be “scruface” because it’s quite obvious for other people to think of. I remember one day I was at school and I said, “I’m going to change my name to Scrufizzer,” so I changed the face to fizzer, and that gave me the unique name [I have] today. That’s how it came around, but the real reason why I was “scruface” was I guess because I had long hair and people just used to call me that in my area.
FIZZY FLOW: It’s rapping at a fast speed but also with a bubbly element and good melodies in between. It’s like a fizzy drink; if you’ve never had a fizzy drink before, when you first taste it, it might feel weird, it might tingle, and when you get used to it—well, you might not want any more. You kind of love it or hate it.
PICKING UP SPEED: I grew up on a lot of reggae and bashment music and their patterns are quite fast, their words are cut out smaller. If you listen to old school songs from guys like Beenie Man and Elephant Man, they rap quickly, and I learned from those guys growing up because that’s what I heard. Also, with garage, the tempo is really different to bashment. The bashment tempo could be 96 BPM and the garage tempo could be 138 BPM. When you mix up both it can be quite fast but over the years I’ve managed to slow down and get to a nice speed, which is understandable and skillful at the same time. I listen to a lot of that and rappers like Big L, Big Pun, Biggie Smalls, and Andre 3000, and I can see how they’ve impacted me rapping quickly because they used to rap faster as well.
IN THE STUDIO WITH DIZZEE RASCAL: It was a weird situation. I went down to a studio in South London to meet his manager, just to have a conversation about music and stuff, and they played me a track—which was “Guts N’ Glory”—and they said, “What do you think of this song?” I said, “Yeah, it’s dope,” and they said, “Put a verse on it.” As soon as I finished my verse [Dizzee] came into the studio and he was just there. It was kind of a weird way of meeting someone but it was quite cool. It was surreal because it’s that thing where you’ve been listening to someone for years on end and then you actually meet him and you’re in a lot of shock. It was quite sick and probably one of the highlights of my career at that moment in time. It was like, “Wow, this is Dizzee.”
GENRE-BENDING: I think when you get a single for the first time you have to keep real to yourself but also make sure you’re experimenting with other sounds so that when people hear you they can have a stronger interest in what you sound [like]. With “Rap Rave” [in 2012], what I was trying to do was to ensure that I’ve got a unique selling point and sound to me that makes people want to listen to me. Even with the video, the instruments, and the way the vocals were cut at that time, I did that just to make sure people could say, “Okay, cool, this guy is different. He doesn’t really have the same flow that other artists have.” I guess it was something that was quite good, because from that song I was able to go on Kendrick Lamar’s tour and Danny Brown heard me.
“EVEN THOUGH GRIME WON’T GET ME SIGNED / YOU KNOW I WON’T LEAVE MY SCENE BEHIND”: At the time when I wrote that [for the song “Steam” in 2012], I felt like a lot of the people who were in popular positions, as soon as they got attention from another genre, they didn’t stand by [grime]. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to realize it’s all music at the end of the day and sometimes you have to venture into other genres and come back to your own genre to make your brand bigger. Also, standing [up] for something can make other people follow the same tapestry and path that you have; not everyone can understand stuff from grime, but maybe [they can understand] a house song or pop song. The real root behind that lyric is to say, “Look, this is where I’ve come from and I’m not going to forget what brought me here and what made me into the person who I am today,” because that’s my music—reggae and grime. What I grew up with formed the whole Scrufizzer brand and personality.
THE PROCESS: Sometimes I write stuff that I see around me; sometimes I listen to what people say around me and translate their conversations and their feelings into lyrics. Other times people might play a beat and I naturally come up with something from the top of my head. As of recently, I’ve just come up with stuff on the spot. I guess it’s subconsciously from what I’ve seen, like sometimes I watch movies and will have the same scenario that the movie stood for in a lyric from a whole different angle.
I like to work with other people because they have different sounds and a different ear. Recently, I like to [produce] my own stuff because I’ve found that a lot of the stuff I’ve done, not necessarily because I produced it, but it’s easier for me to feel like I have more creative control. You can find yourself a bit more because you know what suits your voice best… Both things are good anyway, because they’re both creative and you never know something until you try it, so I’ve been trying out a lot.
SLOWING IT DOWN WITH “STORY OF JIN”: I felt like throughout my career, I’ve done a load of songs that have shown off skill, speed, and levity, so I wanted to have something with a bit of substance that gives the listener an understanding of me as a person, and to give the listener a scenario to take away with them because I do feel like it has to be something people can learn from as well. With that track, it was kind of based on a real story, but I made it into my own thing—add a bit here, add a bit there—just to make it exciting. I made a video as well so I could paint a picture more vividly for people to see. From that song, other people that have heard me can now see me as an artist rather than someone who has a skill and doesn’t really change it up.
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