Big Breaks

I ran out my flat screaming with joy and straight to the night club where my mates worked to tell them the news.” (Baby J).

Derby has produced many artists. We talked to Baby J, Skinnyman, JD, and Eyez about success and big breaks.

Baby J. From the dole, to America, and his first album.
I had been on the dole, DJ’ing to make a bit of money, a young parent who produced in my room… I had my first break when I sent out a load of demos of mine and Yogi’s stuff to some record companies in America… The A&R from Wu Tang phones me up and says we’ve heard your stuff and really like it… He told me I need to go out there for a meeting. I was overjoyed I ran out my flat screaming with joy and straight to the night club where my mates worked to tell them the news…

We went over there but it didn’t really go anywhere…I felt a bit dejected… but I had all the birththese links with Shabbaz, Dead Prez…I was also introduced to a guy in London…he introduced me to another label who wanted to put out an instrumental record with my beats. I wanted to involve artists from both UK and USA and they were a bit nervous as they didn’t really do that at the time. I talked them into it and they put up the money for me to do my first album ‘The Birth’ (1997)…To my knowledge that was the first UK Hip Hop album that had guys from the USA and UK on the same record produced by a UK producer…It was a big thing at the time as I was pushing American stuff that wasn’t really being heard over here..

How old were you?
This was around 1995/96 so I was around mid 20s. The UK stuff really kicked off in early 2000s with people like Sway and Skinnyman. At that point Derby was a really important part of UK Hip Hop it would punch well above its weight. (Baby J).

Skinnyman and his album ‘A Council Estate of Mind’.
I had time to myself without distractions to reflect on what I could write… What skiinymanhappened then was the album ‘Council Estate of Mind’ (produced by Baby J released in 2004). If I wanted to rap about hard times and suffering Baby J would send me a soul feeling beat that helped me express that emotion. If I was feeling hyped up and charged about something he would send me that kind of up tempo beat. He basically had a beat for whatever emotion I was feeling…To get something out was important at that time as alot of people agreed with what I had to say. (Skinnyman).

JD. Rapping about teachers, working with Dead Prez, performing in front of 10,000 people.
I first used to listen to people like Tupac. Then me and my brother would try and make our own rhymes and end up rapping about our head teacher and stuff like that just for fun really and I never thought anything would happen with it. But nowadays I’ve worked with the likes of Genesis Elijah, Dead Prez…and a few others. It’s crazy I remember saving my pocket money and selling my packed lunch at school everyday and going hungry so I could go to the studio at the Madeley Centre… I started getting a bit of recognition and I decided that’s what I want to do I want to be an MC and then I took it one step further and went to Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies and made lots of amazing links with people like DJ Fever and MC Spyda and they introduced me to the industry and put me on in front of 10,000 people at the Goose Fair, Nottingham Carnival. (Will/JD).

Eyez. The link between hip hop and grime and winning the 2017 Grime – A – Side.
When I started I was making hip hop. I listened to grime more because it was on Channel U which was my favourite channel but I couldn’t get grime beats because my older brother was making hip hop. So I was trying to do that. I ended up doing grime because I was listening to alot of it and just started thinking of hitting different flows. My first video that came out was grime so people instantly thought of me as a grime MC. I stand for grime, I like it, I love it, but I also love hip hop. When you’re younger (grime) feels great as well. Grime’s more bouncy and I was a very energetic kid so it was all of that combined…I class myself as a grime MC because that’s where most of my fans know me from and that’s what I feel like I am.

How does Grime stand alone from hip hop?
It’s definitely a sub genre of hip hop. The difference is the feeling and the energy… it will make you push someone with love (and) pull an angry face with excitement. It looks so scary but it’s so loving…no-ones coming to fight everyone’s coming to just enjoy it.
Winning the Red Bull Grime – A – Side Tournament in 2017.
Derby captain Eyez was the undisputed king of ‘Grime-A-Side’, carrying his young side to victory against fearsome competition from Birmingham, Manchester and Leicester. (Red…

Other artists know we have music and know that we are on it. Especially right now since winning the Grime – A – Side. We were lucky to get picked (but) to win – it has made people know that we aren’t just a joke people who saw it made them think ‘yeah who else? Let me go see them’.  I see the younger kids go do clashes… and they are progressing really quickly. To see them doing that it’s like ‘yeah sick bruv!’ (Eyez).

Baby J.
We set a precedence of hip hop artists if you were an MC and started rapping in ’99-01 we had already set the bar that you were meant to be getting played on Radio 1, 1 Extra, or get your video played on Channel U…. When I look at people like Eyez now I always think that people like Yogi and Shade One set the level, coming from a small town where artists are successful people expect things to happen. (Baby J).