Eyez is a Derby Grime MC and recent winner of the Red Bull ‘Grime-A-Side’ with a growing national and international profile. Eyez visited Pear Tree Youth Club for his interview. For many it was a highlight of the project, they ‘met their hero’, and a few members performed their music for him. More on this coming soon.

Eyez talked about his journey and inspiration, the connection between Grime and Hip Hop, and shared some advice for any up and coming artists…

How hard was it to become an MC in Derby compared to London and the rest of the UK and why do you think this worked?

At the beginning it was hard. When everyone else was doing it there was no internet. So it was very hard to have people from other cities hear your music without actually going there with some form of it whether that’s a CD or a tape. When I started coming up You Tube became the big thing. I did a freestyle video with my mate it got like 2000 views in a week. People were like wow!

I also moved around a lot as a kid. People from other estates would remember me as well even if I was there for 6 months to a year people would still remember me and be like ‘yo it’s Eyez that rapper Eyez.’ That’s another reason.

On top of that because it was on You Tube we used to shout out Derby. Some people had never heard of the area, they would be like Derby? and click on it. I would make sure that Derby got put on the title. It started to become a thing of not being from London became cool in Grime. All of that combined is why it worked…

Do you think there is a market out there for Derby MC’s if they are prepared to push it as far and hard as you have?
Definitely for anyone. For example Lady Leisha from Birmingham she’s the biggest female MC in the UK for both views and money, there’s not many females doing it now, Bugsy Malone from Manchester, Izzy Gibbs from Northampton, Young T and Bugsy from Nottingham. All these people are like getting a million views. So if you’re from Derby you’ve got something different people already want to know about Derby.

The other part of it is right now is the key time. I’ve mentioned all those names people don’t care where you’re from. All the biggest MC’s right now are saying that in their songs. It doesn’t matter about your area that’s what people are saying now.

I’ve recently been out to Holland to do a show ‘New school Rules’ I linked with Willey who’s living out there. He was like ‘yo I want to come to Derby I reckon Derby’s the next place.’ If people who are already making Grime are saying that there’s got to be something there. Also there’s people who want to know about other MCs in Derby. I’ve been in other countries and people are telling me about people in Derby. London, Birmingham, Estonia, Berlin all these random places know about people from Derby and it not just me they know about other MCs in Derby. Right now is the time people are getting 10 milion views from 1 song. Anyone can do it right now.

A lot of Derby MCs have put out some classic gems over the years but what is it about Eyez that allowed you to take it to the next level?
Good question. I think it’s because I’m ready for whatever is going to hit me good or bad. The timing is great and the links that I have are incredible if I didn’t do it now it would be my own fault. I’m sitting on some of the best music I’ve done and am planning to get some sick visuals to go with it. I’ve got good friends to work with good music and great connections. That’s what’s setting me apart.

What made you choose Hip Hop over grime? Before you and a few others Derby was mainly a Hip Hop town?
hen I started I was making hip hop. I was listening to grime on channel U which was my favourite channel. I ended up doing grime because I was listening to it a lot. My first video that came out was grime but I’m versatile. When I came out (2010/11) there had been 5 years of grime. There was a lot of gang related grime. I came along and I wasn’t in a gang but still making it…But I class myself as a grime MC.

How does Grime stand alone from Hip Hop?
It’s definitely a sub genre of Hip Hop. Grime is something that makes you push someone with love and have an angry face when you’re excited.

Your 2016 mix tape Mind the Gap brought together some of the finest MC’s and producers across the country. Do you think with further collaborations like these Derby will be able to reach out further as a city and become better recognised?
Yeah definitely. What’s sick right now is that most Derby Mc’s have got collaborations with artists outside of Derby. I think if people keep doing that, the scene will just expand and expand. All these other artists are not new to Derby they know we have music and know that we are on it. Especially now since winning the Grime A Side. We were lucky to 1 get picked and 2 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. More collaborations, more tournaments and competitions. I see the younger kids go do clashes like Tubz. I’ve known them 3 years and they are progressing really quickly to see them doing that it’s like yeah sick bruv! There lots happening, radio sets, all sorts it’s expanding. Every single week someone from Derby is doing something and it is moving the city forward… Like someone saying have you got beats? Let me hear your stuff.. That video was sick and they see this link to another video which links to the Derby Media channel and Derby grime. There’s people with you tube channels which have got all the old Derby grime on it’s all happening at the right time all the shows, collaborations, clashes, performances all of that just keep doing it.

Who influenced you as an MC both locally and nationally when growing up? On a local level it was people like Karnage, JP’s, J Dubz, Jackman, Shade One and Yogi etc. The list goes on…

When I was growing up it was mostly Hip Hop crews in Derby but there was still people doing Grime and the scene used to be more pumping and there would be loads more going on in Derby more people on it and more sets going on.

When I was in year 8 I would hear of all the older year 10/11 kids sorting out sets with DJs even if it was in someones back garden there would always be something. I used to spit to this guy called Levels (Dean). He was like my main older fan, I would be like ‘yo you’re a sick MC’.

What advice would you give any Derby MC’c coming up newcomers?
Hit up all the local channels. If nobody gets back just keep uploading videos/freestyles on You Tube then post them on Facebook don’t be shy to ask other people to post it. It doesn’t always happen straight away. Keep trying. For me it was timing there wasn’t any established channel. Then You Tube became a thing I had video on there then JDZ media came out then people were like getting 50,000 views. I never had any of that. Then that brought the whole other side of Midlands… All timing but sometimes you can beat the timing. If you just make it your time instead. Instead of taking the no’s do something else film yourself get your mate to film you. Its about having videos do covers of big songs mingle with the people you see make music stop them when you see them ask them which studio they go to, what beats they use, what do you think to these bars? Do you rate this? Do you rate that? Bro every one’s human at the end of the day we are all normal. If someone came up to me I would always make time for them even if I’m in a rush. I’m still going to give them a bit of time. I know what its like…