For those of you that are only up on UK artists that fall into the grime or road rap bracket, Loyle Carner serves as a poetic and melodic reminder that British rhymers have something else to offer. An intelligent rapper delivering contemplative rhymes over beautiful beats, Loyle can be thought of as part of the new wave of conscious British rappers that include Rejjie Snow, Jesse James, Little Simz, Kojey Radical and Isaac Danquah. Though Loyle himself doesn’t necessarily think so. “People ask me a lot about what the UK rap scene is and whether I fit in and I’m like, ‘I don’t know’. It’s a weird question because I have no idea – I can’t listen to me without knowing me.”

Like so many of the current generation of UK artists, the rise of grime at the turn of the millennium was what first inspired Loyle to spit. “I was in primary school when ‘Pow’ [by Lethal Bizzle] came out in 2004 and grime started making noise. Obviously there was [British] stuff before that but that’s what hit me first.” As with many emerging rappers at the time, it gave him the confidence to be himself, “I was like ‘Oh right, I don’t have to pretend to be American, I can just be me and do that.’” Although not someone you would normally associate with the rapid-fire delivery of grime music, Loyle remembers battling his schoolmates in the playground after ‘Pow’ was released. When I point out he’s not the type of rapper you would find battling, he jokes “that’s probably why I kept getting beaten!”

As much as Loyle Carner was influenced by grime as a youngster, it’s the other influences in UK hip hop that are more noticeable in his current output. When I first listened to his ‘A Little Late’ EP, the melodic beats and intelligent content reminded me more of the British conscious rappers of the late nineties like Yungun and Lewis Parker. “I’m a big Lewis Parker fan actually. My biological dad used to listen to a lot of [UK] hip hop, he put me onto Roots Manuva and all the classic people like Jehst, Lewis Parker, Skinnyman.” His American musical influences also tend to fall under the conscious rap bracket; “I listened to a lot of Common when I was younger, he’s my idol. And I’ve always loved J Dilla and Slum Village; artists like that.” As he admits, he and his producer friends are hugely influenced by their favourite artists, “What we grew up on is kind of what we make,” and the list of people he’d like to work with reflects how well he understands his own brand. “Dream collaborations for me would be Mos Def, Black Thought or maybe Homeboy Sandman.”

Although there haven’t been any high-profile collaborations just yet, Loyle already has an incredibly impressive CV of artists he’s supported, including Joey Bada$$, Bishop Nehru and Kate Tempest. Who’s his favourite so far? “That’s a tough one,” he admits, “It’s a toss up between Joey and Kate, but I would probably say Kate Tempest, she really took me under her wing and inspired some things in me. I’d just started having industry talks and it was starting to make me lose a bit of my…” he trails off, before adding, “Not really that, because I’ve only just started, but she did reinstill some passion in me. And she’s just such a genius with words.” Kate Tempest is famously a poet, which is something else she shares with Loyle. He first started writing poetry in school and it still shows throughout his methodically laid out verses. However Tempest will soon have pretty stiff competition for favourite act to support, as Carner is preparing to open for the legendary DJ Premier and Royce Da 5’9 in April.

Admittedly, from the beginning of his career, Loyle set a high standard for performing alongside big artists, his first show was supporting MF DOOM with his friend and Viper alumni, Rejjie Snow. The opportunity came about almost purely by chance, “This was all kind of before I really started; I met Rejjie through friends of mine at school and he was like ‘I’m doing this show supporting DOOM, I could do with some help. Do you want to come out?’” Did he get to actually see the elusive Mr. DOOM? “Nah, he was on stage for a sound check and when he finished, me and Rejjie ran to his dressing room to catch him but he was already gone, he’d just left loads of cardboard masks behind.” Most of the artists Loyle works with are people he counts as friends, “I actually met Rejjie through King Krule, he was the year above me at school. We were just at his house and got on.” Another friend provided the beautiful sound scape for ‘A Little Late’ EP. “All of the project except for one song was produced by my best friend, Rebel Kleff. We met when a mutual friend put us in contact because I was making raps with no beats and he was making beats with no raps! We’ve pretty much been best friends ever since.”


This is an extract from the Spring Summer 15 Issue of Viper Magazine. Read more from the magazine here. Buy physical and digital copies here.

Photos by James Pearson Howes
Words by Lauryn Tomlinson

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