Hailing from Peckham, South London, ALQAE are the gully, fun-loving trio scheming for world domination. Although they have been rapping for a minute now, they are still relatively new to the scene, but not enough to grant the title ‘newcomers’. Their music speaks to real experiences – of life on the roads, the grittiness of the South and their self-christened milieu of ‘The Surface’ – that immediately paints a Picasso of their lives.
The triple threat of Jiggy Jim, Jonno AQ and Floss AQ bring variety to the table; for every amazing banger, there is a conscious ode to self-advancement, diverging from places of pain and conflict, and happiness and leisure. It is a diversity that can elude many similarly skilled artists, but ALQAE have achieved it in such a short space of time, which is kind of scary considering they haven’t drop a full-length project yet (although that is on the way).
Talking to them, we discovered a common bond, spending a prolonged time reminiscing about the school we all went to in Peckham. Details of just how messed up that school was might be too long to even mention – the words riot and scandal come to mind immediately – but we were howling with laughter; I suddenly remembered being a prefect and trying to chase these boys in the lunch hall as they tried to escape without putting their trays away. It got that deep. And yes, I was a prefect, so??
But after sharing memories, I sat down with ALQAE in a pub in the heart of SE15, along with their manager SP, as they chronicled their journey, ambitions, and their upcoming mixtape.
How would you describe your music?
Jiggy Jim: Fun. Hopefully the listeners can get that vibe from it as well.
Jonno AQ: I agree. Especially when it’s a collective effort, which is totally different to what we do individually, but I wouldn’t put a label on our sound. What we release on our upcoming tape is not going to be the same as next time.
Floss AQ: I might just jump on some rock n roll ting, you know. But we’ve come from a place and an environment where a lot of negative things have happened and we have that aspect to the music. But we’re also trying to show the light. Our sound is authentic and reflective of ourselves and how we met. We felt like outcasts when we started making music, and even in the way we used to move, go to events, speak to girls. So we’ve always been that, and even the name ALQAE derives from Al-Qaeda, but we’re trying to be outcasts in a good way.
Jim: And we stay within ourselves as well, most of the time.
How would you guys describe each other individually?
Jim: Jonno is completely unpredictable, and him being unpredictable is predictable to me! That’s my guy, he’s loyal to the cause on a different level, very generous, and a clean heart but he does have an evil side to him. He even stabbed me once when we were playing around! And Floss is my guy; he’s a mad character and we can make even the deepest situation mad funny. I have a lot of first experiences with him as well. A flashy yute, too.
Jonno: Yeah, Floss is definitely a very flashy guy, always got something to say, he speaks his mind all the time. He is the funniest guy I know…
Jim: He’s very emotional, he used to have mad little man syndrome!
Floss: But I’m not little anymore! I used to have it though!
Jonno: Jimmi is very laid back, doesn’t take anything seriously, like he wouldn’t be fazed even if Jay-Z wanted to sign him!
Floss: Jonno inspires man to do different things, he started music late, he’s been rapping for about a year and a bit, but he inspires both me and Jimmi. His vocab is mad, a very smart one, he’s the guy but we clash a lot. With Jimmi, we started doing music in 2009 at the age of 14 and he has changed my life. We’re too alike; we’ve shared a lot together. He was my first brother.
Your Soundcloud page says you were born and raised on ‘The Surface’, but what is ‘The Surface’?
Floss: I made the term for us, and it’s a big part of Peckham and Nunhead, where we’re from. After school, we would all chill in Nunhead, and there was a hill there where you can look over everything and we would always do something there on Fridays called Waterworks. We would get girls over there, smoke, drink and wild out and it started to become a regular vibe. Then we decided this area is significant to us, where positivity was festering. But also, the negative things like police sirens, people getting nicked, cars getting shot up. People only know one side of Peckham but the other side was a madness as well. Then I was doing one tune talking about the bad situations and called the area ‘The Surface’ because it felt normal, so it’s a little insight to our back ground. It’s the story.
So, what do each of you think you bring to the group?
SP: When you hear ALQAE together, you hear something gritty, something fun and a lot of different styles. It’s very raw but, individually, I would say that with Jiggy (Jim), the name suits him. He’s very jiggy, the cool guy and he makes everything he does sound cool, like you want to do what he’s doing. He’s a ladies man and that reflects in the music; he’s always trying to make them feel special and that’s the type of guy he is. Floss is a flashy guy – by 16 he had a chain worth four bills! (hundred) – and he talks about flashy stuff in the music, about the flashy lifestyle, spending money and having fun. But when it comes down to the hooks, he’s killing it! And he is the freestyle king; he’ll go on for ages freestyling a song and a hook. I know that is really them. And Jonno, musically, he is so good at so many different things and he’s got so many different sides to me. He’s gone through the Peckham lifestyle, like we all have, and he’s gone through some gritty things so he’s got that side to him. But he’s also very creative and open minded. You get a lot of motivational messages in his raps too.
What were you guys listening to growing up?
Jim: I grew up with my cousin who was a rapper when I was young, so I was always with him when he was writing bars and listening to new music. He always used to play 2Pac and it rubbed off on me straight away. I may not know the words but when I hear the melody I’m like “oooooh” because it takes me back. 50 Cent, Jay Z and a lot of 1990s music. Same way Jonno says he’s a student of the game, I am too. I wasn’t as into 2Pac as him, but listening to him again later on, I learnt a lot from him. My other cousins would be playing soca and reaggae, my sister Madonna, my other sister SUV. Lots of music in my house.
Jonno: For me, my dad put me onto hip-hop from the age of seven, and these rappers have everything to do with who I am right now: 50 Cent (I had the fake spinning chain, G-Unit trainers and got a durag because of him), Busta Rhymes (he is the reason for why I flow so differently on my music, his flow was crazy), Nas, and I have to give credit to Wiz Khalifa and A$AP Rocky because I was already having that mentality before I even heard their music. So, when I heard their messages I thought they were just like us.
Floss: My influences started off with rhythm. I used to drum in church then I took it to school. I loved rap but, growing up a mum’s boy and having cousins that were significantly older than me, they would listen to old grime like N.A.S.T.Y. Crew, Bruza. I loved American music but I knew I was from London so the people I allowed to influence me were Bruza, So Solid, Dizzee Rascal, because I saw them on TV so much. I didn’t know they were influencing me but I would go back to my room and start tapping like I was drumming, and rapping like them. I started rapping in Year 7 – I stole my R.E. (Religious Education) book to write bars – but it wasn’t until I was 15 that I started to take in my influences. Then, it was Lil Wayne and these man know *pointing to Jonno and Jim*. To the death. Then the A$AP Mob were a major influence for all of us, because they were outcasts already.SP: Yeah, and it was more of what they represented; looking different, dressing different, looking fly.
So, what do you guys think makes the perfect song?
Jonno: As a collective, I know a song is perfect if the mandem listen to it and say it is a banger. I don’t care if no one else in the world don’t feel it but if my friends come back to me and say they fuck with that tune, that’s what I live for. The music we make is relating with the people we roll around with.
Floss: Going off what Jonno said, if it’s an ALQAE song and I get a call from SP or someone (and we are very real with ourselves) and they feel it, it’s a hard song. It doesn’t matter what you *pointing at interviewer*, Tom, Dick or Harry thinks. But a good song is also when we all bring out our strong points – when that happens, we have a hit on our hands.
Jim: If it gives me a certain feel. I like music with feeling, whether it’s hot, cold, happy. If it gives me a feeling, then it’s sick.
What has been your proudest moment so far as a collective?
Jim: Completing this mixtape.
Jonno: I was about to say the same thing. You don’t know how long we have even been attempting to try and create this. We’ve had tracks but they just haven’t been what we want. But completing this tape, it’s a feeling of “yo, look at what we did”. And this is just the start. It’s very difficult to create something together; you’ve got to compromise a lot. But it’s a great feeling to have finally done it.
Floss: Same with me. Either that or being able to come together and work towards a goal. SP never always listened to us but once he did he got involved and he’s helping us and being there with us on the way there. So being able to grow the business side of it as well is sick.
SP: We’re all very ambitious individuals, so there is still a long way to go and a lot to come for these man to feel fulfilled.
Jim: Man wants that Coachella!
Floss: Yo, that SXSW, I want to perform there, bruv!
What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
SP: A lot of visuals, more freestyles to come, the tape, clothing, our own headline show. A lot of music and visuals coming, we’re just working.
Floss: I made this new hashtag and I want everyone to use it, its #InYourFace, because we’re not giving you an option. Either you feel us or you don’t, but you will know about us, you’re going to watch our videos, listen to our freestyles. And that’s how we’re coming out, straight up.
What do you guys want to be remembered for?
SP: We’re very ambitious and I don’t think that is ever going to stop. Since back in the days, we’ve always wanted a particular kind of lifestyle – basically fly guys – now we got that, we want more. It’s just about putting in the work to get there, but we will.
Floss: No one has done what we’re going to do. We are going to inspire a whole new generation, and we are fly motherfuckers!
Jim: The black Frank Sinatra!