There’s no denying the star factor of Cristale. A naturally gifted artist who stays in her own lane and blows her competition out of the water. An artist that burst onto the scene at a young age, with energy, bars and an ability to really capture her listeners. The Brixton native has steadily built her brand, becoming a household name for the new era of rappers resuscitating the scene. Cristale’s talent was established when she released her debut EP, ‘What It’s Like To Be Young’ in 2022; a tape that showcased the artist’s ability to put together a cohesive and solid body of work with a little of everything. Songs like ’13 Going on 30’ gave fans a deeper insight into the rapper’s life as she displayed her effortless skill with storytelling.
Testimony to the rapper’s consistency, 2022 saw her feature on No Signal Radio’s Class of 2022 shortlist; curated to shine the light on the established and emerging talent that’s succeeded over the last 12 months. This mention really puts artists on the map in the UK and outside of it, giving them the opportunities to capture fans across Europe and the world. The rapper isn’t afraid of branching out and showing her versatility as she dropped one of the year’s hit songs ‘Bong Bing’ featuring Jamaican talent, Laa Lee. Becoming a big Dancehall hit, the song took social media by storm and was featured heavily on TikTok, giving the rapper the exposure she deserved. Cristale reflects on the journey so far with VIPER.
2020 was a really big breakout year for you but in 2022 you had hits for days, what was the best part of it?
I’m wrong if I don’t say that the whole ‘Bong Bing’ situation was just like a mad ting innit! It was crazy, it was actually crazy. I never expected anything that happened to me last year to happen and it’s got me – not scared in a bad way – [but] nervous in a good way about what’s going to come out of the woodwork this year. Because obviously we only go bigger and better, we never backslide. But ‘Bong Bing’, being able to take my people to Jamaica to shoot the video, having the dance go viral – everyone’s forever gonna remember that song. I’ll be walking down the road like a normal civilian – I’m in my Crocs, my hair ain’t done – I barely look like I rolled out of bed properly and people are telling me “bong bing” right! How do you recognise me and I don’t look good? So yeah, that whole situation and besides that – in my normal life – passing my driving test and graduating from uni; those were key highlights for me. 2022 was a big year, it’s a year that I will never forget.
You shot the video in Jamaica but have you heard it there since it came out?
I have! I heard it in the country when I was out there because the song got released while I was out there. A couple of days before we shot the video, the song came out and by the time the video was coming out, it was already at two million streams or something. When my friend’s mum went out there [recently], she said “they’re playing Cristale’s music more, it’s another Jamaican song but it’s not ‘Bong Bing’.” But the only way they could have got that audio is if they took it off a TikTok because none of those songs are out yet.
As well as Laa Lee, you also worked with Ding Dong, what makes you choose more Jamaican artists to work with than the UK ones?
That is just God. God lined that up for me, it wasn’t even on purpose. If anyone in the UK wants to work, I’m always open to working – it’s my ends, why not? I will travel in the UK and if you’re talented, why not? I will always work with someone but I think in the UK it’s so busy, but busy in the ways that everyone’s trying to build themselves. In Jamaica, when it comes to Jamaican artists, they’re busy in the ways that they want to work together. So I feel like that’s how we ended up crossing paths a bit more and I’m a UK Jamaican, people know that about me. So it’s more susceptible that yard rooted people are gonna want to come and work with me just because I’m the UK version of them kind of. But it’s unconscious, the majority of the UK artists that I’ve worked with are on songs that haven’t come out yet I guess.
Who in the UK would you might want to work with, or have already?
It’s no secret, ShaSimone, we’ve got a banger! We need to release that, I’ve got a couple songs with PS Hitsquad. I got a song with Ramz, it’s a banger as well; people wouldn’t expect that link up. Obviously I’ve had my song with Temz. I’ve worked with Tana, I did go to the studio with M1llionz one day; we did get a tune out of it. TeeZandos, people might put us against each other, but she is such a nice person and we really go well together. People were saying, “I wonder what Cristale and TeeZandos would sound like together,” because we’ve got similar – not cadences but attitudes and energies about us so people always felt that; she’s amazing. Also Berna, Kwengface, M1onthebeat, Bryn, Nia Archives, obviously, you’ve heard that song. That’s it, the rest of them are up and coming, like my boy Relly.
You’re a big appreciator of women rapping in the UK. Do you feel like this era of rap is the best time for a woman in the UK? First of all, I need a song from Simz though. That’s one person I’d love to get in the studio with and do it how Drake does it; we don’t even need a hook, half of the tune is yours and half of it’s mine. Just bars, that’s what I would love to do. In terms of feeling like I contributed to the music scene, I would never say that’s what I did. Doing my music history lessons, I can see that a lot of the female artists that came up back in the day came up because they were the only ones. Not that it’s any different today, it’s just that there’s more of them. Like they’re coming up because they’re the only ones but rather than being the only one in the music industry, they’re the only one in their city or the only one on their street. I feel like that just shows mass growth because you’ve got men full on listening to Lola Brooke and Ice Spice and for me, that is so heartwarming to see and it’s not even my music. I’m not necessarily expecting men to take in everything that I’m saying. But even some boys will come up to me and be like, “you’re hard you know!” I remember when the EP dropped and I got on the train – I think I was going to a meeting or something – and a guy came up to me, took off his headphones and said, “I’m literally listening to ’13 Going On 30’ right now.” I was like, “Oh my days, you’re a man!” but music knows no gender? It’s just words, everyone can have the same experiences in different bodies.
This is groundbreaking, your generation have changed things a lot.
Yeah it’s great now. Do you know what the best thing about music is nowadays? There’s no limitations to it; music is actually the epitome of freedom right now. Anyone can say what they want and people will take them in; to an extent. But that’s a great power, with great power comes great responsibility so we’ll see how people use that.
You’re multi-talented, even outside of music, tell me a bit about your illustration, would you ever draw your own cover art for a release?
It’s mad cause I’m so [about] freedom of speech, don’t conform to the ways of the world, all of that. But my art, I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily as aesthetically pleasing to present on a cover. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll look at it and be like, “this is sick.” It’s just… I don’t know, maybe I’ll try, who knows? I just like putting pictures of myself as cover art because it’s a reference to me at the time that I was in. If I was to drop a big album, I’d want the listening party to be in a gallery and everyone be surrounded by the artwork that I’ve done since I was a kid. It would be like, “Yeah, you’re in a room full of my art listening to my art.” So it would be more like an immersive experience rather than anything else; that’s why I do my art. I’d potentially do commission work for people that want me to draw for them. Or in a magazine or in a book or illustrate a book but in terms of my cover art, loads of people have asked me [that]. Even with the EP cover art, it’s based off of a piece that I did for uni and when I posted a comparison on Twitter, people were saying that they liked my version better. I don’t know, I just thought it felt a little bit flat, it’s not dynamic enough. But I’m harsh on myself so we’ll never know the answer, [maybe] in another universe.
This is an extract from the SS23 issue of Viper Magazine. Buy physical and digital copies here.
Photography: LAUREN A-BROWN
Words: MICAH ROBERTS
Creative Direction: EDDIE CHEABA
Styling: ISRAEL RUNSEWE