Accenting key cultural movements from the U.K., Wilfred’s SW8 pays homage to the underground sounds that have defined new millennial Britain. The EP, in his own words, looks to “understand how Skepta can get all of my peers bouncing” - so energy is imperative throughout the 5 songs. A former Saville Row Tailor, who’s infatuation with an Alexander McQueen show moulded his early love for fashion, Wilfred has always indulged in creative endeavours. Tailoring taught him a lot about human values, and music quickly seemed a less restricted form of expression for him.
‘Puredrip’, one of SW8’s standout cuts, embraces the claustrophobic nature of genres like grime. Frenetic drums, back-to-back bars from Wilfred, Freddy Spinach and Jososuave, and imploding bass shape a restless tune - brimmed with the intensity he sets to achieve on this EP. The grime narrative continues on Building Shrines, sampling Danny Weed’s classic instrumental ‘Creeper’; one of Wiley’s famous car spats is also used on the beat.
There is plenty more in the pipeline for Wilfred, who plans on releasing a “16 track psychedelic rock project” soon - quite a switch up from SW8 that’s for sure. In the mean time, read our interview with the artist below.
For those that don’t know you, introduce yourself. Get the people knowing about Wilfred!
My name is Wilfred Cisse, I was born in Ivory Coast and migrated to the UK in 2004 (because of a civil war) I am currently practicing music and have been trained as a tailor (occasionally helping friends-only with their collections) I have a profound love for industrial design and try my best to live my life as a product to my mother, doing well to represent her with honour and dignity at all time.
As a former Saville Row Tailor, what made you want to drop the scissors and pick up the mic?
Going into Savile Row at age 17, I was the youngest everywhere I went. In my culture and household age automatically grants you respect, and so at that age I found older people very intimidating and quite submissive in the way I spoke, and walked. As the years went on I saw that age didn’t mean anything, it was actually character and morals that truly granted respect, and by then I no longer had an interest in serving most customers that passed through Savile Row - let us just say a 19 year old west-African young man making bespoke garments to the same level as the veterans in the industry, I was very quickly shut out because of how fast I picked things up, and also not deemed as capable because of what I looked like.
Has your time as a tailor influenced the music you make? PUREDRIP has a cheeky John Galliano dig in there.
I originally wanted to be a fashion designer, when I was 16 I saw Alexander Mcqueen’s spring summer 2002 collection, and within the week dropped out of college and called in CSM because I read he went there (I got denied because I was too young and also didn’t have a portfolio) and so the only thing left was Savile Row. When making any garment it starts with a type of person/people in mind and from there the proportions and stylisation begin- music is as direct as garments, the same way that a clean cut suit might make you feel powerful or smart or both, that's the same way I approach the music, even when I am playing around on PureDrip for example, I want people to leave with some knowledge and feeling, and I treat this with a whole heart because music does have the power to heal and unite.
How do you think your debut project SW8 reflects you as an artist?
It’s funny because within the time span of making this project, I also made a very personal hip hop/conscious 5 track EP which in hindsight is just a big therapy session, and have just finalised a 16 track psychedelic rock project with my friend (Will Reubin). What I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t represent me at all. SW8 was an exercise in understanding the formula and structures in what makes the crowd bounce and start a mosh pit, but my interests are far too vast for one genre. A lot of what I talk about though, is in the stance of my older brother who was heavily involved in gangs and other things directly in line with the sounds of the EP.
An aspect of the EP that particularly stands out to us is your credits on the song writing AND production. Is your process for penning lyrics and crafting beats different to one another?
Yeah very, I actually never make beats or instrumentals, but when I do I often spend a whole day or 2 making melodies or drum patterns or both, and have skeletons on about 50-60 composition, and then throughout the week/month I will filter down to about 3-4 that just HAVE to go somewhere. But I am also writing. I sometimes take text messages or real life conversations and just musicalise it.
The project feels like a very personal one to you as an artist. You touch on topics of mental health and the issues of inequality in the Capital - did you start making music as a form of therapy before thinking you could take this seriously?
I think because of the other project (that was more personal) certain aspects and feelings bled through on SW8, but my real intentions was just to practice and understand how for example Skepta can get all of my peers bouncing.
Tell us about your US tour and what went down over there. Did any cities particularly stand out to you as a highlight?
So late 2019 I was talking to some friends in Boston and just felt like I was taken a bit more seriously anywhere BUT London, and so we decided to just throw a show, which became 2 then 3 and then 4. We started in Detroit and this very punk rock-ish venue, and then were blessed enough to perform at Hard Gallery (which is all about giving space and a voice is talents) I’ve been to Detroit twice (almost shot once but that’s another story) so it wasn’t all so new. As Europeans we thought, let’s not get a flight from Detroit to NY because of the environment, so we got the GreyHound (a 14-15 hour bus journey). Behind us, on the bus, there was a man taking some substances, and we had someone who was on the run opposite us too. I don’t know how vividly I can paint this nightmare of a journey but it’s definitely something to laugh at now. The NY show was a flop, simple as, badly organised and just badly timed, we had made connections with an up and coming NY artist (Ade Hakim) who’s in line with MIKE (their group basically help form Earl Sweatshirt’s new sound) and so everyone who showed up came to see him ONLY and after he performed they left. We ended up performing at a drug dealers house who had a jacuzzi in his living room and a stripper pole in the bed room, again I don’t know how to paint this vividly enough. Lastly was Boston, which was organised by my friends who have a production company they’re developing called Redline, and within 2 days of announcing the show, the tickets were sold out, we had two floors in the chinatown of Boston, this was definitely the moment that showed me persistence plus practice will always lead to results.
What is next for Wilfred?
Well there's the one EP I already have in the bank, and also a 16 track album (which I want to use to get into Coachella with). I know more work will get done by then, but with these already under our belt, I want to focus and try to gain as big of a platform as I can (whilst staying independent) to really show the world that there’s a lot more to get done, and rap and rock music has yet to see it’s peak.