As avid football fans, we often associate Portsmouth with Harry Redknapp, and how his uncontrollable love affair with Niko Kranjčar and Peter Crouch put the club into administration 7 years ago. For others, the city is known for It’s extravagant ports. Our previous naivety towards Hampshire meant it had never really occurred to us that there could be a rap scene in Pompey, until one day our Instagram DMs got blessed with a tune by up and coming artist Baby Panna.
With only a couple of songs officially released on streaming services, the rapper is still very much in the preliminary stages of his career, but his new EP amplifies a hunger that seems to have been with him from the start. the 7 track project flitters between melodic, acoustically composed hip-hop and psychedelic trap; there’s evident influence from the likes of Playboi Carti and Kendrick Lamar, however equally from British producers like JD. Reid too.
Where this mixtape really shines though, is in Panna’s wordplay. Throughout the 7 songs, real name, Panashe Paradiza's snappy, guttery flow brings a cohesiveness that not many artists can triumph so early on. Going against the materialistic stereotypes of many tastemakers in the UK scene, spitting lyrics like “you won’t ever catch me flexing’ til I’ve blessed my family tree”, it is clear that Panna wants a lot more from his career than the commodities that so naturally come with it.
Previously released single ‘Light Years’ sees Paradiza flowing over an exquisite combination of orchestral strings and picked guitar work; the favouring of acoustic instrumentation to synthesisers is rare in rap nowadays. ‘Murda’ is another track off the project that reverts away from the predictable new wave sound, bolstering his versatility through vintage, 90s hip-hop hooks and gritty, street-wise lyricism. Below, you can read a little interview we did with Baby Panna in celebration of the upcoming release. It's available to stream now on Spotify and all that goodness.
Why does it feel like now is the right time to release your first body of work?
"I'm a big believer in everything happening at It's own timing, and completely at the right time. If you just relax into what you've chosen as a career, and go with the flow in a way that allows you to utilise your passion and creativity to It's full extent, then everything will just fall into place. I'd say that with this mixtape, It's really just one of those things that fell into place, I amassed a lot of recordings overtime, so by the time it came for me to drop a project, there was no hesitation. It felt like dropping a project was the right thing to do, and there wasn't really another option for the path I'm trying to take."
"I also feel, rounding up the past year of recordings on this mixtape, is a good way to put down a marker on my musical career so far, and just wrap up once stage of it, so I can move onto the next stage, which will be dabbling into different genres and being creative with melodies and sound. It's kind of like marvel with their superhero movies, phase 1 is done and now man's moving onto phase 2 ."
You talk a lot about family, particularly referring to your friends and the team around you. How has everyone helped in the creative process?
"As a result of me keeping my music a secret from family and friends for so long, the creative process was really just cultivated by me only. I think where my family coming into the project, It's really just me channeling that energy of me making sure my circle is as positive as possible and trying to contribute to that positivity as much as possible myself, over the years I've come to learn that the people around you need to be up-lifting."
"At the moment, there's a lot of creative energy around me: I'm surrounded by groups of creatives, artists, photographers, emcees, djs, and we all just collaborate and get that creative energy flowing. Recently the creative process has been boosted by my circle, ever since I've been honest with where I want to take my music. We are trying to make the vision as clear as possible, to go and get it as quickly as possible. That's the energy in my circle right now."
"I'm blessed to have the energy around me that I have now, and I am thankful for it. And yeah, my creative process is definitely better now."
Who were you listening to when making the EP? How did you draw on their sounds to make something as unique as you did?
"I was listening to a lot of artists in the UK and America. With what I was trying to do on this project, I feel I drew my inspirations from artists like Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Frank Ocean; these are people who I consider to be boundary pushers, people who drop projects that are like no one has ever heard before, but because of the creative energy they put into their albums, they just work. I wanted to create something that people haven't heard before, and approach it in a different way."
"The UK scene is in a brilliant place right now, but I think it is missing the boundary pushers. With out sounding egotistical, I feel like I could have dropped music that sounds like what is popping in the UK right now, but I felt like I owed it to myself, and my own creative drive, to work on giving people something different. Whether it works or not, I don't know, but I owe it to myself to try."
"Flow-wise, I took inspiration from Drake in his 'If you're reading this It's too late' days, when he came in with the melodic rap style, and that made me want to make my verses more cohesive. Same goes for the garage, boileroom days when the likes of Skepta, Kano and D Double were shelling them down, I used to love that energy and I'm sure that comes through a lot in my sound as well."
"G.O.O.D Kid M.A.A.D City is my top album of all time. Hearing that album when I was younger really gave me the inspiration, obviously I had a natural inclination to poetry anyway, but hearing the artistry that Kendrick managed to put into his lyrics really pushed me to combine my love for poetry, with my wordplay, and I think that came from those Kendrick days."
Beyond yourself, What is the music scene in Portsmouth like?
"I'd say It's like what any other up and coming music scene should be like, if you operate in the right niche or you go to the right places, there's so many people on the right vibe and energy, and have passion and love for what they do. You see that shine in their emotion, and when they step into the booth. It's only a matter of time before all this energy builds into something special I believe."
"I'd definitely recommend here to anyone who's looking for new music. Portsmouth has an up and coming urban and hip-hop scene, it will blow soon come."
Do you have a favourite cut from the project? Or are there any in particular you resonate with?
"Right now I don't have a preference, but like the title says, each song captures a different vibe and energy from me and my life. When I listen to them, I know what kind of a place that was coming from. It's difficult to have a preference right now, I love them all for their own reasons really."
Many artists find is particularly difficult to go from making singles to full EPs, what was the transition like for you?
"I actually don't feel like there was a transition, and if there was then it went smoothly because at a certain point in time I was going studio and dropping rough copies on Soundcloud. At the back of my head though I was keeping the full mix masters of these songs to myself, with the intention of releasing them later. Overtime, not too much thought had to be put into it, they [the songs] all carry a vibe with them, and capture where my life has been in the past year. It just felt like the right thing to do."
"For me, projects are my favourite way to release music as they create an overarching story through all the tracks, making creative connections between songs. There's more effort and reward making a project rather than a single."
To wrap things up, who are you rating at the moment? Anyone to keep an eye on?
"At the moment I'm rating the likes of Master Peace and Sam Akpro - these aren't your typical urban artists. They are pushing the genre, and It's great; the sounds they're making I fuck with heavy. I'm also rating Dockem and Malone, they're rappers from Portsmouth who are sick, their flows, their style and their delivery is very wavy so you should definitely check them out."
Big up Baby Panna for taking the time to answer our questions. Give his EP a good ol' listen, It's well worth your time and a sign of great things to come from the artist.