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Revered Reading rapper Songer talks about his recent album SKALA, soundtracking DNB raves and making music with a new-found fearlessness.

Words and photography @kitwaah

Since he burst onto the scene, Songer has consistently delivered bars on a range of instrumentals, from the soulful boom bap of Jorja Smith’s ‘Blue Lights’ to murkier DnB cuts. Across all of his tunes, the rapper’s effervescent delivery makes for an engaging listen. His rise to fame came in tandem with personal developments. This evolution is evident when listening through his discography; each release reflects the artist's deeper understanding of himself. It’s not all doom and gloom. Amidst the heavier aspects of Songer’s lyrics, there are joyous moments filled with the wordsmith's natural humour.

After dropping a trilogy of the most-watched BL@CKBOX freestyles, he’s gone on to release countless projects. On his latest, titled SKALA, Songer's multifaceted artistry shines through. Across a variety of instrumentals, from UKG and DnB to boom bap and grime, he raps about his inner vulnerabilities and intersperses them with braggadocios flows that tell stories of a hedonistic lifestyle.

The 23-year-old rapper is willing to bear his soul on tracks with unflinching integrity. While Songer’s style remains characterised by clever wordplay and unwavering self-assurance, it’s clear that he’s come a long way since his early releases. There’s a new sense of positivity and perspective on SKALA which is much to be admired. The Reading-born artist has cemented his rightful place in a London-dominated scene; that’s no mean feat.

We got up close and personal with Songer just before his performance at Leeds Festival, to uncover his rise to fame, explore his creative process and more. Tap in below.

It’s been a few months since your most recent project, SKALA, Congratulations! How’s the reception been?

It's been good. It was a tough album to make because I wanted it to sound like my mind at the time. Coming from such a personal album like The Sunrise Project, I wanted it to be reflective of being in a better place, having a better understanding and new experiences. Now it's out, the reception has been beautiful. It's a checkpoint in my career that I'll always love and appreciate.

Where does the name SKALA come from?

It’s named after my dog.

Tell us about your dog, what do they mean to you?

One day, I just had this thought when I wrote the song ‘SKALA’, which was, ’Every day she wakes up with love in her eyes.’ You've heard people say, “It'd be sick to be a dog.” I thought about expanding on that, not something as cliché as it would be sick to be a dog, but from the viewpoint that every day is a new day. Everything's exciting. I could be having the worst day ever, and I come downstairs, and my dog looks at me and wags her tail. I was trying to take something from that and apply it to humans.

So you were writing from that mindset?

Yeah, it wasn't about my dog. It was about the mindset of fearlessness; every day is new. Who cares what happened yesterday? I thought it was appropriate to name it after her because I wanted to trademark that word.

In terms of the artistic process, obviously, it comes with its ups and downs. At some points, you may be less creative and then have sudden bursts of creativity. How do you navigate this?

I've been to the studio countless times where I knew I wasn't in the mood to write and then left feeling worse than when I arrived because I hadn't written anything I love. So, don't rush it, and be patient. If you truly believe in yourself and believe it is what you're meant to do, then that’s the best thing. I've been at the highest points of my life because of music and the lowest points because of music.

Let’s get onto the DnB rave you had at The Cause recently, with K Motionz. Tell me about the tune you have with him, how did that come about?

Well, I've known about K Motionz for time. When I was 16 and going to all the under-18s raves, K Motionz was flying and his Soundcloud mixes were going viral. I’ve always shown him love, and he's always shown me love. When I made ‘Balling’, it opened the door to new opportunities. We started talking; we already knew the respect was there. He started sending me a few drafts and we just linked up, went to the studio, and got something done. We created one of my favourite songs I’ve made.

Why do you think your vibe connects so well with DnB as a genre?

People don't realise the scale of youth [culture], going to raves and having the best night of your life. I can write a song like that because that's what it is to me. I'm not a rapper who just decided to make DnB. Before I'd ever performed my own music, I had MC’d at DnB raves. I think people can see it's not a numbers game; it's what I enjoy.

How was it to collaborate with D Double E? How did that come about?

It came about because, in the hook, I mentioned D Double, about my boy being too drunk: “His verse is an ad-lib, D Double E.” Obviously, he's famous for ad-libs. I thought it would be unreal if we got D Double E on a remix. I sent it to him and two days later, he sent back a verse and wanted to jump on the tune. I was jumping up and down with excitement. I thought, ‘Nah, this is the best thing that's happened to me.’ Not only have I grown up listening to him, he's an icon and to feel validated in that respect was a big confidence booster. It felt like a new chapter for me.

Many of your verses touch upon mental health issues. Why do you think it is important to talk about your vulnerabilities? How does that form who Songer is as an artist?

The songs I've written that you'd be referring to, I’ve written because I needed to. I've written them because I needed to find clarity, to get it out of my head and onto a piece of paper. Then I'll come back to it. When structuring an album, for example, I won't ever think, ‘Right, I need to release a personal song.’ I would have written them anyway. When it comes down to what I want an album to sound like, and I want it to sound like me, those songs become important. I think it's important to speak about it because it helps me. The fact that it helps other people is a beautiful bonus. They're written for my sanity.

You rose to prominence with the famous BL@CKBOX freestyle, which has clocked up millions of views. How have you found navigating a career in music since that point?

I'll always give ridiculous amounts of credit to BL@CKBOX. I recorded my first album at Lotes’ house, who owns the platform. They were the first people I grew up watching who actually believed in me. When you have people you grew up admiring musically, look in your eyes and believe in you, it motivates you. I credit the people there more than the video itself. They helped me realise I can do this. BL@CKBOX was perfect because when I started releasing my own music, I already had a fanbase.

We’re here at Leeds Festival, what does it mean to you to play such an iconic festival?

I've been to Reading Festival every year since I was 16 and I'm 23 now. I live 10 minutes away from the festival at home. So that's a whole lot of memories. It’s where I first discovered my love for festivals. Other than with my family, it was the first festival I ever went to. It’s a full circle moment and it means I must be doing something right.

What's your pre-gig drink of choice?

Disaronno and coke and beers before. A few glasses of red wine on stage and whatever the world has to offer me after the show!

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

I'm a pacer. For about two hours before the show I'm just walking. I can sit there and do deep breaths but as soon as I stand up, I need to be doing something. I’m talking to my DJ, who's also my best mate, so it's easy. Being around people that I can rely on and being open if I feel nervous, that's how I get the advice that makes me calm down.

It sounds like you keep a tight circle of friends around you, and the people you're working with are your friends too...

It’s all people that I can rely on. If it wasn't my best performance, I can be angry about it. People will understand that and deal with it that way. I come off, and I might ask, ‘How was it?’ If they go, that was unbelievable, I believe them. So that's important to me. Without that, I feel like you lose your sanity, you lose track of normality. It enables my normal life to progress.

Beyond Reading and Leeds and all the music you released this year, is there anything else you'd like to achieve before 2023 is over?

One of them's already locked in. My whole life, I've wanted to visit Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand, in particular ever since I was around eight years old. We're touring Australia and New Zealand this October. I’m gonna stay there until Christmas. The tour’s probably about two and a half, three weeks. It’s been a lifelong goal to visit there. It's something that I can't wait for.

What do you think about the scene in Australia and New Zealand?

I feel like they’re similar cultures. We love Australians here in Britain. They're funny and love a drink, like us. Both countries have dry humour and sarcasm in common too.

Do you think that spending time there might influence your music?

I hope so. I always want to experience things that make me write about something different, If nothing has happened in your life, it's hard to write the same songs again. I hope I go to Australia and it gives me another kick up the arse. I'm sure it will inspire and motivate. I don't just love rap music. I love music. So, if it inspires me to make a song I've never made before, I'm here for that; I'll chase that.

Good luck down under, and I appreciate you sitting down with us.

I've loved it, thanks for having me.


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