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I’ve been meaning to catch up with Example for a while, he’s a rapper ‘turnt singer’ as T-Pain would say, but he can still spit a mean 16 when necessary. After tearing down the Hackney Festival Example took the time out to talk on his passion for Hip-Hop, his influences, Career transition, and more.
SEMTEX How was it for you today?
EXAMPLE Good bruva, yeah mate, I’ll be honest, like, I saw the line up and I was a bit overwhelmed, I was like, there’s a lot of big names there!
SEMTEX Yeah but you’re a big name in your own right, right now!
EXAMPLE I appreciate that, I just don’t always look at it like that. I’m always thinking, if you wanna survive in this industry, and I mean this in the best way possible, you’ve got to be competitive and you’ve just got to know what you’re good at and just go out there and put on the best show. I looked at the people around me and I was like, damn right – Jay-Z, alright, one of my favourite artists ever, and then I was like, Kasabian, one of my favourite bands ever. I’ll be honest, I respect Nicki Minaj a lot, female rapper in the scene, not a huge fan but I respect her a lot. Then like, Sheeren, Rizzle Kicks, people doing their thing, there’s a lot of pressure to go on there because, if people are in front of that stage all day they’re like, who’s got the best show? and I respect that, but even if you don’t think you’re better than them, you want to put on the best show, you know what it’s like.
SEMTEX Now you got your own lane though, there’s nobody that does it like you do!
EXAMPLE No I appreciate that, man! The only reason I do what I do, with the energy, is like a combination of watching, you know, Prodigy, and their like, synths and their energy. Watching rock bands like, the Arctic Monkeys with the live band element. Watching people like Dizzee and like, the sort of hype side of things, like the bounce, do you know what i mean?
I think my eureka moment was watching Dizzee doing ‘Bonkers’. And I’m not just saying that because you’re here, like for real, watching that, I was like, wow, I can do that!
SEMTEX Do you know how many people haven’t clocked that?
EXAMPLE Nah, nah, nah, I think, obviously, on the real bruv, I’m not saying it because it’s you, I was at V (Festival) a couple of years ago and I was like, I can sing and spit a little over beats like that and that’s my lane. And now I’ve got that, as you say. But at the same time, I still watch people like this and go, alright, I like the way that light does that, I like the way the drummer does that, even rock bands, the way they get them clapping or hyping, or chanting and I’m like, how can you incorporate that! Because I’m from a hip-hop/garage background, in terms of the way I perform on stage and I’m like, how can you get that rock star vibe that’s incorporated, do you know what I mean?
SEMTEX You’ve evolved as an artist because, I remember, you came through back in the day, the first time I ever heard about you was with Mike Skinner through ‘The Beats’ label. How’s the journey been?
EXAMPLE It’s been, the best way to describe it, is natural. The best way I can put it, because people don’t understand it sometimes, especially people who like my first album, which is all hip-hop. The best way I can put it is, growing up in London, I listened to: Garage, Jungle, Grunge, Rap, you know, I was a big Jay-Z fan, big fan of Slick Rick, big fan of A Tribe Called Quest. The reason I do what I do now is it just kind of feels natural, I’ve evolved in to it. When I started spitting, the only reason I starting spitting is because the only producer I knew only produced hip-hop, so I’ve always been a hip-hop head, but like, I was like,”yeah I’m gonna make a tune”!, but I only knew hip-hop tunes, so I made that. And now I’m on my forth album, I know guitarists, Dubstep producers, I know Drum & Bass producers, House producers, Trance producers. So I just do what feels natural to me. I’m much more in touch with what is natural to me.
SEMTEX As an artist, you know what the hip-hop scene can be like, it can be incredibly fickle, it can be…
EXAMPLE I still watch it closely bruv, I’m still the biggest Grime/Hip-Hop fan you can imagine, man!
SEMTEX It can be incredibly judgmental. Do you find that you’ve escaped all of that doing what you do now?
EXAMPLE To be honest, I’ve got a lot of followers on Twitter, when I’ve got something on Twitter that’s maybe a little bit derogatory or a bit hatred, you can kind of tell from the amount of followers they’ve got that they’re a bit small minded. What I’ve realised now, is especially when you come to events like this where you’ve got the hottest people in Dubstep, Trance, like the hottest Grime MC’s, the hottest rappers – people just come up to you and go, “I love your music!”. What it comes down to at the end of the day, is like, self expression, music’s your art and you make good music, or you don’t. And i think with me, what people have come to realise, like people who know me well go, “Do you know what, I see Example up there, he’s spitting a little bit, he’s singing a bit, he’s got guitars, everyone’s bouncing, it’s a rave, it looks like a bit of Faithless and Prodigy and there’s a bit of attitude”, and people go, “That’s him, that makes sense!”
People who don’t know me go “go back to hip-hop man, why you selling out!”. When people say ‘selling out’, it annoys me because I’m like, do you realise the amount of offers I’ve had, like “come feature on my song for twenty-five grand”, “come feature on my song for fifty grand”, “endorse in products, we’ll give you one hundred grand!”. I’m like, no, no, no, the reason I don’t want to do it is because I don’t like that product, I don’t like that artist. I’m not in it for the money, I’m in it to make music, it’s my living so I’ve got to make a living but I make music with artists I’m a fan of, that I love. And I know you’re a hip-hop head (Semtex), but I also know that you’ve got an encyclopedic knowledge of all music because every time I chat to you, you know what’s going on in every scene and you know, you’re even looking at me now, you can just go, “yeah, Example lives and breaths the music he does”. Which I think is the key thing, and I think that as artists evolve, what ever scene they’re from, like you just grow and understand them. The great thing today is that I can come up to like, you see an artist back stage, like, Chipmunk or Wretch, and just be like, “what you saying, oh I love this new thing you’re doing!” And they’re not listening to your bars, they’re just going, that’s a hit, that’s a tune! And then you also see someone like, Kasabian, who I’m a big fan of, and they’re just going, “Smashing it on stage”! And then you realise, it’s just a vibe, it’s just a vibe.
SEMTEX I mean the essence of hip-hop has always been that keep it real aesthetic, and you’re doing that.
EXAMPLE Do you know what, I totally agree with you, I’m still the biggest hip-hop head and if people said to me, “what’s your favourite album”? I’d be like, “Yeah, 36 Chambers, Doggystyle, Art Of Story Telling”. Those are my favourite albums, so when it comes down to it, what I’m doing now feels the most natural to me. When I’m on stage I’m the most comfortable singing, a little bit of spitting over, like, up tempo, whether it’s dunstep, drum & bass, trance, house – that’s natural. And everything in my lyrics, if you know me, you’ll know that my lyrics are real. I chat about my relationships, whether it’s partying too much, fear about growing up…
Everything I speak about is real, so essentially, as you say, the hip-hop mentality is still there. Be real to what you love, chat about your own life, chat about what you know. Hip-hop’s always been about, chat about what you know, so I’m carried that mentality through to a dance, electronic world.
Check me out on BBC Radio 1xtra every Friday from 10pm.
Big up Harvey on the WP!