211 Girls meet Merky Ace: Know what it is

Past

I am South London. I grew up in Lewisham. I would have to say that my upbringing and surroundings greatly influenced my artistry and my career as a whole. Growing up, I was surrounded by so much local talent, which I listened to religiously. In my opinion there is definitely a distinct and original way in which (Grime) music is made down here compared to other parts of London. Hearing local MCs and crews such as Roadside G's, South Soldiers and Essentials on the radio is where it all started for me. Underground radio opened up my eyes to the fact there was a real possibility for me to be heard and recognised as an MC. It pushed me to pursue music outside of the four walls of my bedroom. I guess I liked what I heard around me but also knew I had ‘something’. I used what I heard to build upon and develop my own style.

The song that changed my life was 21 seconds by So Solid Crew. I think the way in which that song blew up had an affect on a lot of underground artists around the UK at that time. It showed everyone that this scene could be taken to the next level. That song, and early stuff by Oxide and Neutrino got me writing seriously and working on my craft, as well as Dizzee Rascal’s early sidewinder sets and his infamous hit "I Luv U". You have to remember though that this was all before the genre of ‘Grime’ even had a name. It started off as a musical movement. I had to be a part of it.

A major turning point for me was when I met M.I.K and Shif man. For respected local artists to take notice of me- that really gave me confidence in my own talent. I made a song called "Screwdriver VIP" alongside Shif Man and Kozzie, which was one of my first songs to be played on radio. It generated a really good buzz and from then on I just never looked back.

On reflection, there have been quite a few highlights in my career. I will never forget performing at Outlook Festival 2013 (Croatia)- it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I recall being on stage with Big Narstie (drunk out my face HAHA) climbing on top of the massive PA speakers. Another major highlight has to be going into the studio with Dizzee Rascal and laying down 2 tracks. It was surreal. The fact that an artist who has been such an inspiration to me, reached out to me in the first place and respected what I could bring to the table. That was mad. I wasn’t even in the country when I got the call. I was on the road in Finland. At that point I just remember thinking ‘the only way is up from here’.

I've learnt a lot from the beginnings of my music career. The main lessons that I've learnt from the past are that ‘you can’t score if don’t you shoot’ and that ‘you can’t win the raffle if you don't buy a ticket’. Whatever I want in life I have to go for it, and if I happen to make mistakes along the way then I must learn from them. The ‘Grime’ scene has changed a lot. It was raw, fresh and a lot more people were involved in the hype, as it was something new. The ‘Grime’ genre belongs to the streets so anyone who was living that lifestyle or could relate to it, had an instant connection with the music. It was different from ‘Hip Hop’ and 'Rap’ because it was a UK thing. It was home-grown . It wasn't really as marketable or respected by the mainstream as it is today. It was defiantly the voice of the people.

What were you wearing?

Nike and Adidas. Back then I didn't really explore much in terms of fashion. I literally lived in both brands, whether it was tracksuits, hoodies, trainers or t-shirts. I was all about sportswear and the music.

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Present

Currently, I'm in the process of releasing two projects this year. The first project is a joint (yet to be titled) EP with fellow MC, Footsie (of the Newham Generals). He produced the entire EP, while I handled and focused more on the vocal/MCing side of things with a few features. I’m excited about this project, as we came together and created a solid sound, by combining our own individual styles and sounds. It will be released via Dirtee Stank (Dizzie Rascal’s own independent label) later on this year. The second project I am working on is my solo release "Catch Up EP Vol. 2", which is also set for release this year (via Family Tree Records). It’s a follow up of a successful side project I released by myself a few years ago. The focus of this EP is energy; so expect a lot of it on this release!

Funnily enough, at present I don’t really listen to much ‘Grime’ in my spare time, but when I do, the artists that I bump are mainly Cadell and Grimey of Truss ENT . I also like Tre Mission and CAS. I'm quite a big fan of trap music too, and recently I’ve been listening to a lot of 6.7 from Brixton, Old Timbar, B Dubble, Shower Malik and Young Spray. I guess because I’m a ‘Grime’ artist myself; I like to give myself a break from it in my spare time. I would say I also listen to a lot of ‘Rap’ music in my recreational time.

A current career highlight for me is starting my own radio show called "Radioactive" with my FT (Family Tree) collective on RadarRadio.com. It has always been something that I’ve wanted to do. We now have our own platform to promote our stuff and other artists on our own terms. Just like early ‘Grime’, the show is real and raw. It takes me back to when radio was the way to gain respect as an MC. You spat. You clashed. It was unfiltered.

I take everyday as it comes and I guess I'm learning that no matter what, you have to keep going. This industry is so unpredictable and you never know when your ‘big break’ is coming. I'm also learning, as I grow musically, that there are many ways in which to convey a message. Creating music that is relatable is very important to me and I try my best to do that in my music. The current music scene has its advantages because there are opportunities all around you for your talent to be showcased. The Internet now connects everyone- more people are on ‘Grime’ and are taking notice of what we are doing over here. Most recently US rapper, Danny Brown, mentioned that he was a fan of mine, so that’s cool. The scene is completely different now to before but change is inevitable. ‘Grime’ did kind of die down for a bit but now a lot of people have their eyes and ears on grime from all over, so the best times may be yet to come. We just have to wait and see.

What are you wearing?

All sorts really. I'm still a fan of my Nike and Adidas comfort wear but the majority of the time I'm in jeans of some kind (usually Levis or other brands that I've come across via music. DTA Posse always chucks stuff my way). I like Mishka and I also wear a lot of my own brands "Play Your Position" and "All Or Nothing", which I'm pushing at the moment.

Future

To say that I know exactly where my career is heading would be a lie. I just hope to become more established than I am now. I also hope to be on the road touring more frequently- seeing places that I haven't seen yet. The main thing that drives me is giving people who like my music what they want. As long as I'm doing that, then I'll be happy.

I definitely see the UK music scene growing in the future. I don't think there is anyway it can go backwards. Personally I would like to see a change in what is accepted commercially in this country, but only time will tell if this will happen. I think that change will probably be down to an individual talent, as opposed to a change in the media’s view on the music. In terms of collaborations, I’ve worked with the majority of people I want to in UK, which is a blessing. I would be interested in working with artists, such as Ar-Ab, p-90 smooth and US rapper Chief Keef. I would like to work with his producer, Young Chop, too. His sound is quite gritty like ‘Grime’.

I want to leave behind a ‘Grime legacy’- timeless music that can be enjoyed and understood for years to come. I want to leave behind a blueprint for other MCs who want to do the same also.

Fashion-wise, how do you see your style changing? 

I’m becoming a bit more experimental with the brands I wear. I believe that my actual taste in the type of clothes I wear won’t really change though, as I'm set in my ways and comfort is the most important thing to me. I am who I am but I am open-minded too. Street wear and ‘Grime’ go hand in hand.

Credits: ASOS, Blood Brother, PumaLes BenjaminsNudie DenimSchott

Any last words?

"Know what it is"

Merky Ace

Text: Sandra Omari

Photography: Joshua Allen

Styling: Safiya Yekwai