211 Girls: In 2015, you released two EP's (In the Hills EP and Forest EP). Both of these consisted of original instrumentals in their entirety. The following year, you went on to release your mixtape, INDi (2016), where we saw you experimenting more with vocals and featured artists (e.g singers Roses Gabor and Tyson McVey). What made you go in this direction?
Cktrl: Tbh I’ve always made music for songs, as well as intricate instrumentals that I feel can standalone. INDi was just the first collection of songs I decided to share.
What was really cool about working on the project was that I literally just worked with friends; people that genuinely believe in my art. The creative process for that project was very natural and it was nice to work with people that I trusted musically. A lot of those songs were created in a moment where I would just play a beat, and they would just start writing and singing along on the spot. INDi was very collaborative and it felt like a natural progression for me.
211: The majority of your EP, Fall (2017) features your own vocals. Was this also a natural progression for you musically? What made you step up to the mic for this project?
C: With this EP, I originally wrote the songs with other singers in mind; but the artists that I found had other ideas in regards to what they wanted to sing about. With this project, I tried to express how I was feeling first hand; pulling from both past and present experiences.
A lot of song lyrics are overly sexualised, misogynistic or just carry a lot of bravado- even if it wasn’t the writers’ intention. I tried to be honest with my feelings as a black man growing up today. I feel the importance of showing humanity is greater than ever, so through expressing my feelings in this way; maybe perceptions will begin to change. Often we hold back and remain closed, I read this poem by Nayyirah Waheed:
“there have been so many times
i have seen a man wanting to weep
beat his heart until it was unconscious.”
― Nayyirah Waheed
I wanted to express how I felt about relationships in the past, in the most honest way… Focusing more on how ‘the heart thinks and the mind feels'- which is another quote from Waheed.
The 2nd track on the EP is called ‘Run', which is about not being able to force someone to meet you on that bridge. ‘Only You’ is an ode to Black Women- I wouldn’t be anywhere without you. It comes from a place of admiration and recognising what you are going through. Not being able to undo some of those things, but at the same time showing that I’m here for anything you need. I see you as our most valuable resource.
211: One of our favourite songs from you is Lace U (feat. Raj). Listening to the lyrics, the song could be interpreted as slightly materialistic. However, you strike us as a more of a ‘love don’t cost a thing’-type of guy….
C: : Raj actually wrote that song. It reminds me of a Bashy tune called ‘London Underground’, though I’ve never asked him if that was his inspo for ‘Lace U’. In Bashy’s song, he mentions as many London underground stations as he can; with the song having really clever word play throughout. Lace U reminds me of that, in the way that Raj says all the designer labels instead. Also, I think a lot of songs can be retrospective. You live many lives growing up in London when you’re creative. When we were 16-18 years old, we did have this bravado of ‘flossin’ and showing our affections, and masculinity, in a materialistic way. I was first one on the endz with Evisu shoes (laughs). We were really out here, you know. Shower YGs.
211: You have successfully established yourself as an artist with a very unique sound and style of production, but are there any artists that inspire you or influence your sound in any way? Who are your ‘top rated’?
C:Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan (laughs). Just kidding. I’m very influenced by reggae and roots artists, such as Burning Spear; to name my biggest influence. Frank Ocean, Kanye West & Kid Cudi also are big inspirations, due to the fact that they evolve with every album. Every album is a step in a new direction, as they continually strive to push themselves creatively and sonically. I am also influenced by artists with purpose and intent, like Solange. Her most recent album, ‘A Seat At The Table’ (2016), marked a transitional time in her life and was created with so much love for the people. So many can relate to the content of the album because of that aspect alone.
211: When creating- are you driven more by your negative or your positive emotions? As you know, there are some artists that are better known for putting their pain into their music, whilst some artists more often create from a place of joy or celebration. What emotions usually move you to create?
C: I usually create from whatever I’m feeling. A lot of the time, I feel the urge to create after I experience a feeling that usually develops into an idea or 2. A lot of the time that results in unfinished tracks and references- then go back to the track or idea later on, and finish it in an entirely different head space. Most of the tracks on INDi were songs that I started producing maybe 6/7 years ago, and then I went back to create new sections and change them up a little.
211: Visuals seem to be playing a big part in your music. It seems as though you are seeking to challenge and stimulate your audience visually, as well as musically. Why are visuals becoming so important to you?
C: Visuals have always been on my mind, but I’ve always been someone who stays in their lane. I know how to make music- it comes to me so easily. However, videos have always been scary to think about. I’ve never been confident about things I don’t know.
But I understand that the world has changed so I needed to incorporate visuals into my work as another entrance into what I’m doing. People can get a better sense of who you are as an artist through visuals. Symbolism through imagery can bring something different to a track. For example, the video for my EP, Fall, features a lot of symbolism- encouraging the audience to start thinking more about the lyrics, and not just what they’re watching or the music itself.
211: Again, you strike us as a guy who has great taste and knowledge of music… but is there a song that you are embarrassed to admit that you like?
C: (laughs) You have put me on the spot (laughs). Will have to get back to you on that one. Maybe next interview…
Text: Sandra Omari
Photography: Amber Grace Dixon
Stylist: Safiya Yekwai