Nico Lindsay and Wallwork present the Facts

Son Raw talks to emcee Nico Lindsay and producer Wallwork about London's Grime scene and more.
By    August 23, 2016

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As Grime stabilizes into an established genre, complete with its own sound and star system, it becomes essential to seek out artists that push out against stylistic traits that could rapidly become limitations. Nico Lindsay is just such an emcee, born of grime’s original boom but breaking out this past year over both hardcore grime sets alongside Capo Lee and more experimental beats released by labels like Keysound.

Wallwork is a producer working at the fringes of UK dance music, dropping tracks equally indebted to London’s dance music history and outside influences like afrobeats and Dutch Bubbling. Together, they’ve come together for a series of tracks for resurgent label Black Acre (out this Friday), an imprint already undergoing a purple patch thanks to strong releases by Commodo and Rocks FOE. I spoke to Nico and Wallwork in London about their influences, how the EP came about and the nature of collaboration.—Son Raw


Introduce yourselves.


Nico: I’m an MC/rapper. You know, I didn’t even want to say that. I emcee innit? I jump on any instrumental I like. It could be grime it could be funky, it could be rap… I’ve been doing it for years on the sly, I started in 2004 [laughs] but recently I started taking it more seriously, and recently I linked up with Wallwork. That’s me, Codename Lin.

Wallwork: I’ve been producing for ages as well, since 2007 seriously. It’s only been a couple of years ago I released my first EP, just cause I wasn’t happy with the production until then. I wanted to keep pushing it instead of releasing an EP I was going to regret. This is an EP I’ve made with two friends Nan Kolè and TSVI and Nico obviously. This EP came out of us working on a tune for Nervous Horizon and then it made me and Nico we should be doing something on a bigger level.

It came together when me, Nico and TSVI met through this guy in Rome named Lorenzo, who’d been following Nico since he first started making noise on radio last year. Nico was his favorite emcee and he said if someone was going to spit on those beats, it should be him.


Is that the guy who Nico did the Gqom radio show with?


Wallwork: That’s Nan Kolè. The guy I’m talking about is his best friend from Rome, Lorenzeno BITW, a UK Funky producer form Italy. Which is a rare thing. He’s sick, check him out.


Both of you are known for working across different styles and genres. What was your musical starting point?


Nico: For me, I used to like rap but I never used to rap. Then grime got popular and all of my friends from school were showing me this grime stuff, but I wasn’t even into it until I heard a D Double E tune. I’d never heard anything like that – D Double E’s Frontline. Even the beat, before that everything was eskimo style, but this was more gritty. So after that, I figured, lemme try to write some bars and I started to get a rep in my neighbourhood in Finsbury Park, North London. Before I was even in a crew I went to this youth club. I was shitting myself thinking oh my god, with stage fright. I touched mic… and I got a reload!

I wasn’t expecting that. When you’re young, nobody got that treatment, getting a reload on their first bars. From there I just kept at it, I started on grime, we used to have a radio set on Heat FM and going to these pirate stations but after that, the crew departed in 06. It wasn’t until last year that I stepped into different fields. Like Storm with Wallwork or the tune I did with Lamont. Those are different from what I’d usually make but I liked the tunes and I didn’t want to restrict myself. So yeah, now I’m in different lanes. Even now, people still say “why aren’t other emcees going on different styles?” and I don’t know. It might be ignorance.

Wallwork: They might be scared. They want to play it safe. If you emcee on a grime tune in London, nothing can go wrong. But on something new, you don’t know what to expect. You might not get a good reaction.


How did the sound of the EP come together?


Wallwork: there’s a Caribbean, Brazilian influence. We get bored really quickly in London. Every 6 months you have to switch things up. It was through Acid Fantasy’s TSVI that I found out Girl Unit had been playing this Dutch genre from Holland called Bubblin’ from the late 90s early 2000. It’s like sped up reggaeton. All these syncopated snares. It’s what made people dance in the underground years ago. It’s not really cheezy, just crazy percussion. So that’s what’s inspiring the London scene at the moment. Our first tune Storm was influence more by Qgom and this EP from closer to Bubblin’ and UKFunky.

All these drum patterns make people dance more than the drony bass music and crazy patterns that don’t make much sense. These patterns make people dance 100% and when they come to London, it becomes a bit more serious, we steal from all over the world but we cut out the cheesier leads.


Were you guys listening to funky on its first wave?


Wallwork: I was, but I was in Italy at the time. Nico?

Nico: When Funky first came around, I won’t lie, I wasn’t sure of it. I liked the soulful element when all the singers were on it, but when there were emcees on it, I didn’t like it. But back then, I was in a very limited headspace: “if it’s not this, I don’t care”, ya get me? I was 18. In 2008, I stopped emceeing for a bit cause I didn’t like anything out there. I wasn’t paying attention, but since then I came around. If I showed my old friends this EP, they’d laugh and go “raaah! What happened?” I used to be a lot more pessimistic. Yeah, so I didn’t really like it back then, can’t lie!

Wallwork: To me, some of it was cheesy and just for girls and Carnival and boys were trying to be less enthusiastic about it, specially if you were into grime. It was more to make girls dance, priority #1. If you drop grime though, one tune will get the floor hype but after 3-4 tracks, it wears things out. Funky tribal stuff works better.

If we want to say the truth, you can go back to Masters at Work. UKFunky was very much inspired by the snare patterns that were already going around in NYC in 1995. It all comes down to those originators in House. They were the first to go tribal and use African snare patterns. The template was there 20 years ago.


Nico, how do you approach something this left of center?


Nico: I wouldn’t really say I’m an aggressive emcee. I might get aggressive in the moment, but I’m not aggressive. So I can approach a Grime set like I do a Qgom set. I might be a bit more cheeky since you can dance to those beats. They’re toasting lyrics so I’m not trying to be as lyrical as possible. For this release, as bubbly as they are though, I tried to be lyrical. But you can still vibes to it.

Wallwork: Nico, you’re the same person no matter what. Some people change if they’re on grime or jungle. But you, you’re always Nico. You don’t change personality. At least that’s what I’ve noticed.


I heard that EP with Trim he did. That was even more left cause it was UK Hip Hop.


Nico: My first love was rap. Even if it doesn’t get as much of a push in the UK, I’ll always do it for the love of it. I grew up on a lot of rap tunes as well as everything else. The message I’m trying to send across subliminally is that you don’t have to say in a box.


What’s next?


Wallwork: Acid Fantasy is a night I’ve got in Dalston with Loom and Akito. The next one is Mr Mitch, Tarquin, Lloyd SB and the residents, that Friday August 26th. I definitely want to do a special with emcees in the future as well. Lots of grime, techno and this new hybrid stuff that no one knows what to call.

Nico: Loads of projects. Codename Lin EP coming soon. That’s gonna be grime with other influences. Watch out for that.