While most of the other long standing grime crews have disbanded, or found themselves churning out cheap versions of American hip hop and bombastic EDM, Boy Better Know have stuck to their guns. They've continuously championing the skeletal futurism of the grime sound that made them - and, as often happens, fashion has finally come back round to their way of thinking. Now with the grime scene looking healthier than ever, BBK are positioned to break big - without having spent the last 5 years sullying their back catalogue with crap - and how many of their contemporaries can say the same..? The forthcoming Red Bull Culture Clash seemed as good a reason as any to speak to Boy Better Know. They easily won the contest back in 2012, fighting off Skream, Benga, Major Lazer, and Channel One with skills honed in a million grime battles, pairing brutal, hilarious lyrical cusses with heavyweight dubplates. This year they're looking to face off against America's A$AP Mob, Jamaican dancehall titans StoneLove, and Rebel Sound, a UK super crew made of Shy FX, David Rodigan and Chase & Status. Having recently returned from filming a post clash victory documentary in Jamaica for Red Bull, BBK's Shorty was feeling confident for the forthcoming battle -
So what did BBK bring to win the Culture Clash in 2012?
Shorty: We just came with originality, we went with it. When we got the show we didn’t know what we were in for til the day when we saw the massive stadium, so we just did what we do, we kept it real and did our thing and won everyone over
Do you remember which dub’s really won it for you?
Yeah, the Talking the Hardest dub was one of the killers – we finished Skream, Benga,Channel One with that dub. After the show people were coming up to us saying, ahh man that was harsh, but if your comin into a war you’ve gotta expect anything..!
Have you started preparing for this year’s clash yet?
Yeah, last time we didn’t really know what was going on so we prepared really, really late, but this time round we’ve been getting bits and bobs together throughout the year
I’m assuming your not going to give away anything youl be dropping
And who do you rate of the competition
It’s a different sort of competition this year, you’ve got a few legends, Rodigan, Stone Love, ASAP Mob–
But let’s face it the Americans aren’t gonna be a challenge
Ha, we aint even gonna worry about them! When we looked at the line up and saw Rebel Sound, where they’ve got Shy FX, Chase & Status and Rodigan, we were like, OK, so someone’s really trying their hardest to win... but we’re not phased by that, we’re not scared, we’re just gonna do what we did last time, but even better
A lot of the people over here may not be aware of Stone Love, but they’re serious clash veterans
Yeah, they’re massive, but I think they usually clash against people in their own sound, so they know the background of who they’re clashing – this is like grime, rap vs dance, whatever you call it, this is different to what they do, so I respect them, but we’re definitely not threatened by them. I mean good luck to them, but they’re gonna be out of place, they’re gonna think it’s gonna be one of the soundclashes they’ve done before and it’s gonna be totally different.
So you think the big event is going to be between you and Rebel Sound
Yeah, cos it’s a bit closer to home. They know our background a bit more than say Asap Mob would. Shy FX he’s old skool drum n bass, Chase & Status they’re the new skool and Rodigan was before I could even breathe, so they’ve got everything. They’ve got a big big team.
Are they kinda cheating? Are they not a bit like it being Boy Better Know and Roll Deep and Nasty Crew all together?
Yeah, cos imagine if we had Boy Better Know, So Solid Crew and Heartless Crew, it’s like three different eras of music together. When I looked at that crew, I was like Rebel Sound have never been a crew. What’s Rebel Sound? They exist for this one thing. We’re not gonna talk about it too much…
So what’s going on With Boy Better Know right now?
We’re just trying to build it up individually, so that when we do do something together it’s massive. Everyone’s wanted a big project for the last three years but there’s no need to rush it. When the BBK album comes out it’s gonna be a classic album, whenever it comes out
And what do you think about the recent attention the media have been paying to grime again? Does it mean anything?
It’s one of those things where we do grime and live grime, so when we do shows and go to other peoples shows we could always see that the energy in grime was always a bit different. When we come together and do a stage show, or if Skepta does a show, or JME, or Jammer, the energy is different to any other style, and people are enjoying raving like that again – it’s like people can remember their youth. Grimes coming back round, and it’s stronger than ever.
When something’s really good, you can’t forget about it. When everyone was doing grime before they were really young, so they were just getting shows and getting big on the street, but they didn’t know where to go with it. Now everyone’s a bit older they’re a bit more business minded, with a bit more direction. Everyone’s been ripped off at one point or another! This time round its gonna work.
Is there a new generation coming through?
Yeah there’s always one or two youngers coming through – Novelist is a fresh young grime kid who I’ve been listening to.
And have you got any solo tracks coming up?
Yeah I’ve got a lot of tracks I’ve done but I don’t want to put a date on it. Definitely soon. I’ve done something on a Preditah beat, something from BassBoy who’s from Birmingham, but mostly it’s in house, getting beats off my friends
So tell us about the trip to Jamaica-
Yeah that was sick, we went out to witness ther real soundclash culture, to check out the roots – it was good man , it was refreshing, just to see jusic I na whole nother form, to be in a country where everyone loves music, it was a good experience for all of us. We went to a clash in the middle of Kingston called Clash wednesday, it was about 40 people clashing back to back to back, non stop – we saw rthis kid Newbaan there and did a tune with him – we had a beat from Rude Kid on someones laptop that we jumped on. We also spent time with U-Roy – he gave us some wisdom, he’s just an older person who’s been there, done that and he’s just chilled. He’s done a lot of things, he’s got a lot of acheivements, you go to them sort of people to just soak it up. Someone like that can change your life forever, it’s a spiritual thing
A lot of the young artists out in Jamaica are looking for a gimmick at the moment – like there’s a young guy out there called Alkaline who’s tattoed his eyes black.
Would BBK go that far?
Would any of you tattoo your eyes black?
People like us because we’re us. We just wanna be opurselves. If that sort of thing works for you then do it, but as a crew we don’t do stuff like that. But I can only speak for myself
So finally, what does grime need to do to provide a living for its artists
It can definitely do it. A lot of people get older, and they think, ahh man Im too old to do grime now, I used to listen to it when I was younger. But everyone needs to stick together and keep doing it, because people are listening anyway – when a grime song comes on in the club people still go crazy to it, but there's just not enough of it. Some people are like, oh I dont listen to grime but I do listen to BBK, but we make grime! Maybe we just need to work together a bit more, and get a bit creative, and that’s it, it can happen. If Meridian Dan, JME and Skepta did a tune together tomorrow it would be in top twenty. We need to be able to do our tunes,, make a video and get the support, without praying for radio play, because not getting radio knocked a lot of peoples confidence. They’ll make a tune, radio won’t want it and they’ll think its over. So we need to get on the platform where we put our own stuff out – people need to get good videos onto youtube and get into the charts from there, with the music that they wanna do. Some people are making tunes that they think they should make to try and get money, I can guarantee you that those people if they went top 20 with a grime tune they’d be so much happier than they are with that number #3 that they don’t even like performing...
The Redbull Culture Clash takes place on October 30th at Earls Court - more info over here