Artist To Artist: Solomon Grey & Essa
We all know the devastating power of the perfect combination – whether it be bacon and eggs, peanut butter and jelly or beer and more beer. Two heads usually are better than one so, judging by that logic, three heads putting their creative minds together can lead to something very entertaining indeed and that's exactly what happened when British electronic duo Solomon Grey teamed up with Essa (formally Yungun), one of the stars of the golden era of British Hip-Hop. They teamed up so well in the aural world that we thought we'd let them have a go at facing off in a war of the words. So read on to find out what happened when Essa and Solomon Grey went artist to artist;
ESSA TO SOLOMON GREY
What's behind the name Solomon Grey?
We just played with a load of names and came up with that one. We wanted it to be a name and one thing made of two.
How do you work together – do you each have different roles?
Every time we think we have a role it switches. Tom’s more technical and I write out of the studio more but even those things change every time we come to a new project.
How's it different making music for a soundtrack rather than for your own record?
Writing soundtracks has made everything a lot easier because we aren't so tied down to how we think it should sound. Everything is valid and it meant we didn't have to nail the SG sound in everything. With that came the understanding that it will sound like you at the end and you don't have to worry too much about it.
Which movie or TV show would you love to have done the score for?
Would love to have written the music for the first Alien film and maybe had a go at a series like Jinx. If you haven't seen it, do, it's good.
Whose music makes you go "damn, I wish I'd done that!"?
Thomas Newman, Jonny Greenwood, Mica Levi, Prince, Portishead to name a few. That list is very very long and it’s why we love what we do. There's an infinite number of ways of doing this.
Other than music, what are you passionate about?
Family, Film, physics, politics and comedy.
If you won the lottery, what's the first thing you'd do with the cash?
Have a massive party. Brewster’s Millions meets warehouse party.
What possession can't you live without?
None really. The things you own end up owning you. It's only after you lose everything that you're free to do anything.
What's your biggest vice?
Working something to the ground when leaving it would have been a better choice.
Solomon was known for his wisdom. Any wise words for us?
Be happy, what makes you happy? Not what makes you money, not what everyone else is doing, not what you think. Find it and be happy.
SOLOMON GREY TO ESSA
Why was your initial name yungun?
I was always the youngest in my crew. When I first started rhyming I was about 13 so it seemed fitting at the time.
Why did you change to Essa?
In short, I grew up! But this song explains it all.
What do you listen to the most which isn't hip hop?
Definitely soul music. Old classics like Marvin Gaye and new and progressive stuff like Bilal. I also love soulful dance music like Bugz in the Attic and the whole West London broken beat movement.
Do you have any other artistic outlets?
Not sure if this counts but I love to cook. I make a mean Paella!
Have any good recommendations for new music?
Kendrick Lamar owns hip hop right now but most people know that. If you've not heard of Oddisee you're missing out. Get "The Good Fight" and work backwards from there – soulful hip hop at its best. Recently been really enjoying Anderson Paak and Knxwledge's collab NxWorries.
What's your favourite old track that most people wouldn't of heard. A real 'who's this? I've never heard it before, gonna look it up' kind of thing..
Here's a slept on 90s New York hip hop gem – Change by Shades of Brooklyn.
Do you have a good book recommendation?
I'm a bit embarrassed by how few books I read! Last one I really enjoyed was Kill Your Friends by John Niven.
What hip-hop artists made you want to spit?
All the American 90s legends like Snoop, Nas, Biggie, Wu-Tang of course. But the catalyst for me was hearing Blak Twang do it just as well with a British twist and a London accent.
What lyric hit you the hardest as a teenager?
The whole of Illmatic by Nas is packed with some of the best lyrics ever but here's one that particularly stood out for me – "I switched my motto. Instead of saying fuck tomorrow, the buck that bought the bottle could have struck the lotto." That's a perfect lyric right there.
Can you send a random picture from your phone?
Here's some of my first ever recordings. For the youngsters out there, these things are called cassette tapes!
Solomon Grey's EP Selected Features is out now via Decca Records.