The Lowdown: Long live Jammz
They often say that success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.
Raw talent is vital but, without a sense of ambition, it’s difficult to even get started.
Just ask Jammz. The East London MC has been making a huge name for himself over the last couple of years. He’s become known for his tireless work ethic and strong pirate radio presence, but has more recently begun cementing his place among grime’s best with countless stage shows, well thought out releases and various productions appearing all over the scene.
Like many, initially, Jammz was making music and not really taking it seriously. It wasn’t until P Money invited him down to Fabric one night that the flame was ignited. “He knew we were both into grime and that I made music,” he explains. “He invited me down and I thought I’d just get a wristband for the crowd, but he gave me a VIP pass which gets me onto the stage.” “Before this point here, being an MC wasn’t a priority for me, but this made me sit down and start to plan,” he says. “I watched P Money shut down Fabric and I thought, ‘You know what? This is so easy. I know I can MC, so if he’s up there doing this why can’t I be up there doing this too?’ I honestly think if it weren’t for guys like P Money and DullahBeatz taking time out to show me certain things, things could have worked out differently for me today.”
The plan consisted of a list of goals to have achieved by 2016, which he recently posted to his Instagram. You can see for yourself just how well he’s doing.
It’s fitting, then, that one of the standout tracks of Jammz’ new ‘Warrior’ EP (coming Nov 3rd) features P Money and deals with the problems which arise from being too focused. “’What’s Man Saying?’ is about having too much tunnel vision, so much that you start to forget about other things,” he explains. “This year I’ve been so focussed on music I’ve made silly mistakes or not kept relationships up as much as I’d like to.”
It’s a track that will resonate with anybody who has felt like they’re burning the candle at both ends, as the MCs bar over a relentless Ironsoul beat with a claustrophobic, howling bassline. It’s not difficult to see where the inspiration for the song came from when you consider Jammz’ punishing schedule of work, radio, shows and recording over the last year or so. “It’s slowed down a bit but that was because I had to ask it to slow down,” he confesses. “There was a point when I was out 4 to 5 times a week bruv and I was flying out to raves and catching the earliest flight back with no sleep!”
The rest of the EP is just as personal, but also carries with it a strong and explicitly political message. First single It’s a London Thing samples Scott Garcia’s eponymous classic and acts as a perfect contrast to last year’s Plastician collaboration, London Living. “[The track] is about the paradox of living in London,” he tells me. “The good side and the bad,” and Jammz didn’t have to look further than East London for inspiration. “The perfect example is Stratford. There’s a casino in Stratford, but it’s one of the poorest places in London… Why would you put somewhere for people to spend money in a poor area?” he asks. “It’s trying to attract a different clientele of people in and move people out”.
The rest of the track sees him address gentrification and take shots at companies who move into areas and prey on the locals, in his words, “Corporations move poor people out of their houses and claim that they’re fixing the ends, but apart from pushing up all the rent prices, Starbucks ain’t doing shit for the ends.” The track was dropped last week with a new video set around various locations in London, and hosted by SBTV (see below).
It’s no surprise that grime artists have recently started to speak out more about politics. The genre is seen by some as inherently political, and appears to have been held down by consecutive governments for over a decade now, but at the moment young people of poor backgrounds from the inner-city are under attack more than ever from a government which has lurched dangerously towards the far right. “Some of the policies that Theresa May has come out with are a war against lower classes, like the immigration vans when she was Home Secretary,” he explains. “There’s no tact; no compassion, it’s very authoritarian and it doesn’t translate to people like us.”
“What actually prompted to write most of this stuff was Brexit,” he tells me. “It highlighted that there’s a serious disconnect between the establishment and the people and a big part of it is that people who are running our country live in a bubble.” The vote for Brexit has already had a huge negative impact on the UK, and we haven’t even left the EU yet. What’s more, given the reliance on EU subsidies for many of the poorest parts of the country, it’s areas like inner-city London which will once again be affected, an irony of which Jammz is acutely aware. “The gap between the rich and poor is increasing so much,” he expresses. “And now that the pound is decreasing I don’t know how people are meant to survive.”
It’s fair to say that through Jammz’s personal story, the EP also manages to tell an authentic story about London in 2016, and also about the realities of the grime scene right now. After cutting his teeth on pirate radio and making a name for himself there, it was no surprise to see many others doing the same, but the last thing the scene needs is for radio to go stale again. “There needs to be more quality control,” he tells me. “I think after people realised that pirate radio was the formula we used, lots of people jumped on it too.” “I want to do more one-DJ, one-MC sets, I think they’re the future,” he explains. “Say Mic Ty jumps on a set with Spooky and Spooky plays 60 tunes, that’s more producers who get to hear what Ty sounds like over their beats.”
The story of grime in the last few years has been one of triumph against adversity, but one that has required a huge deal of hard work, but Jammz believes the scene is strong at the moment. “There’s still a lot of work to do in England but I think now we can start to look abroad,” he notes. “I’m hearing MCs spitting over grime in foreign languages, do you have any idea how mad that is bruv?” To put that into context, just a few years ago many grime fans were having trouble adapting to Birmingham and Manchester accents, but now there are genuine, career grime MCs whose first languages are Japanese, Dutch or Czech, such as Smack from Prague. “MC Smack in the Czech Republic is a fucking legend bruv,” laughs the MC, “he puts on his own grime shows and sells out clubs himself.”
As you’d probably expect, there’s no sign of Jammz slowing down just yet, and he’s got plenty of plans for after the release of his ‘Warrior’ EP. “I’ve got singles lined up and there may be an Underdog Season 2,” he hints. “And I’m thinking of doing a bigger commercial project too.”
His main project, however, is his label I Am Grime, which he hopes can use to help up and coming artists, just like P Money and Dullah Beatz helped him early on. “This year I’ve had to focus more on myself than I’d like to,” he says. “I’ve come across people who I think are sick and I want to help, but I haven’t been able to do that, but that’s what the label is about.” The label couldn’t have a more appropriate name, as we’ve said before Jammz’ latest release proves that he really is grime, and he is London for that matter, too.
Pre-order ‘Warrior’ EP at IAmGrime.co.uk now.