The Lowdown: Kwam & Trends – ‘Rally’ [Premiere and Interview]
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If you read our profile on Kwam recently then you’ll know that we’re big fans of him here at The Lowdown. Despite flying under the radar for perhaps slightly too long, recently he’s been coming into his own again with a series of strong releases which are being shown a lot of love on radio.

Another person we’re very excited about, Trends, has been responsible for some great work over the last year or so in particular and looks set to level up again over the next 12 months.

So, when we heard that there was a joint EP coming from both Trends and Kwam, needless to say we were desperate to bring you a premiere. Here we have it, the first listen to the EP’s lead track, ‘Rally’, which sees Kwam’s rapid-fire flow sit perfectly on top of an old-school Trends beat.  Check it out below, and read our interview with the two guys themselves to find out more about what they’ve got coming for us…

You’ve given us ‘Rally’ to premiere; tell me about the tune…

Kwam: Yeah so Trends sent me the tune and I dubbed it straight away, didn’t even think about it. I already had some bars for it, but I wrote a next sixteen and another bit and another bit until the tune was ready. Then people just caught onto it like wildfire, Logan was playing it and everyone was supporting it, so we decided to do a little bit of an EP off the back of it.

Trends: I remixed ‘Old Skool 2’ by Geeneus for the Boxed label; Kwam heard the track and contacted me about laying some vocals on it. I sent the finished track to a few DJs to test, and it got a good response from people like Logan Sama. The feedback we received for Rally was positive and, having worked together on ‘Freak Out’ previously, we recognised we shared ideas well together so when Kwam heard another 2 of my instrumentals we decided to compile an EP. I’ve been a fan of Kwam since I started in grime, his hooks are catchy and his voice has a strong presence, the chemistry between his vocals and my instrumentals is powerful.

Did you record any more tracks or just the three?

Kwam: Nah, after Rally he sent me over a couple other beats and with them I made the other two tunes for the EP, ‘Break Point’ and ‘Game, Set and Match’.

And for those who don’t know, what’s with the tennis theme throughout?

Kwam: Well obviously lots of people know that I’m a tennis coach so I wanted to keep with that theme because it’s my own unique little thing. It’s very useful for me, I think. The reason I say that is that it’s not contrived, it’s actually just me. I learned tennis long before I was an MC so it’s nice to be able to return to it whenever.

Grime in and of itself is difficult to be unique with. If you can combine a diversity in sound with a diversity in image and background then yeah why not?

Often with these one-MC-one-producer combos you see the duo getting booked together afterwards, like Ghetts and Rude Kid for example, is that something you’d like to happen?

Kwam: Yeah we’ve definitely spoken about it. We thought it would be nice to have those 3 tracks that we can perform as part of a set or something.

Trends: If the opportunity came along then yes definitely. He has been a guest on my show (Mean Streets on Radar Radio) many times and we work well together.

Speaking of shows, Kwam you’ve got your first international show coming up soon

Kwam: Yeah! That’s in Rotterdam on the 19th, so two or three weeks from now? I’m very much looking forward to it. That will be sick, I can say that in advance. It will be sick, it will go off and we will have pure fun. So anyone reading this, come down and see us.

You also had a Radio 1 appearance with Darkos, how did that come about?

Kwam: Logan hit me up and said he wanted to get us on and so me and Darkos turned up on the day and did the damn thing, basically. Just another set.

Obviously it’s Radio 1 and it’s the flagship radio station in the country and so on but you have to treat it like just another set otherwise you won’t be able to go on and perform. I was pretty much in control and enjoyed it.

You and Darkos have a lot of chemistry on sets, who else do you feel you have a lot of chemistry with?

Kwam: Probably myself and Rocks. Most of the guys I MC with, the usual crew. We know each other outside of MCing and so we know each other well.

Trends, producers are often unfairly overlooked in the scene, how important do you think it is that they get shown love?

Trends: Without the producers there is no music. Simple.

Do you ever write beats with MCs in mind?

Trends: Nah I never make a beat with an MC in mind, being an ex Drum ‘n’ Bass producer I tend to let the creative juices flow and see where it takes me.

Kwam, you got your coaching qualification recently, what would Coach Kwam’s tips for MCing be? Trends what would your advice be for up and coming producers?

Kwam: Coach Kwam’s tips for MCs? You have to practise your craft every single day. Literally. It’s funny because every so often I get people asking me advice and I always try and get back to everyone. I listened to one track and I told the kid he needed to practise more because he didn’t sound like he was 100% in control and he replied thinking that meant his bars and flow were ok, which isn’t the case.

One simple piece of advice that everyone can do is just to practise every day, that way the muscles in your face get used to MCing, opening and closing at the right times and that sort of thing on a basic level. Practice every day and listen to the best guys, and build your own thing from that.

Trends: That Rihanna song springs to mind… Work, and you know the rest! But just be yourself, do you, don’t mind anyone else, have your own style and try to get in contact with the people who represent your type of sound.

So who are you rating at the moment?

Kwam: Charlie Trees definitely. Crafty is another who’s really good and Reece West is quite a talented little MC too. The levels are high man, just being OK isn’t going to get the job done, there are too many people here who are too talented.

Trends: In terms of current known producers there’s Hardrive (Terror Danjah, P Jam, DOK), Boylan, Dullah Beatz, the Bristol contingent (Lemzly Dale, Hi 5 Ghost, Boofy). With regards to new producers, I’m feeling Rapture 4D, Filthy Gears, Asif Kid and SPK. I know I’m forgetting a few, so sorry mandem you know who you are!

Kwam, you also started the Unpopular Opinions show on Radar, how did that come about?

Kwam: I was hit up by Gavin from Radar who said they wanted to give me my own little talk show on the station. At first I thought it was a lot of responsibility and asked if I could pre-record but they wanted to do it live so it could be topical. I’m really enjoying it. People have probably seen that I can be a bit forthright on twitter and you can’t really express opinions on there properly, so I’m enjoying being able to get my point across more and say exactly what I feel about an issue without it being taken out of context.

I’m constantly trying to get feedback from people, I work closely with Matt from Radar on ideas on the show. It’s all a work in progress in terms of how long I need to talk for or how many tunes I need to play and so on. I’m getting interview guests on now and changing the format so it’s not just me ranting anymore. It’s a bit easier on the ear at that time in the morning. We’ve been looking at ways to make it more digestible but we’re always trying to maintain an unscripted element to it.

There’s been a lot of talk about MCs going political recently but this EP isn’t really about that, is that something you’ll go back to?  

Kwam: Well to be fair it’s true to say there isn’t any of that on the EP, but there is an underlying message on ‘Break Point’ about simply doing your best when the pressure is on and I think we can all see from the current political climate that pressure is certainly building in these streets.

With Brexit, the increase in xenophobia and tensions between communities, there’s gonna be some tests and you’re gonna have to stay calm work stuff out logically.

I’ve done political tracks in the past and I’ve been thinking to myself recently about doing one more album since the Boy in Da Corner show last week. It would be a mish-mash of things I’ve been through recently, so afro-centrism, local politics to do with the housing situation and how the ends are changing so much, stuff to do with love, relationships, all that kind of shit. I’d chuck it all together into one 14 track album or something. My life isn’t completely political so I couldn’t make a whole political album, that’s not me.

So what else have you got coming up?

Kwam: Yeah myself and Moleskin are looking to finish up this EP we started ages ago, I’ve got a track with Grandmixxer coming out that’s going to be very good, it’s one of my personal favourites of the last few years so I’m looking forward to sharing that with people. Of course I’ll still be turning up to sets and murking.

Trends: Where do I start!?

I’ve got Planet X on Terror Danjah’s ‘The Planets’ LP out this Friday, then the Norman ‘Bates’ EP produced by myself & Boylan out in December on Oil Gang, then the ‘Untouchable’ EP produced by myself & Boylan out next year on my label Mean Streets and finally In the Jungle/Iron Fist which is due for release on Slimzos, date to be confirmed!

Anything else before we go?

Kwam: ‘Rally’ EP out November 7th, Unpopular Opinions is on SoundCloud and check out whoiskwam.com as well!

Find Kwam and Trends on Twitter: @WhoIsKwam @TrendsDJ_