The Greatest To Ever Touch Down: President T on his flow, ‘Stranger Returns’ and more

Photo credit: Ben Walsh

With one of the most distinctive flows and deliveries in the game, it isn’t hard for an MC like Prez T to distinguish himself from his contemporaries. What is impressive, however, is the incredible regard in which Prez is held by some of the scene’s biggest names, most notably Skepta and JME. The title of Prez’s mixtape, ‘The Greatest To Ever Touch Down’, may sound like an idle boast but, for a lot of his supporters, it’s simply confirming what they already believed anyway.

It’s fair to say that it’s taken some time to arrive, though, as supporters have been waiting for Prez’s album, ‘Stranger Returns’ for a good few years now. But while we still wait patiently in anticipation for that, we can whet our appetites with the video for ‘Don’t Give A Monkeys’ here and pick up ‘Greatest To Ever Touch Down’ on iTunes.

We caught up with Prez for a quick chat to find out exactly what kept him so long, and where his unique, conversational flow stems from…

First things first, you’ve got the new EP out now, but a lot of people are still waiting for ‘Stranger Returns’… 

“Basically, the point of dropping this tape before ‘Stranger Returns’ is because I want it to be perfect. I thought the fans were owed something prior to that, so this is a starter, to tee up ‘Stranger Returns’. They’re still going to get ‘Stranger Returns’ at the very start of 2016, within the first month.”

You’ve got a very specific style and flow that has lasted from your earliest days, is it something you developed naturally or did you work on it? 

“That style and flow has had a lot of years, maybe eight or nine, to mature into the style that you hear these days. At the start of my career I was just trying to get heard as an MC on the largest platform, so when I discovered that I had something unique I started to exploit it and use it in the best way that I can.”

You include a lot of unusual details in your lyrics too, and they’re very conversational… 

“Basically, I try and go into Prez T talking to himself. In most of my tracks there are two President T’s MCing against each other, so for example when I say ‘I know one or two guys from Iraq that’ll walk up in your offy, cop a likkle Heineken pack…’, the other Prez T will say ‘lace that back! I know man that mention gash on the track, but President T finds out…’ so I’m trying to be two President T’s and also the story-teller at the same time, rather than lay down a load of bars that have no meaning behind it.”

That’s really interesting, is there anything else you deliberately fit into your bars that people might not realise?

“I use catchphrases such as ‘but I don’t mean…’ or ‘you would’ve thought…’ which I use to break my bars down and make people understand what I’m clearly saying. I use a lot of ‘I was like…’ and ‘they were like…’ too, to break up my bars.”

Your beat selection is interesting, they’re generally quite trancey and a bit softer than your bars are…

“Yeah, the beats I choose kind of work hand-in-hand with my flow and I’d never pick a beat which doesn’t suit the President T style. Also I want to make grime a championship music genre, rather than an underground or niche genre that people listen to in their spare time. I want people to listen to President T and be proud to, and I think the instrumental has a lot to do with that as well.”

Ok, so who are your favourite producers?

Prince Baza is my favourite one, but my favourite producer for a very long time has been JME. I feel like there isn’t anyone around in the game who can produce beats in his own unique style.”

There’s been talk of a Meridian Crew reunion, is that something you’re on board with?

“Yeah, that is something I am going to make happen, 100% by the summer of 2016 I’m going to get all the members together again. Me, Meridian Dan, Big H, Skepta, JME and Bossman. It won’t be easy, but with my powers that I’m building up more and more each day I’m sure I can make that happen.”

You’ve popped in and out of the grime scene for a good few years, what do you make of it at the moment?

“It’s changed dramatically, but it’s changed for the right and positive reasons. It’s become more of an internet era whereas before you had to rely on getting heard on a live platform. Now you can be heard on a pre-recorded platform that someone has put on the internet and you can blow up in a few weeks. Years ago you had to have a bit of longevity before you’d get recognised as a certified MC. Now the top 10 in Britain can change like the stock market.”

How did you first get involved in the early days?

“I first got involved in the early days because I was merging from the garage era. I started on drum n bass, then went onto garage. Big H and his younger friends at the time were fans of me, that shows how long I’ve been in this thing, they used to listen to me on radio, then the scene turned into grime from there and I grabbed it with both hands.”

You’ve had an influence on some of the scene’s biggest names, what do you think it is about you that means they hold you in such high regard?

“It’s because I’ve always kept it original, always kept that President flow and haven’t tried to bite any MC’s lyrics and jumped on bandwagons. Most MCs who participate in grime will know in their heart, whether they want to admit it or not, that I am one of the scene’s most fierce competitors and until the day that I pass I’m always going to be a problem…”

Speaking of competition, you’ve been involved in a couple of to-and-fros — would you consider clashing?

“Only if the money was right. If two MCs at my level are going to clash then they should receive a decent revenue, because one of their careers is going to be at stake, whether it’s me or the MC I’m clashing. In order to compensate you for putting your career at stake, you should receive decent money back for it. Tyson wouldn’t fight Bruno unless there were nuff p’s involved.”

Do you have any long-term future plans after this?

“After ‘Stranger Returns’ I’m going to do ‘Back Inna My Face Volume 2’ – you’re actually the first person I’ve announced that to! It’s going to be the 2016 version of the original, and then after that I’m going to release another EP and keep the fans stocked up. I’m going to keep relentless; fire, fire, fire.”

Anything else before we go?

“Yes, — that’s the store where you can purchase the ‘Kill off Killy’ and ‘Stranger Returns’ hoodies as well as ‘Back Inna My Face Vol. 1’ and ‘Greatest To Ever Touch Down’ on CD, plus signed CDs and other merch.”

Find President T on Twitter – @Prez_T