Frid makes a strong statement in every single line he writes. He is an artist that uses his songs as weapons that need to explode before conveying their message. His words shoot to kill. His lyrics are straightforward and sentimental in equal parts. The musical style of his tracks is meaningful and eclectic. In one word, when you listen to Frid’s creations you are shocked that this Manchester-based rapper is not more widely known in the UK hip-hop scene yet.
It is not only his tracks, but this hard-working hip-hop artist has already shown his multi-talented personality by establishing his own record label. The road has been hard and long but now he can proudly claim that every little piece of success has been achieved with his own sweat and blood, and very little help indeed.
Thankfully, all his efforts eventually paid off last November with the release of his first EP Serving Time, a concept album that evolves around previous key episodes in his life and that will just not disappoint any true hip-hop fans. It just cannot.
1. When did you start writing and what was it that made you do it? Was it more a question of fun and love for music or maybe it was some sort of creative therapy?
It was a question of both to be honest. It started around the end of high school around 1998 or 1999. I was heavy into writing poetry because the only subject at school I was any good at was English. Then, as I got older and deeper into Hip Hop they naturally started becoming raps. I didn't even realise it was happening in many ways! My music has always been quite introverted up to this point, so naturally I talk about troubles and issues that are quite emotive to me, so certainly it's a form of therapy. You only have to listen to my last release and that becomes very evident very quickly.
2. In one of your past interviews you revealed that the tracks on your EP Serving Time are in reverse-chronological order of your life, which I guess transforms the EP into some ‘time capsule’ containing your life experiences so far. Can you elaborate more on that? Can you relate each of the tracks to a period/moment in your life?
Each track represents a period of my life. I wanted to go backwards because I knew that the start of my journey is the most difficult demon that I deal with and I'm one of those artists that can't help but let the problem into the real world when writing about it, which is why I also wrote the whole story backwards. I literally wrote track one first, track two second and so on. I just knew what I wanted to say about each life period. For example, I know that “Set it Off” was how I felt when I first started working on the EP. “Inside Rhymes” would be around the same time I had that more jokey, rebellious attitude in life around 16 or 17 years old. “Dear Daddy” is the point it all started around 2 years old. I know that instantly, and the hope was that, although it depicts my personal journey, that the listener would be able to pick one or two tracks and be like “yeah, I've been through that same thing!”. It was also going to get intense in terms of feeling, I knew that, and I know that a lot of people can be put off by that, and I didn't want to bombard them and let them in to everything straight away. If they stick around to the end of the EP, they deserve to hear the whole story!
3. How has your writing style evolved since you penned your first lyrics? Have you noticed any major changes in relation to that and, if so, do you think they may have been influenced by what you were going through at the time?
I'm not sure that they were influenced at the time of what I was going through, but certainly now the moments in the past feed into what I write, I know that for sure. It's only natural that you learn from your past; we all do. My writing style and ability have changed dramatically since I started this. I was just a kid, so there was an uneducated, immature element to it all. I didn't know how to structure a track, didn't know how to stick to a beat properly, didn't know how to vary a flow. I also didn't even have any recording experience so I didn't know that writing something one way wouldn't sound right or wasn't really possible to follow another thing, if you know what I mean? It's been pushing 15 years since it was poetry in its rawest form, and anyone who might have heard my music then and now would think it was a different person. Mind you, in many respects I guess it is. Life experiences change people whether for the good or the bad and that definitely reflects with me. Just the other day Leon said to me "you've improved a million times and changed so much since then" about something we were talking about from a couple of years ago, which says it all I guess.
4. There is this cliché that some very obsessive songwriters have a love-hate relationship with their songs and can even suffer from insomnia until the lyrics are finished. This idea may be of great relevance in hip-hop, where the message plays the most important part of the song. Can you relate to this?
Yes. This is kind of the same as we talked about just then, because, when you dig up feelings, sometimes you can't help but let the demon back in, otherwise you miss bits of the story. You almost need that element of fear to operate. I have more than a small touch of OCD with my work though, and couple the two together and sometimes I'm up writing through the night on one line, just because I know it's got to be nailed. Music is very in the moment too, so sometimes to walk away from writing a song is not even a possibility or you lose that moment and you might never get it back. There is certainly a love hate relationship between every artist and their music in my opinion. Even on a small scale, I mean, I released Serving Time EP and had fans saying "ooh, such and such is awesome, it's the best thing Frid's done". I hear that and I'm like "yeah, but I could have said that word a little better". That's the problem, music is subjective, so the first listener will love and relate to what the second can't stand and wishes I'd never made, but an artist will never be fully happy with their lot, because if they are, there's no point and they're probably doing it wrong.
5. Musically speaking, do you compose or in any way contribute to the music composition of your tracks? What importance do you give to the music compared to the lyrics?
I don't produce yet, that's something I'm still learning, though I do work closely with Uppacut, my main producer, to make sure beats are correct. I can go to him and be like "this one needs to say this through the track and I think that would better if x did y and a and b were altered"... I have a much heavier hand in the arrangement of the instrumental, though. Thing is, Uppacut is an absolute genius and clearly the real talent behind our operation. Feels sometimes like someone has put Dr Dre with Vanilla Ice [laughs]... But seriously he's an unreal talent so I know he'll nail anything that needs nailing, which allows me to focus more on making the song speak which really works for us at this point. But I never, ever underestimate the importance of Uppacut and the instrumental. Without him, my message can't happen.
6. It seems to me that nowadays there is not a great deal of hip-hop in the charts, or at least hip-hop as it was originally conceived. What I see mostly is just catchy tunes and no deep lyrics. Do you think there will ever come the time when ‘real’ hip-hop like yours will stop being called alternative and become more commercial?
No, I don't think it ever will sadly. The problem with this country is we have a 'celebrate failure' mentality, especially in the Hip Hop scene. I look around and see artists that are incredible, but they'll never break through because the people in and around the scene won’t allow it. No one helps anyone. You can ask a studio engineer in the UK the simplest of questions about the most simplistic thing and they're instantly like "I'm not telling you" because they worry you’re going to run away with their ideas. Same with producers, "hi such and such, those drums are really good"... Before you even finish that thought the response is "yeah, and they’re mine... Nothing to do with you". Couple that with the fact that a lot of our rappers and DJs and producers in the UK are just plain lazy, and it's a problem. If this scene stopped being backstabbing, lazy and stubborn, maybe our messages could go further and the charts wouldn't be saturated with this watered down version of the genre guided by people like Tinie Tempah and Dappy. I spoke about this on “Learning the Trade” on the EP, “Rap used to be a conquest, now it's just a contest, on whose dick's the longest, bragging about your conquests” and I genuinely believe that this thing has become, in a small way, the exact opposite of what it was conceived to be. All it takes is a little help and to help others and we could all benefit together, but we never will, because we never will.
7. Serving Time takes us to an emotional journey that feeds from different crucial experiences in your life. I bet that, at present, new positive experiences like having a child or growing as an artist and as a person will constitute an invaluable source of inspiration for writing new lyrics...
No, I'm still a miserable motherlover [laughs]. It does but not in the way I think you're getting at. My daughter is my whole world, so I can't help but be inspired by her. Every time I step into a studio I know she's going to eventually hear what comes out of it, so she keeps me focused, definitely.
8. Not only are you a rapper and a lyricist, but you have also established your own label Wenlock Music and are in the process of launching Wenlock TV. We want to know more about all that!
It's early days. I was never trying to secure a record deal with a major label like other rappers, I started out doing this because I love the music, and still do. The main aim is to 'do it' but on my terms. I started building this up properly in 2009 and we've started to snowball that little bit more. Originally, Wenlock Music was just me, but now we have signed Uppacut as well as a few behind the scenes staff who are there to help keep things moving. I also have my eye on a couple of other artists, one in particular, and I work as hard with them and their own projects as I do with mine. WenlockTV was a natural progression and offshoot of the label to be honest. I realised that we now have people on board who can contribute to making good things visually as well as within the music, so we will soon have our own presence and projects on the official channel. Wenlockmusic.com will be the place to be for it all!
9. You have recently shot the videoclip for your first single “Serving Time”. What is the storyline in the video and how is it related to the message behind this track? When will it be released?
The video will be ready for release - hopefully - in the next month and will be the starter project for the channel. The story is basically the story of the feelings behind the track and follows my storyboard for it quite tightly. It was a challenge that I've not had before because there are a host of locations and extras involved and coordinating that was a challenge, plus I've never been in front of a camera, so it was a new challenge for me personally.
10. Are you already involved in preparing a new album? If so, can you tell us a little about it and when it is planned to be released? Also, will we see you live anytime soon?
I started work on a joint release with Uppacut last month and that's coming along quite nicely. It's still in a very early stage at this point but it's hopefully going to be ready towards the middle of the summer or early autumn. Obviously with the video will come the single package and we have a few treats lined up for that too. At the moment though a lot of effort is going into getting Uppacut's debut project in the bag, and hopefully we can have that in a position for release soon, but the main aim is to bring quality and not rush things, so we are taking our time where needed, but we have lots to come so people need to stay tuned!