C-Mone: Britain's hottest female MC

C-Mone rapped on A Grand Don't Come for Free. Success followed, but she hasn't given up her day job as a youth worker, she tells Alexia Loundras

You probably don't know her name or her face, but there's a good chance you've already heard C-Mone's voice. Her sharp, Nottingham-accented tones grace the CD shelves of more than 1.5 million homes in Britain. To those unsuspecting music-lovers, she's better known as Mike Skinner's (fictitious) girlfriend, spitting venom on the track "Get Out of My House", from his multi-platinum-selling 2004 album A Grand Don't Come for Free.

"As soon as I'd done that Streets track, people were looking at me differently," says C-Mone as we cut through the Nottingham backstreets on the way to her studio. "They all had this glazed look on their faces - I had no idea why until a friend told me; he said, 'Everyone thinks you're rich!'" She laughs, clearly still tickled by the suggestion. She continues her day job as a youth worker ("I need to eat!" she says) and had to arrange our meeting from a phone box because she'd run out of credit on her phone.

C-Mone - known to her mum as Simone Buchanan - shyly deflects the local celebrity status attributed to her at the community centre where she works. Situated in one the tastier areas of a city which topped the UK's crime league recently, this same centre is home to the small but mighty community-run recording studio at the heart of Nottingham's burgeoning urban music scene. The boxy room is hardly big enough for the state-of-the-art equipment it houses. Despite its inherent lack of glamour, the studio is responsible for nurturing an array of local talent.

It's not just aspiring rappers who flock here. From the teenage Green Day fans who fill the room for its rock guitar workshops, to the North African father who came in to record traditional songs as a gift for his son, or the middle-aged women fulfilling their lifelong ambition of making a CD, everyone is welcome. The recording sessions are free and, not surprisingly, they're booked months in advance. That the studio has never been broken into says a lot about the respect it's afforded in the local community.

The small studio thrives outside of the media spotlight because, says C-Mone, of its unique ethos. "Here at the studio there are loads of talented people," she says, "but they're not here because they want anything; they don't come just because they want to get signed. They're doing what they're doing because they genuinely enjoy it. We go to work and then we come here, to do what we love."

C-Mone devotes much of her time to the community centre and its studio. When she's not teaching the youth music workshops, she runs some of the centre's other recreational projects. Her appearance on The Streets album was a boon for the 25-year-old, but it only dipped into her talent. C-Mone's debut album, The Butterfly Effect, is an even more impressive showcase for her skills. Recorded in the community studio and produced by C-Mone's friends and colleagues, the album draws its influence from US old-skool hip-hop (rather than the London-centric "grime" sound). But lyrically, inspiration was found closer to home.

"I wanted to make music about where I'm from; about my family, my background, where I live," says C-Mone taking a seat in the office next door to where she laid down her tracks. "I love hip-hop, but I've never felt it represented me - I couldn't relate to it. I wanted to talk about things from the perspective of a young black woman from Nottingham. I wanted to reflect what's happening around me; tell it how it is, here and now." And that's exactly what she's done. Like a female, rapping Arctic Monkeys, C-Mone proffers wry, literate and streetwise rhymes about going into town on a Saturday night ("Stan Bac") and then struggling to get home afterwards ("Ride"). But she can just as easily deal with weightier subjects too: "Second After Second" is a powerful rant about feeling politically impotent, while the enraged "Article Five" deals with inequality. "I step out of my house and I get inspiration," says C-Mone. "I think the music I do reflects the situations I go through and the things I see. I tell it like it is and I do it the way I think it needs to be done."

Enlivened by her sharp lyrical delivery, The Butterfly Effect is a strikingly impressive album. But C-Mone's skills had to be coaxed from her. Her first visit to the community studio, 10 years ago, was a reluctant one. "My mate dragged me down there," she laughs. Intrigued with the knob-twiddling taking place on the other side of the glass, she decided to learn how to work the equipment. Soon she was producing and writing songs for those aspiring singers.

"All they ever wanted was love songs," she says exasperated. "I tried to get them to try some new ideas but...", she shakes her head still disappointed. "I was writing loads of songs, but I just wasn't feeling it. I wanted to write something more interesting." It wasn't until she heard some lads freestyle rapping that she realised what that something was. "I decided I was going to write raps and I knew that if I was going to write them, I would have to rap them too. But even though I was shy, I didn't mind that all eyes would be on me. When I started rapping I felt really confident - I don't know what happened. It was like something took over me. It all started from there."

Impressed by her rhythm and rhymes, the teen was invited to join Out Da Ville, a 10-strong hip-hop crew set up by Trevor Rose, who runs the community studio. C-Mone worked with the crew for five years. But, in 2002, after the band had released a string of successful underground 12-inches, gathering a sizeable following on the UK hip-hop underground, she became sick of scrabbling for her time on the mic. "The majority of Out Da Ville were like: 'C-Mone? Solo? No way!'" She unleashes that full-bodied laugh again. "But I was pretty determined."

Single-minded, C-Mone smoulders with defiance. "I was born like this," she says. "If people told me I couldn't play football, I wanted to play football. Why can't I do what makes me happy?" Her drive, she says, comes from her mum, who raised her and her four younger brothers alone. "She's a very strong woman," says C-Mone. "It was a real struggle for her, but she was amazing. She just got on with it. There's no telling her!"

IC-Mone says she's resisted compromise; spurning major label deals in favour of doing things on her own terms. She released her album on the small hip-hop independent Son Records, in conjunction with her own label, Dark Whisper. "What I was offered just didn't feel right," she says. "It would be great to have the machinery behind me to really get the music out there, but I have to be happy. And if I'm not happy, it's not happening. I knew what I wanted when I left Out Da Ville. I knew what I had to do and I'm doing it. I don't see why I should sit down and wait for anyone to tell me that I'm allowed to do what I know I can do for myself."

This fiery determination smoulders from C-Mone when she plays live. Her reluctance to take the limelight dissipates the moment she steps onstage. Accompanied by a band who help recreate her driving, propulsive beats, she commands the stage with the presence of a fired-up boxer. Stalking the stage, she has the charisma and, crucially, the skill to rouse the most reluctant of crowds. On her debut London performance, she even had the capital's notoriously self-conscience audience waving their arms and chanting her name, winning them over with her staccato, machine-gunned rhymes and infectious delivery.

"Someone I work with at the community centre is convinced I'm going to be a star," says C-Mone with the same incredulous, but just a little hopeful, tone employed by England fans. "I think if I was a big star I'd just like to keep my feet on the ground. I'd be that person you see going up the street, doing my thing, shopping at Co-op, whatever. Just being me really." She pauses a moment, and thinks hard before her face creases up, ticked by the prospect of fame. "I might change," she says letting loose a C-Mone laugh, "I might turn into this mega-bitch and start showing my arse off everywhere! But I hope not."

Last month, invited to play on BBC 1Xtras's one-day hip-hop event showcasing the cream of UK hip-hop and grime talent, the rapper held her own on a white-hot bill which included the Mobo-winners Sway and Kano. It's notoriously difficult for any UK urban act from outside London to make waves on the capital-obsessed scene, but C-Mone has already bucked that trend. Not that her ambitions are sated just yet. "I've got a whole new set of goals to achieve," she says. These goals include completing her college course, starting up new youth projects and, of course, continuing her rise as the hottest female MC in UK hip-hop. Her glowing face is fixed with determination: "I've still got lots of work to do."

'The Butterfly Effect' is out now on Son Records. The single 'Catch Me If You Can' is out on 10 July

Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice