The Conversation: Grime artist Wretch 32 on where he got his name - and why he likes to stay close to his roots

 

For the uninitiated, why Wretch 32?

Growing up I was quite a mischievous kid and everybody called me a wretch. I liked it and it stuck and three and two are my lucky numbers. I chose them to go after something that wasn't deemed so lucky.

What do your kids listen to?

My daughter's two and my son's seven. Hopefully, they're not listening to me, I think I'm a bit too depressing for them. They choose their own stuff: my son's got his little iPad and will just go "Can I buy this?". He doesn't really listen to a whole album. They just buy whatever songs they like and make their own super-album.

Your dad was a reggae DJ. Did he play any tracks that stuck with you?

He used to play a lot of Dennis Brown, a lot of Garnett Silk, a lot of Bob Marley. There was this artist who had a record out who lived around the corner from me. One time he was on Top of the Pops when I was a kid and it was such a massive thing for the community just to go to the shop to buy a pint of milk and see somebody who was on TV. It was such a fascinating thing, to see how people were uplifted by him. I suppose subconsciously it played a big part in what I've done.

Are you still living in Tottenham?

I'm not living there but I'm there a lot. The only place I'll eat is there, the place I get my hair cut is there, I play football over there. I'm very much community-driven. I think that growing up, 90 per cent of my idols were villains, so to speak, and 10 per cent were someone like my dad. I kind of think the more I disappear, the less hope there is for people to see that side of Tottenham.

And it's had a rough time recently, hasn't it, Tottenham? With the riots.

Yeah, I think it's kind of important that I'm quite visual and quite outspoken [about it].

Do you work with any young artists from there?

Just going to buy food, I'll have a 14-year-old come up to me and say, "You can't rap as good as me". I encourage them, I just tell them you've got to work on the material, spend more time in the studio.

What did you say to that kid?

I just said, paint the picture for somebody who doesn't understand this language or this dialect. Most of us have that same story, but it's just about who can tell that story to anybody.

Do you think UK rappers are as ambitious as their US counterparts?

Yeah, I definitely think there's the same drive. When you think of competition, you immediately look to America. But we have rappers like Tinie Tempah, who also has his clothing range. He broadens his horizons: he does have a label, he does have a publishing company, he does have other things, just like myself.

There's quite a bit of grumbling on blogs and more broadly about grime artists selling out. Do you think it's fair of people to criticise others when they start making a bit of money?

I don't think you'll ever have everybody's thumbs up. And I think once you're comfortable with that and you understand that, that's the next chapter of your journey. There are billions of people in the world; why don't you want everyone to hear your songs? Why don't you want to perform at Wembley Stadium? You're not going to get there making records to please 60 people on your estate. It doesn't work like that.

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Arts and Entertainment
Bono throws water at the crowd while the Edge watches as they perform in the band's first concert of their new world tour in Vancouver

MusicThey're running their own restaurants

Voices
The main entrance to the BBC headquarters in London
TV & Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food