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'Black music is running the world right now': TRENCH's Joseph 'JP' Patterson on representation, the Brits and the future of grime

'Because of the recently improved coverage, we’ve seen the Form 696 scrapped and now the likes of Giggs can put on nationwide tours. I think certain people needed to see that it’s just music and never violence at these shows, and thankfully we’re in a much better position today'

Roisin O'Connor
Music Correspondent
Monday 15 January 2018 12:17 GMT
Joseph 'JP' Patterson
Joseph 'JP' Patterson (Supplied)

Complex editor and MOBO awards committee member Joseph 'JP' Patterson is launching a print edition of his music platform TRENCH.

The site is documenting rap in the UK, benefiting from Patterson's extensive knowledge and experience in the field - from covering the genre for both underground and mainstream publications to hosting club nights.

We caught up with him to see what his plans are for TRENCH, and how he feels about the current music scene in the UK.

When did you come up with the idea for TRENCH and what does it offer readers?

JP: I came up with the idea for TRENCH about a year and a half ago... well, I had the idea to launch a new platform years before, but that was when I really started to put everything in motion. Alongside my good friend and super-respected journalist Laura ‘Hyperfrank’ Brosnan, we decided that TRENCH should be that bridge between the mainstream and the underground.

For example, our coverage is very much centred on UK underground music and culture, but that doesn’t mean the quality of journalism should be any lesser than, say, i-D or Dazed. We felt like there was something missing in journalism when it comes to covering our scene, the black British music scene especially; we saw too many misrepresentations and mindless mistakes so we took it upon ourselves to help change that... We’ve only been going since last year September, but already the response from readers and the industry has proven we were right to launch TRENCH. It was the perfect timing for it.

The TRENCH website

I heard through the grapevine that TRENCH is going to print this year?

JP: And I can’t wait for the first issue to drop! We’re actually doing a fanzine. I don’t want to give too much away—element of surprise and all that—but you can expect a few issues, free issues, in 2018 with some of the most legendary names in black British music and culture on the covers. We’ll be throwing some parties this year as well.

How do you view the current grime scene and how it’s developed over the years?

JP: The current grime scene, well, it’s there—but I’d definitely like to see some more big releases this year that stick for longer than a few months. Obviously, Wiley and Stormzy released their albums last year and they were great, but on more of an underground level, more movement wouldn’t go amiss. Capo Lee’s Capo The Champ project and Big Zuu’s self-titled EP were, in my opinion, two of the strongest releases from the scene in recent times; I highly recommend them.

Myself and people like Hyperfrank, we were there during the quote-unquote “dead years”, the years when no one cared about grime; this was from, like, 2009 to 2012. So we’ve been there: we were the ones tirelessly sending pitches to publications at 5am and putting on grime raves when the odds were against us. But it’s a new day, and I’m happy about that, because now the world gets to see how much talent we do actually have. Also, I have to give a shout out to Grime Originals, Sharky Major’s new club night, because it is single-handedly bringing that early 2000s energy back into the live arena.

Emerging artists like AJ Tracey have made efforts not to be pigeonholed as ‘grime’—he said he had some backlash from grime veterans for drawing influences elsewhere. Do you think younger artists might have trouble with a sense of purism towards the genre by its older/more established stars?

JP: AJ is a talented kid; he’s definitely got his head screwed on. I don’t see the problem with MCs experimenting myself—Skepta, for example, does a lot of that—but you cannot, and should not, forget your roots. That’s the problem Dizzee Rascal had: he forgot his roots and it took a while for his day-one fans to show him love again.

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So I can see why veteran MCs get a bit heated when new guys like AJ go fully drill on a project, when they came in the game screaming that they were grime. For me, it’s about staying true to your core. As long as you do that, then you’ll be fine.

Yemi Abiade wrote a piece after the 2017 BRIT awards about how it was time for grime artists to ‘move on’ because it’s not a scene which has ever needed validation by such a mainstream institution. Do you agree with that or do you think—like the Grammys this year—there’s still a chance things can be shaken up?

JP: [Laughs] I actually commissioned Yemi for that Complex piece; I’m still over there as Senior Editor. I was very disappointed with The Brits last year. It’s like they built up our hopes for this big grime/UK rap moment, but it never happened.

The whole point of them inviting a more diverse group of industry heads to be on the voting panel was to see a change in nominations, and it just felt like a huge waste of time. The nominations this year are much more representative of today’s music scene so it’ll be interesting to see what happens on the night.

But, regardless of that, I still think that we—as black people in the music industry—should uplift The MOBO Awards more, and GRM’s Rated Awards, because when all else fails they will always have our back. We’re now at a point where we don’t need a mainstream ceremony like The Brits to certify us.

It’s nice that they’re showing love but, in the long-run, those other ceremonies will be much more valuable to our music scene. The cycle for indie and pop is about to come back round so what happens to grime and rap at The Brit Awards then? Will they forget us like before? I obviously hope not, but my point here is to never forget who fought for you to get to this point.

Have you noticed any improvement in how the mainstream media covers UK rap and grime over the past five - ten years?

JP: I mean, yeah... And because of the recently improved coverage, we’ve seen the Form 696 scrapped and now the likes of Giggs can put on nationwide tours. I think certain people needed to see that it’s just music and never violence at these shows, and thankfully we’re in a much better position today.

But what I do need to see this year, and beyond, is more young black people in full-time positions at these establishments. I once wrote in a piece for Complex, “black music should be handled with just as much care when critiquing as if it were a pop act or indie band. And because black music’s running the world right now, that extra bit of care should be taken at all costs”. And I fully stand by that. I need to see more people from the culture documenting the culture.

Which artists are you most excited about at the moment?

IAMDDB, Dave, Fredo, Big Zuu, Capo Lee, Mist, Slowthai, Mahalia, Trillary Banks, K-Trap… The list could go on and on. From grime and UK drill to R&B and soul, we’re seeing a huge wave of talent coming through and taking it as serious as the vets.

Some of these guys are only one or two years deep, and already they’re selling out tours and getting major artist co-signs and huge brand deals. They’ve all got strong teams in position, which is super important, and it’s all just a lot more professional than what it was five years ago. The future is bright. The future’s black Britain.

Check out the TRENCH website here. JP is on Twitter @JPizzledizzle

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