Hip hop’s Rag’n’Bone Man

He’s got an incredible voice and strong lyrical flows and after his performance at Wild Life Festival Daniel White sat down with Brighton’s own Rag’n’Bone Man to talk about hip hop, local music, DJ Premier and much more…

DW: How do you feel the show went?
RBM: It was good man, it filled up quickly. At first there weren’t that many people but it’s such a big tent and we were kind of first on at the whole festival so a bit daunting but it filled up real quick, so by the last three or four songs it was pretty full. It was really good.

Are you sticking around to see anyone else in particular at the festival?
I want to see Busta (Rhymes) man. I’ve never seen Busta live. I went to Bestival two years ago and he was meant to be on and I thought I’ll miss OutKast on the first day and I’ll see Busta. I played and got off stage and ran to see Busta and he didn’t turn up and they put DJ Yoda on instead and I like DJ Yoda but I’ve seen Yoda a million times and I was really disappointed.

How special is it for you to be playing a Brighton festival with your local ties?
It’s sick. I heard it was going on last year and I thought ‘I gotta play’ and it didn’t happen last year and then I was on at my manager like ‘come on, you gotta get me a slot at Wild Life’ and they did and I was first on but I don’t care, I just want to play. All my people are here, I get to hang out with people I don’t see very often.

So when did you move to Brighton and when did you leave?
I’ve actually lived in Brighton most of my life. I moved to Brighton in 2008 and I’ve lived there ever since but I moved to London for a little while and I was like straight away, this life is not for me, it’s hectic man and there’s something about Brighton that just draws you back in.

I live just outside now in a little village but I’m still very close to Brighton. It’s just the vibe, I think whenever I know people who live in London and they come down to Brighton they always want to stay and it’s an infectious place. Brighton is just infectious in a great way.

How does the city help with your music?
Brighton’s always had a plethora of different music, whether you’re into the dub/reggae scene, or you like sound systems or you like jungle. Growing up loving jungle, Brighton was just sick for that, there was jungle everywhere and I kind of came through the ranks as such, through the hip hop scene in Brighton so whatever you’re into Brighton’s got something for you.

Rag'n'Bone Man with Gizmo onstage at Wild Life Festival

Rag’n’Bone Man with Gizmo onstage at Wild Life Festival

How do you define you music then as you’re not definitively a rapper or a singer?
It’s weird when people ask me what type of music I do, and I’m like, it basically is hip hop, my record that I’m working on at the moment is a hip hop record and so the backbone of hip hop is always there throughout whatever I’m doing. Whether it’s influenced by Muddy Waters or by Oscar Peterson or whatever, jazz, blues, soul, it’s always got a hip hop backbone to it and it just carries through everything I guess.

Talking about hip hop, what did you get up to with DJ Premier?
Yeah man, well it was weird, I was living down the road in Coldean and I woke up and my mate text me saying ‘have you looked at your Twitter today? Because you should probably check it’ and I looked at my Twitter and it was like DJ Premier had Tweeted me saying ‘Rag’N’Bone Man is the truth.

I know singers and you’re a real singer, I love this guy, he’s epic’ and he started playing my songs at his shows when he was at live shows, he sent me a video of him playing in the Middle East and he was rocking my joints out live.

Man, he’s a legend, I grew up on Gang Starr and I went to New York and I hooked up with him and he was like come to the studio and stuff and I got to see the former D&D Studios and that’s now been sold out to Russians and it’s no longer, and it’s unfortunate because that’s like a land mark in hip hop, that is hip hop.

Everybody’s favourite records were made in that studio so it was cool that I got to see it and I worked on some stuff with him and we done some stuff together and I’m not sure when or if it’ll see the light of day but I’m definitely going to work on some more with him for real.

Is there anyone else you want to work with?
Dude there’s loads of people, like I digest music really quickly, I listen to a lot of music and at the moment I love Kendrick (Lamar) and I’m in love with the new Anderson .Paak album, I think it’s amazing and also Chance The Rapper is the dude I’d like to work with I think man, it’s so original the style.

I grew up on OutKast so it kind of resonates in that way for me because he has that air of Andre 3000 about him, you know, the way he constructs his verses and also it reminds me a bit of Pharoahe Monch and stuff in the early days, it’s so sick, it’s so sick!

So how did the name come about?
So basically I used to watch this TV series with my granddad when I was little, they used to do re-runs of it from the sixties, called Steptoe and Son and they were called rag and bone men. They collected other people’s junk and that and made a living out of it and I always like the kind of idea behind the and I thought it was a cool name, people say it’s stupid but everybody’s got a name and The Beatles is kind of a stupid name…

Rag'n'Bone Man at Wild Life Festival

Rag’n’Bone Man at Wild Life Festival

So is there a meaning behind you collecting styles or flows and using them in your way?
Yeah I guess so, like I say, the idea behind collecting rubbish and making it into something, you know, I guess I can sort of take my music from all different places and put it into one so I guess that’s right.

So going back to the beginning, how did you get into music, I understand you had quite musical parents?
Yeah my dad always played guitar and stuff and there was just always music in my house, you couldn’t get away from it, they always played records and so instead of TV we just used to listen to music and a lot of my mum and dad’s friends were musicians so it was just always in the house.

What were your early influences then?
Well my dad was more into blues and Muddy Waters and stuff like that but my mum was really into folk music so I listened to a lot of Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention and stuff like that, a lot of like the Oysterband and she was kind of hippy so she liked psychedelic folk music and stuff, she was into that kind of s***.

So I like that side of storytelling and stuff and then just like the voice of Muddy Waters, it’s f***ing amazing, you can’t not feel it. Muddy Waters basically taught me how to sing because I didn’t really have, like, my mum could never really afford to send me to no lessons or nothing, I couldn’t go to music school or whatever so I just used to listen to them record and I wanted to sing like him so that’s the reason my voice sounds like it does I guess.

What does the future hold?
I’m literally releasing the first single from my new album in three weeks time, we’ve done a video, we’re about to do a video for the second single and then drop the album later on in the year, so it’s all go.


About Daniel White
Dan has written numerous articles for Title Sussex. He no longer works for Title Media and has made a confident career in the world of coffee!