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Rapper Scorzayzee on Gangsta Wraps, New EP Illa Scorz, and Nottingham Hip Hop

17 April 17 interview: Nathaniel Benjamin

Rap’s Robin Hood is back with new EP Illa Scorz, and a ton of new merch designed by his eleven-year-old son to boot. We caught up with Scorzayzee for the lowdown on his latest release, plus the burning question of who’d win in a fight between the most famous fast food mascots…

illustration: Rikki Marr

Your Aeon: Peace to the Puzzle hasn’t left my car since its release – dope album. What’s the story behind the title?
Thank you. It means peace to all the jumbled-up lyrics, sporadically released one-off tunes and the very scattered nature of all my past works. In the past, I released songs in a very unofficial way that sometimes made them hard to come by – the final piece was an acknowledgement to the scarcity of the past work, and a final piece in the puzzle.

Now you’re back with the new Illa Scorz EP. How did writing this compare to your first release after the hiatus?
There was less pressure with this one. It was more a personal, self-indulgent project where I had the whole thing planned exactly how I wanted to hear it rather than thinking about what people liked about my music from before, and accommodating to that particular perception I assumed people wanted.

Every track on here has ‘illa’ incorporated into the title. What does ‘illa’ mean to you?
The idea came from a snapback hat that my lad made for me. My alias Scorzilla was placed on the hat where it read ‘Illa Scorz’. In hip hop, slang about being ‘dope’ or ‘sick’ has been used for years. So the way I saw it, everybody can relate to illness. Whether you think the world’s sick, or tyrannical leaders are sick in the head – the world depends on healing. It’s a layered theme, touching on topics like medicine and Big Pharma. I used quotes from films like Patch Adams and The Medicine Man and A Beautiful Mind to complement the overall picture.

You’ve produced the entire EP yourself – how does making your own beats affect your creative process?
I start with a breakbeat, then I load some samples onto the Akai pads and play around until I get a dope sample flip. I then add instruments on top and then EQ parts of the arrangement in different ways that suit the verses. It helps me more for the writing stage, knowing how I feel instead of adapting to somebody else’s feeling in the beats.

You’re 100% independent this time around. What’s it like flying solo compared to working with Gangsta Music?
Gangsta Music is actually me and Gangsta Wraps, so when I do music in the Gangsta Wraps world, we publish it as Gangsta Music. I wanted the whole project with the merchandise to go through my website because I want to be able to interact with my supporters without a stranger giving me analytics on how many downloads I’ve had or units I’ve shifted. It might seem selfish to not have my music on the usual streaming sites, but I tried to add value to myself and my work rather than it being a throwaway McDonald’s toy.

The merch for your new EP is designed by your eleven-year-old son. Is he a hip hop head too?
He’s into music but hasn’t discovered rap properly yet, unless he sneaks it in when I’m not looking. He’s very creative; plays guitar and writes his own versions of songs he likes, writing bars to instrumentals on YouTube. He also hates swearing, so sometimes I have to hide my tracks from him and pretend I’m a goody two-shoes. He’s started to buy spray cans and do a bit of graf on boards in the garden. He’s also better at building Ikea stuff than I am. Everybody loved the fact that he designed the cover, the t-shirts and the hats – his teacher was amazed at parents’ evening.

You recently teamed up with Monster Sounds to release some hip hop a cappellas that people can purchase and integrate into their own songs…
There are ten full-song a cappellas with hooks, bridges and backing vocals. I also did tons of two-bar phrases for DJs who might want to scratch words or phrases on their projects. Back in the day, when you used to get vinyl, the a cappellas were usually put in there so DJs could do their own versions and remixing. The great thing about royalty-free tracks is, once you’ve purchased them, you don’t need any permission to drop them on your projects. There are five bonus a cappellas from Aeon: Peace To The Puzzle too, so fans can get remixing.

Every great artist has a story or tells a story. Nobody wants to hear how hard you are or how many girls you can get.

Who are you listening to and what inspires you at the moment?
I mostly listen to chilled beat tapes when I’m pottering around doing stuff. I love podcasts too – The Boxing Coalition, London Real, Joe Rogan and Noreaga’s Drink Champs. I’ve also been listening to J Cole – I caught onto him really late when people were telling me to listen to him. My favourite track is Better Than Yours, I’ve been playing that a lot.

The Gangsta Wraps mixtape had some hilarious visuals and merch that pokes fun at the giants of the fast food industry. If Ronald McDonald, the Burger King and Colonel Sanders had a three-way wrestling match, who would win? Would you jump in?
I think Ronald would use sneaky tactics and pull out some mad chemicals to burn the other two. The removal of Burger King’s mask would unveil the Queen in disguise, the Colonel would probably be the toughest with his hands. I wouldn’t jump in, I’d film it and give the footage to LeftLion.

The Gangsta Wraps launch night was epic. I heard one of the many lowriders outside Rough Trade used to belong to B Real from Cypress Hill – is that true?
Yeah, it was a great night, we blocked off Broad Street with a convoy of lowriders – big up Lowrider Chris and his friends. Yes it’s true, one of them was actually B Real’s. It was befitting that was his, as we have a Cypress Grill Gangsta Wrap.

What are your thoughts on Nottingham’s hip hop scene?
Nottingham’s booming right now. Nearly everyone is an artist in some way or is affiliated to an artist. You only have to walk down Broad Street and around Hockley and you’ll bump into a rapper, producer, artist or actor. Gangsta Wraps have brought Redman and Method Man, Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch, KRS-One, The Pharcyde and the first hip hop show with a sit-down, three-course meal while watching Chali 2na from Jurassic 5. I love VVV – they are the perfect hip hop group. They can conquer the world.

What advice would you give to any new, up-and-coming rappers?
Value yourself. Your work means more to you than it does to people who don’t want to support you. We live in a time where people would rather spend eighty quid on shoes that cost six quid to make, than six quid on a project that took six months to make. So, if selling is your goal then make a product that appeals to the pleasure and comfort of others. Every great artist has a story or tells a story. Nobody wants to hear how hard you are or how many girls you can get.

What’s next for Scorzayzee after the EP?
I’m still trying to shift the EP and merch, so if that goes well I can start something else. I’ve done tons of collabs that will be dropping bit by bit. I think the next project will have to be celebrating fifteen years of my track Great Britain and getting that out on vinyl, just to collect for a piece of history.

Anything else you’d like to say?
Meet you at the left lion. I’ll be the guy with a box of EPs and Illa Scorz merch. Thank you if you’ve read this far and thank you to LeftLion and Nathaniel – I appreciate you supporting my music.

Illa Scorz EP is out now.

Scorzayzee website

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