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Nottingham Grime Artist Omari Grant Has Taken On the Regional Boxing Scene

6 November 18 words: Curtis Powell
photos: Curtis Powell

Omari Grant – a force from Nottingham grime’s early days, also known as Kriptik – has recently been smashing it on the regional boxing scene under the alias of “The Praying Mantis”. Currently at seven undefeated wins, we sat down to find out what powers his success...

How did you get into boxing?
When I was younger I used to do karate. I was always interested in the Shaolin movies; I like the idea of perfecting yourself, training and transforming. I’m eating right – with the odd cheat day – and training as hard as I can. I’ve got my personal goals when it comes to running and training, but it's an onward process, onward progress.

What do you think the boxing scene is like in Nottingham and the Midlands? 
It’s very quiet. Nottingham’s a small town, so there's only a handful of professional boxers. If Carl Froch was still active, we could be on big cards. Don't get me wrong, there are some big boxers out there like Leigh Wood. He’s a role model in the sense that he’s done it all, but my favourite is Kirkland Lainganother Nottingham-born legend.

Other than winning fights, what are you getting out of boxing?
I want to make myself a prominent figure in Nottingham. We’ve got a lot of big, creative people from here: Paul Smith, Bruce Dickinson, Jake Bugg, Shane Meadows, Dean Jackson, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, all in their own rights, have showcased Nottingham to the world. I wanna be one of those people. I want to go as far as I can and make my mark in whatever I'm doing, and currently it's the boxing. I want to gain an area title, defend it and take it from there. Once I hit ten undefeated wins, I can push for longer, bigger fights, more difficult opponents and raise the level.

What's been the most challenging thing?
Selling tickets, to take a percentage of the money, to then give a percentage to the promoter, a percentage to your coach, and a percentage to the event. I can see why a lot of people don't pursue it because it is very difficult when it comes to the business side. Never mind the physical side.

Where did your nickname “The Praying Mantis” come from?
I used to spar every day in the gym, and one day, another professional boxer said "The way you're moving is like a praying mantis" and I thought “Yeah, that's sick! That’s how I move in there, I'll take that.”

A lot of people in the Midlands and beyond know about you from the grime and reggae scenes...
I grew up with a lot of reggae. My stepdad was a poet, my dad's a reggae singer, my uncle was a singer, my mum used to be in a reggae band, and there were people in my family doing rap. When I was about five I went to school in Jamaica for a bit, so I was influenced by that as well as a lot of hip hop. I just happened to be growing up when grime music was birthed. We had the garage scene and then grime just came out of nowhere.

You can be very talented, but it all depends on how you sell yourself, how much people get behind you and how you push through setbacks

Do you have a favourite memory from your musical career?
The first time I performed was at Adventure Playground in St Ann's. I read a poem there when I was about eight. I was so nervous but I learnt the poem, did it, and thought “I could do this again.”

When I used to go to C the Barbers in Radford, I did a lot of grime sets above the shop. The first set I ever did was with two crews called Game Cartel and Shotz Movement and I got a reload! I used to watch the old-school ragga tapes with people like Ninjaman and Beenie Man clashing on live band productions, so I was like “Woah I'm actually doing it, I'm part of the music scene.” I went through to Kiss FM and I got on Logan Sama’s show too. I think I was the first person from Nottingham to go on it, back in 2009. I used to travel to Brixton a lot, selling CDs, spitting bars and linking up with people.

You've worked with a lot of artists, but who has been special to collaborate with? 
Danny Who got P Money and myself on a track for my first ever CD. For the second, I got Killa P from Roll Deep. We went to Brixton to work with him and he was one of the nicest people I've met on the scene. He invited me into his home, into his studio, and we've been friends ever since.

On a local level, not to sound like the big Godfather or whatever, but I’ve had dealings with most emcees; whether it's helping to promote them, giving advice or performing with them. That's why my name’s out there. When I went to Birmingham back in the day with MT and Gino, we linked up with Sox and JayKae. Little movements made a big contribution down the line. A lot of people started to bridge the gap and go to Birmingham and London after that.

What other influences do you think you’ve had on the music scene?
When I first started, a lot of people wouldn't have attempted to sing, or even make a melodic tune. It was either hard rap or hard grime. I see a lot of singing now with Auto-Tune and commercial tunes being more accepted. It’s a bit saturated, but I do understand the attraction. People making it big and getting signed, like Hex (Formerly Hectic) and Young T & Bugsey, are very inspiring.

Do you reckon music and boxing go hand in hand? Is it the same kind of struggle?
You can be very talented, but it all depends on how you sell yourself, how much people get behind you and how you push through setbacks. I went through that for nearly ten years with music, until transitioning into boxing, so it's nothing new to me. I was selling CDs for £5 around the country, and now I'm selling tickets at £35. There was a lot of interest in the CDs, but there's more generated from the tickets. It is very similar, and it’s given me the mental training I needed.

What advice would you give to someone going into music or boxing?
Focus and preparation. I know people who pay for studio time to drink and smoke, and they don’t make half a tune because they aren't prepared. If I'm going to the studio, I know my track before I’ve left the house. I would write and rewrite the track before recording, and it’s the same with boxing. You focus and prepare yourself. They say genius is practice. Focusing on your fundamentals might not make you the most flamboyant, but it'll come easily. Whatever anyone sees from me is days and days of practice, focus, and passion. I'm a perfectionist. 

Omari Grant twitter

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