Paul Stephan has bright lyricism, a boisterous flow and a bombastic fashion sense.
Born in Hackney, he is a long-term resident of Thamesmead. Online, he is described as: ‘if Stormzy and Tyler the Creator had a kid’. Like Tyler, he appears unafraid to go against the grain. Like Stormzy, his emphasis on the DIY element of grime has gained him a loyal following. Gaining notoriety at the tail end of the grime movement, his uncompromising creativity has been pushing the boundaries of what UK Rap and Grime has come to represent. With that in mind, I caught up with him earlier this year:
Paul, how do you think growing up in Thamesmead affected your music?
Growing up in Thamesmead has affected my music in a major way. Being from there has made me realise it’s so easy to be forgotten or to be written off due to people’s perception of the place; it has influenced me to be more aggressive with my vocals on grime.
Thamesmead is just beginning a £1.5 billion regeneration. Do you think this will be beneficial to Thamesmead or just create more faceless gentrification?
To be honest with you, I ain’t expecting nothing or saying anything on that matter unless I start to see some changes and more engagement with the community. Until then, a plan with agenda is a plan with agenda.
So, with no obvious nightlife in Thamesmead, where do you guys party?
Haha, to be honest with you you’re right about the area having no night life, it’s just the case of us leaving the area heading down to places like Hackney or Rochester to turn up, in which it almost feels like we’re on a holiday at times, that’s bad init.
Yeah, so, why do you think there was such a resurgence in grime in 2016? Do you think it’s a case of better music or that there is an increased social awareness with Grime and UK rap?
I reckon more UK artists were just starting to realise that grime has always had a significant sound and that we should embrace it all the time. Stormzy is a great example of what most mc’s from here should of done, and eventually everything else will take place.
A good instrumental makes a song. With that in mind where do you get your instrumentals?
I either do my research on producers, check their work and approach them about collaborating or I actually know a few personally which I tend to work with them in the studio and make something from scratch.
Speaking of from scratch, originally a DIY genre, how do you think the global status of grime stars and the money that this brings will now affect the industry?
I’d like to think that it will have a positive effect on the industry in which I do believe grime can have the same equal rights of implementation just as hip-hop did.
What do you think is the reason for grime resonating so much with a mainly white middle class?
I personally believe it is just them appreciating art that is homegrown and authentic and something that they can be proud of if I’ll be honest. Truth be told I believe they would want to resonate with a UK rapper rather than any other one across the pond.
Finally, you have such a unique style, what has influenced your visuals?
Thank you man. I personally don’t believe London, or even England is a dark place in terms of infrastructure or culture. So I don’t understand how most rappers here ain’t trying to be creative with their visuals and stay refreshing and that’s what influences me to be fair.
interview by Christian Kennedy
Thanks to Paul Stephan for the interview