“Small venues… it can feel like a tinderbox”
A Chat with Logan Sama
You were probably still in nappies when Logan Sama kick-started his career. He’s one of the most respected and prolific champions of UK grime. He was on his way to Debenhams when we gave him a call – errands still need running, even if you’re pals with Wiley. Before he brought up Keepin It Grimy to Sneaky Pete’s on March 4th, Logan dished out some wisdom about the genre’s recent resurgence and drops some hints about what 2016 has in store for us.
First up – what’s in Logan’s diary for the coming months, major radio duties aside?
“Well! We’re doing this string of our Keepin It Grimy nights… we’re just trying to get out there, and give people very obviously branded grime nights to go to. So people can say ‘yeah, I’m going to a grime night.’”
“And one of the things I’m excited about, is that we’ve got one that’s a 14+ event. Grime is approaching 15 years, next year… and most of the kids that are out raving now were probably in Primary School when we started out?! I think it’s so important to give people experiences – you know, actual, live, physical experiences, in a room with hundreds of other people all sharing a moment at the same time. And I want to give people the opportunity to experience that as early as possible.”
“Small venues… it can feel like a tinderbox”
“When I play out, I know this is bad to say, but I play for myself. I play – always – stuff that I enjoy, and I just love getting a reaction. It’s great playing small venues, ‘cause you’re so close to the crowd… It can feel like a tinderbox, explode at any time. I just wanna play cool parties, whether that’s 100, 150 people in a little live gig venue like Sneaky’s, or thousands of people at Creamfields, or Outlook, or Bestival. For me, the strength of grime is all in the live experience.”
“My job is to go out and remind people that they love grime,” he summarises, firmly. “Even in the last five, six years when grime was definitely not at the forefront of peoples’ minds, that’s what my set was all about – an hour of reminding people: you do still love grime, even if you’re not checking for it.”
With a career spanning Rinse FM, Kiss and 1Xtra, Logan Sama’s been there since the start. He’s watched artists rise and fall – and sometimes rise again, and although he’s quick to admit that 2015 marked a major point of resurgence in popular interest in the genre, his enthusiasm for the music and the people who make it has never once wavered.
“I’d hate to be a nostalgic set”
“Well, yeah, I can certainly tell you, from my live calendar and my bank balance, that we had a very good year in 2015,” he laughs. “And now, for the first time in a long time, the majority of my set has been new music. I’d hate to be a nostalgic set letting people believe that the only good grime is old grime – that’s a complete fallacy. 75% of my set, if not more, is records that were made in the last two years.”
Far from blaming grime’s time-out on a lack of decent records, Logan stresses that “records weren’t connecting because of awareness.” What’s changed isn’t the talent on offer, or the passion behind it, rather a shift in public attitude: “Grime culture’s been around long enough now, that these kids understand it. Kids engage in grime. It’s exciting,” he says. “You know the skit in the middle of Shut Down, with the awfully middle class girl talking about the Brits? That attitude, it’s not really there anymore. [People] wanna come out and engage and I think it’s fucking brilliant.”
“I don’t think the music’s got any better. I just think it’s a fortuitous time.”
“Grime, for me, has always been a positive expression of emotion, creativity and a reflection of peoples’ surroundings. I don’t think the music’s got any better. I just think it’s a fortuitous time – in that the artists have a lot more belief in putting out authentic music, pushing authentic music. When something does well, everyone has more faith in it.”
Perhaps even more importantly, Logan attributes grime’s current fortunes to an all-improved infrastructure behind the music – and it’s a structure that could never have grown with major label, mainstream industry interference. “For a good five years, everyone in grime was working hard on being self-sufficient, not relying on the machine to push their sound,” he explains.
“If you look at what everyone’s doing now, it’s all in-house. Skepta’s all in-house, Stormzy’s all in-house… JME’s literally all in his own house, on his own. It’s tremendously powerful. I definitely think the infrastructure’s changed; people have built their own. It’s fucking brilliant. It’s been something that has given people confidence and strength in themselves. And now, when people are hitting up Stormzy for an album deal, he can say no – he knows he can sell a quarter of a million singles on his own. I don’t think there are any A&Rs out there who know how to deal with a Stormzy single better than Stormzy’s team does.”
“…. grime, it’s a meritocracy.”
Although he’s reluctant to use the term ‘new wave’, he admits “but, it literally is a new WAVE of MCs that are doing so well in terms of getting their recognition out there. So many new artists coming through, alongside the names that have been here for the better part of a decade. And you’ve got artists like Kano and Chipmunk… Chip, to use his correct name, that are returning…”
Be warned: Logan Sama takes a strong line against anyone who’s sceptical of names like these making a comeback, even after side-steps like Chip Diddy Chip…
“Right. Let’s not fool ourselves, people like Wiley and Skepta made records like that too. But that’s the cool thing about grime, it’s a meritocracy. If you come in and do something awesome, you’ll get the recognition.”
So you’ve got no patience for genre snobs, then?
“Yeah, fuck that man. Anyone who wants to pretend it’s bad that people are coming back and making good grime music, come and talk to me. I definitely outrank you, I’ll put you straight.”
There you have it! Logan Sama brings Keepin it Grimy (with Jammz) to Sneaky Pete’s on March 4.