Lethal Bizzle interview
He’s loved as much by indie kids as he is by grime scene hardcore. Miles Johnson reckons its all because Lethal Bizzle is smarter than your average MC
It’s sometimes said you know you’ve hit the big time when your song gets banned. London MC Lethal Bizzle might not have reached the notoriety of the Sex Pistols when his infamous track ‘Pow! (Forward Riddim)’ was banished from clubs across the country in 2003 for inspiring mass brawls, but he has been steadily channelling the momentum gained from the chart hit ever since.
And it’s not just his trademark machine gun vocal delivery that has seen 23-year-old Maxwell Ansah’s stock steadily rise. The self-appointed ‘Grime Minister’ is arguably UK urban music’s shrewdest practitioner, having successfully reached an indie audience through collaborations and tours with guitar bands including Babyshambles, Test-Icicles, and most recently, Gallows. His crossover status has now been cemented, having won a place on this year’s NME Rock’n’Roll Riot Tour alongside Coventry’s The Enemy, but does he ever feel out of place?
‘A lot of artists just keep doing the same old thing,’ he says. ‘For me it’s more about trying to find something fresh to do that’s inspiring.’
Having previously been a stalwart of the East London pirate radio scene that spawned such notables as Dizzee Rascal and Kano, Bizzle’s first collaboration outside of his local scene was with the short lived Test-Icicles, a band with whom he found he shared more musical ground than expected.
‘They weren’t just a normal guitar band. Their music had elements of grime and hip hop which I could get down with. It made me more open to working with people I wouldn’t normally work with. And that’s what it’s about: breaking barriers.’
For MCs maybe more than anyone else there is, of course, always the risk of alienating your original fanbase when moving into unfamiliar territory. Bizzle, however, feels he has retained grime fans as successfully as winning over the swarms of indie kids that now attend his performances.
‘I perform all my tunes at my shows and everyone gets down to it,’ he says. ‘No matter what type of beat I’m spitting on I’m just me. I ain’t going to start singing or anything, I’m just going to be Da Bizzle no matter what type of music I’m working with.’
Bizzle’s enthusiasm for experimentation, however, is coupled with a feeling that other grime artists are holding the fledgling underground scene back by forgetting what made it popular in the first place.
‘A few of the key players have definitely forgotten what the grime thing is about. I don’t want to say grime is dead or anything because with people like me, Kano and Dizzee it’s still going strong.’
And with Lethal Bizzle set to present himself to an unprecedented number of young music fans, it would be hard to doubt his prognosis. From his appearance on the charity edition of Top Gear – where Clarkson referred to him as ‘Jizzy Tissue’ – to Jay-Z performing over ‘Pow!’ onstage at the Royal Albert Hall, Bizzle’s career so far may have been a varied one, but few could ever doubt his focus.
Lethal Bizzle plays as part of the NME Rock’n’ Roll Riot Tour, Barrowland, Glasgow, Fri 5 Oct and solo at the Arches, Glasgow, Sun 2 Dec.