Example - Word smart
Mark Edmundson meets Example, the latest talent to emerge from Mike Skinner’s The Beats stable and finds a rap superstar in waiting
Even for seasoned trend-spotters and taste makers like those here at The List it isn’t easy to predict which artists will strike a chord with the masses, who will stall before take-off and who will crash and burn.
Having conquered press and public with his late-night tales of inner city angst, Mike Skinner of The Streets launched The Beats record label, and, following success with the likes of The Mitchell Brothers may have found a suitable heir to his urban poetics in straight-talking rap machine Example. Styling himself on the charismatic simplicity of Slick Rick and rhythmic wordplay of Jay-Z, Elliot Gleave (whose initials lend him the moniker) was a childhood poetry champ in his native Fulham before cutting his teeth as a garage MC and now, like Skinner, boasts a very British, matter-of-fact wideness.
‘I think it’s a case of not being that fussed,’ says Example of his laissez-faire image. ‘I think industry success kind of comes round and hits a lot of artists all of a sudden, whereas because I put out records myself like three years ago, I’ve sort of grown more steadily. Two years ago I was doing interviews on Xfm so now when you get a record of the week on Radio One it hasn’t just come out of the blue, you’re not a one hit wonder, you feel you’ve actually worked for it. I’m not saying it doesn’t affect me, it’s exciting and daunting but it doesn’t feel like I shouldn’t be there.’
The striking character – all big hair, big lips and big ideas – works hard and exclusively with producer Rusher who crafts three-minute pockets of pure Kanye hip pop in his intelligent, choppy application of sometimes overly familiar samples. The resulting output has brought the pair radio airplay, support slots for the likes of Plan B, The Rifles and Just Jack, and now a headline tour. ‘We’ve not had a top 40 yet,’ admits the self-assured rapper/songwriter, ‘but we’re moving in the right direction’.
Example is not a man in any immediate hurry but one with a game plan who is prepared to accept an unofficial popularity, for, while his album What We Made has not enjoyed astronomical sales it has fared well in illegal downloads, and audience participation at his gigs is testament to a wider acceptance and appreciation of his lyrics.
‘To be honest, most other people in the UK, especially in the urban music scene, don’t work that hard at all,’ says the performer of his self-induced two-year plan that takes in two albums and two mix-tapes, and which he is already halfway to realising. ‘But I just think you’ve got to keep people interested all the time so that you don’t fall off the map.’
He goes on: ‘I’m really confident in Rusher’s ability to make great music and my ability write catchy hooks, and I think the bands who survive are the ones who keep building their fan base and keep writing great songs. I’m well aware that we’re not as big as Dizzee or Kano, but my ambition has never been to be bigger or better than anyone else, I’ve always wanted to just be a stand-alone artist; be it alternative, indie, hip hop, pop, whatever. I believe longevity comes down to your ability to write a good song.’
The Arches, Glasgow, Fri 16 Nov.