Two years ago, the game changed. I witnessed an artist that had been making his mark in the Grime and Rap world cause a seismic shift. Whilst walking behind a large camera trying not to trip over the cables as it moved on a semi-circle track around a studio, everyone heard a bar that caused an audible reaction that could not be denied.
You old MCs need to leave it alone ‘cause you’re not getting better with time so leave it us. Go look after your kids. We’ll take it from here - Stormzy, 2014
I was invited to the filming of Charlie Sloth’s Fire In The Booth Cypher at the Maide Vale BBC studios. Walking down the corridor, i’m already hyped. Caroline SM (GRM Daily) gave me this opportunity and I wanted to do a great job. I didn’t know what to expect. I was a shy person so whilst artists like Saf-One, P Money and Nolay walked in the green room, I stayed in my corner and kept quiet. Everyone was talking loudly about the chosen beats and how it was going to be filmed. I was quietly intrigued.We all walked into the studio to find a track on the floor with a large camera attached to wheels. All the artist walked upstairs but I was geeking out. I made it a point to speak to the camera operators to find out what their plan was and most importantly, how I can stay out of their way. No ones wants to be that guy who tripped over a wire and cut the main live feed.
Everything got underway and the bars started spraying. Akala set pace with bars that I didn’t digest until I watched the video again. Nolay, rapping under the pseudonym Bella Gotti, rapidly spitting sentences peppered with wordplay and the Birmingham dons Saf-One and Deadly bringing the energy to the cypher. The camera was constantly moving and shining a bright on the artist who chose to step up and showcase their skills on the microphone. This was great for me because it allowed me to make sure that the pictures I took showed the artist with as much details as possible.
Being a photographer taking pictures at musical events when you’re a fan of the music is difficult. Forcing myself to keep still while artists are shelling on the mic so I can get focus is a mad ting. Many a time Ashley Verse and I let the cameras hang off our necks and go completely into fan mode. After a few skanks we’re back into shooting mode. This cypher was no different. I had to step back for a bit and buss a mean 2-step to get the excitement out of my system.
At this point in time, Stormzy was making moves in the game. With good songs and freestyles under his belt, he was making waves and people were paying attention. But when he stood in a room full of MCs and said that they should go back to their kids because he’s here to take over, it showed the level of confidence he had. I saw him earlier and he was quietly pacing around the room. I presumed that he was meticulously planned how he was going to drop a bar that will make social media burst at the seams. To this day, I don’t know how I managed to capture a shot with Ghetts giving Stormzy a 21 gun salute after hearing that bar. Especially when Ghetts is one of those older MCs. But the respect was there. Stormzy lyrically paid homage at the beginning of his set so it was all good.
It was that day when I realised that he was a serious guy. His previous songs showed his fun loving side but that night, in that room, surrounded by cameras and some of the best artist in the country, Stormzy stood up and prove that he was a problem.
That night was special. Charlie Sloth played a James Brown instrumental and everyone stepped back with confused faces. Ghetts took the mic from Mic Righteous and went crazy. Seriously. He was jumping around spraying and using the James Brown vocal as adlibs. If you haven’t seen Ghetts perform live, do yourself a favour.
Two years ago, I was a nervous guy who took pictures from the shadows. At the end of the cypher, everyone was outside discussing what went down and Rashid from LinkUpTV was getting interviews from the artist. Meanwhile, I walked passed everyone on the way to my car so I can get home to edit the pictures I took. In hindsight, I should’ve stay and built with the mandem. But I didn’t. A lesson was learned that day.
That pictures that I took that day put me on peoples radar and elevated my profile. At that time, people knew my name but didn’t know who I was. Artist were reaching out saying they didn’t know I was there. I could’ve shot so many portraits that day. Fast forward to the 2015 cypher and things changed. I was on the balcony as a spectator. The filming process stopped me from shooting as it was a 360 video with a camera rig in the middle of a circle of MCs. Who knows what to expect in the 2016 edition. What I do know is that i’ll be tuned in to see the lyrical display from artist trying to make their name in the rap game.