Guest of the Month July 2020: Keedz the Rapper
The rapper and grime artist from South London, mentored by Skepta, has more recently been working with the likes of Stormzy Producer Spyro and Secaina. Keedz talks ReBalance and what it’s like being a woman in rap and grime.
Keedz is a powerhouse, bringing some serious energy to her performances. Playing The Servant Quarters as part of ReBalance Presents, she’s got the whole place up and jumping and when she mentions Sir Spyro there’s a huge roar from the crowd. But even more interesting is her recent collaboration with one of the industry’s few (and most exciting) female producers, Secaina.
Can you tell us a bit about ReBalance and how has it helped you?
I received support from ReBalance last year and it was very helpful – I was in Leeds for a week, it was nice to get out of my usual city where I was given a residency in a studio for a week, I was provided with a producer as well, where we had unlimited time for a week, just to execute whatever ideas and creativity we came up with. And for that it was sick, it’s not every day you get to go in a studio without being on limited time , which kind of crushes my creativity. So the fact we were given that, it allowed a lot of great things to happen that wouldn’t happen in my usual studio sessions.
Can you tell us a bit about the producer you worked with?
PRS Foundation gave me options of producers I could possibly work with. So I checked them out and came across Secaina. I felt like she catered for me and would be better for my sound and I was right. She’s so sick. We were in the studio and just vibed off of each other quite quickly . She’s laid back like me. We’re both really passionate about what we do, so it was really easy to work with her. I’d explain my ideas and she was creating them into real things. It was really cool, I’d explain my ideas that came to mind in terms of what I wanted to hear and she’d be able to translate that into the production . We were really able to bounce off each other.
I would write lyrics alongside her as she produced the beats . Where again, I don’t really have that opportunity because of limited studio time. I usually write the song beforehand and then go to the studio and then record it. It made the process and the song much better, for me anyway.
What is it that you were impressed with from Secaina’s CV? And can you you tell us about the tracks you recorded together?
So initially I didn’t know much about her. My boyfriend had listened to her mixes. I created three tracks. Two of them were grime and the third one was a bit more melodic, in fact I ended up collaborating with Secaina herself. She’s a bit of a musician as well as a producer, so she actually sung on one of my songs, on the hook. So that was pretty cool. All of the songs I made were my sounds, but the fact that I was in a space with the producer, helped me find a different side of me. So not only was it just grime, but other styles too because in the long run, that’s the sort of musician I want to be. It’s not just rap, it’s not just grime, I’m a musician overall… different sounds, being versatile.
What were the tracks recorded?
I got one track called Freezer. The other one’s called Mad Ting. And the other one is Untitled. But we can call it ‘Anything’ right now. Because the message behind that one is literally you can do anything you put your mind to. No matter how big you dream or how long the road seems to be – stay focused, continue to do what you’re doing and eventually things will begin to happen. And it’s just about giving other people faith… I released Freezer in March followed up my ‘Madting’ which I’’ll be shooting the video for very soon.
Tell us a bit about why ReBalance was created?
ReBalance was created to help musicians like myself, not only young musicians but women who are unrepresented especially in my genre; rap and grime – it gave us an avenue and an opportunity to get in the studio, record, be creative and produce some great things, which not a lot of us get the chance to do. And it also doesn’t focus on how big you are as an artist, or how big your following is, it’s all about the talent and if you create good stuff and they believe in what you do – that’s enough for them to support you. And that’s quite rare in the music industry. For a lot of people it’s about numbers or how popular you are. And ReBalance ignored all that and just focused on your raw natural talent So big respect to ReBalance for that.
You were mentored by Skepta can you tell us about that?
It was a few years ago now, it was about 2016. It was a Levi music project. So the V&A Museum opened a music exhibition – and they wanted a showcase of music to open the exhibition. So Skepta was brought on board and there was about 12 musicians, singers, producers, rappers, all came together in a studio in Tottenham. And we were put together, we were all creatives, so we were in a space where we could all collaborate continuously for a period of time, Skepta being there. He was less of a mentor, he was friendly, just like ‘I’m a musician, working with other musicians’. It was inspiring, getting to learn a lot from someone who’s walked the road you’re about to walk, or you’re trying to. So that was very encouraging. It gave you a lot of hope really. He gave us a lot of wisdom about the industry and about how to face things when they come. It was a great experience. It was uplifting.
Can you tell us a bit about what other producers you’ve been working with?
I’ve worked with other producers recently, the main one being Sir Spyro . Who for me was a big deal. Not only is he a grime legend, in the production world, since growing up listening to all the artists coming up, Spyro has been part of a lot of people’s careers. Most recently and more commonly Stormzy. He produced quite a few tunes on his first album ‘Gang Signs and Prayer’, so the fact that he reached out to me to come down for a session, spontaneously one day was just like ‘Yep! Can’t miss that!’ So I went down, got in the studio and we created a song straight away, didn’t waste anytime. . It was very uplifting again to know, that all this hard graft, plucking away and networking, I felt like I was finally getting somewhere. I’m getting some recognition. So yeah, big up to Spyro for giving me the shout.
Festival Republic have been really supportive, not only with getting the studio for a week, but off the back of that I was put on ReBalance showcase and through that performance I got onto the Great Escape. So it’s not just studio time, they help you elevate after that. So you create some songs, come and perform them live – then you’re given a festival slot. For every musician of course you want to get on festivals.
Can you talk a bit about ISF Funding
ISF funding was super helpful. Last year I got selected to perform at Canada Music Week in Toronto. Which sounded like a dream come true. Because if you think about the process, you go from writing music in your room to take it to a studio and then to perform it and then being asked to perform it in a different country, thousands of miles away. It was like ‘What’!? Of course ISF funding came in handy, because as an independent musician I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford it, so the funding was very helpful in getting me there.
What have you got coming up and what are you particularly excited about?
Coming up next I have the video of my new single ‘Madting’ to shoot and release one of the tracks I made at Old Chapel Studio on behalf of ReBalance. So that will keep me quite busy. My main thing for now is to apply for more funding to give those songs a push and hopefully by the time the festival comes, those slots will be embraced more by those crowds.
Who are your biggest influences and how have they influenced your work?
It’s funny people ask me this and it’s probably never what they expect to hear. But my influences stem from when I was a kid and listening to Michael Jackson on the TV. Because he was a great performer and he kept me entertained. His delivery, the way he sung, the way he performed and the way he would capture an audience was insane. Even from a kid seeing that and I had a love of performing arts, acting, singing, dancing, rapping. So although he wasn’t in the same genre as me. It was his style and the way he owned a stage, was what really influenced me. I was like ‘Ah, I wanna be like Michael Jackson’, even though I don’t create the same sort of music as him. And ever since I was a kid that’s always been one of my influences. If anyone ever sees me perform, I tend to have quite a lot of energy on the stage, because I feel if you have a lot of energy then it bounces off the audience and gives them a lot of energy.
Where are you from and what’s the local scene like?
So I’m from South London, born and raised. But my heritage, I’m from Ghana. My mum moved here in the 70s so I was raised here in South London. Definitely had a massive influence on me as a person as well as the music. Grime being a very London based sound. So I grew up from a very young age, watching Wiley, Dizzy Rascal, and people like Kano etc… naturally being influence by that sound, especially garage as well, garage came a bit before grime, but all the sounds were kind of similar. So that’s probably where my passion for the genre stemmed from. And obviously as I got older, I started to appreciate the art of it, understood how to do it as well. Growing up in London. Even being on the estate, everyone was a rapper. Everyone wanted to be a rapper, so you’d always be clashing or going back to back with each other. On the estate and in the school playground that was like an activity – who’s written new bars and who’s gonna go back to back or clash you So that’s something that’s stayed with me.
What’s been the highlights of your career so far?
I’d say Canada. Going to Canada and performing there. I opened the BBK takeover in the O2 Arena – alongside artists I listen to today and grew up listening to so that was pretty surreal. It was a big moment. I’d probably say the LEVI Music project too. That was really inspiring and I got to meet people I’m still friends with today. Oh yeah and getting played on BBC Radio! Because ever since I was little I thought imagine getting played on BBC Radio – and eventually I did!
Do you have any advise for music creators applying for funding and hoping to make a career out of music?
Before anything else, believe in yourself and the music you make because if you don’t, why would you expect other people to. Always have a plan and a strategy and don’t rely on other people. Because that’s where a lot of disheartening things come from – when you rely on people, have an expectation and then it doesn’t quite happen. And that can be really disheartening. So really try and take control as much as you can. Have a strategy, in terms of what you want to achieve. Understand what it is exactly you need as a musician to get you to the next level and push you further and once you’ve figured that out, then apply for the funding. Just don’t accept no. A lot of people get ignored a lot in this industry and it’s hard not to take it personal. Even though a lot of times it’s not personal. So be thick skinned, believe in what you’ve got. Believe in your sauce.