“It’s always good chatting to the day ones in this ting,” grime MC P Money tells me as we wrap up our long-overdue catch up. In fact, we haven’t talked like this for a good five or six years, back when I used to book him to spin my club nights with his aggy, passionate rhymes and pull-up worthy ad-libs.
Born and raised in Lewisham, South East LDN, P Money began making inroads in grime during the latter stage of 2009. He had already released two strong projects before then—Coins 2 Notes (2007) and P Money Is Power (2008)—but his 2009 mixtape, Money Over Everyone, was what had critics standing tall to attention: while the scene’s old guard were off chasing mainstream money, it was projects such as this that kept their interest piqued. For P Money and most emcees around him—those who lived for pirate radio and other grime rituals—it felt like they had a whole scene to carry, but this never stopped him from doing some dabbling of his own: with dubstep, grime’s grubby younger cousin.
After working with the likes of True Tiger (“Slang Like Dis”), Magnetic Man (“Anthemic”), Flux Pavilion and Skream—and generally making his presence known by turning up, unbooked, and shelling down now-closed dub spots like The End, Cable, and Plastic People—P Money saw new light at the end of the tunnel. Even when touring on dubstep stages across the globe, his raging, double-time flow has never failed to represent what he’s always been about: spreading the good gospel of grime. With a record deal via Rinse, an epic nod from Wiley, and a number of sold-out shows under his belt, P Money is still beating the tune and delivering great works, and is today considered something of a grime scene oracle.
“Being able to enter a whole different scene and bring grime with me was a great thing.”
COMPLEX: Let me start off by saying your Thank You EP, for me, is one of your best releases to date and easily one of the best grime sets of the year. You and I spoke about it briefly when Complex premiered it back in April, but tell me a bit more about the whole concept.
P Money: It came from the fact that I’ve been heavily supported throughout the years. There’s been so many different artists doing different things when grime was at its lowest point, when there was no commercial radio play or anything, but I was still able to continue killing shows around the world with my original sound. I was in Japan in 2014... I was doing shows everywhere. When I sit back and think about it, I’ve actually done a lot. When people were saying grime is dead, it definitely wasn’t for me. Even putting on my birthday rave recently, people were turning up in droves. It was mad! And there was no big machine behind me with that. Everyone was like, “Who was your PR? Who’s your team?” My Twitter and Facebook! When I realised that, I realised I definitely needed to give back to the fans and supporters. I just recorded those tunes with that in mind. When you say it’s one of my best, I kind of feel like that as well. I went back to the old me of listening to the first Money Over Everyone to hearing the kind of beats that are going on now. The beats that are going on now sound like the beats from 2009/2010. So I kind of merged the two within the space of six tracks. It’s like a mini album.
You’ve got a very personal track on there called “There For You”, where you talk about love, friendship and your newborn child. How important do you think it is for grime artists to show other sides to their life and a bit of emotion on wax?
I think it’s the most important thing in any artist’s career. We already have like 10 million MCs and they’re all saying the same thing. The scene will die out if there’s nothing more to it, and there are different personalities in every human being. Like, there’s girls out there who don’t understand what a skeng is [laughs]. So you need to have a tune where you just approach things differently. That’s what I always rated Jme for; he breaks down everything so that everyone understands and I think all MCs should consider that. Yeah, you can do your leng man tune but at least make it a story or make it more interesting. Even Jamal [Edwards], when he lets people freestyle on his channel, he’s stopped accepting just anything. He wants it to fully make sense. It’s more interesting if you explain the whole story. We’re not born as animals, but we take the mic and start acting like it. We need to tell them the journey and explain the ends is really like this and the reasons why. So I think it’s important to not only explain things, but definitely show you’re a human being as well. You fall in love or out of love. You have a life outside of music.
Grime’s quiet period—let’s talk about that. I always make a point to say the scene never died, but lyrically, it did have its down moment. What do you think it is that stopped the lyricism flourishing from 2010 to 2013?
What happened at the start was you had the top 10 MCs—this is before I was even popping—you had your Wileys, your Skeptas, your Devlins, your Wretch 32s. You had all of those guys but they all got deals. When they got deals, they got massive. I don’t know if they felt like it was too much. I don’t know what it was for them, but all the pirate radio stuff stopped. Just doing tunes because it’s what we do in grime—that stopped. “It’s not a single so I can’t do it. It’s not gonna be a Radio 1 single so I can’t do it.” That was all going on, and then pirate radio saw it and did the same. A lot of my generation and younger looked at that and started behaving the same way, too. So no one released anything; no one was releasing any grime vocals. Producers were releasing instrumentals EPs and whatnot, but not one artist was taking an instrumental and saying “I own this.” No one was doing that for a good few years. For me, that’s what made me think it’s kind of our fault why grime dipped. It never died but it dipped because all the champions went and did something else. The only thing that’s different this time round is the champions are now doing what they’re known for. They’re not changing. They’re doing tunes. Like Skepta; even though he’s just dropped his album, he’s going out and recording tunes and saying “This is my single and it’s hard.” He didn’t care if Radio 1 played it and it didn’t matter because they played it anyway.
The first time we properly worked together was in 2009, when I booked you for my ChockABlock rave. The good old days! How do you feel about the scene’s live element right now?
It can get back to those days, but we need more events. We need more grime events, and they need to be run by people who know what was going on back then. You know what you’re doing now, and you knew what you were doing then. You were in the scene, J. You were at every rave! Even if it wasn’t your rave, you were there as a fan anyway and not just there to document it. When you put on a grime rave, it always had the sickest line-up. Nowadays, you’ve got promoters who bring just anyone together. The line-ups are proper weird. One minute you’re hearing a slow ting, next minute it’s a jump-up ting. That’s weird to me [laughs]. That’s not what a grime rave should be like, and that’s why we need to bring it back to how it was in ‘09. We need to take more control. We need to stop letting any promoter come with their money and put on these nights and use us to sell tickets. Since my birthday rave, I’ve decided to put on a regular event called Originators. I’ve got my first night on July 22 at Fabric. Footsie as well, he’s got King Original; he’s been doing good things with that as well. And that’s what it’s got to be: more people taking it into their own hands and running it how we know it should be. Then, hopefully, it’ll be back to that vibe of ‘09. I remember we used to go Cable and only a few people would be booked, but everyone was in there. Every week without fail! But we don’t have that anymore.
“We need more grime events, and they need to be run by people who know what was going on back then.”
Is there anything about grime that you would change today?
When you used to go pirate radio back in the day, it was normal and sick to hear OGz b2b Boy Better Know or even before my time you’re hearing Ruff Sqwad, Roll Deep, N.A.S.T.Y Crew all on a set. I grew up on man’s being on set together with everybody spraying. Even when you look back to when Dizzee and Titch had that thing, did you see how many people were at that set? It’s a mental set, bruv. We don’t get that now. You get it at Eskimo Dance, but not really though. It’s top boys only. It’s only a few of them spraying and the rest just spray one lyric and you can’t see them again. It was all about the hunger and passion back then, and that’s what drew me to Novelist and The Square. I see them spraying together on a set and it’s old school: backpacks on with one in a school uniform. You can see all these different personalities, but they were all together spraying their bars. That’s the only thing I really do miss. You used to hear people doing tunes together all the time. You’d lock in to a show on Rinse or Deja and you’re hearing some next, mad collab. I don’t believe the unity is as real as everyone makes it out to be these days. I don’t think tweeting a next man’s project shows unity.
I guess being in a crew helps.
I tell you one thing: the workload’s lighter [laughs]. You just write one bar and it’s like, “Yep! My bit’s done.” You know what it is, though? You get the support. You don’t have to wait to release your tune or your video to get support. The moment you write your bar and record it, the support is there. Five man pushing something is instantly better than one. If your car breaks down and you’re trying to push it by yourself, it’s a mad ting. Five man jump out and push it, it’s easy. That’s the main thing. But there’s pros and cons. The support is a pro, but then you’ve got issues like can everyone be on one tune? Does everyone get as known as each other? It can be a bit mad, but in this day and age, the support takes you far.
Out of the new emcees coming through, who would you have join the OGz crew?
It’s not really a crew you can just join. It’s more of a family thing. I don’t really call us a crew either, because we’ve been bredrins before the music. It’s just a normal setting to us but to everyone else it’s a music crew, so it’s kinda hard for us to recruit someone because they might not be from the ends and we’re all from the same ends. There’s been bare times where I’ve seen MCs and wanted to bring that person in or whatever. When I first heard PK [from YGG] I didn’t know he was part of any crew. I just thought: “This guy is sick!” When I met AJ Tracey, I told him he was cold. Jammz as well. There’s a few people I’ve been listening to from a year-and-a-bit ago. There’s a whole load of them, but these MCs are the ones that stand out to me.
There was a time when you and Blacks lyrically dominated the dubstep arena. People even called what you were doing ‘grimestep’ for a while. In your opinion, what caused the death of the music?
I hear it still goes off in America, but for me, I don’t know. I was a fan of dubstep from young. I had Joker’s tune on my first mixtape so it wasn’t like I was jumping on this new thing. I was always on it, and I was a genuine fan. The only thing I really miss is I would go to a dubstep event where say it was a rave of 1,500 people, most of those people don’t listen to grime but they would hear me, hear my style and say “I like this.” Live on mic, I would say: “Yeah, I'm a grime MC. You like this sound? This is a grime MC style on dubstep.” Then that attracted so many people to grime. Even today when I do a show, I bump into someone who says I’m the reason they got into grime and that they found this MC and that MC from what I did back then. That’s the only thing I miss from that. And the promotion! Being able to enter a whole different scene and bring grime with me was a great thing. I’ve been doing the same thing recently at D&B events; literally not even writing D&B bars, just spraying my grime lyrics fast and clear and they proper love it. At my birthday rave I had a drum & bass room and a grime room, and everyone enjoyed it. It was a nice little mix.
“When I was 13/14, I wasn’t listening to hip-hop. I don’t know anything about it because we grew up on grime.”
What do you think is needed for dubstep to make a resurgence?
It’s the same thing as grime: only if the champions come back. If Skream and Benga announced tomorrow that they were doing a rave at KOKO, people would fly all over the world to see that. Even if they don’t listen to it anymore, they’d buy tickets because they’re curious to see if it would really come back. It’s the same thing with grime. The moment Stormzy came through with “Not That Deep” and it got playlisted, people realised it was real. Dubstep can do the same thing but they have to have the champions saying “This is my thing and I’m running with it.” People like Skream and Benga are making house and techno now. I used to be able to call them and say I’ll see them at the rave, but I definitely can’t do that now [laughs].
There’s been a lot of talk about the origins of grime recently. Novelist and the likes have been chiming in, saying the genre comes more from Jamaican soundsystem culture than it does American hip-hop. Where do you stand on the matter?
When I was 13/14, I wasn’t listening to hip-hop. I don’t know anything about it because we grew up on grime. I couldn’t tell you a Tupac lyric even if I tried! [Laughs] I didn’t dress like them, I didn’t walk like them, and I definitely don’t talk like them. Talk to me about Giggs, though, and I’ll know everything. I did a panel for Puma recently when they had their collaboration with Alife, which is a big American brand. They were speaking about American hip-hop and I just kept it real like: “Yeah, bro. I know nothing about it.” Grime was about man wearing tracksuits back in the day. Wiley and that, I was seeing them in tracksuits. That’s what made us youngers stay on a tracksuit ting. That’s what we do! To this day, I don’t like wearing trousers or jeans [laughs]. Grime and hip-hop are two completely different things to me. Put Lil Wayne on a set and put me on after—we sound nothing alike. And I know what Novelist's saying about the whole ragga culture—he means the stage show side of it. The way they perform on-stage is the same way that we perform. Even how we do so many different versions of one tune, that’s what they do in Jamaica. Vybz Kartel would come out with a big tune and then there’ll be a Movado version, there’s this version, there’s that version, but you know the first version is a Vybz tune. The funniest comment I saw the other day was that all of us grime MCs sound like Twista and Busta Rhymes, which shows a lot of people overseas still aren’t used to it.
It’ll take a couple more years, I think.
Yeah, most probably.
Okay. So you wake up one day and Wiley’s named a tune and video after you. What was going through your mind when you found that out? The gas levels must have been all the way up [laughs].
[Laughs] A few days before that came out, I saw Wiley and he was telling me how nang I was and showing mad love. I was just like, “Safe.” I thought he was bigging me up on a normal one. Then I was in studio one day and everyone kept making karate jokes and I didn’t get why they were making these weird jokes. To the point where I just switched! I literally didn’t get why people were making these karate jokes around me. Then everyone started laughing and showed me the video. That’s when I listened to the whole tune and saw the bit where he says Every time man sprays it’s like a karate chop. I’m not gonna lie: it fully blessed me. That’s when I first felt like maybe I’m a champion. Obviously man’s humble, and I’ll always say to this day I still look up to Skepta, Wiley, D Double E, Footsie, because I don’t forget when I used to be in my house recording them on tape. It don’t matter if I’m side-by-side with them on a stage now. That don’t matter to me. I remember they’re the leaders. Wiley could’ve picked any MC he’s come across in his life, but he chose me so I’ve got respect for him for life. And I told him that. There’s no sending for Wiley when I’m around—it’s not gonna happen. When I speak to people like Stormzy and he’s like “You’re the champion now”, that shows the hard work I’ve put in has paid off. People love to talk about unity, but not everyone likes to praise people.
On the subject of “sending”, things got pretty heated between you and Ghetts in 2010. No clash materialised from the back-and-forth dubs, but is it something that you’d ever revisit?
I’d never rule it out. Everyone asks me and I always say, “I don’t think it’s over.” Even if me and Ghetts were to stand in the same place and there’s no tension, there will always be that elephant in the room. If it does happen, though, it would definitely go off. Lyrically, it would just go off! And we’re definitely not trying to make tunes with each other. Grime might get to the point where it’s beneficial for everyone if we just do it. We’ll put everything aside: egos, consequences, everything! That day might come, but I don’t know when. I know he’s concentrating on his releases right now, and I’ve just wrapped up my next one.
What can we expect to hear on that?
The thing with me is, because I can do what I want, I change my mind every second. I was going to do an 8-track EP but now I might be turning it into a 14-track album. It might just be my debut album. I’ve been knocking out loads of videos, and I’ve picked all the singles. I’ve also brought a tune back of Terror Danjah’s but I’m not gonna say what it is yet. But that will be a single too. I've also got Stormzy on there, Jme, Wiley... I’ve got a lot of features. At the moment, I’m thinking about calling it The Project—plus, I’ve still got Money Over Everyone 3 coming out.
Any firm release dates you can throw at us?
I change my mind so much that there’s no point of me saying any release dates. But in terms of OGz releases, we’ve got an EP 100% coming out in July and the first track will be on radio in a few weeks.
What position do you see yourself holding in the ever-growing grime scene? An oracle-type figure comes to mind.
I’m in the middle between the olders and the youngers and I’m approachable to either side. Whether you’re one of the top boys or one of the newcomers, I’m always approachable. I’m definitely one of the realest. I just keep it real, I do what I do, and I’m honest about what I do. Even throughout the dubstep saga, I was still honest. When certain man went pop, they got slated. I never got slated because I kept it one hundred. I turned up to grime raves unbooked—it didn’t matter. I was doing arena tours and still going Cable after to shell it down! So I guess I’m looked at as kind of a middle man. Or the oracle, like you just said.