Novelist has spent the last two years cementing his standing in grime as more than just an up-and-coming MC. From getting signed to XL Recordings, to him recently featuring on "Lyrics"—one of the standouts on Skepta's Konnichiwa LP—his presence and importance in the scene is in constant ascension. Speaking to him at 1pm on a Friday, Nov is busy walking round Lewisham, happily stopping to talk to everyone he meets (and he seems to know everyone!). He is instantly personable and eager to go directly into talking about the political plight the UK finds itself in at the minute. Politics, for Novelist, isn't something that's distant or separate to him; it's something he felt he's always needed to be a part of and engage with on a personal level, first exhibited in his Manifesto video for Lewisham Young Mayor back in 2012.
Novelist's ongoing political sentiment—publicly joining Labour, backing Corbyn, and getting ravers to chant "Fuck David Cameron" live at shows—highlights his desire for people to stand up and confront the UK's disjointed political system. Here, he opens up to Complex on the need for people to carry on keeping their minds, eyes and ears open through engagement with politics, music and culture and striving for greatness in a political epoch that will become synonymous with disorder, disarray and disregarding towards the interests of today's young people.
Interview by Jacob Davey
You've noticeably been politically active on Twitter for a while now, but more so now than ever.
Nowadays, I'm just gonna say what I'm thinking rather than think I'm gonna get blacklisted for what I say. When I first started music, it was for the people anyway fam. So I wanna talk about what's going on in the country as a whole.
Why did you decide to join Labour?
Well, Labour have always been for the people. And when I say "the people", I mean the people as a whole; whether you're rich, whether you're poor—it's about having morals and standards. The Tories and Lib Dems, they're not concerned about someone who comes from the position I'm coming from. They don't get my scenario because I'm not from somewhere of opulence. They're from the mindset of 'make your own money', but it's not as simple as that. Whereas Labour are more understanding of all scenarios.
Why are you backing Jeremy Corbyn? Do you think he was vocal enough about wanting us to remain in the EU?
To be honest—yeah. Why I'm backing Corbyn is nothing to do with this current situation. He's someone who, if I saw on the road right now, I could have a chat with him. There's other people in my scenario who feel the same way too. If you went up to him and told him your problems, I feel like he'll understand you and where you're coming from. I feel like he's the uncle of the country you know [laughs]. And you see people like David Cameron? I feel there's a separation between him and the people, and everything is so corporate with him.
Do you think his replacement could be even worse?
Yep! It's fucked.
Do you think people need to get out there and protest against the government, the referendum result?
I do, but I also feel like it's London vs the UK right now. I'm not saying not to protest, because I'd be down, I'd be there, but if we're going to do that shit here we're gonna cause harm for ourselves because the rest of the country doesn't seem to care anyway.
Was the EU Leave campaign a fear campaign?
The way it was publicised to the people, it was definitely a fear campaign. Even with immigration and all that shit, it's not about to change anyway. So, they're saying "these people are gonna take our jobs" and all that bullshit... Tell me how leaving the EU is gonna make that different? It's not gonna make anything different, other than the price of everything go up!
In 2016, grime artists have a platform bigger than they've ever had before. Do you think more MCs should be more political?
Everyone should! Whether you're grime, football, whatever—state your opinion. Everyone is allowed to have an opinion. People will say that you're jumping on the bandwagon when it comes to politics. But with politics, there is no bandwagon! We're all living it. Maybe some of us have woken up later than others, but still. I've always been politically aware. Someone was saying to me on Twitter the other day "you've watched one Akala interview and now you think you're politically active!" I will duppy you now, fam! I do know what's going on. And Akala makes a fair point—but do you think one musician alone should be doing that? No.
In the coming years, do you think grime can have as much impact as punk did 40 years ago as an anarchist genre?
To a certain extent. If you're from the hood, you've already got that 'fuck you' attitude. So I think grime can definitely do that.
How can more people can get involved with politics?
Talk more. Don't stop talking! Nothing's gonna change unless you make it change. I'll give you an example: at school, there's always that one dickhead knocking about, and there's always one younger that knocks them out. So, stand up for yourself. Don't be afraid to, and don't be afraid to change things. Don't think nothing's gonna change just because you've had it drilled into you that it might not.
Have you always been into politics?
In my head, it's never been politics. I've always looked it as something that I've always been aware of and a part of. How are you supposed to defend yourself if you don't know what's happening? It's not something that's taught in the education system in the UK. Trying to get people to engage is key! It's difficult, and I wish more people were on this way of thinking.
Will Tugg Set be releasing any politically-charged content?
Yeah, man. The Tugg Set mandem are some real G's and the music isn't glamourising guns and all that fuckery. It's just real, with a whole new sound that's a bit more dark. The world's a dark place right now, so it's reflective of that.
The times we're living in inspires the best music, the best satire.
Bruv! I can't believe we're living in this era. The pound's dropped lower than Thatcher's days.
Did you see it went up again after Boris Johnson announce he wasn't running for PM?
[Laughs] That's hilarious... Yo! Hold on a sec...
[Novelist stops to talk to the third or fourth person he's seen whilst walking about during the interview].
Everyone seems to know you!
[Laughs] Yeah, man. Since young, I've always tried to be a man of the manor—someone who is respectful and someone who people respect.
So, when's Tugg Set Vol. 1 coming out?
That's something I don't really talk about. You see when Skepta talks about #GREATNESS? He's someone who really knows, and gets, what greatness is. I don't put time on greatness. See when Dizzee dropped Boy In Da Corner? When did that come out? We know it was like '03 or summit, but we don't know the exact date and people are still talking about that album today. I never really worry, because if it's great, it's gonna be great forever. But we've got tunes in the works—just know that.
Random one, but what do you think of Skepta's new song "Coming Soon"? I feel like the hate on that track is unjustified.
Mate, that tune is sick! I've been saying to him for time how much I rate it. I just feel like there's a lot of wankers and no real, actual fans of how the music sounds. They're more about the whole image or the style. Whereas if they were about the music and sound, they'd automatically rate it. A lot of the hate is just ignorance.