Trim is a grime outsider, and has been so since 2002. From day one of picking up the mic, Trim, born Javan St. Prix in Tower Hamlets, East London, always knew he had more to offer the scene than snappy one-liners and a catchy flow. The MC began rolling with the seminal, now-defunct Roll Deep crew in 2003 (before going solo three years later), and even then he felt like "the odd one out." Be it the experimental beats he laces, the complex rhymes he spits—or the poetic-like flow he delivers them in—Trim has always challenged the notion of what it means to be grime, with his non-conformist stance winning him a legion of fans.
Javan's fans will know his Soulfood mixtape series well; across four strong volumes, he dabbled with obscure sonic pallets while sending for your favourite emcees—and if you listen back to any of them today, they sound just as fresh as they did back then. With over ten mixtapes in the bank and no major gap between any of them, St. Prix has been one of the most consistent in grime, and it's only when you look back on his discography that you see what he's actually invested into the scene; a scene which, today, he finds himself drifting away from. Trim is currently on a path of musical exploration, working closely with producers influenced more by techno, happy hardcore and dubstep than they have ever been by grime—and you'd only have to look at his recent collabs with James Blake to really see that. Blake and his label/production outfit, 1-800 Dinosaur, have been at the crux of Trim's recent sonic shift, and together they've just released a new project featuring a batch of electronic beatsmiths.
Complex chopped it up with Trim-Trim-Cheroo to find out more.
How did the connection between you and James Blake come about?
I released Soulfood Vol. 2 in 2007 with a tune called "Confidence Boost" on it. James heard that tune and remixed it, and after he done that, I had a lot of good feedback. A lot of people were like: "Do you know who this guy is? Do you know what's just happened?" and I was like, "No, not really to be honest." I looked into it him and I think it was "Wilhelm Scream" I listened to with a few other tracks and thought, "Yeah... James is sick." Then he contacted me one day and wanted to meet up to do a video shoot for the Harmonimix tune so we spent some time at the shoot and he was a really cool guy—he's really down to earth. He knows a lot about music; you'll be surprised how educated he is on it. And I kind of see that we're similar people: we both spend a lot of time torturing ourselves to write music, and we both just love music. So yeah, after that, he offered me to come to a few shows and I think it was Bestival where he came up with the idea that we should do an EP together. We just started building from there, really.
For this latest project, did you personally choose the producers to work with or was it a collaboration between you and James on who to hit up?
I was under the impression that it was just gonna be 1-800 but [James' manager] Dan started to throw out other things and he got Bullion involved and Boothroyd and another person... I feel bad that I can't remember [laughs], but they're basically friends of 1-800 anyway and Dan put it all together. It was meant to be strictly 1-800 but, obviously, you can't stop greatness. He had an ear for them and he was playing them too me and I was like, "Yeah, they're sick." [Long pause] Happa! That was the other person.
I want to be my own genre.
Production on the set leans more towards leftfield electronica than it does straight-up grime. I've always looked at you as this sort of "avant-grime" act because of your beat selection; it's so different from the average emcee.
Obviously, I started off in grime so I have a bit of loyalty for it—and I do it from time to time—but I'm just on doing all kinds of music. If there's a jazz beat that I want to lace, then I'll lace it. I've felt that grime, for years, stopped me from actually being better than I am, because it limits you to what you can say and how quick you have to say it. I feel that grime limits people from being the best that they can be. There's other genres that will test you and make you work a lot harder, make you say things a lot more complicated than you would be saying if it was grime. I've been playing with words in grime for a while and it gets a bit dull; it's like eating the same food over and over again. You want a change, and I've always been searching for that change and James and 1-800, they've got their own world that I was dying to delve in because I just love making different shit. I want to make music that lasts, and I find that grime has a very limited attention span—it's in one ear and out the other, sometimes. Don't get me wrong: there's been some real good classics that have come out of late and some that came out before my time but, in between that, there was no feeling or emotion involved in grime. It was all just hype and then done.
You've always seemed separate from the inner circle, and yet you're still considered a grime legend amongst fans. How does that even work?
That's also because of the artists as well—I wasn't accepted. When social networking came around, I was arguing and clashing with a lot of people and I pushed myself into a bit of a corner. I think this grime scene is only dependent on a few emcees and if they don't mention you to the rest of the world, then you're basically not a grime emcee. There's a lot of new fans and a lot of new people involved in it so you have to find your own avenue; and I believe my avenue is just searching for different music to challenge me.
Do you still consider yourself a grime MC?
No, I try to call myself an artist now. I want to be my own genre in the same way Kendrick [Lamar] is his own genre, or Rolling Stones are their own genre. I just want to be my own genre.
You're always future-thinking when it comes to your projects. Even looking back on the Soulfood mixtapes, all of them were lyrically and sonically way ahead of their time.
I've always tried to be. I've always tried to be different—it's part of my job and something that I thrive on. I don't want to be anything like anybody else and the best way to do that is by challenging yourself to do completely weird and different things. Remaining relevant, that's the hardest part; you can do all the music in the world, but staying relevant and still having your stamp on things is really hard to do. That's been the challenge for me all the way throughout my career, and it's something that I thrive on.
Where do you think the scene's headed to and where do you see yourself within that arena?
I don't see myself in the grime arena. I'm writing films and comics now, I want to act, and I just feel like the grime scene's too small for that. I don't even wanna be part of it sometimes because of the people in it. What we push and say is our best really isn't our best. If you believe Skepta's the best in this scene—cool. If you really wanna push that—cool. I'm not disputing that what he's done isn't incredible, because it is. I've seen him from beginning to end and anybody who makes any kind of money from this thing, you're a legend in yourself. With me, I think in this game we don't promote what's good and we just promote what everyone else is saying is good. If you're standing in front of Jay Z and your name's Skepta or Jme or whoever, no disrespect to them but I don't know what their best lyric to say to Jay Z would be. If Eminem said to you, "Come! Let's go back to back"—what would you say? "I'm big like Ben"? "I'm still alive like Tupac"? They're gonna look at you, like: "Yeah, bro. Safe for the time but..." Some of them might not, but we've been known to generate gimmicks. Some people get likes because they're laughing all the time and they're overweight, or you'll get credits because you've been stabbed and had to go to hospital and you're a good emcee. So a lot of the people that have been our biggest hits have really been gimmicks, in my head. And puppets! A lot of them are puppets.
You can do all the music in the world, but staying relevant and still having your stamp on things is really hard to do.
Do you think the lyricism in grime could perhaps be stronger?
Let's just say, it's a lot shitter these days. When I tell people I believe that Eminem's the best, a lot of them can't see why. They love Jay Z, they love Nas and whoever it is, but a lyricist's job description is to put as many images in your head as possible. I want to create a film every time you listen to my music, but our genre's not about that. Everybody's trying to tell you've they've got this, they've got beef, they've got guns—but we don't live in New York! Some of the feds don't have guns, but you're telling me all of these MCs have? Get out of here! It's really sad though, man, because a lot of these acts actually think they're from the hood and that they're really out there gang-banging. I do believe that there are some sick MCs in this game—I rate people like Wretch, etc—but I just think they've all dumbed it down and maybe even I've had to as well. Even with this 1-800 project—it's nothing to do with my album, Crisis—but I feel like I've had to dumb it down just a little so that I'm considered on a wider scale.
So, with Crisis, what kind of vibe are you going with on that? Have you started production yet?
I have, and it's gonna be just like Soulfood Vol. 1: non-stop slewing! There's probably gonna be a lot of backlash when that comes out so get ready [laughs].
Nico Lindsay, you've released a few tracks with him and I like the vibe you both have together on wax. He kind of reminds me of a younger Trim. How did that relationship come to fruition?
He's actually my younger cousin! His mum is my aunt. His sister's dad was my uncle; he passed away a few years back. I watched Nico grow up from young, so some of the traits that he might have might just be genetic [laughs]. But I don't wanna take no credit for his character. He's actually—and he's not gonna realise it himself, and I haven't told him either—but I had a point where I didn't want to do music anymore. But between him and 1-800, they made me realise that we're actually sick at this. Nico's got a very good energy—he doesn't let nothing phase him and he doesn't care about none of the politics. He thought he would have been tarnished with the same brush as me, and he has been a little bit, because not a lot of people wanna work with him and not a lot of people even wanna acknowledge him or respect what he's doing. He's sick though, man. Him and Capo [Lee], the way they go about it as well, they just keep they're eyes closed and keep spraying. I'm proud of him because he's done things for his little age that I didn't; even though I was good, I was nowhere as good as him at his age.
Other than Crisis, is there anything else that you're working on that people can look out for soon?
Crisis will be coming out hopefully by the end of this year, beginning of next. I've got an EP almost together with Rage from Slew Dem, which is just us two going back-to-back. I'm also working with a guy called Tempz from Bow—he used to be in Lil Rascals, and I really like what he's doing. Rage is family, though. Me and him grew up together, so the connection's deep. If he didn't move areas, he would've probably been in either Roll Deep or N.A.S.T.Y Crew—that's how close he was. He moved to Leyton and ended up starting a bit later than normal because he wasn't really around us, but yeah, Rage is family. Also, I want to say thanks to you guys for the interview and support... I remember you were a young buck when you came in this thing and now you're a big old man [laughs].
[Laughs] Yep! Grey hairs and all.