Little Torment, 23, is an old soul, and when he spits street rhymes, he does so with an authenticity that the hood can't seem to get enough of. Having come from the bottom and gone through, some might say, almost too many trials and tribulations, this South London rapper has been able to flip those trying times and put it all into the music.
2013's Behind Closed Doors—Torment's debut project—is today considered a road rap classic among fans; this was his first proper introduction to the scene, setting set the streets on fire, with the likes of Blade Brown even featuring on the mixtape. Having done jail time and had some industry beef (he once went at it with Stormzy), Little Torment has bounced back with a newfound drive. And now that he's a father to a newborn son, he sees the world through a much more clearer, more positive lens.
Complex gets to know the man behind the pain-fuelled bars.
Which part of London are you from, and how would you say it's shaped you as a man?
South London. Might as well just say South London; no point in segregating it. South London didn't really shape me as such, because you can still be from South London and have a good life. It was more my surroundings that shaped me. Being from a lower-class family and the fact that my mum didn't have that much money, it swayed me to the street life. It's not even necessarily a violent thing in the streets—most people's motivation in the street is to get money.
Okay, so without incriminating yourself, what sort of things were you doing in the streets?
Everything I shouldn't be doing! [Laughs] Just up to no good. Nothing I'd speak of proudly now; it's stuff I'd sway the youngers from. I've done dumb shit like rob people, but that's why I think the youngers can feel me, because I've done stupid things when I was younger, but I've also been able to change my ways for the better with time. Most of us growing up are motivated to get money: to look after our mums, treat our girls, and look nice. So, not having that can drive you to do anything.
From these experiences, what led you towards music?
I didn't even realise at first, but from young, I've been writing about my street experiences and now I realise it was just me venting. So that led me towards making music—it was like therapy for me. My mum used to find my lyric book and be shocked at the raw stuff I was talking about: I was talking about knifes, I was talking about guns—a lot of real stuff. But this was my life growing up.
For the people who don't get it and feel you're promoting a certain lifestyle to the youngers, what would you say to them?
Anybody that says that hasn't listened to my music. I don't believe I encourage anything, because I'm just speaking about my personal life. Music is personal; it's just me expressing my personal experiences. When I talk about a situation, I give the story behind it, such as me wanting to shoot someone because they stabbed me in my back. So it's not me trying to promote the lifestyle. My aim is to explain why we act like this. But I do get where people are coming from when they say this; so with my new stuff, I'm gonna make more of an effort to make more conscious material. The last thing I want is more black youths killing each other. Every time a black youth dies, I feel like it's a piece of me because we're all one.
What inspired you to create your debut mixtape, Behind Closed Doors?
You know what? I wasn't even creating a project. Everyone knew I could rap, so we found a studio and luckily the guy gave us good rates to record there; we could even smoke up in there. So knowing that this situation wasn't gonna last forever, I was killing those sessions, just putting in the work and banging out songs. Before I knew it, I had a project done. It was done so quickly that it was like a time capsule of my life at that time. That's why I called it Behind Closed Doors: I was telling people to come and see how we really live. I listen back to it now, and it's mad, because it's like I was talking to my future self. I was saying so much stuff, that I understand it better now. It's like a diary. And I got mad love from the scene. When nobody really knows you, everybody loves you in your moment. But then I felt the love died down when they saw my street side. When they saw that side of me, I definitely felt that doors started to close.
You really felt that way?
Yeah, man. I was just being honest; maybe too honest. I was just living my life and this started to affect my music. I went to jail for a firearm, and I think that put a cloud over the Little Torment name.
"Over That", featuring Blade Brown, was a standout on the project. How did you hook up with him to create that track?
I made the track in the studio and just felt like Blade Brown would fit on it, so I hollered at him—he knows a few of the older guys from my block. When I hit him up to do the song, he was on it. He came through to the studio and he didn't write down one lyric! My man freestyled the whole thing; no phone, no nothing. That showed me levels, and that's why I like Blade Brown: he showed me how to be serious about my brand.