The rain was dripping from the clouds, the wind was mild, and the collective mood in the West End seemed sombre. Even the crowds on Oxford Street—typically brisk and hurried—seemed to move more slowly today, like a colony of ants dazed under the stifling influence of alcohol. A few streets behind, in a small workplace, on the top floor of an unremarkable office complex that was as grey as the clouds, rap duo Krept and Konan, their manager Docta Cosmic and a few others had gathered for a day of promo for the pair's simultaneous mixtapes 7 Days and 7 Nights.
Inside, the seasonal lull seemed to have taken its toll: Krept sat on a couch burying his nose in tissues, and next to him, Konan frequently rubbing his eyes, tired, perhaps thinking that if this were not release week, he would be in bed snoozing and catching up on rest. The room was quiet, and the collection of people sitting in chairs and leaning on worktops made the whole place seem cramped and small. It was late in the afternoon and there was a feeling of winding down, as if the enthusiasm and energy of the morning had slowly slipped through a crack in the window, leaving the inhabitants sluggish and the office still. All to be heard was the irregular buzz of an iPhone, and the far off, muffled shuffling of feet in the offices below and adjacent.
But despite the illness and fatigue, it all seemed quite fitting, because though their music was typically popular in clubs and raves and summer festivals, it wasn't the only place in which they could be heard. Some of their songs were fit for days like this: long, darkening afternoons when moods were solemn and nostalgia swept the population like hording Dothraki over Westeros. So while, yes, it was true, that through their career, anthems like "Certified" and "Don't Waste My Time" had found a home in arenas with high energy, there were other, more low-key numbers which were heard privately and in headphones; emotive ones like "Roses" and "Letter To Cadet", whereby fans found stories they could channel their pain through, music which would ease the frustration of their situations.
Those songs were now both more than a year old, and Krept and Konan hadn't dropped a full project since their 2015 debut album, The Long Way Home. But now they were back, firing up the engines once more, ready to unveil two new projects having watched on from the sidelines as UK rap enjoyed its most fruitful period in the genre's relatively short history. "I feel like everyone has their time innit," Konan tells me, leaning forward, placing his phone on a low table in front of the couch. "Course you wanna be in the mix, but I feel like everything happens when it's supposed to happen."
COMPLEX: So how important do you think timing is when it comes to music?
Konan: You can rush but things will just hold you back. When it starts flowing, you have to make the most of it. I feel like you've got to capitalise on every moment that you get and take every chance, and make sure that you do as much as you can in that time period.
Krept: I feel like people over exaggerate this timing thing, that 'the timing's got to be right.' If you just put out a good song, bruv, people will like it—it doesn't matter when you do it. Just put out the tune, and if the tune is big, people will like it. I'm not gonna like it now because it's wintertime. If the song's a banger, I'm going to like it regardless. It's your time, like Konan said. When you're ready to drop music, you drop music. But I don't think when you drop music affects anything.
In your Behind Barz freestyle, Konan, you had the classic line where you said, "They say money will never bring you happiness, but I would rather be unhappy inside a Range." As you've acquired more, how do you feel about that now?
Konan: I've actually got a Range and I'm actually happy in it [laughs]. So that was a plot twist. You're asking how do we feel now that we're getting money?
Yeah, does money make you happy?
Konan: Yeah. I'm not going to lie—it does. Not in a materialistic way, but you don't have to worry about stuff. We're in the Western world and money kind of controls everything. Everything is controlled by money. You need to buy food, bro, you have to pay your rent, you need to get water and have a bath—you need to get money! If you ain't got a lot of money, then you have to work for it and then you don't have time to experience stuff because you're so busy going from work to home.
Then you wake up and you get a one little weekend and then you're back at work. You don't even get time to see stuff, so money does help with that. Now we can actually take a day off if we want to. I can go on holiday if I want to; you're entitled to do these kind of things because you've got the money to do it.
Krept: That's why everyone works. Man don't wake up at 9am to work for jokes. We're going for money. People say money ain't that important, but you wake up at 8am every day. There's things that people do that they don't want to do for money. There are man out here doing illegal things that they don't want to do for money, risking their freedom. It's very important. Money makes the whole world go around. So I just think whatever it is you do, do it.
Konan: But make sure you live, though. Get money and make sure you enjoy yourself.
Krept: Enjoy it. Because if there's an option between £100,000 and £75,000 a year, and the £75,000 is doing something I love and £100,000 is doing something I hate, I'll choose the £75,000. I'm not doing something that I don't love.
The only time I can do it is if I'm grinding for something, to better myself afterwards. I was working a job—I was doing it to save—so that when I'm going to do music, I've got money in my pocket. That's what it was. I just think we should focus on trying to do something that you love as well. Don't just think about money because you can be unhappy doing that.
Konan: You've got to find a balance, really. You've got to find a balance between money and what makes you happy, and in most cases, the money funds the thing that actually makes you happy. If you like Horse Riding, money will fund that. So yeah, man, I'm happy inside the Range.
I remember on your NFTR interview, you spoke about flying on a private jet for the first time, and how that opened your eyes to the "other side of life." Have you seen any more of that side since?
Konan: Yeah, when we were in Abu Dhabi. We were literally going from yacht to yacht. You will meet people... Like, we were on a yacht and the guy was like, "I'm from Croydon too. It's good to see you lot doing your thing." But he owned like 30 yachts! Billionaires and that, and they know you and they're from the ends as well.
Krept: He was like: "My family owns Rubicon."
Konan: You meet these types of people, Princes who are like: "Yeah, I know you! Come to my private island—take my number!" It's so surreal. You're seeing a different side to life.
How old are you both now?
As you've moved into the next stage of life, so to speak, have your motivations and ambitions shifted?
Krept: Priorities have changed. The things that you thought were important you realise ain't really important.
Konan: You get older and the things your young mind would've cared about, you don't really care about no more. You realise it's a joke, and that it's not really that deep. You kinda see the growth in yourself. You might want to do more grown things, you might think that suit jacket looks alright. Shoes now, whereas before it was just trainer, trainer, trainer. Aspirations change, you get me. Everything changes.
Krept: You start thinking about…[laughs] insurance and that. Health insurance.
Konan: I swear: before I go sleep, I'm like, "Do I really want to eat these sweets?" I just be drinking water before I sleep—no sugars [laughs]. You start thinking about, "When's man gonna get married?" Secretly, in your head, you do. You start having discussion with your friends about it.
Are you enjoying this new period, though?
Konan: Nah, man. I loved when I didn't have to pay bills. I wish I was this big when I was a yout—it would've been lit! [Laughs] There's aspects of it that you like. We're this age and we don't have to worry about things that people have to worry about—we're free to do what we want. We can take a holiday when we want. We kind of work for ourselves, so we're in a good position. There's nothing to really worry about, like that—apart from getting more successful, and that's a good worry.
Do you feel like you're still getting better?
Krept: Man's getting better musically, lyrically, more intelligent. You learn your craft more. Konan can record himself, mix his vocals and that. So if you can start doing that stuff yourself, you're only going to get better. You can do things the way you want to. You meet more people who can add to your ting: more producers who can add to your albums, more songwriters... You just get better with time, man.
Konan: It's about learning as well. As an artist, you've got to be a student, always be willing to learn. If you feel like you've smashed it now, then I feel like that's when things go wrong. Kanye's always trying to do something different, and I feel like Drake is always trying to find a new lingo or a new vibe. Everyone's always reaching for something different. The same with Hov: different ventures, always trying to reach for something new. That's where you go right, and where others go wrong, because they feel like they've done it now. They get a big record and they think they don't have to switch it up anymore.
How important is it to stay grounded then?
Krept: Very important. If you don't stay grounded, you lose yourself and you get lost in the sauce. If you're not grounded, it gets to your head: girls, the money, the cars. If you start focusing on that, you forget why you're even here. And then what happens to you? You're just gonna get lost in it.
Konan: Just another victim of the system. I feel like being hungry is a part of being grounded as well. If you're hungry, you're always going to be grounded—you're not gonna get complacent. This is not it for me. There's always higher to reach; as you can see, Jay Z's still reaching higher even now. He's cleared all of us! From 20 years ago, he's been doing this thing. I watch people's journeys, documentaries, any bits of knowledge and information that I can soak up.
I feel like people get lost because they lack knowledge. You kind of make your own assumptions about how it is, and you get lost in your own world and you don't see different people's perspectives and perceptions. I think that goes hand-in- hand with being grounded: you've got to know what's going around you.
Where does that hunger come from?
Konan: I don't feel like we've fully buss yet. I know a lot of people think we have. We've opened a lot of doors, we've done a lot of things, we've bridged gaps, we've been around the world, done big shows, small shows—but I still feel like we ain't buss yet. I don't feel like I'm a superstar. I don't feel like we’ve got there yet. I feel like we're still battling.
We've got big songs, we've got plaques, we've charted—but I still feel like there's so much to do, so much ground to cover. I feel like that's what keeps us hungry. There's always more so how can I ever just get complacent? If Jay Z is still going, Diddy is still going, Rihanna's still going, Beyonce's still going—Mariah Carey's still doing shows—and they're probably in the hundreds of mills, and they're still going—even Oprah's still going—who am I to stop and not be hungry?
What do you think the most recent lesson you've learnt is?
Krept: Do it yourself!
Konan: No one's going to be hungry as you, so it's about the team you keep around you.
Krept: Yes! Oh my god.
Konan: The team around is very, very important in your success. You could be the sickest or the most efficient or the most talented, but if your team members are not on the same page, then you're not going to really get to where you're meant to. We've gone through a lot recently, with different things going on, so a focused team is very important.
Krept: You've got to have a team who sees the same vision as you. If everyone's intentions are pure, if everyone just does what they're meant to do, and do it to the best of their abilities, then you'll have a sick team. You can't have someone in your team who has other interests. If everyone wants to build the one thing, and make it as sick as you possibly can, then you can't go wrong.
There's people that specialise in certain things—let them do that, and if they're sick in it and they believe in you, your whole thing will start growing. You've got someone doing your clothes, you've got someone doing your day-to-day, you've got some sick production manager doing your live shows, you've got some sick producers, you've got an engineer that's there, and once you get all of that…
Konan: You'll win!
What would you say that you're enjoying about life at the moment?
Konan: Just building, man. I feel like going to the next level is very exciting because we've done a lot of ground work here, and it's like: "What does the future hold?" We're not trying to do the same run we did last time. It's exciting to see what's going to be next.
Krept: That's what excites me: not knowing what the hell is gonna happen. I couldn't tell you what's going to happen next week. I couldn't tell you what's going to happen on Friday! That's the excitement.
Earlier on in your career, there was a large focus on bars. Though that's still the case on the 7 Days and 7 Nights mxtapes, there seems to be more 'songs'.
Krept: We've always made songs, even from Tsunami days. I want to make a song where I can go perform and everyone's singing it back to me. I want a song where everyone goes crazy—I want a song where they're singing every single word. I love writing bars, and I love when people say "I only just clocked this two years later." I still thrive off that. You'll still hear that on this new project. Our whole thing is, we're just thinking about making big tunes that live forever.
Konan: Our songs seem to always last. That's the key to it. We were in Abu Dhabi last year for the Grand Prix and they played "Don't Waste My Time" and everyone was moving like it just came out. You want a song that feels timeless. You always want to have that, so I feel like that's what we've been working on from back in the day.
You can do a hundred thousand bars, but a song is forever. We all play "Thriller" till now. People play Celine Dion's Titanic song all now. You just want a song that's forever. There's certain Jamaican songs that you still play now. You wanna be able to live through your music, even when you pass.