If you're a seasoned grime fan, there's every chance you've heard of S-X. Even if not, it's most likely you've come into contact with his work at some point. The mastermind behind 2010's "Wooo Riddim"—more commonly known as D Double E's "Bad To Tha Bone"—is discreet, but he's worked with some of the biggest artists both in the UK and overseas. His name doesn't quite ring bells like other producers in grime but at just fifteen years old, S-X found himself producing for the likes of Young Money, which included his work on the rap crew's 2014 hit "We Alright".
His resume also includes T.I. and Childish Gambino, but one of the most engaging things about him is his broad palate for an array of sounds. He was only 17 at the time when D Double E graced his beat, however "Wooo Riddim" never quite sounded like grime as an instrumental. Even then, he had already established a signature style. S-X's career has taken a new turn since he started creating beats for himself to write to; from there, he began singing, and in January he'll be headlining his debut show in his hometown of Wolverhampton. Nowadays, S-X's work isn't too dissimilar to that of A2, dvsn and Majid Jordan, where subdued yet bass-heavy production provides the bed for more expressive writing. His lo-fi, turned down production still has its place in his recent music such as "No Shoes" and "Plans" under the S-X project, which he suggests isn't an album or EP but an embodiment of all his work.
As he enters a new chapter in his musical journey, with the window to the world now wider than Wolverhampton and even the UK, S-X, who still uses Fruity Loops to this day, has an opportunity to make himself a household name in British underground music culture.
How did your journey into music production begin?
The journey really began in Year 7 at school: I would play the drums but then I learned how to make beats on FL Studio, which I still use for everything today.
Was it a difficult process getting yourself established as a producer from Wolverhampton?
It definitely wasn't easy, but with the help from the people around me at the time, we all really had the drive to just do whatever was necessary to unlock the doors. I used to do anything I could to save money for a train ticket to London and wait outside Radio 1/1Xtra for artists and DJs. The grind was real! [Laughs]
Obviously, "Wooo Riddim" is one of your most well known productions—but did you ever imagine it becoming so big?
When I first made it, of course not. But when we all really sat down and thought this could be something. We knew. I say "we", that is myself and Jamie Dred and the rest of the StayFresh team.
Are you able to share details on some of the things you're working on at the moment?
100%! I'm currently working on my own project as an artist. This began at the start of 2017; I dropped a song called "No Shoes", which was more like an instrumental but with mumble singing on. Then I saw the feedback so I started writing and singing on my own beats properly. This was always something I wanted to do, but I didn't feel like the time was right and now I'm mad I didn't do this earlier! I'm also still producing for others so that will not be stopping. I have some cool production stuff coming up as well but I don't wanna speak on it too soon.
What's the project called?
Everything is still S-X. That will never change. It's sad when an artist feels as though they have to change their name because they're doing something new. I don't plan on being an artist forever. I'd like to move on to something else in time. Art is forever but artists aren't. The latest "project" I dropped was House Clothes which came out on September 29. It was a vibey EP based around just relaxing, vibing in the house, and if you listen to it you'll catch the vibe. The next few songs and project I release will be more upbeat.
Judging by the sound of "No Shoes" and "Plans", there's a real lo-fi, bass-heavy style to your music nowadays. Is that what we can expect on the project?
Exactly. That's always been my thing. But I am gonna try different things with that still incorporated, for sure.
How do you see your career developing now you're incorporating a live element?
When I was just a producer, I didn't really see the long-term vision. I wanted to produce for others but I always knew that'd I'd venture into other things, such as the artist project I'm currently doing. I see myself in the future doing a lot of shows, a lot of music, for others as well as myself. Everything I can do that makes sense, I'll do it.
It seems like for a lot of people, the underground scene and its grind has come full circle—has that been the case for you?
I think that's from being visible on the internet, which is still super good because you're directly connected to the people. But there's nothing realer than people remembering you for being there when you're not even from there.
How does the process differ for you now that you're more than just a producer?
I still make beats for people—that'll never stop. And I still use FL Studio. The process is pretty much the same, except for I used to hum melodies whilst making beats, but now I record those melodies and freestyle words in after. Then, somehow, it blends into a song. All of my music is freestyled and improvised. I sometimes make a demo beat, then I'll reproduce the beat around the vocal. I did that with "Show Me Love" and "Plans"; it creates a whole new vibe whilst keeping the old one.
What made you decide to do your first live show next year, in January?
To be honest, I just wanted to end off the first year of my artist career with a showcase. To be able to say I've been doing this for just 12 months, and have like 15/16 songs out and my first show, that's a good year. Next year, I'll do even more! I don't wanna stop. I feel like I have the hunger again, like when I was 17/18, and I just wanna take this as far as it will go.