With the eyes of the world increasingly more focused on the UK rap and grime scenes, one artist who has fast become one of the leaders of the new school of talent is London musician, Not3s. His catchy hooks and infectious melodies have quickly seen him gain notoriety—even crossing over into mainstream territories—thanks to the combination of Afroswing, hip-hop and even grime within his sound. Having been nominated for two MOBO awards (Best Newcomer, Best Song), made the prestigious BBC Sound Of 2018 longlist, performed in front of 18,000 people and embarked on his own headline tour, you'd be forgiven for thinking Not3s was a long-established act. However, these feats have all been achieved within the space of twelve months, marking 2017 as an incredible debut year for him.
As his star continues to rise, Not3s recently released his debut EP, Take Not3s, which includes the well-known singles "Aladdin", "Addison Lee", "Notice", and "My Lover"—his recent Top 40 hit. In the midst of everything going on, Complex managed to pin him down to talk about his journey from the very beginning, from the first song he remembers singing, to comparisons with other artists, tour life, and everything else in between.
What's your earliest musical memory?
My first musical memory is a story my mum told me about how when I was younger, like about 2 or 3 years old, I'd sing DMX's "Up In Here"—word for word—before I could even speak properly. All the swear words—everything! But she never got angry at me; she was just shocked and, since then, it's just been music, music, music.
Who would you say are you main influences?
I'd say the people around me: all my friends, my family, my mum, my dad. Just literally the people around me.
"Addison Lee" was your breakout single. Did you know it was a hit when you first released it?
No! I literally just put it out and hoped for the best. It was never a thing where I knew it was gonna make it to the charts or I knew this and knew that. It was literally just "boom!"
Saying that, I know you was making music before that tune dropped so what do you think it was about that song in particular that made it what it was?
I think it's something that everyone can relate to. Like, everyone sees Addison Lee cabs about in London. They might not use them, but they seem them around. So that was something fresh and new that everyone could talk about, plus the melody itself and how catchy it is. Like, it's proper English that I'm speaking but it's that whole Afropop thing that's been included.
Did you feel pressure when it came to following up on "Addison Lee" seeing as the video has hit nearly ten million views?
I didn't because all the other songs, like "Notice" and "Aladdin", were made around the same time. I don't feel pressure when it comes to music. Music is music. If you feel it, you feel it—and if you don't, then you don't. Feeling pressure could lead me to not make music how I like to make music, if that makes sense? So I don't feed into that.
Well, that approach clearly worked because you had underground hits in "Aladdin", "Notice" and "Celebration" all before your headline tour. What was that experience like?
The tour was phenomenal! It was a different kind of feeling. It really opened my eyes and showed me how big this music thing actually is, in terms of the fact that people are buying tickets and travelling—whether that's across the UK or across the world, just because you have a show. And then they're going to sing your songs in your accent even though they're not from here. It's crazy! You deep how mad this whole thing is and it's just crazy—that's literally all I can say. And then the London date was just a great way to confirm that I'm on the right track. It was a great achievement.
How did you approach making songs for the Take Not3s EP, and did you make more songs than the nine that are actually on there?
It just came naturally. I would make the songs, and then I'd store them. I've still got songs stored now. There's bare songs just sitting there and then, from there, it was a case of picking ones that delivered a story, or whatever ones that would help you to take me in—that's what I wanted to push across. I wanted it to be deeper than just a riddim. I wanted each song to be a record, like an actual record, and I think I did that. I hope I did that. I wanted people to know that it wasn't a fluke. I'm not a one-hit wonder—nothing like that.
You've said one of the first artists you listened to was DMX and we know from things like your Blackbox freestyle that you have bars, but you blew up off of your catchy hooks. What can people who haven't yet listened to the EP expect to hear from it?
Just pure vibes. When they listen to the EP, they'll know that it's literally just pure vibes. It's a vibe that they need to take in. People have come with it, but not in the way that I've approached it. I want them to know that it's very different to what other people are doing, but it's strong—regardless.
You're signed to Tinie Tempah's publishing company, right? How did that situation come about?
That came about through my management because they have a good rapport with him and his team. He's been supporting me from early anyway; back when I was just releasing stuff on SoundCloud, he would play it in his snaps and stuff like that so it wasn't as if he saw "Addison Lee" and just jumped on the wave. But even if that was the case, it's how life is: you have to prove yourself to people before they feel like you're worthy of them taking a chance on you. And then, from there, I have this tune on the EP—me, him and Shakka—which is a strong tune. You see Shakka? He's a beast! A different kettle of fish. He produced it, and it was just me and him in a session at his yard. We made the tune and played it for Tinie and he liked it, and I felt it needed something else and Tinie was the one—he just flexed on it. I personally feel like he went in.
Putting the EP to one side, what felt better: winning a Rated Award, getting nominated for the MOBOs, going on your own sold-out tour or performing in front of 18,000 people in Manchester for 1Xtra?
It has to be out of the tour or performing in Manchester because I just love performing. One thing I love to do is perform. I love when people celebrate the fact that an artist gets up on stage to perform to every single one of them. The tour and the Manchester show was just pure vibes. Everyone was flexing, showing love to the music—and that really means a lot. You have to completely shell it and show them energy and love. The Manchester performance was unbelievable and it was the biggest performance I've done in my career so far.
Having just listed some of your many achievements this year, you've also recently added a Top 40 single to the list. That must be a nice early Christmas present for you.
Yeah, man. Proper! All of this is so sick. It's so different.
Some people have compared your music to other artists such as J Hus. What would you say to those people?
You see stuff like that? I don't pay it any mind because I know what my music is doing and I know what his music is doing, and we're just on different things musically. Big up Hus every single time, though. He's done some crazy things this year. The only reason they're comparing us is because when someone comes through and does something that's different in the scene and they blow up before anybody else does, then whoever comes after that they're going to say they're copying because they don't understand the music they're making. And then it just becomes a trend to say that they're copying. But I don't listen to it because, at the end of the day, I know wha gwan, he knows wha gwan, everyone knows wha gwan—so yeah.
Having achieved all this success so early on in your career, what goals and ambitions have you set yourself for the future?
I'm just trying to get bigger and better. I know me and my team are capable—I know me and my family are capable—and that's what needs to happen, by God's grace. That's literally it. I'm just striving for better, striving for more than what I've achieved, and I want it to always be like this year: with so much happening for me.