South London rap boss Blade Brown's series, Bags & Boxes, is one of the most highly revered collection of tapes in UK rap history.
Besides being enormously influential (ask literally any London rapper working right now and they'll cite at least one of the tapes as an inspiration), the now four volumes have seen the king of UK trap-rap grow in both ability and ambition, and there aren't really any weak links. The newest, fourth edition is Blade Brown at his best. His sound is more refined, he's taking risks and, most importantly, they're paying off. "6am", for example, puts him together with Tiggs Da Author whose rich, melodious contributions are put to perfect use against Blade's low-slung flow and the booming rap production.
More than anything, though, Mr. Brown sounds as if he's having more fun than ever. His bars are lively, his beats highly polished and well selected. It's also exciting to hear the rap legend bounce off newer talents like K-Trap, Fredo and Knucks; showing them how veterans do it and using their youthful energy to push himself forward.
Complex caught up with Blade Brown to dissect the latest tome of Bags & Boxes—and the passion and excitement he has for every track is palpable. If after four editions he's still approaching the series with this much energy and enthusiasm, maybe it's time to revisit the equally iconic Financial Times series?
"The 'Intro' is the first song that we released off the project; that's just me by myself. I'm known for my intros so I've always kind of gotta try and top the last one. I was in the studio with one of my main producers, Carns Hill. He was literally making the beat while I was writing it; it was one of those moments that I wish I filmed because we literally just did it on the spot. It's one of my favourite songs on the album."
"Break Bread 2"
"I've got a song called 'Break Bread' on one of my older mixtapes, Bags & Boxes 2, and it's a lot of people's favourite song. It's just talking about making sure you and your people are making money and eating well, living well. The first one came out in 2012 and life's changed a little bit since then. So I thought I'd give them a 2019 version of 'Break Bread', and it's the same producer: Carns Hill."
"Harrods" f/ Knucks
"'Harrods' is a song with a talented young guy called Knucks who also produced the beat. He's from North London and he's still a bit slept-on, but yeah: Harrods, that's where we shop, that's the lifestyle. It's a big part of our culture—going to Harrods and spending that bread and getting the drip! That's where we get the drip from so, obviously, I had to make a song about that kind of thing. The song's quite self-explanatory, and it's also one of my favourites."
"Joints" f/ K-Trap
"This one features, and I'm not even being biased because he's a friend of mine, but one of my favourite artists: K-Trap. He just released his project [No Magic] as well, so I thought it was only right to get him on Bags & Boxes 4. He's never been on any of my mixtapes before either. But yeah, the beat was produced by Splurgeboys and when we first heard it, we weren't really sure if it was our kind of beat—if we could handle the speed and the tempo of the beat—because it's a bit different; it's kinda fast, but I think we made it work. We just shot the video for it as well! This is definitely one for the clubs."
"Loading Up" f/ S Loud
"'Loading Up' features another guy who I think definitely gets slept on: S Loud. He's on the chorus. It's another beat produced by Carns Hill with another legendary producer called Boom Blast. We were in a studio that I used to own and we had an all-night session, just making beats, going through ideas and then out of nowhere they came up with this one. S Loud just happened to be in the studio at the same time and he laid the hook on the same night, and I went back and did the verses. 'Loading Up' is definitely one to drive to, one to play in the whip."
"No Lie" f/ Fredo
"'No Lie'! That features my guy, Fredo. I've watched him from the start to where he is now, and his career's just gone crazy! We put out a song and video before and it went crazy—I got quite a lot of requests for me and him to collab again so I thought it was only right for that to happen on Bags & Boxes 4. The beat was produced by Swifta [Beater], and he's another producer I've been working with for years. He's made a lot of hits and a lot of songs that everybody knows."
"'Littest Niggas' in the city! Yeah, that one, there's a story behind it. I made a song with Young Dolph recently ["Ain't Like That"] and this song was actually meant to be with Yound Dolph and we changed up the beat and whatnot, but I still really liked this song so I wanted to keep it for the project and I just added the second verse. It's produced by Soundboy and I guess it's another self-explanatory one. Like, we're the littest niggas in the city! That's all it is."
"6am" f/ Tiggs Da Author
"Tiggs is one of my favourite people to work with because he just sends me ideas and beats with hooks already on; he'll send you a ready-made hit, and all you have to do is fill in the verses. That's why I like working with Tiggs. He's very talented, man. "6am" is one of my favourite songs as well... I keep saying that about every song [laughs]. It's definitely one of my favourites, though, produced by Show N Prove who also made '12 Summers'. It's a banger."
"As I said earlier, this one's produced by Show N Prove. I was quiet for a long time and I dropped '12 Summers' last summer and we filmed a crazy video out in LA. When I dropped that, it just reminded everybody that I'm still here, I'm still alive, and I can still rap. So that kind of put me back into the conversation again where everyone starts talking about what each artist is doing what in the UK. So it was a big song for me. It goes off in the clubs, and at my shows as well. We're on 13 summers now, though."
"Progression" f/ LD
"'Progression' was produced by my guy in ATL called Trebo. He sent me a few beat packs and I was going through them, and I think I wrote that on the spot as soon as I heard it. The beat is crazy! It features LD; he literally just came out of jail before his verse was written. I was like, 'We've got a deadline! We need you on the tape!' But we got it wrapped up quickly."
"6 Figures" f/ Asco
"'6 Figures' is a song that I've had for a couple of years now; I made it in one studio that I used to own. Asco came down and we made it all in one night. I've been taking so long to finish my mixtape and Asco's asked me for it twice! He tried to steal the song from me twice! [Laughs] But I was like, 'Nah, I need this one bro.' Unfortunately, my guy just got locked so, free Asco, man. People that are fans of his, luckily for them they get something new to hear from him. This is gonna bang in the streets—it's gonna bang in the cars."
"'The Pattern' was produced, again, by my guy Trebo from Atlanta. It's just about my relationship with people I do business with. It's a very interesting take on how to look at things. You'll understand when you hear it."
"Triple Threat" f/ Mental K, Youngs Teflon
"Tef is someone I've been working with for many years and people always say they want to hear us a lot more on songs together. We like to do the back-to-back rapping style, so that was what we were going for on this one. My guy, Mental K, was in the studio as well and we were just like, 'Let's put on a beat.' We started going line for line—there's no hook, nothing; we're basically just going in for the whole song. The rap fans will like this one. We're showing a bit of wordplay, technique and skill on 'Triple Threat'."
"Block's Hot" f/ Giggs
"A lot of people know, and a lot of people don't know, that me and Giggs made a mixtape back in 2007 called Hollow Meets Blade and, without sounding too egotistical, it kind of changed the shape of UK rap. A lot of people have said this to me over the years so I definitely know that mixtape had an impact on the culture. We haven't collaborated for a few years now and people have been asking, wondering what's going on when we were just living our lives, but we've always been connected. So we thought we should give them the collab that they've been asking for. You know the block's hot! Another Show N Prove production."
"'Running Back', again produced by Carns Hill, was actually one of the first songs I recorded for the tape after deciding I was gonna make one. So I've actually had this song for quite a while. It's smooth; something to roll to. It's the end of the tape and after it's finished, you'll be running back for more."