At 23, Novelist has lived a life far beyond his years. First acquainting himself with the mic ten years ago, the lyricist became enamoured with a sound and scene that would change things forever, and for the better. Growing up in Lewisham, also known as the Blue Borough, Novelist got stabbed the same year he began his career in music, which—with the encouragement of his mother Dee—led him to take rhyming more seriously. For him, like many others, the mic was seen as a way out of a life that could’ve only ended in two ways: dead or in prison. And now, a decade later, it has all paid off.

I first met Novelist in 2015, during a set at the now-closed Radar Radio HQ. It was the year after he released “Take Time” with Mumdance, one of grime’s most impactful songs of the last decade, and a year in which he became one of the new dons of pirate radio, working closely with the likes of Jammz, Big Zuu, AJ Tracey and a select few others to fuel grime’s second coming, better known as the “resurgence.” To put it frankly, N-O-V was a cheeky kid five years ago, some might even say arrogant, but he still had a great deal of respect for those that made it possible for him to work in this field. That respect for the older gen, especially the emcees, led to him working with the best of them—Skepta, Jammer, D Double E—to a point where he is now seen as a vet within his own generation.

One of the leading forces behind grime’s mid-2010s revival, Novelist helped inspire many of the scene’s top names to push the genre forward—sonically and culturally—to become an unstoppable force in UK music. Which he was rightfully recognised for when his 2018 debut, Novelist Guy, got nominated for a Mercury Music Prize. Coming across more wise-head-on-shoulders than excitable kid (a la our first meet), Nov seems more level-headed and comfortable with his wins today. This is a man running his own race, and the inner peace that provides is very much evident.

Having worked together on various projects over the years, this was the first time Novelist and I got to properly chop it up about the ups and downs of life. Here’s what went down. 

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