Much has been written and discussed about UK rap and its rise in popularity over the last five years. The introduction of Afroswing/Afro-bashment elements into production, the mainstream's acceptance of regional accents, and the crossover appeal of artists like J Hus have all been cited as reasons, but the truth is it's all of those things and more—which is why Nottingham's Young T & Bugsey were so perfectly positioned to capitalise on it. Their sound and approach has endeared them to millions and put their proudly-worn Notts accents at the top of the charts.
The hits have come thick and fast since, not least the anthemic "Don't Rush", "Strike A Pose" and "Ay Caramba". But it was the song "Greenlight" that set their star on the almost vertical trajectory they've enjoyed over the past couple of years. Taking what had previously (perhaps unfairly) been considered the cold harshness of UK rap, Young T & Bugsey injected it with some sorely-needed warm, Afro-inspired grooves and capped it off with their now-trademark catchy hooks. Of course, they weren't the first to hit upon that formula, but theirs is one of the most effective attempts, and new project Plead The 5th is all the proof we need that their success is no fluke.
Here, Young T and Bugsey break down every track on Plead The 5th, explaining more about some of the themes and how they play into each track.
Young T: "This song isn't about a particular thing, really—it's more of a vibe and just flexing. 'Neck piece bussin' like a school trip!' We wanted to make something everyone could flex to when they're feeling good about themselves. Initially, we wanted to have a feature on it, but after we thought about it and decided we definitely wanted it on the mixtape, we decided we didn't really need one and finished off the song and added on our verses."
Bugsey: "'School Trip' was either the first or second song we made with Grades; we made 'Don't Rush' in the same session. With this song, we got the inspiration from a Nav song. We made 'School Trip' to be an intro song and we wanted it to be in our style."
Bugsey: "'Dreadlocks' was made with EY. I think it was also our first session with him. This one's more gritty and for the streets; it's basically a message saying, 'don't try anything.' It's almost like a warning for anyone looking to mess around with you. The song actually came about quite smoothly: EY had a few beats already there and then he played us this one and we were all unanimously rocking with it. We all thought this one was hard! I think it was the strings and all the musical instruments that drew us in."
Young T: "This one was done relatively quick. I think I done my verse first, and then Bugsey done his straight after and then we both laid it. It was a smooth one."
Bugsey: "Produced by JAE5, 'Madonna' is probably, I'd say, the most Nottingham-sounding song on the tape; accent-wise and feel-wise. The style is inspired by an old-school Nottingham song called 'Bramble 2 R-Block'. The flow and the cadence of 'Madonna', if you were to listen to 'Bramble 2 R-Block' and listen to their verses, you'll see where we got our inspiration from."
Young T: "Yeah, it's just us paying homage to Nottingham. We're reminiscing about a few situations and things that we encountered back in the day growing up in Notts. The flow we used is homage to all those that came before us as well. Joey P and Papi Caine—these were some of the Nottingham rappers we used to listen to when we were growing up."
Bugsey: "On the production side as well, I think that was like our third or fourth session with JAE5, and every time we make something with JAE5, it's like the level just increases and increases!"
"Don't Rush" f/ Headie One
Bugsey: "'Don't Rush' was made in that infamous session with Grades where we made 'School Trip'. 'White Rum, fizzy pop...' This one's about a lit club night. Everyone loves a lit night out so, with 'Don't Rush', we're basically saying don't rush the night, just enjoy getting lit! This song was a result of us watching loads of Ibiza videos. It was festival season and we were getting ready to go abroad, and there was this Afro-dance song that we kept on hearing that kind of stuck in our heads."
Young T: "Grades basically had a base for the beat already there, so we gathered an idea for it and then sort of steered him in the direction of what we wanted to make and then it all went from there."
Bugsey: "Working with Grades was proper sick as well. He's a hard producer."
"Throw Me A Text"
Bugsey: "This one was made for everyone, whether you're talking to your main squeeze or a side and they're on their way to you—you always want that update text telling you where they are. So this one was just saying, 'Yo, throw me a text! Let me know when you're near.' It was made from another classic Toddla T and Young T & Bugsey session. Usually in a Toddla session, we just run through some beats and then we pick the one that stands out the most to us and then we just get to work and start writing our verses. Because of our track history with Toddla ('Ay Caramba', 'Strike A Pose'), we always know that basically once we get a nice hook on there, we can craft something good out of it."
Young T: "That session, we also made another song! Everything was just flowing and I think I done my verse on that day and then Bugsey done his on another day. With Toddla, we know how to work with him and vice versa, so it's always easy. We just have a formula that always works."
"Stand Up Man"
Young T: "The message behind 'Stand Up Man' is just to be a stand-up man, a stand-up dude. No matter if it's to the gyaldem or the mandem, just be a stand-up man. People are gonna hate and their gonna want to see you fall but just be strong and be a stand-up man for yourself! Another smooth one with our guy, P2J, on production. I already had an idea of what type of vibe I wanted to come with on my verse, and then Bugsey had a verse sitting there from another song so he laid it on this beat and then added on a hard bridge. Once we finished it, we all knew we had one in the bag."
"More Than Me"
Bugsey: "With 'More Than Me', we literally hummed out all of our verses. We hummed out the chorus and then once we had the melody fully, that's we started putting in the words in. This was the first we've ever made a song like that. Normally, that isn't how me and T work. Usually we write before and then go in and lay it on the beat, or we might try a few different flows before deciding which one to use. There were a few sessions for this one, and even on one of them, Dolapo was there and her and T were just going back and forth and flowing on the beat. T already had his hook and then Dolapo was doing harmonies over his bit—it was a proper team effort."
Young T: "It's produced By iLL BLU, who we've worked with quite a few times. With this beat, we knew that we wanted to make a pop-sounding song, but something that wasn't too pop. We still wanted it to have a likkle vibe to it. When we went in to this session, we just started recording loads of melodies and, together, we went through which melody we thought sounded the best and worked on it."
"Bully Beef" f/ Fredo
Bugsey: "We did 'Bully Beef' with Dre Skull, Popcaan's producer, and it was the first time we'd ever met him. He's a proper sick producer."
Young T: "In a nutshell, this one is about finding the beauty in the struggle. We've been through the rough times, where we had to eat 'bully beef and rice', and now it's time for the celebration because we can look back and appreciate the struggle now. We originally had another version to this song, which had two different verses, but we ended up taking them off and at the time, we just had a hook. When we decided to put this song on the tape, that's when Fredo jumped on it."
Bugsey: "Yeah, after the success of 'Ay Caramba', it made sense to link up with Fredo again for another vibey one for the fans."
"Top Boy" f/ Morrisson
Young T: "Lekka on the beat for this one—he's our guy, proper sound guy. With 'Top Boy', we had a session with Lekaa and Morrisson and it was a chilled vibe. Everyone was just chilling and chopping it up and then we just started working on something. We just let Lekka do his thing."
Bugsey: "Yeah, this one's about just being that real real guy and not pretending to be someone else. You're not capping and trying to be something you're not, you're just yourself—a real 'top boy.' We were in the session till late that day; probably like 4/5am kinda thing—I even fell asleep in the lobby! When I woke up, Morrisson and T had finished their verses. This was one of those sessions where everyone just does their bit and everything flows. Working with Morrisson was very easy."
Young T: "Now 'Energy' is a bit more of a personal, reflective song—just looking back on pass situations and the energies around it all. It was produced by Levi Lennox, who we've got a great chemistry with. We always know that if we have a few sessions with Levi, we'll definitely get something, so this wasn't a difficult one."
Bugsey: "The song came about from us having a conversation about energy and star signs during the session, while the beat was playing. Serine Karthage was there with us that day and we just got into this deep convo about energies and vibrations and all them things there. That sort of set the tone for what type of song we put together that day, so big up Serine!"
"Plead The 5th"
Bugsey: "'Plead The 5th' is another tribute to Nottingham, but in a different way to 'Madonna'. On this one, we're claiming Nottingham with pride and glad to have it on our backs because 'we made the 5th side trendy!' It was actually produced by Young T; T's actually helped to produce a few of our songs. We literally made this about a week before we submitted the tape off for mixing and mastering. It has that Wild Wild West, about-to-be-a-showdown type vibe to it and I'm glad it came out like it did."
Young T: "Yeah, I had a skeleton of a beat sitting on my laptop from a few years ago. I remember I played a few of the beats I had on there from quite a while back, and this was the one that we were rocking with the most. Then we just started working and working on it. I love being resourceful and helping out in every aspect, which is why I like the producing side of things; it's just me! Even with our first single covers—it was just us—I taught myself how to use Photoshop and all of that. I've just always liked to learn how to do things myself."
"Strike A Pose" f/ Aitch
Bugsey: "This was our big summer hit from last year; another one for the ladies for when they're feeling sexy and want to take a little snap."
Young T: "For this one, the main part beat was started by us, in fact, and then Toddla T added on the final extra finishing touches to make 'Strike A Pose' bang. I think from this session, we only had a hook and then we did the verses a bit later. While we were in the session and laid the hook, that's when Toddla suggested that maybe we should get Aitch on it. Me and Bugs were both like, 'That's a shout.' And in a couple days, Bob's your uncle! Aitch just sent us a video of him skanking to the song [laughs]. Fast forward a few months and we went Platinum, so I guess it worked out how we wanted."