In a very literal sense, it was only the top of this year that soul auteur Scribz Riley made his debut as an artist. Arriving in April, his first ever single, "East Side", detailed his journey from a teen in East London to a globe-trotting hitmaker.
Accented with references to the hits that soundtracked his formative years like Tinchy Stryder's "Stryderman", So Solid's "21 Seconds" and "Gash By Da Hour" by Nu Brand Flexxx, "East Side" was a loving but far from romanticised ode to his old stomping ground, acknowledging that "things weren't always that nice", before adding that in spite of everything, "I been across the oceans and I know where my home is." But, as he alludes in the next line ("And that's E3, that's Wolfpack"), his journey started much earlier than 2020. That's right: the first moves he made into music were as part of legendary grime crew Mucky Wolfpack. Though they enjoyed their share of success with underground hits like "Bow For The Wolves", it would be as a songwriter and producer that Scribz would find success in his own right.
Heading stateside to discover himself as an artist and musician, he put grime to one side and soon found himself crafting hits for A-listers such as Cardi B, Khalid, H.E.R. and Chris Brown—notching up two Grammys along the way. Later returning to the UK, he applied those talents to J Hus' "Play Play" and Young T & Bugsey's "4x4" before deciding it was time to step out on his own and find his fortunes as a solo artist. Now, with a wealth of experience on both sides of the pond and a sharpened concept of his own artistic vision, Scribz's debut project, Wish Me Luck, is the opening salvo of an artist who knows exactly who he is and where he is going.
We caught up with Scribz Riley to break down every track on Wish Me Luck, explaining more about some of the themes and how they play into each track.
"On My Sleeve" f/ Kaash Paige
"This song is basically referring to a time when I used to carry myself in a more vulnerable way; I had my heart on my sleeve. As you can probably hear, I am big on R&B and gospel music. It's where I get majority of my inspiration for songwriting. This song's quite reflective of my gospel inspirations—it's mainly based around the vocal sample, full of harmonies which Jvck James did for me. He killed that! It actually started as more of an interlude, but I kept adding to it and then realised, 'Oh shit! This is actually a full song.' I knew I wanted to get a feature on the second verse. I had been listening to Kaash Paige's 'Love Songs'—I'm a big fan of her music, she's dope—so I reached out to her on Instagram, sent her the song and she sent me back her verse. She killed it! It's one of my favourite verses on the project, actually. Big up Kaash."
"Impress Me" f/ Headie One
"'Impress Me' is a reflection of the world today: everyone out here trying to impress each other. I came to realise a lot of that stuff is insecurity speaking loudly. You've just gotta be confident within yourself and know your ting is certi. It's a fun song, though, which came about as I was in a couple of sessions with Headie, working on some stuff for him initially, and this was the second song of two that we had. Headie was just vibing when we were in the studio and, honestly, the verse he laid down first time is pretty much what you hear on the record. Respect to Headie, man, as he was one of the first people on the project. No one knew me as an artist, but he came through and I will always appreciate that. I did my verse at the end for that song and I just did what I thought made sense, sonically."
"Outta Your Way"
"One of the things I realised about the project is that I'm actually quite an emotional guy [laughs]. Most of the songs are quite sad, story-wise. 'Outta Your Way' was one of the last songs I wrote for the project. I flew out to Sweden during the summer breakout period of lockdown, as I really needed some time to get away and be inspired again. I was in Bagpipe Studios out there for a week, doing studio 24/7. I made a few beats and this one stood out to me, so I knew I needed to write to it. I laid down some melodies I liked, then, and this sounds a bit mad, but basically, I was running round the studio desk in circles to come up with the lyrics—I do that sometimes. I don't know why, but it helps me. Then I came up with Still going out of your way to make me feel a way, which started off the concept. It's based on a real, personal experience—all of my songs are, to be honest. Someone was going out of their way to make me feel a way, but we don't feel a way; we're all good, and we feel great! [Laughs] That's basically what this song is about."
"Introduce Myself" f/ KWN, JADA
"'Introduce Myself' was one of them fun songs that everyone just wanted to flex a little, talk about the new them and how everyone's progressing in life and becoming a better version of themselves. It features my young gs, KWN and JADA. That's family right there! This was one of the first songs we actually made together. We wrote a few songs that day and it was at my mum's house—shout out to my mum! [Laughs] We started off with the beat, then everyone just started to lay down melodies and ideas. My verse came much later; I actually added that in Sweden as well. I'm really happy with how the track turned out. Big up to KWN and JADA! This song is called 'Introduce Myself', but honestly, it's an introduction to them! They have their own solo projects coming in 2021, so make sure you watch out for them because they're the future."
"This is one of few co-produced songs on the project. I had a session with DJDS in LA and it was when I was still fully in producer land, but working on the artist stuff here and there. I went to the session thinking I was going to make beats, then they were like, "Nah, we heard you're an artist. Let's make a song for you.' Honestly, I was a bit shook! No one in LA had really heard me singing or writing, but I got on with it. I pretty much freestyled it and it was probably one of the quickest songs I've ever done: completed within 40 minutes, probably because I was so shook to be singing in front of people [laughs]. But I'll be real: I didn't like this song in the beginning. I don't know why. I was just thrown off a bit, but my manager loved it and was insistent with me on it. I took it back to London, played it to some of my friends and got a good reaction there too, so I finished it to see it in full. Funnily enough, now it's probably one of my favourite songs, but genuinely, it almost didn't make the project. The song is just about reaching that point in a relationship where you're like, 'I give up! Do whatever you want.' But we don't want to be too depressing, so it has an uplifting beat. It's just a vibe and chilled, so big up you Mandy [laughs]. Whoever you are."
"Used To This"
"My godsister was staying with me at my house and she's kinda rude and blunt, which I quite like as I get real feedback. I was making the beat and she came into my studio room and said, 'I like that,' and for her, that was a huge compliment. So I thought, 'She likes it so let me keep going with this one.' I kept working on it and I actually wrote the second verse to this when I was in the hospital waiting for my son to arrive into the world—he was born the next day! This is a special song for me; there's a lot behind it. It's also my take on old-skool UK garage with UK R&B vibes."
"Dim My Light" f/ 6LACK
"Big shout out to 6lack! I had a session with him a while back when I was in New York. It was a quick session because he had a show the same day, so I needed to move quick. There was a couple of other producers in the room, too, so I started to make an idea in my headphones; it was still rough, but I played it to 6lack anyway, and he liked it jumped in the booth to put his verse down. When I got back to London, I kept working on the track and knew something just wasn't sitting right with the production. I had a few versions and nothing was sticking with me. At the time, I was listening to Snoh Aalegra's album, Ugh, those feels again—which is already a classic—and I constantly had 'Whoa' on repeat. I did think to myself, 'Ah, is this too early to sample a song that's just been released?' It's usually always those old-school samples, but I wanted to try it. As soon as I flipped it and added the 6lack verse to it, I knew that was it. It felt perfect. I added my verse and passed it onto my manager to hope for the best on the clearance. Huge shout out to Snoh and her team for clearing that song. 'Whoa' was amazing in its own right, so I really appreciate her and D Mile for that. And the same for 6lack: he really supports new artists, which is great to see. I'm so grateful to have both of them included in that song.
"What's crazy is 'Dim My Light' came from my mum. She used to tell me that when she dreams, she always sees my name in lights, but also be cautious as people will try and stop your shine. I took influence from the story of Joseph in the Bible— he has the colourful coat and his brother tried to sell him as a slave, but he ended up becoming the King of the city. It's a story showing that no matter how much they try and knock you down, you can always come out on top. This one is definitely one of the more personal songs on the project for me."
"I Lied (Part 1)"
"This one is heavy [laughs]. It's another one made in Sweden, and was the last song I wrote for my project. I was just recording whilst freestyling on the piano—I usually do a melody pass and sometimes words will come, sometimes it's gibberish, but 'I Lied' was straight and direct. It just flowed. On this song, I found myself in a situation where I didn't tell the truth and I kind of regretted it. For a song called 'I Lied', it's probably one of the most honest songs on the project. I think everyone can relate to it. It's just Part 1, so watch out for the extended version."
"My first ever release! Mad! It's the most important song to me now, to be honest—it's me paying homage and reflecting on the place I'm from: East London, and my story. It shares a lot of the things I've had to go through to get to this point. I started music when I was in Wolfpack, being influenced by Tinchy, So Solid Crew and other artists, producers and songwriters from East London, and I wanted to make sure that was told in my story. Tinchy actually reached out to me and said he liked the tune, which was huge for me. If I told myself when I was the 18-year-old walking around Bow that he would even acknowledge my music, I wouldn't have believed it. I wrote this one in my mum's house, too, in East London. Shout out to Jarred Pearl Lyon, who you hear on guitars, Part 1, and also Mansur Brown, who's on guitars Part 2. They both killed it! The video was a big part of the song as well, which I think really helped bring it to life. It was my first ever visual, so I knew I wanted it to be special and something a bit different. Thanks to Hector and Savannah who came up with the concept—they enabled me to bring everything I imagined for the song. I'm super proud of this one."
"Honestly, I'm just keeping it real here. Everyone has someone from their past who they don't speak to anymore and wonder how they're doing. 'Secretly' is just me pouring out raw and honest thoughts that I'm sure people can relate to. The lyrics speak for themselves."