Welcome to ON A LEVEL, a new interview series brought to you by Complex UK, which sees our Editor-In-Chief, Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson, get real with some of the greatest talents of now.
In this episode of ON A LEVEL, JP heads to the English countryside to visit trap-wave star M Huncho in his not-so-humble abode. Born and raised in North-West London, the rapper/singer talks openly about becoming a father, leaving his major and going independent, whether or not he feels underrated in the UK music scene, being inspired by MF DOOM, and much more. The transcript, lightly edited for clarity, is below.
“I’m back on my sh*t! I’m back on my trap sh*t.”
Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson: How has this year been for you? How has 2023 been for M Huncho, man?
M Huncho: Very good. Very, very good. I’m blessed. God blessed me with a little daughter.
Blessings! Congrats, congrats.
Thank you, my brother. For me, [she is] my inspiration right now, my go-to for motivation; [having a daughter] gave me a brand new life. Because of the baby, from the start of basically 2022, I did a tour in March, but just after that I dropped my album, Chasing Euphoria. And yeah, I was just in a very weird space, just becoming a dad. And off the back of that, leaving the label and going independent, which I knew I was gonna do...
—so that was always the plan?
Yeah, and it was definitely a good morale boost for me anyway, just knowing that I’m gonna be in a situation that’s gonna be a whole lot different to what I was in. It just mainly has to do with being understood and having the right people and the right team around man that understands the culture, understands where man’s coming from, understands how man escaped where man’s coming from, and all the negatives and the pros and the cons of what this is. So I feel like this year, especially because of my daughter, it’s been a great year for me just watching her grow up.
How are you finding fatherhood?
Best thing ever. And, obviously, for me, I’ve had my dad in my life. I might not have had the best relationship with him growing up, but one thing that I do understand is that these people, they go above and beyond for you. Your parents will always do that for you. So yeah, being a dad feels great. But, really, I’m back on my shit! [Laughs] I’m back on my trap shit.
You mentioned [offline] that providing is the most gangster thing to you. A lot of people don’t get that, though. It’s like, you’re in the game to change your life. You’re not trying to get in the game and go back to the same environment and get caught up.
You can still be G’d up, but the end goal is different as you grow up and as you get older and older, you understand what your priorities are and you understand what you need to be doing to make yourself great. And, in essence, for me, I’ve seen everything: I’ve seen the worst and I’ve seen the best. Man’s seen heartbreak, man’s seen fuckin’ hundreds of thousands in cash money. Man’s seen so many things that I can’t even speak about. I don’t regret any of it, but it definitely taught me a lot. And now that I’ve got a daughter, I’ve got more to live for, realistically. That’s just the bottom line. When you have more to live for, why would you want to die young? Don’t get me wrong—man still pull up to the ends; I still hail up who I need to hail up. I can still do that without a mask on because my reality is different to other people’s.
I first heard of you through Kenny Allstar’s Mad About Bars freestyle series five or six years ago. You shook the scene big time because, obviously, we had UK trap-wave artists, but the way you worked with melodies and used just a touch of Auto-Tune, it was completely different to what else was out there. Did you expect the reception that you got when you first came out?
So, growing up, I didn’t really know what a studio looked like. I’d never been to a studio until that Mad About Bars. When I went to go record that, I wasn’t really a studio person… I wasn’t really interested. I was just an avid listener of great music. I listened to a lot of R&B growing up, a lot of Fugees, Lauryn Hill, a lot of Nas. The first album that I ever bought was The Blueprint by Jay-Z. I was a real rap fan. Wu-Tang! For me, that was just… I’m born in the ‘90s, bro, so that was it for us. And then, in man’s teenage years, you had 50 Cent’s Get Rich Or Die Tryin’—which, for me, is arguably one of the best albums, if not the best album of all time. Every generation has their own, but yeah… I was just an avid listener of good music and I never listened to UK music like that… I did listen to UK music, let me word that again. I did listen to UK music, but I was very selective. I knew who was good—quality control. I know whose music sounded good, sonically. And, you know, one thing that I’ve always said is that melody is gonna last forever in music. And I’m a rap fan saying that!
So, how would you describe your…
—it’s just combining melodies from a different culture into Black culture to make it sound the way it does. That’s what it is. It’s like combining, just say for example, Middle Eastern melodies into Black rap music, which is two different cultures coming together to create something good. So when you’ve seen it in the past with the likes of Timbaland doing that with sample flipping, how historically significant are those songs that Timbaland used to put out? And that’s what he was very good at. He was putting two cultures together and understanding that, sonically, it will just sound crazy. So, for me, that’s where the melodies really come from. I never knew it was gonna do what it’s done... Being from where I’m from, man was just making music for the mandem, for man’s bredrins. When I released the Mad About Bars, that was a slot that opened up by accident because the rapper that was actually meant to do it didn’t turn up. So I got called last-minute to do that. It felt like a diss in the first place [laughs]. Nah, I’m playing. It definitely wasn’t a diss for me. I was just knee-deep doing so many different things outside, and I genuinely saw it as an opportunity that was given to me that’s kind of like a golden ticket.
“When you have more to live for, why would you want to die young?”
What part of London are you from?
I’m from North-West London. Lived there all my life; proud to be from North-West London. Been through ups and downs in North-West London. Seen a lot of stuff in North-West London. But one thing that I’m really happy about being from where I’m from is that it was the most multicultural borough in the whole of London. So man came across people from all walks of life, all races, all backgrounds. And there was a sense of… I guess everyone related to each other. Because North-West is such a small place, people used to clump people up into the same areas. You’ve got basically all people from ethnic minorities clumped up in tower-blocks or an estate. So there was a sense of familiarity with… just us.
Trying to get to the next day.
Coming from where I come from, man, it’s tough, but I don’t regret any of it.
Has it shaped the man you are today?
100%. And I feel like there’s not a lot of musicians from North-West London who are established and still going. I love North-West London, but I’ve never actually situated myself with a specific place, like: “I’m from here!” I fuck with the whole [ends]. From young, I’ve understood that money is an international language. If I’m selling, if I’m doing this or if I’m doing that, the only thing man was interested in is how to get revenue and how to turn that into residual income. So the whole gang thing was just… I understand it, don’t get me wrong. Some of these things, you’re born into it, but for me—man could have been born into it as well, but I guess my mentality was just different.
I’ve always struggled with this when it comes to you: are you a rapper or are you a singer? The lines are blurred a little bit. What would you say to that?
I’d say I’m an artist because, for me, music is just… I enjoy making music, so someone can say, “I miss M Huncho when he used to drop music like this.” I don’t give a flying fuck, because I enjoy when… If that comes again for this person, if they want to hear that M Huncho again, it will come at some point. But man makes so much music and I like so much of my own music that I would wanna put out so many different variations of it. So yeah, I’ll call myself an artist. I feel like my last album, Chasing Euphoria, was very slept-on. But I’m not gonna sit here and dwell on it.
I think that’s your best project, personally.
Because you’re a music man. That’s what it is. I feel like a lot of people, they can’t really expand their mind beyond that. If this was any other artist from the UK or whatever, man would be very quick to give them their flowers. Like I said, I don’t mind if I don’t get my flowers.
We’re [sitting] in a fucking garden! You see all them flower beds there? They’re gonna have serious flowers in them because I like to plant my own, but I feel like for what I’ve got with My Neighbours Don't Know, it’s just more of that trap and that grimey element of things. It’s what I’m really good at, just talking my shit! Got my melodies on deck, got my content on point, and yeah, I’m talking my reality. I’m talking my truth.
How are you finding the independent grind?
Man’s obviously got distribution, through EGA—the first Black-owned distro in the whole of Europe. Big up Colin [Batsa]. For me, that’s a big thing: being the first Black-owned distro in the whole of Europe. It’s good that, finally, someone took that step. Colin is a smart man and I respect him a lot. And he’s a very transparent person. He will always be real with you. EGA has other artists on their roster who are all blooming and doing very good things in their respective fields. I just find it easier working with people who relate to me more. I don’t see the team at EGA as people who work 9-5, because I can message them at 9pm and they’ll respond to man. All at 1am, I’ll message them and if they’re awake, they’ll respond to me. They don’t just look at their phone and say, “I’ll pick this up at 8am tomorrow when my job starts.”
When you came out, I remember people were putting you under the UK drill category—because you wore a mask—without actually listening to your music. Did that bother you? Did it offend you?
If man wanna put me in a category, I don’t care. I feel like my attitude towards things is very carefree. If you think I’m this, cool. If you think I’m a pussy, cool. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. If someone’s gonna have an opinion on me and I feel like it’s a negative opinion, I’m not gonna hold it to heart. I’m never gonna take it personally. It goes the same way as if I listen to a song and I don’t like the song, that’s my opinion. It might be a hit song—it might be 10 times Platinum—but I don’t like it. So when people put me into that bracket in the beginning, I didn’t really care because when they finally come around to listening to my music they’re like, “Rah! This ain’t drill. It’s cold!” That’s all they’re gonna take away from it. They’re gonna be like, “Yo! This man can make a song.” I can make a song with a hook and a verse and another hook… In this game, you need to know how to make a song.
Some people still can’t make full-bodied songs.
I think songs are what people need to be making. Don’t get me wrong: freestyles are cold. I’ve done plenty myself. I came up off of freestyles, but I think songs are very important to showcase to people what you can actually do, musically, and how you can have a structure to your music. Obviously, sometimes you can experiment. Man’s got music that’s got no structure, but it still sounds like it’s a song. My main thing with music is to just have fun... Bro, I’ll go upstairs in my yard, I’ll have a shower, come downstairs, put on my best clothes—I ain’t going nowhere!—put on my best jewellery, my best shoes, and I’ll come downstairs to the studio and spazz on a beat. Even right now, I’m sitting on bangers! So yeah, it’s just more about having fun and feeling yourself. Just being you! I’ve got a sense of humour. Yeah, I’ve got the melodies and all the things you’re talking about, but I’ve got a personality that I would like to come through in the music. Man’s obviously got a lot of pain as well that I’d like to come through with the music, but yin and yang—balance.
“I dare anyone to replicate my sound in the UK. And when you do it, just make sure you do it on a song with me so I can spin you!”
What was the thinking behind you not revealing your face and your identity?
It’s mainly got to do with just minding my business and you minding yours.
Simple as that.
It’s as simple as that. You mind your business. I mind my business. If you like my music, go listen to it; stream it on all DSPs. If you don’t like it, I’m not hurt. I like my privacy; all I ask for is a little bit of privacy. Gimme my space. I just want to tell you my story and my pain. That’s it. Also, the mask for me is a brand. I feel like if artists like MF DOOM could have accomplished it with what they did, and they’re legends in this game… I’ve got four or five MF DOOM vinyls.
So you’re a big MF DOOM fan?
Rap—especially in America, that period was the thing for me. And, obviously, in the UK at that point, growing up it was mostly grime and garage, which was cool and everything, don’t get me wrong...
—were you into that?
I listened to grime and garage here and there because man’s from here, but I was very swayed towards listening to actual hip-hop, actual rap from that side of the pond. So even when it comes to quality control, there’s some music that I’ll make that I won’t like because I don’t feel like it’ll have the same quality as the other side of the pond. I’ll never change my accent, I wouldn’t do none of that—I’m still myself, still a UK man, but I feel like when it comes to quality control, man should always take from different people and different countries. Even French music, I feel like French music is mixed very well.
They get the numbers in!
Numbers aside, because I feel like that’s a pressure that’s been added onto so many artists. Numbers, numbers, numbers. You’ve got any Tom, Dick and Harry talking about numbers, but man need to understand the intentions man started this thing with. It wasn’t for money and it wasn’t for numbers and it wasn’t for plaques. Obviously, if these things come, then it’s a big, huge blessing. But in its totality, the way I see it is: man was a dope boy, man’s not a dope boy no more. If man still is, man still is [laughs]. My intentions was just to make great music and just bring something different to the table—something that no one else can do because I can do what they can do, but they can’t do what I can do.
So you think you’ve got a unique sound?
I dare anyone to replicate my sound in the UK. And when you do it, just make sure you do it on a song with me so I can spin you!
We’ve had people like K-Trap and Kwengface do the whole big face reveal and stuff. Could you see yourself doing that at any time? Or is that just not part of your steeze?
I feel like I’ve come too far in the game to do that, man. I feel like I’m too established to do that. That’s number one. Number two, I don’t really need to because I’m still minding my business. And I feel like if that time does come—I don’t know when it will, I’ll be honest with you—but if it does come, then it’ll just happen itself. There will probably be a reason behind it, which I’ll probably explain to you if it does happen [laughs].
Before we get into the new project talk, I’ve got a quick-fire around for you. So, first one: give me three reasons why you love London.
[Laughs] Nah, I’m joking. You know what it is? As much as I say I don’t love London, I’m actually emotionally attached to London. I love London because of North-West London. That’s number one. Number two, I love the culture that we’ve built over here, our street culture or whatever.
It’s ours, innit?
It’s universally all over the UK now. You can go to Shropshire and the culture’s spread there. And three: when they do have the right food—blud!
Who are three UK artists that you’re rating right now?
Nippa. I think Nippa’s cold. He’s a good friend of mine...
—any collabs on the way?
We actually haven’t worked yet, but man’s linked him unlimited times. I actually call him a bredrin. To me, I just see him as Nippa. Like, “Yo, little bro, go shop for man right now!” I'm joking! “Get me a fuckin’ Thai sweet chicken and a Rubicon mango, Nippa.” [Laughs] But nah, he’s man’s bredrin and all banter aside, I feel like he’s such a talented person, and he’s got this energy… He’s like a duracell bunny. He just never stops! I think Nippa’s definitely up there. I think Steve Drive… You heard of Steve Drive before?
Nah, man. I’m late.
He makes trap music. And, for me, my next goal is to shine a light on the underground trap scene.
It’s big right now.
It’s definitely big and I feel like I need to shine a light on it. Obviously, there’s two different sides of it: there’s the street side of it and there’s the alt side of it. Steve Drive is kinda from the street side of it. He’s on My Neighbours Don't Know; I respect his thing and I feel like he’s cold, so he’s number two for me. And number three, I’m probably gonna say this young kid called Kamal. Have you heard of him? He’s also a North-West Londoner.
Yeah, I know of him. He’s a dope artist.
And he’s musically out of this world… I’m gonna put Jim Legxacy with him as well because I feel like they’re just such different type of artists and they have so much to offer and they see music from so many different perspectives. I’ve gotta give them both their flowers.
So, your new project, My Neighbours Don’t Know—firstly, what don’t the neighbours know?
I’ve got the ting in my yard and my neighbours don’t know. Sold a lot of drugs and my neighbours don’t know. Did a lot of shit and my neighbours don’t know. Immigrant life and my neighbours don’t know. My neighbours don’t know nothing [laughs]. You know, when you go from the ends and a specific environment, when you go to the burbs, people just look at you and how you dress and how you look and because the area would be a majority of a specific race, they’re not comfortable with seeing change. When I moved to the burbs, a lot of people didn’t know who I was. I was just getting funny looks. Feds have come to my driveway and all of this kind of stuff. I’ll be sitting in my car in the driveway and the feds will pull up and say why are you sitting in your car? I’ll be like, “Broski: this is my driveway! Don't ask me stupid questions.” I made my whole tape in my yard and my neighbours didn’t know. They didn’t know that M Huncho just lives next door. I just put down probably one of the best bodies of work this year.
It’s up there, for sure. It’s got some big shoes to fill following Chasing Euphoria. I’ll be real: it’s taken me a little bit of time to get into the whole UK trap-wave thing, but that album, I feel, is 10/10 across the board. You really showed different melodies, different approaches.
I feel like with Chasing Euphoria, though, that wasn’t really a trap-wave tape. It was more of a musical tape. Man came at it from a very musical angle; we made the beats from scratch. I’ve even got production credits on three or four songs. I feel like, in the UK, they’re not really with the changes… I can guarantee you: if it was anyone else, man are sucking them off.
Do you feel like you’re underrated in the UK music scene?
Do I feel like I’m underrated? That’s a good question. I don’t feel like I’m underrated—and I don’t even care about flowers. I just feel like I need to be at a different level to where I am. Even that aside; actually, no… I don’t feel like I’m underrated because I rate myself.
That’s the most important thing, really.
For me, that’s the most important thing. I just feel like when you’re in a small place, like the UK, man need to be collabing and man need to be working with all the artists. And a lot of these artists aren’t available or whatever, or they don't wanna work with you or whatever the politics or the agenda is. That’s what I think stops growth. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ve just gotta be me! I have to think I’m the best and I’ve gotta get this bread by any means necessary… I definitely do think that I need more support, but I’ve got my cool fanbase to thank as well. I feel like they’ve always been there for me.
They ride for you. I’ve seen the way they interact with your music, and just you as a person.
Yeah. They’re definitely there for man. I fuck with my core fanbase very heavily; anything else is an addition. We’re in an age where music is doing very well in the UK, so you never know: next time you buck me, I might be in Bel-Air.
How would you say you’ve grown musically between Chasing Euphoria and My Neighbours Don’t Know?
I’ll be honest, bro: that whole growth thing, man’s grown now. See Chasing Euphoria? That was musical. Man did everything from scratch. See this one? I treated this like I treat the bando. I treated this like I treat the trap: I went in there and I smacked it out the park! I’m giving 10 outta 10 for every fuckin’ hook, every verse. I’m going in there and I’m just going nuts. And I’m talking my trap shit! And you see for that? Man just need to feel myself and I need to have fun. For me, this tape was fun.
Do you have dreams of cracking America? Is that a thing for you?
Yeah. Naturally, though, man. It’s never been a forced thing. You see the song that you like, “The Game Is The Game”, for example, it’s with an artist from America called Peezy, and we connected naturally. He was chatting to me, whatnot, saying he fucks with man’s music. Vise versa. Then I went out to Fashion Week in Paris, and he came there as well.
What was that experience like?
What Fashion Week? I love fashion and even a lot of people don’t know that because when they see me wearing clothes, they don’t know what [brands I’m wearing]. They don’t know what it is because it doesn’t have the LV all over it. But Fashion Week is a vibe. I like going there. I like connecting with people and, especially some of these shows that I go to, the models that are walking on the runway, so many of them come up to me, like: “Bro, I’m a huge fan.” And I rate their ting because I know what they do is not easy. But yeah, overall, I’m very into fashion. I’m about to soft launch our own brand called MYB.
I was going to ask you that. Have you got your own label or…
MYB stands for Mind Your Business, because that’s what we do. For the first collection, we’re releasing a few variations of shorts, socks, caps, T-shirts and hoodies. But even with the T-shirts and the hoodies, they’re part of My Neighbours Don’t Know merch. So the only actual brand items will be the shorts, the socks, and that’s it. We’re working on our next drop, which is in production now. Man’s doing some real stuff, something the mandem can buy. It’s all about building. I think the world of myself and I feel like I can achieve anything that I put my mind to… Man’s coming from places where people only clap for you when you fail.
Which is a shame.
It is a shame. I don’t wanna hear claps because that’s how I know I’m doing well.
Any last words for the fans?
First and foremost, I wanna shout out you, JP. Secondly, I wanna shout out to my team. Thirdly, I wanna shout out to EGA. I feel like all my brothers and all my sisters that’s working with man, they’re really uplifting man. They’ve given man a new incentive and a new morale boost. I want to shout out North-West London—shout out the people dem. And, honestly, I wanna shout out the people that supported me from the start and the people that are just getting to hear my music now and the people that hate me, too. I love you.
Yeah, motivation—and you man are wet! But yeah, honestly, that’s the people I want to shout out: my listeners, my core fanbase, the people that have taken man out from some very dark places and given man light, the light at the end of the tunnel to follow. This is the start of something great! Let’s get cracking.