Rimzee is on a full-on promo tour when I call him up for this interview. He has just hit Bristol, with his team, and is parking up for our talk. The road rap legend is out spreading the gospel of Cold Feet, his third ever project, which he’s hoping will take his career to the next level—a level that he’s been aiming for since he was freed from prison three years ago.
The 31-year-old artist-turned-entrepreneur, born Ricardo Miles, got sent down in 2013 for 13 years after shooting at a police car but served six-and-a-half on good behaviour. “Back then, I was very impulsive,” he says of the incident. “I never really thought about what I was doing. I was just acting on reactions, but—as a person—I’ve grown since then. I’m also not the same age that I was. I picked up a lot more wisdom inside, so when I came back into the music game, I was ready to go and shake up the industry.” It was while inside that Rimzee and I connected: through a mutual friend who was in the same penitentiary. His aim was clear from the jump: come out, record, release, and prove to the world that he had changed for the better.
This change in Rimzee was fuelled by the Muslim faith that he took on during his time behind bars. “Islam answered a lot of questions that I’d been asking for years, so I started researching the Deen and then I realised that this is what I should’ve been following all along,” he says. “It teaches you how to treat your wife, your parents, how to deal with your neighbours, charity. You learn a lot of morals.”
Upon his release, one of the first platforms Rimzee asked me to help get him on (aside from this one, of course) wasn’t one you’d expect from a rapper looking to make his big comeback—it wasn’t the GRM Dailys, Link Up TVs or Mixtape Madness’ of the world: it was his local newspaper, The Hackney Gazette. Born and raised in Clapton, a district of Hackney in East London, Rimzee was profiled in the paper as a heartless “thug” ten years ago, so when he did eventually turn his life around, he wanted to share his redemption story with the same publication and all its readers. That was in 2020, but two years later, Rimzee is considered one of UK rap’s most inspirational figures, having built up quite the property portfolio (at one point showing fans on IG each redevelopment journey) and opened the doors to his very own Burgers & Bagels spot.
From the outside looking in, it would seem Rimzee is winning on all fronts: business is booming, his music is thriving, his baby girl is healthy and his lady is happy. But he does have a chip on his shoulder right now: not feeling like he gets the support, as an independent artist, from the wider music industry. “Initially, I called the mixtape Cold Feet to say that I’m just warming up,” he says, “but then I changed the meaning because I feel like the industry’s scared of me—they’ve got cold feet. Even though I get the least chances, I rarely get a lot of support, but I’ve still managed to make it work.” Indeed.
We caught up with Rimzee, road rap royalty, to get the full picture.
“Some people might call me a legend—cool. But that doesn’t mean that I can, or I should, get comfortable. I’m always onto the next, always pushing.”
COMPLEX: Star G, one of my good friends that you were in jail with, connected us right before you came out in late 2019 and we’ve been connected in this rap thing ever since. How have the last few years been for you? The streets lapped up your comeback single, “G Wagon”.
Rimzee: You know what’s mad? [Star] just messaged me a minute ago… But yeah, from when I dropped my first tape in 2012, man didn’t really understand the game so I had to make some drastic changes. Even though I still did decent, I got a lot of feedback that I just improved on, so that’s how I got to this level. And “G Wagon”, that went off differently. It was the first ever drill song I did as well.
You got sent down for 13 years in 2013 for shooting at an unmarked police car, and served six-and-a-half of that. Now, when you look back at that time in your life, does this even sound like the same Rimzee?
Back then, I was very impulsive. I never really thought about what I was doing. I was just acting on reactions, but—as a person—I’ve grown since then. I’m also not the same age that I was. I picked up a lot more wisdom inside, so when I came back into the music game, I was ready to go and shake up the industry. I can’t lie though: mentality, it felt like everyone was blocking me and no one was trying to let me win, but now I don’t feel like no one can block me. I feel like you just have to make yourself relevant—you have to do everything yourself.
I was going to ask you this later on in the interview, but do you feel underrated?
100%. Proper rap guys respect me, but I feel like a lot of people in the industry—especially the guys behind the scenes—they don’t really rate man. I feel like it’s the marketing that makes it blurry for certain people.
I’ll be honest: to me, it looks like everyone’s behind Rimzee and wants to see him win.
I dunno, J. I just see it like this: when you’re doing well, everyone comes over, but when you’re figuring it out, there’s no one there. So, obviously, from the last time I dropped, I took all the notes—all the constructive criticism—to make sure that this new project was going to be on point on every level: the rollout was going to be cleaner, everything was gonna be done properly.
You’re definitely one of, if not the, most hardest-working people in UK rap right now.
See you, bro, you’re different—you’ve been supporting me and it’s all genuine. Man knows that, but the rest of the game? They just wait for the clout and then they jump on that. They see me on Amazon’s Jungle and they’re thinking: “Rah! Is that Rimzee, yeah?”
You became a Muslim while inside, right? I know people love to talk about how some are forced into the religion for protection when they’re in prison, but I don’t get that from you. It seems like the religion has centred you.
In jail, there’s a brotherhood. They stick together and they share—you know what I’m saying? So some people, when they go there and they feel scared, they want to try and get into the brotherhood by acting like brothers when they’re not. They’re not really a believer, right? So, that’s some people. But, for me, Islam answered a lot of questions that I’d been asking for years, so I started researching the Deen and then I realised that this is what I should’ve been following all along. It teaches you how to treat your wife, your parents, how to deal with your neighbours, charity—everything. You learn a lot of morals.
I want to take it back, all the way back, to you growing up in Clapton, East London, and what that environment was like for you and other young Black men. Was the roads the only thing you could see as a way to make money? What was it like, socially, in those ends for someone like yourself?
Do you know what it is? You do choose the road, but it’s the easiest thing to do. Trying to be on the straight and narrow is the hardest part, because no one’s doing it. Most people are trying to do road or something that might not be right.
“A lot of people copy me, and when I see them, they tell me this and that, but when it’s out in the open, everyone tries to keep it quiet. I’m like the secret inspiration for guys…”
You come across like a cool, calm and collected person, but what was Ricardo Miles like back in school?
I’ve always been smart, but man always used to mess about [laughs]. A professional wind-up.
Did you have a favourite subject?
Makes sense. Before you got locked up, you were building up a lot of heat on the roads with your boasy bars, drippy hood vids and debut mixtape, The Upper Clapton Dream. You’re considered a road rap legend in quite a few corners—would you agree, and what initially drew you to wanting to become a rapper?
Some people might call me a legend—cool. But that doesn’t mean that I can, or should, get comfortable. I’m always pushing, onto the next. I always liked the art of lyricism, always liked rap—Jay-Z’s my favourite artist now, but when I was younger, he wasn’t my favourite. I used to listen to bare Styles P, Jadakiss, DMX, Ja Rule, 50 Cent, 2Pac, Diddy, Nas, and then there’s the old-school inspirations like Roll Deep, N.A.S.T.Y Crew, Fire Camp, Wiley, and then the UK rap stuff like Giggs, Margs, Mashtown—all of that.
Did you ever make any grime yourself?
Yeah, grime first. I used to do grime.
What we saying: Rimzee grime track coming soon? [Laughs]
[Laughs] Nah, it’s too fast for me now. I used to be hard on grime, though. I was serious, bro! I’ve even got old songs on YouTube.
Entrepreneurship is something that you’re big on right now: you have a fast food spot, Burgers & Bagels, you own a number of properties, and you put on events to inspire future entrepreneurs. Where does this strong entrepreneurial spirit come from?
Man’s always been a hustler; I’m just putting it all together now. And I’m always trying to do something that no one’s done before. I’m trying to be the next Mansa Musa! The richest man who ever lived. A Black guy. He had so much gold he crashed the economy.
Oh, for real? I didn’t know that. I need to go read up on him. What do you prefer, though: the music business, or the corporate business world?
I like business more, to be honest. Because, without money, I can’t make music.
That go-getter, hustler mentality runs throughout your new project, Cold Feet. And, come to think of it, it’s there on 2020’s The Upper Clapton Dream 2, and 2012’s The Upper Clapton Dream. The only thing is—back then—it was more bando inspired, while now you’re talking more like a legitimate boss while still reminiscing on your days in the trap. How would you say you’ve grown, as an artist, since your first mixtape?
It’s still for the bando, but it’s on a different level now. I feel like I’ve got more life experiences and more stuff to talk about now. More understanding. Initially, I called the mixtape Cold Feet to say that I’m just warming up, but then I changed the meaning because I feel like the industry’s scared of me—they’ve got cold feet. Even though I get the least chances, I rarely get a lot of support, but I’ve still managed to make it work. A lot of people copy me, and when I see them, they tell me this and that, but when it’s out in the open, everyone tries to keep it quiet. I’m like the secret inspiration for guys. And every time certain artists get asked who their favourite is, they say me, but when it comes to support and doing everything else, I don’t get that back from them.
How does that make you feel? Clearly, it’s made you feel some type of way.
Kind of, but it just tells me that I’ve got to keep putting the work in. If I just market my shit myself, I can get it to exactly where I need it to be.
The track with Maverick Sabre, “Dear Southwold Road”, is a standout for me—Mav definitely knows how to bring an emotive, reflective vibe to rap songs. What was it like working with him?
When I heard the beat, I knew what kind of vibe I wanted to have on it. I remember I hit him up but he was taking bare long. I had one guy doing a hook—it was sick—but someone else had a similar hook so we couldn’t use it. So then it was like, “What am I going to do?” Then I tried to put Angel on it, but it wasn’t working. Then I tried to give it to Haile, but I think he didn’t want to do it because Angel is his boy’s brother so I get it. But then Mav came through with a serious hook.
The Emeli Sandé collab, “Tables Turn”, was an unexpected one too.
Do you know how I got a song? Basically, I had a beat, I wanted to get her on a song, so I told everyone to “shout Emeli Sandé for me; tell her that I need a hook.” And then she started getting bare messages, phone calls—everything. Then, one day, she followed me back and I spoke to her. She sent me a song to do, I did it and then I sent a song back for her to do.
You’re collaborating with a lot more people on this project compared to your previous ones: you’ve got Giggs, Tiggs Da Author, K-Trap, and a number of other big names in addition to the ones I previously mentioned. What made you want to branch out and collab more this time round?
I wanted to do more songs because I feel like, to begin with, my mixtape’s got 18 songs. It’s rare that I do something with so many songs and it’s good still. That is really difficult because most man will do 12, 13 songs and stop there. So it’s 18 and it’s not that long either—it’s under an hour. Sometimes I make a song and I think, “Who would sound good on it?” That’s when I just draw for people or have an idea put there. “Thinking Out Loud” wasn’t even going to be on the mixtape. I remember I showed it to Chip and he was like, “Bro, this definitely needs to be on there.” I wasn’t getting a mad response from other people so that’s why I wasn’t so sure, but then Young Adz sent me something to do, I did it, and sent him this to jump on.
“Expensive Pain” was one of the best UK rap tracks of 2021—hands down. I’m glad you added it to the set. Did you and Born Trappy expect the reception you got for that track?
The reception was mad! We didn’t expect it to go that crazy. Trappy is my guy; he did the hook over the phone at first—it sounded like he was in jail—and it sounded cold. But when we went studio, we did a different version and I was like, “Nah, it doesn’t have the same vibe now.” But he was like, “Trust me, Rimz. Trust me on this.” Then we dropped it and it went mad. That’s my biggest song to date. I didn’t even know what to do next [laughs]. It got 3 million streams and I didn’t even get on one playlist.
This is what I’m saying, bro. It’s cold feet! These guys are at their desks every day—they see what’s going on. How can they not see that?
Do you want to get signed?
Nah, I’m not really bothered. I’m alright being independent. It’s alright. If it makes sense, I could do…
Let’s go back to Jungle for a second: how did you find working on that? It was your big acting debut.
Oh my days! You see music videos? I don’t even like doing music videos because it’s so long, so when I did Jungle—bro, you’re doing the same scene a hundred times! I only did a small scene but I was there all day. It was long but I’m glad that I did it. I could’ve had more scenes but I was telling them I can’t act and I didn’t wanna do too much.
Do you want to do more acting? Top Boy next?
[Laughs] Maybe, maybe.
I asked you earlier if you’re underrated and you said that you are. How do you plan on making sure that you are rated?
I’m not asking anyone to rate me. I’m going to make them rate me.
What have you got coming up next for the people?
I’ve got an EP coming with one of my bros; he’s from the ends, and I want to help bring him up. I’ve got a nationwide tour in December as well. I’ve only just started, bro.