Ragz Originale’s ‘Bare Sugar’ Will Make You Believe In Your Sauce

We caught up with the Tottenham native to discuss his debut album, his plans for ‘elevating’ Black music, and more.

Image via Publicist

Individuality is a fleeting commodity in the modern era of music, an arena where tastes, sounds, styles and approaches are slowly merging into a sea of uniformity. Where cinematic UK rap and consumer-friendly drill music is king, there is seemingly little room for a true risk-taker to take the acclaim, one standing on their own hill to push sound to the future. 

Enter Ragz Originale, real name Daniel Natoro, a man on a mission to do just that. The sound designer, singer and songwriter has taken his time building a reputation in the UK underground by curating a sound that is almost unidentifiable, one to soundtrack late night drives through the city and contemplations with the fairer sex. Tracks like “Brush U”, “4am” and “Code Red” reveal syrupy, atmospheric sonic textures that often build to astonishing crescendos and colours of sound inspired by all genres. 

“When you hear my music, I want you to ask yourself, ‘Yo, what the hell is going on?’” he tells me over Zoom. “So many artists create that feeling for me, so I need to reciprocate that for whoever’s listening to me.” 

Though his self-described ‘luxury sound’ takes centre stage these days, grime lies in Ragz’s DNA. Growing up in Tottenham, North London, amid the genre’s ascendancy in the early-to-mid 2000s, he had friends in high places, and was introduced to production software Fruity Loops by family friend Double S. With this proximity Ragz found himself, at a young age, making remixes with S and fellow N17 legend Chip, formative years that were crystallised in 2015 when he linked up with Skepta and produced an eternal grime anthem, “Shutdown”. 

But a world outside of grime awaited Ragz as he embarked on crafting his own signature sound while finding confidence as a vocalist, releasing projects such as 2018’s Nature, 2020’s txt ur ex and 2021’s WOAH, incorporating R&B, alté, indie-rock and various other flavours. Last year, he and his MINIKINGZ collaborators, Oscar #Worldpeace and BenjiFlow, also dropped a very well-received project in ICONICY.

Ragz Originale’s debut album, Bare Sugar, out now and featuring Knucks, Sampha and Tiana Major9 among others, encapsulates his artistic intent, laying down a marker for his unique approach to music.  “There’s only so much you can show about yourself with EPs and singles,” he explains. “I just really wanted to make a stamp for myself as an artist, so this release had to be an album. I wanted my sound to really grab people and appreciate what I can do sonically.” 

Ragz is in Paris when we speak, putting the finishing touches to the guestlist for a listening party for Bare Sugar, after soaking up everything Paris Fashion Week has to offer throughout the week. We caught up with him to discuss his new album, fashion, and his place in the UK music scene. 

“I really appreciate when individuals who pride themselves in a particular taste like my music. It lets me know I’m on the right path.” 

View this video on YouTube

Video via YouTube

COMPLEX: Why was now the right time for your debut album? 
Ragz Originale:
I started making a bunch of songs and it just felt like I was making an album. I had to take matters into my own hands to reach the next level in my career and grow as Ragz: the artist. I’ve been building for quite a while, but it was time to really show who I am on an album level. Bare Sugar displays all levels of me as an artist and it gives people a lot of context about me, which I felt was missing from my previous releases; I don’t think they were decisive enough, sound-wise, to make people decide whether they want to follow me on my journey. I wanted this album to make people make that decision and cause that separation between myself and everything else that’s out there. 

Would you say your previous projects only showed certain aspects of you whereas Bare Sugar gives us a full picture? 
Every project is like a new stage, drip feeding the places we’re going sonically. For Bare Sugar, I just went all the way there. It sounds like the future; it’s where we’re headed. Elevated Black music, bro. 

What’s the significance of the album title? 
Mainly the sound design for the album. The music is very sugary, candy-like, and I really focused on that aspect of it. And it’s about women and dating—everything sweet and female-friendly—so it fit that element and painted a picture of what we were doing. Some mad scientist vibes, cooking up crazy sounds with crazy people that we all know and love. 

What inspired your approach to producing Bare Sugar
Just for people to think that it’s crazy. Me and [executive producer] E-Whizz locked ourselves in the studio and said, “We have to make people go mad, and push their ears for them to be like, ‘You know what? I’ve just heard something new.’” I listened to so much music while creating this album: Tame Impala, Yves Tumor, Toro Y Moi, other people whose names I don’t know. I got the vibe they were trying to achieve and kind of made it my own. I went on YouTube and watched artists’ Coachella sets and how the crowd were responding to the music. Then I played my music over the video, asking myself if it makes them feel like that and I made adjustments in the most Ragz way I can. I wanted to generate the feeling I was getting from certain songs I was listening to. 

You’ve mentioned the term ‘sound design’, but is there a difference between that and ‘production’ to you? 
I use ‘sound design’ because I made this album with my brain, not my heart. That’s where the ‘design’ aspect comes from; the music from my heart comes out naturally but I had to break out of that space to push myself on a sound level. That’s why the album isn’t really a personal one; I really wanted to get the sound right and use my brain to achieve that.  

That’s interesting, because I always find it hard when people ask me what type of music you make—I can never give them an answer. There’s no real label for what you do. 
I just make music, bro. Trying to find a genre in it is almost counterproductive because you’re not going to last long trying to do that for my music. You just have to listen. 

In postcards you sent out to fans before the album dropped, you wrote ‘pushing fresh ideas is a lonely journey’. How does that relate to the process of making Bare Sugar
It’s hard sometimes because you’re by yourself and you might have ideas that don’t resonate with anyone. And no one else can give you tips or show you where you’re going—only you can figure it out and you’re taking a risk in a lot of ways. But you have to be daring to make it work.

“Sampha is a unicorn—I’m really blessed and I don’t take for granted the fact that I’m on a song with him.”

You brought in some big names for the album, including Knucks, Sampha and Tiana Major9. Paint a picture of those sessions with Sampha. 
It was sick, bro. Sampha is a unicorn—I’m really blessed and I don’t take for granted the fact that I’m on a song with him. He was really cool to work with on “Flashbacks”; E-Whizz made the beat and that’s the first thing we played for him and he said, “Yo, this is it! This is the one.” He just vibes off whatever’s going on in the studio that day; moretime, we were bopping our heads to the vibe. To have someone like him stand next to me and co-signing me, it means a lot and it confirms that the ideas I have are true and valuable. It makes that lonely journey worth it. Sometimes I just look at the tracklist and think, “He’s really on there.” 

View this video on YouTube

Video via YouTube

You first became widely known in the scene for producing Skepta’s “Shutdown”. Did you always see yourself progressing musically in the way you have? 
Always. Things like “Shutdown” are just strands of what I can do, but I always knew my music would get to this point. I think everyone around me knew—my friends, my fans. I don’t think where I’m at now is unexpected for anyone who’s been following my journey. It’s a marathon!

How do you see your ‘luxury sound’ becoming more luxurious in the future? 
It’s going to be so beautiful. After Bare Sugar, I’ll be able to take my music anywhere I want. That’s the most exciting thing about having a release like this: it just allows me to be even more experimental and even more myself than I’ve ever been. It’s gonna be very mad and I think my fans will really love where I take them. 

Do you think about what role you play in the wider UK music scene? 
I don’t really think I’m in a scene—I’m just myself. I see what I do as a gift and I feel like if I didn’t drop this album, you’d never hear anything like it again [laughs]. No one else is going to do it. I just want to share this gift with the people. 

Taking it briefly away from music, you’re heavy into fashion. Do you see a future for yourself in that field?  
Maybe… I do love clothes. After a while, I’d love to venture into designing clothes, furniture, accessories. I love style because you can really show your own individuality. 

You have a friendly relationship with the fashion designer Wales Bonner as well, right? 
I met her in Paris about two years ago. She’s a huge fan of the music, which is a huge honour. She was telling me about tracks like “Thin Line” and “Remedy” and I thought “Wow! You’re really a fan.” We did a show together in New York where I performed some songs… I just saw her Paris show, too. I really appreciate when individuals who pride themselves in a particular taste like my music. It lets me know I’m on the right path. 

What do you want listeners to take away from listening to Bare Sugar
To just be yourself! I’m here to champion the individual. Bare Sugar is an album made by an individual person and I want to push for more people to just be themselves as much as possible. I want you to feel free and carry that same energy. 

Latest in Music