Ed Sheeran is one of the biggest-selling artists of all time. That’s an indisputable fact. He’s sold more than 150 million records worldwide, he’s won Grammys, BRIT Awards, Ivor Novellos and even a few MOBOs (more on that later), and yet he’s almost universely derided by the music press and his peers in the indie and pop worlds have little love for him either. But in the world of Black British music, he’s one of the family. Despite being somewhere in the indie/folk/alternative arena (save for a few off-the-cuff raps), he gets more love within the grime and UK rap scenes than anywhere else.

For those outside the scene, it came as a bit of a surprise to learn that Jamal Edwards/SBTV gave Ed one of his first breaks, or that he’s super-close with Stormzy and Big Narstie, or that he used to sleep on Jamie Foxx’s sofa in the early stages of his career. This weekend, however, he sat down with UK music tastemaker Chuckie Online as the latest guest on the Halfcast Podcast and explained the full history of how all that came to be.

Growing up in Suffolk, young Ed was as far from the epicentre of grime as he was from Dr. Dre, but a chance meeting at a poetry night led to a one-way trip to Inglewood, which in turn brought him back to the UK. A few ‘message-bombs’ on MySpace and all of a sudden he was recording with Slix from Ruff Sqwad and made connections with the grime scene. The rest, as they say, is history.

But it wasn’t opportunism that led him to gravitate towards Black British music; that was always his first love. “I remember buying ‘21 Seconds’ on CD single,” he says, “but in terms of albums, it was Boy In Da Corner. That was the first one. The first person I ever worked with was when I was 15 and I did a song for Slix from Ruff Sqwad and DJ Scholar for a Slix mixtape. And that was over MySpace. I just message-bombed everyone. It was around the time when Chipmunk was doing Westwood as well, so I was messaging him and his mate Shalo, saying: ‘Can we do a song?’ So I message-bombed everyone and Slix and Scholar were the only ones that got back to me.

“But it was Dizzee, and then I remember getting really into Playtime Is Over, Wiley, and then all the Boy Better Know mixtapes, Big Nastie’s one, What’s The Story Brixton Glory, Drugs & Chicken, Mr. Wong—you know, like, Channel U. Also, his tune with Titch, Jme and Flirta... Bashy as well, man. Chupa Chups… I remember ordering his mixtape and getting the Chupa Chups with it.”