Having a consistent presence in any music genre for two decades is no easy feat, but Lethal Bizzle has indeed stood the test of grime’s turbulent time. The 37-year-old MC-turned-entrepreneur’s journey begins in 2002, first as a member of the East London trio More Fire Crew—whose debut single, “Oi!”, was a Top 10 hit and remains a classic draw in Black British clubland—and then as a solo artist and executive producer, creating some of the most iconic grime hits known to man or woman.

One of those iconic grime hits came in the form of a posse cut—“Pow! (Forward)”—released in 2004. Produced by Dexplicit, it featured now-legendary MCs in D Double E, Jamakabi, Fumin, Napper, Demon, Flowdan, MC Forcer, and More Fire’s own Ozzie B and Neeko. Living up to its name, “Pow!” was like a sonic punch to the face when I first heard all those years ago—via the grainy, budget music vid on Channel U—its rolling claps and 8-bar relays giving an insight into the grime ritual of pirate radio sets, and a scene that would go on to inspire millions across the land. “‘Pow!’ is a big part of UK music history,” Bizzle tells me over Zoom. “It will live forever, and it’s much bigger than me now: this is the people’s song, generation to generation. This generation shouldn’t even know about that tune—either they weren’t born when it dropped, or they were just a little kipper and managed to clock on to it.” 

“Pow! (Forward)” was also one of the catalysts of Form 696, the boldly racist, now-defunct police risk assessment form that promoters and club owners had to fill out before putting on any event that had grime, rap, dancehall, and other forms of Black music on the bill. Before the legislation was set in stone in 2005, “Pow!”—which got signed to EMI shortly after its initial release, with a shiny new video to boot—was already being targeted by white, mainstream media as this “violent” song, and was later banned in certain venues once it reached Parliament. “When all that backlash started happening, I was so pissed,” Lethal says. “Dexplicit made me change my thought process, though. He was like, ‘Bro! When you think about it, your song is so sick that they’re trying to stop it.’” I was like, ‘You know what, Dex? I didn’t even look at it like that.’ So I changed my perspective. But it was annoying because they were stopping me from doing gigs, doing shows, and tried to stop DJs from playing it. When I discovered the festival world, though, and found out they actually like to see mosh-pits, it softened the blow a bit.” 

After the success (and controversy) of “Pow!”, Lethal went on to release a number of grime hits and two albums, before making a name for himself in the indie-rock scene via “grindie”—a short-lived but impactful movement spearheaded by the UK producer Statik in the late 2000s—which blended elements of grime and indie. This led to NME naming Bizzle one of its rock stars of the year, and it opened him up to a whole new audience. Then came the TV show appearances, the clothing line, the fragrance line, and soon he became known as one of the first millionaires to rise from grime. Today, Lethal Bizzle owns countless businesses—both at home and now in Ghana—and he finds pleasure in helping today’s rappers and grime MCs when it comes to finance. He no longer needs to make music to feed his family, but he does it for the love anyway—and as a form of therapy. “I’ve got a lot more to share with the world,” he says, “and I hope people really take in my new project Lethal B vs Lethal Bizzle.”

Dive in below for the full conversation.

“I want to be that guy for people to look up to and be like, ‘Rah! He’s from the ends, and 20 years on, he’s still doing his thing.’”

COMPLEX: This year marks the 18th anniversary of “Pow! (Forward)”, which makes me feel old [laughs]. How does it feel knowing that a grime classic you put together all those years ago is still tearing up clubs today?
Lethal Bizzle:
I don’t know if it’s gone fast or slow, but just knowing the song’s still doing its thing shows how important that song was and still is. ‘Pow!’ is a big part of UK music history. It will live forever, and it’s much bigger than me now: this is the people’s song, generation to generation. This generation shouldn’t even know about that tune—either they weren’t born when it dropped, or they were just a little kipper and managed to clock on to it. It just shows the kind of legacy the song is building. I’m proud, man. I didn’t know it would end up like this, I’ll be honest. It’s arguably one of the greatest grime songs of all time. 

It most definitely is. I remember the tune causing mayhem across the UK when it came out. I witnessed a few brawls, I can’t lie to you—and not from people that look like you and I—but it was mostly harmless grime hype. When the media and government started targeting you and the scene, though, and wanted to get the song banned because they thought it would start World War 4, what was going through your mind?
It was a weird time. Up until “Pow!”, the game was quiet. Dizzee was getting a lot of attention—he won the Mercury for Boy In Da Corner and stuff—and Wiley was doing his thing, but all of us were still on the roads, still in the underground scene. Labels weren’t really showing any interest at the time either. So when “Pow!” happened, it was almost like a big fuck you to everyone that doubted us. When it started popping off, I was like, “Yes! We’re back!” When all that backlash started happening, I was so pissed! Dexplicit made me change my thought process, though. He was like, “Bro! When you think about it, your song is so sick that they’re trying to stop it.” I was like, “You know what, Dex? I didn’t even look at it like that.” So I changed my perspective. But it was annoying because they were stopping me from doing gigs, doing shows, and tried to stop DJs from playing it. When I discovered the festival world, though, and found out they actually like to see mosh-pits, it softened the blow a bit. 18 years later and it’s still one of the maddest songs to come out of the UK.

Was the plan always for it to be a posse cut? 
It basically stemmed from More Fire Crew. We were going through a little period, in ‘03, when everything was getting shut down. So I said to myself, “We need a rebrand, a switch-up, because things are changing.” These times, Dizzee Rascal’s the guy! Crazy Titch is the guy! Wiley’s the King! And we’d just come from the underground and now we were doing Top Of The Pops and all that… I just decided a rebrand was needed at the time. Then I put the Bizzle at the end of Lethal, instead of Lethal B, and I just upgraded my style a bit. I got back on the radio scene, got back on the underground scene, started building up my name, and then me and Wiley clashed

—an important clash, at that.
When that happened, the hype and the energy that was around my name, I knew I needed to capitalise on it. So I said, “I want to make a song.” And the mistake I personally thought I made—I don’t know, I can’t personally speak for the rest of the boys in More Fire Crew, but when we made “Oi!”, it was at such a time where it was like crabs in the bucket, everyone trying to get out the hood. So when we made it, it was a bit like, “Yeah! Fuck you man. We’re up! You man tried to stop us, but we’re gone.” I thought that was a mistake because a lot of the people we were saying that to were still in positions that we needed help from. This time around, I said: “Cool.” Me and Wiley had this battle—we were the guys now—and I said to myself, “How can I capitalise on this?” So rather than me just doing a song by myself, I said, “No. I wanna do songs with the mandem and some hot MCs that I rate.” And that’s how “Pow!” came about. If it weren’t for the clash with me and Wiley, it probably would have happened, but it probably wouldn’t have happened like that because it was all strategic for me. I know I needed to have a song out there, so that was the initial idea.

Who—in 2022—would you clash, and why? 
Do you know what would be a funny clash? Me and Crazy Titch. He would bring the best out of me because we’re both energy nutcases and I know I would have to be on my AAA game. He’s a schizophrenic on the mic—his ting has always been different, so that would be a fun and interesting clash.

Which “Pow!” video do you prefer: the grainy, Channel U one, or the more polished one you did when you got it signed to EMI?
I think I prefer the first one because that was my little budget and I put that all together. Big up the director, Mo Ali, every single time. He heard the song and he contacted me out the blue. I didn’t have a relationship with him. He was like, “Bro! I will do the video for free. I need to do this video now!” I said, “Nah, I’m gonna pay you, still.” But big him up because he literally went to everybody’s ends; if you watch that first video, all the scenes are different because he went to everyone’s ends to film them—ten different areas. He put a lot of graft in. But yeah, I definitely prefer that one. A bit more nostalgic. The EMI one was nice, though.

Pow 2011”—we have to talk about that one. It’s not my favourite of the two versions, but it did shake the room when it was released, during a time when grime wasn’t in its hottest state—right before the “grime resurgence.” What impact do you think it had on the scene, and how would you compare the original “Pow!” to “Pow 2011”?
If I can be honest: it was by accident. I can’t remember if it was X Factor or one of those TV shows like Pop Idol that kept going for Christmas No. 1. One day, I was like, “Yo, mandem! Let’s let “Pow!” 2004 go Christmas No. 1” on my Twitter, and then one of the fans said: “No, Biz. What you should do is a new one and make that go No. 1.” I thought that would be too long but, somehow, that tweet just went viral. Then Wiley called me out of nowhere and was like: “I heard you’re doing another ‘Pow!’” I was like, “Nah, nah. I’m trying to hold on to the old one.” And he’s like, “You have to do it, bro. You have to!” At the time, I didn’t get it but the game was soft at that point. It was N-Dubz and all them man. Soft! So Wiley saw the vision. Anyway, I went out that week to some industry party. One brother comes up to me and goes, “What are you doing here?” I was like, “What do you mean, what am I doing here?” He was like, “Bruv! You’re supposed to be finishing the new ‘Pow!’” I was like, “Eh?” Then I started seeing that the people really wanted it. From that, I just hit everyone up. Things took a bit long to sort out, so it had to be released in 2011, but it was initially meant to around Christmas 2010 so we could try and get the No. 1. It’s mad because not long after that, there was a grime resurgence. “German Whip” came,  then “That’s Not Me”, then “Shutdown”. People debate if it’s grime or not, but “Rari Workout” came too. I don’t know if people even realise what we actually did. 

Grime could do with another “Pow!” right now, don’t you think?
Bro, the amount of people hitting me up saying the same thing is just mad! It’s getting to the point where I’m gonna have to tell people I’m gonna block them if they keep on asking because it’s not so easy to pull off. It would be sick, yes, but let’s move on. Let’s do something else. It’s 10 MCs, 10 egos, 10 managers, and it’s a lot of work. The only way I could probably get away with it now was if I gave it to a label to deal with. If I said, “Listen, I’ll put the song together but you do all the paperwork and sort the fine details with everyone,” then we can try something. But too much is going on right now for that to be so straightforward. Like, the other two were fucking headaches! So imagine what this one would be. “Pow! ‘22” tweets and messages every day. I beg you, allow me! [Laughs] I’ve given you two! It’s going to be 20 years old in two years’ time. I mean, I would like to do something nice for the boys that was on the original—I don’t know what that looks like yet, maybe a show, but it would be nice to do something. But in terms of a brand new “Pow!”, I’m not saying I would never do it, but it’s not at the top of my list of things to do right now. And if I was to do another one, I’d probably have some drill MCs on it as well.

Back to “Oi!” for a second, there’s been much debate over the years about whether that’s a UK garage tune or a grime tune. I personally think it was just before grime came into full fruition, but what’s your opinion on it?
I believe it was in the middle of when garage was kinda fizzling out a bit. We were using all the garage resources to showcase our talent because there wasn’t an actual grime scene when that came out. Grime wasn’t made official until Wiley made “Wot Do U Call It?”, when he basically dissed everyone and said, “Look, we’re not garage—we’re this!” And even then, it was still up for debate what it was actually called. People called it Eski for a while. Then we were classed as grimey garage, but “Oi!” was one of the early grime songs, I’d say, but because it came at the end of the garage era, there’s that debate. 

“Before I did music, I was on the streets making money, doing illegal things and that’s where I built up a lot of my business acumen from. When I got into music, I started using some of those skills and I took advantage of my position.”