Grime MC, Big Zuu, is one of the most prominent artists helping to bring a new generation of grime to an international audience. He grew up in West London and forms part of the MTP Crew – alongside his childhood friends AJ Tracey, Ets, D7 and more. He featured on a highly impressive track ‘Uncontrollable’ by popular YouTuber, KSI, earlier this year, which now has over 3 million streams.
We catch up with the artist on his latest single ‘No Breaks’.
First thing’s first, talk me through the process of your new song ‘No Breaks’, it came out last week and is already doing so well!
So I linked up with Scott and Scott (both my producers are called Scott haha!). I linked them and they usually make a lot of Trap music with a lot of bass – they made Whippin’ Excursion for Giggs. When I linked them I wanted to make more of an anthem, something that had a message but with the same sound. So yeah, we linked, made the beats, started writing it and it went from there.
You mention you wanted the tune to have a message. What is the message behind it?
The song’s called ‘No Breaks’ so it’s essentially about working hard and taking no breaks, but also just pushing on going forward, never stopping what you’re doing and it’s about remembering where you’re from but also realising where you want to go.
In the video for ‘No Breaks’ we see a little kid, is he meant to be representing you?
Haha yeah, little Zuu. It’s half and half, it’s on how we’re all connected – we’re all from the ends and go through the same struggles in “working class Britain”. When the kid in the video puts on headphones and listens to the song, it’s representing that this song’s for everyone – he represents everyone.
Growing up in London obviously influenced your sound, what genre sticks with you?
Grime has had a big influence on me growing up. The sound of grime is just straight London; you get me? I mean Grime is international now and there are people across the UK doing it, but the beginning of grime was in London – so growing up listening to that has always been an influence. I love American music and R&B too, but grime was definitely what built me into a musician.
What’s your views on grime being mainstream?
It’s half and half. I feel like a lot of things that aren’t grime get called grime because it’s easier to digest in the mainstream. Grime is doing sick, like Stormzy had a number 1 album and Skepta’s been in the charts with ASAP Rocky – an American rapper (killin’ it). I feel like grime artists are really doing well but grime music still needs pushing – it needs to get to that place where there is a Top 20 Grime Singles chart happening every other week.
Who did you listen to growing up and who inspires your sound now?
There are a lot of people all over the place. The main influence would be 50Cent, 2Pac, Eminem, JCole and coming over to the UK it would be Skepta, P Money and JME.
When and how did you first get into the whole music scene?
Into the industry would be when I started going into radio, so end of 2014, I started going to a lot of shows. I started freestyling when I was only 16 years old and then started recording in the studio at youth clubs and my friends house.
You’re part of a crew called MTP, who’s in it?
MTP was a little crew we just made when we were younger. It’s me, AJ Tracey, D7, Ets, Sketch, Wax and literally just the mandem from the ends that did music. We were all friends and all built our careers in music together. We haven’t put out a lot of MTP music, but we’ve done a lot of things as a crew together. We did a few boat parties and shows – there are a lot of things coming in the future, we’re just trying to build our solo careers at the moment.
Let’s clear this up, what does MTP actually stand for?
It stands for My Team Paid haha! We were a bit young when we made it but that’s what we wanted to do – we wanted to get p’s. Now looking back at the name, it’s funny – but that’s what it is!
What defines ‘making it’ for you?
I feel like making it is completing all your goals. It’s hard to say that I’ve made it, because I still have goals to complete, for example by my mum a house and tour the whole world – once I’ve done that, I will be very very content.
Who would be your dream collaboration? Past or present.
Right now it would be J Cole. 100%. If I made something with J Cole, it would be crazy! It would be everything I want to make as a musician and the music would be so real and timeless.
Do you have any advice for your younger self?
What I would tell myself if I could look back now would be, put out more music. In 2016, I didn’t focus on releasing a lot of music because I was focused on having the best quality out of me. Whereas now people are making music every other day, people are dropping a tape here, people are dropping a tape there.
I would have told myself to be confident in what you have and put the music out – don’t let anyone tell you it’s rubbish, just put it out.
Let’s touch on Grenfell Tower. You were almost a representative for a grieving community. How did it feel having that role?
It was mad. I was connected to the area, I grew up in West and one of my friends passed away in the tower. I felt as a music artist, if this is the thing that I’m doing, I might as well use my power in this to at least have any affect on what’s happened and to help in any way. I didn’t think I would be able to change the world, but if I could at least make one person feel a way and do something about it, then I’ve done my job.
All us musicians have these followers on social media and so many young people engage in what we do – so if we make them aware of some of the things that are going on in the world, maybe we can be part of the difference to go forward.
When I made the tribute song I never wanted anyone to thing “oh it’s because he wants money from it” no, It’s because I felt a certain type of way, I wrote it down, went to my friend’s house and then recorded it. A lot of people that went through the pain of Grenfell were telling me that the song helped them get through this and that the song showed someone else understood what they were going through. The media weren’t ready to be real about what happened at Grenfell, so it was important for me to say what really happened.
You were also previously part of Grime 4 Corbyn, your music touches on injustice and politics. If you could describe your sound, what would it be?
I believe my music comes from what I’ve been through. A lot of music is blamed for stabbings in London and young people being deviant is blamed on drill music. I make grime so it is seen as an aggressive sound. But like I said before, If I’ve got the power of a young person’s mind, if I put out something influential to make them do something positive, we both benefit and that helps my soul. It’s very spiritual, but that helps me feel like I’m helping someone else.
If you could pick a soundtrack to represent your life, what would it be?
Oh my days! I would say, The Way I Am by Eminem. That’s an old school banger. It’s very real. It’s against what people think because I don’t care what people think of me! It’s all about being real.
Did you ever have a plan B if music didn’t work out?
Oh yeah definitely! I was going university, I wanted to be a youth worker. I was going to build up my own initiative that helps people across the UK. Music took over, I dropped out of university for music. I still have that in the back of my head – even if I become the most successful person in music in the whole world, I still want to do something like that. It’s a plan b but it’s also still plan a. It’s plan b/a haha!
Finally, your third headline show is coming up!
Yes! 25th October, O2 Islington. I’m going to have a new project out before that so there will be new music. I should have a lot of special guests. It’s crazy because I went from birthdays to Hackney, Oslo and now to Islington!
‘No Breaks’ is out now, Big Zuu is also set to headline O2 Academy Islington on 25th October.
Watch the full interview with Big Zuu here:
Watch exclusive behind the scenes footage of the ‘No Breaks’ music video here:
Interview by Harpreet Dawett & Aisha Ditta (@aishajourno)