In December 2020 UK rapper and hip hop connoisseur SKANDOUZ released his debut album Nettie. The album is dedicated to his Aunty Nettie who sadly passed away in 2009. We caught up with SKANDOUZ to talk about the album and the impact his Aunt had on his music. His hip hop group FRSHRZ and his close friendship with UK rapper TY.
SKANDOUZ welcome to File Under Hip Hop, please introduce yourself.
Peace. My name is SKANDOUZ (All CAPS). I’m a hip-hop original from North West London. A community-based creative, solo artist, CEO of the indie hip hop label Club FRSH. One-half of the legendary Connoisseurs of Hip Hop with DJ Tom Foolery Beats.
You’ve been in the game for over 20 years. What first attracted you to hip hop and becoming an artist?
I was first attracted to hip hop culture from an early age. Participating in all the elements, from breaking, graff, DJ’ing but ultimately developing a love for the craft of emceeing. I would rap for fun as a hobby.
My early style was very positive, conscious, and poetic. Inspired by artists like Mos Def, Common, and Black Thought. I would rhyme in open-mic ciphers and occasional shows whilst in college as part of a live hip hop band called 29.
The positive response I received was from being invited onstage at a sold-out Big Daddy Kane concert. Performing at an open mic spurred me on to take my artistry more seriously and excel.
What artists and albums would you say influenced you the most when you were growing up?
When I was growing up the artists that influenced me the most were 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, and Nas. From the UK it was Blak Twang, Roots Manuva, and MUD Family. In France, it was Saian Supa Crew and in Jamaica, it was Buju Banton and Beenie Man.
The Hip Hop albums that influenced me the most were Snoop’s Doggystyle, All Eyes on Me by 2Pac, and Common’s Like Water for Chocolate. For non Hip Hop albums, it was Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, The rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the spiders from Mars by David Bowie. There’s a whole bag of others.
I’m really passionate about albums so my record collection is nuts! Lol.
You’re part of the group FRSHRZ along with Artcha and Dray Styles. Tell us about the crew and how you all hooked up?
Every year I would release a fresher’s week remix single, whatever the hottest record was at the time. The final and most successful was a UK hip hop remix of Control featuring two on my favourite emcee’s Artcha and Dray Styles. Off the back of the positive feedback from the track, we decided to form a group called FRSHRZ. Primarily to tour universities during fresher’s week the timing was perfect, nothing forced.
Me and my brothers have a natural chemistry. In the last 5 years as a group, we’ve collaborated with UK hip hop legends like Rodney P, Si-Philli and Logic. We’ve headlined shows and festival stages in the UK and Europe. We coined the term Dressing Up 4 Hip Hop. Which was inspired by the class, style, and prestige of the iconic Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr).
Implementing gentleman style into Hip Hop culture. To date, FRSHRZ are gearing up to release our debut album FSI3 in summer 2021.
At 17 you met TY (R.I.P) and he became your mentor. You went from being artists to mutual friends. What impact did he have on your life?
TY was one of my Hip Hop hero’s growing up. His debut album Awkward was a huge inspiration. He was an artist that didn’t conform to the road rap trends at the time. Leaning more on a Native Tongue inspired down to earth, not afraid to embrace your own characteristics. Delivering his unique legendary stamp on the game.
Over the years I was blessed to call a TY close friend, shared the stage with him on a number of occasions. Sat in on studio sessions where I got to see his creative process. I even had the honour of interviewing TY on my Connoisseurs of Hip Hop radio show. He returned the favour by interviewing me on his Soho radio show.
I got to work alongside TY on his Pass The Torch live music showcase as he shined the light on so many up-and-coming UK artists. TY also co-signed me. By helping me get on to platforms such as BBC London to promote my music.
TY as a close friend and mentor impacted my life in a very positive way. Its just sad that it took him passing away for the masses to realise how influential he was to the UK music scene, hip hop culture and world music.
What’s the most important advice that he gave you?
“They don’t want you to win, …so win everything!” A line from his Upwards album that will stay with me forever!
In December you released your album Nettie which has been 10 years in the making. The album is dedicated and named after your number 1 fan Aunty Nettie. Tell us about the impact she had on your music.
My Auntie Nettie impacted my music through her sheer passion for quality music regardless of the genre. Introducing me to a wide range of musical styles from rock, jazz, and classical.
She exposed me to UK artists such as the Thirst, (an all-black indie band from Brixton) Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, and Coldplay. These were all groups that she knew personally, and they all paid tribute to her after her passing.
My Aunts influence on my musical pallet directly resulted in the diverse sonic execution of the Nettie album. She gave me the confidence to widen my musical ear far beyond the realms of hip hop. My work as an emcee and producer has benefitted greatly from her influence.
Was music something that runs through your family?
Music could be heard in my household for as far back as I can remember. Both my parents had music playing constantly throughout my childhood. A lot of my formulative memories included particular songs which are still some my favourites to this day.
My love affair with music was there before I even realised. Long before I discovered hip hop or ever envisioned being an artist. Early memories included my hearing Nettie who was highly musical playing piano, flute, bass guitar even the Aacordion at one point.
My Dad and Uncles would blast reggae music from their insane sized car speakers. To then going on to family functions and house party’s where I would regularly hear sound systems that literally shook the floor beneath your feet.
This led to my fascination of going to live concerts. To then working in live events as a stage manager and then becoming a journalist. I’ve been fortunate enough to interview some of my favourite hip hop artists over the years.
What do you think she would say about the album?
I like to think she would say it wasn’t too shabby! lol. That she was proud of the ambition of this album. The honesty, quality and artistry behind this album. As with a lot of debut projects this is a snapshot of my musical life up until this point.
I felt satisfied that I covered all bases and took my time to deliver this project when it felt right to do so. Lamenting on the 10th anniversary of Nettie’s passing. My intention was to deliver an album that would stand the test of time. I like to think this was accomplished.
The 15 track album has some gems on there such as Kentish Town, Boyega, Hip Hop World, and Nu Nation Rising. The Anniversary track stands out to me because it’s celebrating marriage, something that you wouldn’t expect to hear on a UK hip hop album and I think that’s dope. What inspired you to write that track and include Blak Twang, Gee Bag, and Nino Sip?
Thanks for the feedback, Anniversary is certainly a lot of people’s favourite song on Nettie.
As with most of the songs featuring samples that I didn’t personally produce on the album, I provided the samples. With this track in particular I was celebrating my 5th Wedding Anniversary and wanted to do something special for my wife to mark the occasion. So I hit up Nino Sip (singer/producer) with the sample and he produced the track.
Unfortunately, I missed the deadline rather than scrapping the record entirely. I decided to reach to some of my married hip hop artist friends Gee Bag and the legendary Blak Twang to help me finish the record.
I’ve always had this mentality that If I haven’t heard it before in hip hop (to my knowledge) and I want to hear it. Don’t whinge about not hearing it, create it! So now we have a song made by three married emcee’s celebrating long-lasting marriages.
Bringing some balance to the force, just when you thought rappers were all about promoting misogyny lol.
What’s next for SKANDOUZ?
What’s next is a long-structured rollout for this album with more press, promo, singles, and videos. The next single following Kentish Town will be Boyega dropping at the end of February.
An expanded edition of the Nettie album with exclusive remixes and extended versions of songs is expected to be released in March. Followed by vinyl, CD’s, and album merch. Plus a full live experience for Summer 2021.
Thanks for the interview. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Thank you for taking the time out to support of my debut album Nettie. Salute the whole File Under Hip Hop team!
Look out for new Club FRSH music from Artcha, Dray Styles, Juke84, Earth2Tom, and FRSHRZ!! Until next time Love, Peace & Soulful Beats SKAN…
Photo’s by Mr Sprinx
Interview by Jai Boo